Digital Manufacturing for Corrugated Boxes from Highcon
The growth of the corrugated market holds huge potential and is driving an ever-growing quantity of short- and medium-run packaging, in many cases with volumes smaller than traditional MOQs. It’s great news for the corrugated industry, but how will converters ensure that their equipment and processes are optimized for this new short-run market, without conventional finishing methods bottlenecking the process?
Corrugated boxes have fast become a popular choice, offering easy-to-open and secure reseal options, additional branding opportunities including double-sided print and paper-based inserts, intricate designs, and more. As a shift to e-commerce and focus on a positive “unboxing experience” continue, more brands are reevaluating the boxes their products are packaged in. It’s easy to see why, then, finished corrugated boxes are playing an important role in a consumer’s brand experience. Product manufacturers, retailers, and the consumer can all enjoy great benefits from this durable, sustainable material, but with new demands for shorter-runs from a growing market, how can digital finishing add value to boost productivity for converters?
In the traditional linear process, each job or box is run step-by-step through the plant, and each job implies another setup time on each piece of equipment so when job volumes increase, it creates an adverse setup-to-run ratio and a bottleneck at the finishing stage. If finishing happens on a CAD table, then even short-run jobs can take hours. The introduction of a digital manufacturing mindset incorporating digital finishing changes these paradigms for the new shorter-run jobs. In a digital manufacturing process for example, jobs are collected, and then using AI-driven imposition software, dynamically ganged to reduce the number of makereadies and tooling costs. These jobs that have been printed either digitally or conventionally will then be die cut and creased digitally—because that’s how you optimize productivity of small batch sizes.
Tooling costs and lead times are eliminated, cycle times are shortened, and production time dramatically cut when compared to CAD, and not dissimilar to analog when cutting on a conventional die cutter. Digital finishing also allows for a more sustainable process. The carbon footprint of each job finished digitally is slashed when compared to a job involving a full conventional die set.
A huge boost in e-commerce and dedicated web-to-pack sites mean that corrugated boxes are readily available to brands, small businesses, and even individuals within short lead times.
The BoxMaker in the US, for example, with dedicated web-to-pack site Fantastapack.com offers an online custom packaging order system designed for small businesses, entrepreneurs, or anyone else who requires packaging without a concern for minimum order requirements. Thanks to the implementation of a digital manufacturing strategy powered by software, digital printing, and digital finishing, the order system works by the customer entering information and uploading artwork; that information is sent directly to the press without human intervention or even the need for a conversation. Artificial Intelligence optimizes the creation of print-ready layouts against the potential millions of possibilities; the software then streamlines planning and layout creation guided by custom rules and the ability to gang multiple jobs based on customer requirements including due date and more. Planning, ganging, and batching happen as efficiently as possible driving maximum throughput.
It’s all about the right tool for the right job. Digital die cutting as part of a Digital Manufacturing strategy making the “new” jobs feasible, attractive, effective, and environmentally responsible. Alongside the conventional process through which the traditional jobs continue to run effectively.
Digital die cutting is at the heart of Highcon solutions. These systems combine digitally driven physical mechanical crease lines with laser die cutting and digital stripping to dispose of all the internal pieces. From the short-run-centric Highcon Euclid 5C system via the flexible Highcon Beam 2C and the longer-run-centric Highcon Beam 2C Nonstop, all of which are in operation at various sites around the world, Highcon has a portfolio dedicated to corrugated, both for packaging and display applications.
Converters need to understand and optimize their processes now more than ever—not only for print and materials but also for finishing. Digital finishing and the solutions enabled by AI technology, open new doors and enable new choices to maximize efficiency and produce corrugated boxes, with ease.