Canadian Packaging

Digital Printing Adds Fizz To Drink Can Market


July 22, 2010
by Canadian Packaging Staff

Ball Packaging Europe offers digital printing on beverage cans with creative designs and short run times.
Photo courtesy of Ball Packaging Europe.

Ball Packaging Europe has brought digital printing for beverage cans to market maturity. At its Hassloch plant in Germany, Ball is able to produce beverage cans printed either the conventional way or with photo-realistic custom designs with customers 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 color model makes for picture-perfect color 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, photo-realistic imagery that catches the eye on the kiosk or supermarket shelf.

A digital printing machine in the Hassloch, Germany plant.
Photo courtesy of Ball Packaging Europe

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.

Ball Packaging developed the digital printing process jointly with its British cooperation partner, Tonejet. Tonejet contributed a new print head for precise printing of drinks cans, while Ball fine-tuned its production machinery for the new process. Ball incorporated a prototype of the digital printing press into its standard production line at the Hassloch plant in spring 2009. The manufacturer can now print in parallel on this production line using both the conventional relief method and digitally, without halting or even slowing production. The digital prototype currently has an output of 120 cans a minute, set to rise to 200 cans a minute in the future.For more information, visit www.ball-europe.com.