Every time someone applies face wash, moisturizer or hand cream, the experience begins with the eyes seeing the tube, followed by the hands grasping and squeezing it, until they feel the cream or liquid on their skin. The visual and tactile experience of the packaging is integral to the experience of the product. Likewise, on retail shelves, tube packages play an important role in consumer purchase decisions, where they must catch the eye, support the brand messages and feel great in the hand.
So, it’s no wonder that brands are constantly seeking ways to upgrade the look and feel of their tubes. Coming up with stunning designs is the vital first step, but designers’ creativity can be limited by the traditional printing technologies available for direct-to-shape decoration. Each of the technologies in common use (flexo, offset and screen printing) has its strengths, but each of them also has limitations; and none can offer the full range of decoration requirements in one system. As a result, the desired decoration must often be achieved in stages, sometimes through a few printing systems – each of which can add cost, complexity and time.
Different technologies, different strengths
For high-quality photorealistic images and fine linework, flexo offers the best result. For decorations that require raised texture, haptic effects and high-opacity ink coverage, silk screen technology is typically the first choice. In contrast, offset printing produces excellent, cost-effective results when it comes to sharp text and colorful designs that don’t need photo quality. However, gradients or half-tones are more challenging to achieve and printing on the cap is not possible. This means that if the designer wants the cap to match the artwork of the tube body, master-batching is needed to reach the desired color or design on the cap.
Direct-to-shape digital printing can overcome those limitations, but it does require some very specific capabilities. Velox’s industrial digital decoration system can accomplish the benefits of all those traditional printing technologies mentioned above using a single technology. With Velox’s proprietary direct-to-shape digital printing and ink series, there is no need to combine multiple printing technologies to reach the desired design.
This printing system, running at mass production speed, replaces the need for several printing technologies and eliminates the lengthy setup time required by traditional technologies, increasing line capacity. This makes it easy and efficient to print high-quality photorealistic images, unlimited colours (available on the machine at all times without needing spot colours), gradients, and half tones. A tube design can include raised textures, the same as if it were printed using silk screen technology, when in fact it was digitally printed. The design can continue all the way to the cap and include embellishments selectively, such as matte, gloss and even tactile embossing. In addition, it can feature full 360-degree decoration without gap or overlap, which raises the package to a whole new level.
Additional decoration possibilities on non-white tubes
Printing on tubes that are transparent or with colour (such as black or beige) or made of recyclable resin requires a layer of white ink underneath the images and text. Using analog technology to print the white layer often requires two passes of printing to achieve the level of opacity and completely block the substrate color. With Velox’s direct-to-shape digital printing, the extremely opaque white ink on the Velox system turns any substrate into a printable surface in just one pass, saving on time and ink.
The Velox IDS 250 industrial digital system runs at production line speed of 250 containers per minute, with no setup between jobs and offers a lower environmental footprint than analog printing.
Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!