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Mark Portelli

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New Growth Demands Higher Quality for Corrugated Packaging and Printing

Posted by Mark Portelli

Feb 1, 2018 12:57:00 PM

Since 1871, corrugated has been a staple of the packaging industry — and the larger U.S. economy. In fact, the global market for corrugated box packaging is forecasted to hit $307.9 billion in 2025, growing at 4.6 percent each year until then.

For printers, this represents the potential for a lot of new business. But every opportunity comes with challenges.

So, what do printers need to know to take full advantage of this expanding market?

Demand for higher quality packaging

For corrugated printers, the key trend is rising demand for higher quality packaging. According to Technavio, “a developed and mature U.S. market” is driving demand for premium consumer products — and thus also higher quality packaging. Technavio explains:

“Premium packaging is a basic indication of the high quality of the product inside. Vendors use expensive ingredients, technologies, colors, and other raw materials to develop premium packs. Many consumers also buy these products as gifts, thereby driving the demand for premium packaging in the market.”

Small corrugated boxes with high quality printed designs are also often used in retail stores near, around, and in checkout lanes, says Technavio:

“Retail giants such as Walmart are using this form of packaging in the premium brand segment to improve marketing activities. These boxes are placed at the point of sale to attract consumers.”

This begs the question: how can corrugated printers prepare to provide these more premium designs?

It’s all about consistency…

Meeting the demand for higher quality packaging is no simple task. Even the smallest printing imperfections can lead to rejections — and a reduction in profitability.

This means that corrugated printers need to be on high alert and watch out for issues such as:

  • Improper or inconsistent color
  • Dot bridging or feathering
  • Bleeding
  • Fisheyes
  • Halos

Manual adjustments to correct such issues are costly — and they create the opportunity for even more problems. This can leave corrugated printers between a rock and a hard place.

But there’s good news.

Ink control automation eliminates the need for manual adjustments. With automation, printers no longer need to worry about the careful balance of viscosity, pH, temperature, and evaporation. Ink control handles it all, making worry over ink management a thing of the past!

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Topics: Printing, flexographic printing, corrugated printing, ink management

Why Color Quality and Consistency is Critical for Brands

Posted by Mark Portelli

Jan 25, 2018 3:03:00 PM

Imagine that you walk into McDonald’s, pick up your “super-size” Coke, and notice something isn’t right.  As you look closer, you realize the “golden arches” aren’t so golden — they’re more of a green-ish color.

Would you be uneasy?

Later in the day, you grab a Coke from the vending machine in your office.  But, when you pull it from the vending tray, instead of the familiar, bold “Coke Red,” the can is more of a pinkish color.

Would you drink it?

So, on the way home, you stop by the grocery store to buy a case of Coke, but when you get to the shelf, the cardboard packages range from pinkish red to maroon.  Would you question the store’s stock rotation practices and start checking dates on the packages?  Or would you just grab one that was the correct shade of red?

Or would you just buy Pepsi instead?

Of course, these are hypothetical situations.  But they demonstrate the importance of color to a brand.  Coca-Cola red, like McDonald’s golden yellow, is instantly recognizable.  McDonald’s and The Coca-Cola Company understand this, and take great care in protecting their brand images to keep them consistent.

But what if they didn’t?

What if every McDonald’s cup had a slightly different shade of yellow?  What if every Coca-Cola package varied in its shade of red?  Aside from adding confusion to the buying process — something no company ever wants to do — this could damage the consumer’s perception of the company.  Damage a company’s image enough, and it will invariably hurt their profitability.

In short, color is important when it comes to the recognition of a brand, and printers must pay special attention to maintaining color quality and consistency in high-volume, repetitive products like beverage cups, cans, shelf packaging, displays, advertisements, etc.


Because businesses like McDonald’s and The Coca-Cola Company reject products every day that are even slightly inconsistent with their brand colors.

But why is color so important to products and packaging?

Here are some interesting statistics on the issue of color and brand, reported by Jill Morton of Colorcom:

  • When purchasing products, 92.6 percent of people say that they put the most importance on visual factors.
  • Color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent.
  • Color can boost comprehension by 73 percent.

It seems that human beings are physiologically and psychologically wired to pay attention to color!

And that’s no accident.  There are biological reasons for recognizing color — seeing color helps living creatures differentiate between different objects, and determine whether those objects represent predator, mate, or food!

According to a WIRED magazine article based on a study published in the journal Science, while most monkeys and apes only have two-color vision, thus seeing their environment as “greyish and slightly red-hued,” early human ancestors “regained three-color vision because spotting fresh fruit and immature leaves led to a more nutritious diet.”

In other words, humans see and recognize color because it aids our survival.  And while you certainly don’t need McDonald’s fast food or a can of Coke to survive, it makes sense that their packaging colors would take advantage of something so fundamentally important to the human brain.

The bottom line…

The moral of the story is that printers must take great care to keep color consistent for product packaging.  That requires careful ink management — lest the end product feature McDonald’s “green-ish arches” or “Coca-Cola pink” (just toss them in the scrap bin — they’re not going anywhere!)

