Review Day 1: 8th Expert Meeting Packaging Printing – Daring Diversity

Dieter Finna · Pack.Consult (

The diversity around the topics of design, prepress, inks, printing processes and conventional press technology captivated the participants. Special attention was paid to the question of the relevance of printed packaging in the future. The supermarket shelf has lost its unique selling position as the ultimate point of sale, that was the provocative thesis of one expert presentation. The industry continues to be dominated by topics relating to the more resource-efficient production of packaging.

Karsten Schröder opened the 8th expert meeting on 23 and 24 November, 2022 in Osnabrück under the motto “Daring diversity”. The conference offered a colourful programme across a wide range of current packaging topics.

Design diversity for sustainable brand messages
“Making sustainability visible” was the topic of Volker Muche’s presentation (pacoon Sustainability Concepts PSC). Besides sustainability, other value propositions compete for perception at the point of sale. Volker Muche used use cases to show how sustainable graphic design is balanced and which graphic parameters are of particular relevance. The focus is on the packaging concept, be it through avoiding or reducing packaging material, improving recyclability, using renewable raw materials or a complete system change to reusable packaging. Credible sustainability communication on the packaging must also be based on reliable facts of the underlying packaging system due to legal requirements.

Reliable colour measurement on different substrates
Access to colour specifications and their tolerances in packaging printing must be easily accessible for all parties involved. Today, CxF data are used in many applications for different substrates, Frank Beuleke (X-Rite GmbH) described the current situation in packaging printing. Already in prepress they are used for profiling or proofing, as well as for ink formulation and quality control. As unique digital references, they replace printed templates without the disadvantage of varying as they age. With these CxF specifications, the expectation of printed colour tones can be better controlled. In clouds, they serve as globally and centrally available standards for colour communication.

Recycling-friendly printing inks
The binders used in packaging inks determine the recycling process and the recyclate quality of the printed packaging material, Dr. Annett Kaeding-Koppers (AKK Innovation) stated at the beginning of her presentation. Compared to non-heat-resistant printing inks based on nitrocellulose, heat-resistant printing inks based on polyurethane or PVB can be directly recycled mechanically. Could the granules also be used in automotive components in the future, or again in packaging?

This essentially lacks a design change, correct guidelines and still companies that take a pioneering role with recycled granulates. If this were successfully implemented, legal requirements could be further developed and sorting and recycling processes adapted accordingly.

Central cylinder offset presses for flexible packaging
Stefan Faktor (Eumatex) highlighted the advantages offered by central cylinder offset printing with the Comexi Offset CI Evolution in packaging printing. From a sustainability point of view, the offset printing process has advantages due to its solvent-free technology, lower energy consumption and lower CO2 emissions. In terms of quality, it is above all the fine screen gradations that are possible without problems in offset. When comparing costs, the more favourable printing plates tip the scales in favour of offset printing. In addition, offset printing impresses with its shorter process times in plate production and the possibility of combining different motifs in one forme. In terms of efficiency and automation, it is the automatic makeready with robots and the simple colour change with automatic washing system that make CI offset interesting for packaging printing. So far, 27 presses of this type have been sold worldwide.

Waterless EB offset printing system
The presentation by Itsue Yanagida (Toray International Europe GmbH) fitted in seamlessly with the advantages of offset CI packaging printing. Compared to gravure printing, the CO2 emissions of EB offset printing are only one fifth and compared to flexo printing only one third. The innovation in the ink sector lies in the development of a resin for water-washable EB inks that can be washed off with a water-based cleaning solution. Since neither the electron beam-curing ink nor the water-based cleaning solution contain solvents, the entire printing process is completely free of VOC. In addition, the plates, which are made of aluminium, can be recycled.

All organic (degradable) or what?
Biodegradable polymers was the topic of Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Herrenbauer (Media University). In general, these raw materials can be divided into biogenic (raw materials of plant origin) and biodegradable raw materials. They intersect with the biodegradable, renewable raw materials. When they decompose, enzymes break down polymer chains on the surface of the plastic, releasing chain fragments. Fragments of these can be found in the compost in a particle size of > 1mm. They decompose further into CO2, water and methane, which means no compost is produced from their raw materials, which means that there is no recycling cycle for renewable raw materials. Biopolymers are also no solution to the question of how to prevent the pollution of the world’s oceans. For these reasons, recycling must also be the preferred disposal route for biopolymers.

The future of (packaging) prepress with artificial intelligence
“Artificial intelligence is the transfer of human thinking to computers in order to find answers and solve problems independently,” is how Ingo Beutler (Saueressig Group) defines the frequently used term. The aim of AI in prepress is to simplify it. At Saueressig, for example, algorithms have been developed and trained to exclude certain errors in prepress. A frequently used technique is the search for comparable data (Simularity Search). The analysis of identical printing tools (Commonality Search) also serves to make production more cost-efficient. This includes the fast analysis of alternate colours or the image comparison with an unknown number of references. In addition, AI deals with image creation to assemble freely invented images from different partial images. These can be published without violating personal rights.