Peter Aldous, creative services director at Elmwood London, shares his thoughts on digital printing.

Elmwood’s great portfolio of global clients sees my role review many different aspects of brand execution. The diversification of modern branding and all its considered touch points is an exciting arena to be in. Speaking at recent industry events has led me to analyse what part we play in innovation within this arena.

Being close to marketing, R&D and purchasing, let’s me see the struggle technology has. Attending press passes let’s you see how a balance of attendees makes a successful day. Every key stakeholder contributes their expertise but to bring innovation to the table is challenging. To change process takes all of my 20+ years’ experience. However, I have worked in all aspects of this industry and honesty and setting expectations early on are my key learnings.

Elmwood’s clients expect this now from us, if we supply a design it has to be considered. If we propose a new substrate or print process, we have to also investigate in advance the benefits for ROI and printability.

So with this in mind, where is digital printing in our client’s plans? I believe it is about time we moved on from the debate of digital printing’s place within the world of packaging. Recent innovation and trends to short run, more personalised and consumer interactivity with FMCG are set to grow its market share. There are enough advantages to make an assured way across our client’s radar.

At recent trips to both Packaging Innovations and Ipex, we saw an increased level of competency. The Konica Minolta KM-1 sheetfed digital press shown at Ipex uses UV inks and with practical zero makeready time allows the bespoke short run print capability that other print processes lack. Registration issues are a thing of the past so fine text is now back to a practical reality. Increases in resolution now lets it rival traditional litho for colour gamuts. Revolutions in ink technology alongside traditional experience in litho have led to market shares in digital print unheard of only a few years ago. This is all bringing confidence in the market to use digital as an effective solution.

We know that brand consistency is key in today’s FMCG sector, touch points that use digital printing are no longer so far away from others that use traditional methods – something recently demonstrated to us by Ultimate Packaging. Its innovative digital capability alongside an already established flexo offering show how far printers have come. Examples shown to me are indistinguishable between conventional and digital. The colour achievability and quality were excellent.

So what is the future for digital printing, or more to the point, how can we play our part in its destiny? The answer is: we already are. Take a linen tester to your local supermarket and you will be surprised to see how much packaging is printed already with digital.

It is all about content in the current marketplace. Ironically, the synergy between print and the digital space is particularly evident through packaging with the most ability to adapt to trends. Digital print has this ability, especially through variable data printing. A brand’s ability to personalise will lead to increased consumer loyalty if it is done with consideration to its core messaging.

So as we see this increase in variable data printing, we now have the ability for brands to use digital print to access micro trends. Activities that typically only last a short time yet yield great possibilities. A TV show’s popularity or celebrity endorsement can be used whilst still current with minimal change to the supply chain and cost to implement. As fashion changes overnight so could packaging.

The part of my role I love the best is innovation and I will be watching digital print with great expectation moving forward.