Proper ink management can be a difficult process.  Evaporation can vary viscosity and pH.  So can adding stabilizers and defoamers.  Changes in temperature can affect viscosity, but it also affects the evaporation rate.  Trying to compensate by making manual adjustments in the middle of a run is fraught with opportunities for disaster — all of which end up in the scrap bin.

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Topics: Printing, flexographic printing, ink management, color management

Thanks Uncle Sam! A New Windfall for Flexographic Printers

Posted by Mark Portelli

Jan 21, 2018 12:58:00 PM

Uncle Sam often leaves businesses on the hook when it comes to government regulations.  But a new decision by the Food and Drug Administration may be good news for printers.

On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced they're updating the requirements for food nutrition labels.  Of course, this means a lot of new labels will have to be printed.  But why was this decision made?

Put simply, the FDA hopes that the new label design will help people to control their eating habits — and potentially reduce the epidemic of obesity in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that all states have an adult obesity rate of more than 20 percent.

According to the FDA:

“The current label is more than 20 years old.  In order to make sure consumers have access to more recent and accurate nutrition information about the foods they are eating, it’s time to make changes to the Nutrition Facts label.  The changes announced today are based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups, and input from the public.”

The deadline for the changes is January 1, 2021.

While this update will undoubtedly cause a headache for food packagers, it’s an incredible windfall for the label industry — and that’s great news for flexographic printers.

What exactly is being changed on the nutritional labels?

Significant typography updates are required by the new design.  Serving size information and calories per serving are being made more prominent with larger, bolder type.

In the totals section, daily values have changed (based on new scientific information).  The nutrients section at the bottom now requires that actual amounts are stated.

You may also notice that it’s no longer required to include Vitamins A and C — this is because American diets are generally no longer deficient in them.

A line on total added sugars is also now included, and calories from fat (which used to be at the top) is now gone.  Lastly, the new label moves the bottom Daily Values footnote and changes its text slightly.

The infographics below show it all in action; the old on the left versus the new on the right:

What do flexographic printers need to do to prepare?

Flexo Magazine recommends that printers get ahead of the changes now.  Printing industry veteran Catherine Haynes states:

“As a prepress provider, though, you can help establish your relevance as the CPC’s supplier if you have check points built into your process to ensure you are following the latest rules and employ the current formats.  Ultimately, it is beneficial for all parties (CPC, designer, prepress provider and printer) to work together on the nutrition label update, as non-compliance can lead to stiff penalties and costly disruptions to supply chains when not followed correctly.”

Haynes recommends the usage of software solutions such as preflight tools and “dynamic tools for elements like bar codes and nutritional information.”  These tools make it easier to comply with the new regulations.

Preflight tools check elements such as fonts, line weights, minimum/maximum dot, etc., while dynamic generators use software intelligence to remove the manual work from building nutritional tables.

How to choose the right software solution to aid compliance

When choosing software to aid in compliance, Haynes advises printers to consider that:

  • Tools reside within Adobe Illustrator
  • Art is built on a non-destructive art layer
  • Content is locked so it is protected from accidental, non-deliberate changes
  • Changes are instantly mirrored within the art file via dynamic links
  • Elements can be linked to XML data provided by the brand owner/manager
  • A window can be opened allowing the prepress supplier to link other key individuals and decision makers as the package/label is being created

Taking advantage of the growth

The label update represents the potential for a lot of business growth, so it’s important that flexographic printers are ready. And while the software tools previously discussed will be helpful, there is an additional consideration for printers.


Or more specifically, consistent quality.

It’s incredibly important that the bigger, bolder fonts and large amounts of information featured on the new labels remain consistent.  But manual adjustments during a run are opportunities for disaster.

So how do printers reliably avoid problems such as bleeding, smearing, improper color, or uneven print?

Ink management…

Consistent print quality requires effective ink management, but ink management can be a difficult process.  There are many different elements to be held in careful balance, including viscosity, pH, temperature, and evaporation.  Fortunately, printers can simplify this delicate balancing act through ink control automation.

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Topics: Printing, flexographic printing, ink management, government regulation

Saint Clair Systems to Discuss Coil Coating Solutions at Materials Science and Technology Forum

Posted by Mark Portelli

Oct 19, 2016 1:07:39 PM

WASHINGTON, MICHIGAN – Saint Clair Systems Vice President of Engineering & Technology Michael Bonner will deliver two presentations at Materials Science & Technology 2016, a technical meeting and exhibition that brings together engineers, suppliers, scientists and students to discuss current research and applications in the materials community.

The annual conference will be held Oct. 23-27 in Salt Lake City, Utah and will host more than 2,000 presentations and a selection of special events.

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Topics: News

3 Ways PCM Reduces Cleaning Costs in Metal Coating Operations

Posted by Mark Portelli

Jul 15, 2015 11:00:00 AM

The demand for coil coating has increased significantly, yet there remains excess capacity in the marketplace, so being a strong global competitor is a challenge. These truths have changed the metal coating industry, with downward price pressure making it more difficult than ever to stay profitable and successful.

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Topics: coil coating, Coating Technology, PCM

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