July 14, 2010
by Canadian Packaging Staff
In late 2008, digital print specialist Mediaware Digital Ltd. from Ireland saw a business challenge and opportunity as Microsoft was seeking a folding carton producer for its Windows 7 software launch. Mediaware proposed a new workflow which was enabled by the Gallop digital print packaging line jointly developed by Stora Enso and Xerox.
Microsoft wanted a solution that would speed its supply chain, handle short runs for many countries and reduce the overall cost of packaging in multiple languages. Simon Healy, Mediaware’s chairman, and the Mediaware team based in Dublin, recognized the benefits of digital technology. Working closely with Xerox, Mediaware successfully introduced a new digital workflow approach to Microsoft.
The workflow based on the Gallop production line enables lower minimum orders, less waste, less storage, quicker time to market, and more secure printing. Mediaware prints a unique code on each carton, allowing item-level tracking worldwide. The total solution prints a precise number of cartons per job, cutting the risk of counterfeiters gaining access to legitimate packaging.
"Early on, we also saw it as a sustainable process," says Healy. The environmental advantages of digital printing for folding carton packages include reduced ink and substrate waste from make-ready and die-cut scraps. "We’ve found that digital technology eliminates surplus inventory and overruns as well as plate production, saving the environment, budget dollars, and physical space."
Today, Mediaware delivers two sizes of folding cartons for Microsoft and the material used for them is Stora Enso’s 330 gsm Ensocoat board, which has been newly improved to provide a superior visual appearance. Microsoft’s specifications were demanding, requiring printing a stream of short runs of glossy, full color folding cartons, in dozens of languages. Production had to begin in time for the launch of Windows 7 in October 2009, and it needed to satisfy Microsoft in terms of price, quality, environmental footprint, security, and integration with Microsoft’s workflow.
After printing on the Xerox iGen digital printing press, the material is coated inline with a water-based but high-gloss formulation. This addresses Microsoft’s requirements for "green" chemistry and a sleek appearance. Actual run lengths vary greatly, from just 5 cartons to around 2,500. Total volume, which now is also attributable to other customers besides Microsoft, varies but is currently between 10,000 and 15,000 cartons per day.
Mediaware’s workflow is so automated that human hands normally do not touch the carton until it goes into the folder/gluer. The jobs are segregated into two queues, one for each carton size, limiting the need to change the settings on the folder/gluer. There is no hard copy order, and no need for job-level customer service. "We can complete a job from the initial e-mail order to the completion of die cutting in less than 45 seconds," notes Healy.
"Digital, print on-demand packaging meets the current cost cutting and lean manufacturing initiatives but it also creates opportunities for increasing customization and targeted marketing, such as the packaging for retail chains or for seasonal products," explains Pekka Tommola, director, Stora Enso Digital Solutions. "The ability to coat aqueous formulations for companies needing FDA approval for use with food and drugs opens the way to use the Gallop line for example in the production chocolate boxes or pharmaceuticals packaging."
The Gallop line consists of the Xerox iGen digital printing press, the Epic coater, a unique buffering stacker line built by Stora Enso and a specially designed DC 58 die cutter. The die cutter operates at up to the twice the speed of the iGen4, so it can handle hot foil stamping and die cutting and still keep up with the printer. The buffering stacker line integrates the printing and coating section to the die cutter and allows printing to continue even if the die cutter is offline.
For further information visit www.storaenso.com.