Inkjet Printing on Corrugated Board

A print consulting client of mine recently asked why there was so much excitement about inkjet printing on corrugated board, so I did some quick research and gave him the following presentation. Personally I think digital printing on corrugated board will be a game changer. Here’s why.

The Expensive Analog Printing Options

First of all, the interior “S”-shaped ridges in corrugated board (called “fluting”) are what make it both strong and lightweight. It’s perfect for boxes because it can support the weight of the contents, but it doesn’t add much overall weight to the packaged product. In fact, the finer the corrugation (E-fluting for instance), the smaller the hills and valleys of the fluting, and the stronger the box.

Within corrugated board, the fluting is essentially the center of a paper sandwich. On both the top and bottom of the “S”-shaped, sinuous fluting is a flat piece of paper glued to the corrugation. Making this paper sandwich is an involved process requiring expensive machinery. Therefore, you need a lot of start-up cash to enter this kind of work, and you need to do long production runs to make it cost effective.

Keep in mind that this is even before you do any custom printing on the cardboard. Even though the fluting is strong, it is easily crushed, so offset printing is not a viable option for adding type and photos to a corrugated box. The offset press rollers would just flatten the corrugated board during printing.

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