Drinks cans: Digital printing adds fizz to the market

Thursday 1 July 2010

Custom designs in photorealistic quality open up new market potential

Ratingen, 1 July 2010: Ball Packaging Europe has brought digital printing for beverage cans to market maturity. At its Hassloch plant in Germany, Ball can now produce beverage cans printed either the conventional way or with photorealistic custom designs. A first vanguard of customers is already using the new technology to market small special-edition production runs.

Reproducing custom designs in unprecedented quality, digital printing follows the resealable closure as a second game-changing technology able to unlock new markets for beverages cans. A digital print head applies images straight onto the can surface at resolutions up to 600 dpi. The images pass directly from computer to production line without any need to make up a printing plate. This is not just a time saver; it means every container can be printed at top quality with a different design.

Use of the CMYK colour model makes for picture-perfect colour reproduction. Digital printing applies inks wet on wet, one on top of the other, to match every possible shade and hue. The result is sharp, photorealistic imagery that catches the eye on the kiosk or supermarket shelf.

This contrasts with the traditional relief process which involves determining in advance which ink to apply to which printing plate. The conventional method can handle at most six or eight different ink colors and cannot compete with digital printing for realism.

New marketing opportunities through digital printing
“Our new technology gives customers completely new opportunities in terms of marketing, securing customer loyalty and gaining new customer segments,” explains Robert Jansen, Director Innovation at Ball Packaging Europe. Digital printing can serve as a positioning tool for premium brands. For example, for exclusive events in major cities like London, Berlin or Paris, beverage cans can be printed just in time with topical designs for the event concerned. Another possibility is that sponsors are visibly present with specially designed cans at regional sporting events (such as soccer series) or cultural occasions (musicals, Last Night of the Proms, theater festivals, etc.). Also, digital printing allows the online marketing of beverage brands by incorporating the consumers’ own ideas into can design, which opens up completely new business opportunities in the long term. Digital printing can also be a useful tool in promotion campaigns, for example the launch of a new brand or a celebration.

The new printing technique notably permits small production runs at low cost. Initial customers are already making use of this facility, and digitally printed cans were presented at an event recently for the first time. It is here that Robert Jansen sees the new technology’s true potential. “Our customers want creative, attention-grabbing design. This helps them stand out at events, product launches and the like, and in successfully marketing their products,” Jansen says. “Digital printing gives the drinks can even greater potential as an ideal marketing tool.

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