“The market for digital print in packaging has only just started and we are talking to early adopters to better understand customer requirements,” said Hewlett-Packard's Inkjet High-Speed Production Solutions Division vice president and general manager Aurelio Maruggi.
“Our discussions with major packaging suppliers about the capabilities and product features they require suggests that inkjet will not just be for a niche but will become mainstream similar to what we’ve already seen in direct mail, publishing and general commercial.”
To date the company has launched a simplex version of its T-Series machine for packaging production; of which one has been installed at Czech firm Obaly Morava.
Under the agreement with KBA, the German press giant is producing a paper transport system, which will use HP thermal inkjet technology, and will be sold exclusively by HP. The target market for the press is the corrugated sector.
The firm is finalising the specification with KBA and potential customers.
“It will be the best of both companies, working together means we can develop faster and produce a better product,” said Maruggi.
He added that while building on the strengths of both companies, including KBA’s flexo operation Flexotecnica, there were also some aspects of the project that would be new for both firms.
However, the deal is restricted to corrugated packaging.
“We will continue to compete with KBA in the commercial and publishing markets, this collaboration is in packaging only,” said Maruggi. “It will be primarily for corrugated box production to replace pre-printed rolls and litho lamination.”
The resultant press will be based on thermal printheads, just like the rest of HP's high-speed inkjet portfolio.
“Priming makes thermal inkjet fit for packaging, this press will work on standard kraft and other packaging papers, it will not need a special inkjet media,” he said.
The press is expected to handle a wide-range of different applications and substrates, and therefore print qualities, handling both black-only onto kraft and full-colour onto white.
“It will allow corrugators to respond to the need for fast turnarounds and low volumes, both for short runs and versioned jobs,” said Maruggi.
“It supports the entire industry moving to a more flexible supply chain and carrying less inventory. It also opens up personalised boxes, although that is not the primary objective.”
Further details on the final specification of the press will be released in the coming months.