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Exclusive Interview

We caught up with the expert Sean Smyth, Print Expert from Smithers. Read on to hear his thoughts on the new technologies and innovations in the digital print for packaging industry, and the impact of COVID.

Q. What are the key differences you between different regions EU, Asia and US) for Digital Packaging Printing?
It is fair to say that Europe and North America are ahead of Asia in the adoption of digital printing of labels and packaging but there are signs that brands and converters in Asia are taking note of an increasing number of successful installations. It is also interesting to track more Asian suppliers entering the market, for example many Chinese vendors offering single pass corrugated postprint machines domestically and looking for export opportunities.

Q. What impact do you think Covid has had on the digital print for packaging industry?
Initially delay and panic but the signs are that COVID will ultimately accelerate the analogue to digital transition. More e-commerce changes the role of much packaging and when brands and e-commerce vendors understand how to provide more engagement and tailor content to buyers there will be a shift from packaging as a cost to opening up new sources of revenue from advertising and promotion.

Q. What new technologies and innovations have you seen in the last 12 months?
I see new entrants coming in to the market, with Indian, Chinese ad Korean suppliers looking to the world market, while the established players are refining and honing their offerings. HP Indigo has a new technology platform based on its electroink that will boost speeds at lower cost for the same quality which is exciting. It is also interesting to watch analogue equipment providers, including Komori, for example, widen their offering to include digital technology.

Q. What are the biggest barriers to brands and converters adopting digital printing technology for their packaging?
It is the traditional problem of change management. Brands are complex organisations composed of multiple disciplines of marketing, production, legal, finance, supply chain and sustainability. All players have to come on board to make change happen and that can be difficult. The arrival of small, upstart craft brands are making waves that the big boys cannot ignore, and they will experiment with the available technology to see how they can benefit.

Q. What are the biggest drivers?
Simply brands and retailers; converters and their suppliers can print labels digitally and make money. Digital manufacture allows brands to reduce their environmental impact which is demanded by more consumers, and they can do more with their packaging that consumers like.