Web-to-pack: the next big thing in packaging printing?
“Impossible!” – it is not unusual for success stories to start like this. So too in the printing industry. For example, when the first online print shops started popping up almost 20 years ago. Standardizing printed matter so that it can be costed and automatically produced at the touch of a button? An estimated 99 percent of commercial print shops thought this was a fantasy. Today, web-to-print is flourishing. Sales and market shares are constantly growing. Nevertheless, “impossible!” is something we’re hearing again these days. This time from the stores of packaging printers when it comes to web-to-pack.
Admittedly, folding carton printing is much more complex than advertising printing, if only because of the finishing and topics like serialization, color migration, or color consistency. On the other hand, however, technology has made a huge leap forward in recent years: “Highly automated machines, intelligent software, and a connected, digital value chain have smoothed the path towards online printing – including for folding cartons,” explains Bernhard Schaaf, Senior Manager Digital Printing at Heidelberg.
Example of a web-to-pack online shop (Source: designyourpackaging.de by colordruck Baiersbronn).
Other print shops, on the other hand, set up a closed shop so that they increase the loyalty of existing customers through additional services, and in this way protect their core business. Being able to reorder folding cartons online at any time, possibly with the option of the customer being able to make minor changes to the layout within the predefined framework, is an example of a typical value-added service.
Production systems from Heidelberg: Primefire 106 and Speedmaster XL 106.
One thing is sure: a company that does not want to place its own market position at risk must give its customers what they want. Web-to-pack helps with this. The tools are available. Even fully digital production from printing to coating application to die cutting is possible – and therefore also cost-effective production down to batch sizes of 1. “Early adoption pays off,” says Schaaf with confidence. “You just have to look back to the beginnings of web-to-print. The forerunners set in motion a spiral through ever more efficient and ever faster production. That kind of competitive edge is very hard to catch up.”