cardboard boxes printing methods

Cardboard boxes printing methods

Carton printing has not only a logistical but also a marketing function. In a highly competitive market, a competently designed product box has a better chance of attracting the consumer’s attention. In this article we look at what methods can be used to print graphics on corrugated boxes and compare them with each other.

Types and features of the application of images on the box
Drawing on the surface of the box can be done in different ways. An imprint can be:

simply inkjet flex memjet Please have a look on Packaging Printers

To make the right choice, you need to know the specifics of each method.

UV printing

UV printing forms a film of ink on the print material which is photopolymerised, i.e. cured by UV light. The ink is sprayed directly through the injection head onto the sheet or roll as in a conventional inkjet printer. The media then passes through a UV unit. UV printers give a wide range of colours and shades without loss of image quality. The print is resistant to high humidity, temperature fluctuations and other environmental influences. The high cost of consumables and the high energy consumption of the process make it unprofitable for businesses ordering large print runs.

Offset printing

Offset printing emerged at the beginning of the last century. It provides for preliminary drawing on paper or foil (liner) which is then attached to cardboard blanks by laminating. The technique means that a thinner material is glued or pressed to a heavy backing material. This enables first-class, full-colour graphics to be printed on cardboard.

Before commencing work, it is necessary to:

  • Make colour separations – splitting a multi-coloured picture into single colours
  • Make a colour proof, which simulates the conditions under which the image is produced
  • Make paint cylinders
  • Set up the machine
  • Balance the colours

The method has a low unit cost when ordering large runs, and remains the most common. It is not suitable for small runs, as prepress is time-consuming and the two-stage process increases the price.

Silkscreen printing

In the silk screen printing method the image is applied through a screen mesh using photopolymer ink which hardens under the influence of UV light, dry air etc. To get an image on cardboard, the printing plate is first prepared. This is a frame with a polymer or metal grid with a copy layer. A stencil of permeable and impermeable areas is created on it. The number of forms for one multi-coloured pattern depends on the number of colours: each colour has its own stencil. This technology is suitable for small and medium-sized print runs.

Flexography printing

Flexographic drawing is made by a rotational method: by means of a rotating drum with a printing plate fixed on it. Three-, five- or seven-layer cardboard can be made using this technology. In order to make a multi-coloured design several moulds are required, one for each colour. The blank is put through several drums. This method is advantageous for large print runs – using a single die, more than one million prints can be produced, but their resolution will be lower than with offset or UV printing.

Pad printing

Images are transferred onto the workpiece with a specially designed tampon. On corrugated cardboard is rarely used, because of the labour-intensive process and low productivity due to the technology. In addition, the print area is limited by the size of the printing plate. It is, however, possible to print on curved or embossed surfaces.

How to choose the cardboard boxes printer machine

For small print runs that are not intended to be repeated, UV printing is the economical choice: fast, no pre-printing preparation costs are required, high quality, and it can be printed on practically any type of blanks.

Flexographic printing has a low cost and sufficient image quality for marketing, industrial and transport packaging when a high resolution image is not required. Flexography can be considered a universal technique for applying information on cardboard packaging.

Offset printing method is justified only for large editions with high quality: subsequent laminating levels out the advantages of low prices.

The use of silkscreen printing due to high ink consumption and low speed of the process is unprofitable in case of large editions of one-type packaging. But it is worth choosing this type when exclusivity and peculiar decorativeness of products should be emphasized.

When choosing a technology of graphic imprinting on packages, one should take into account the sphere of application of a box, terms of its use, necessity for full-coloured prints. Applying elements of the logo, instructions, etc. on the boxes will allow the consumer to quickly find the information they need, which increases brand recognition and loyalty to the brand.