One of the areas where technology has really changed things dramatically for the cardboard box industry in the past few years is in the realm of printing text and images onto boxes. For most of the past hundred years, printing onto cardboard hasn’t changed much. These days we have multiple methods of printing at our disposal to offer our customers a variety of colors, effects, and prices for their custom printed boxes.
Printing can be as simple as adding a company name or logo to a box in order to track a shipment or prevent loss. You can print numbers on partitions to make counting or labeling products easier. A custom printed mailing box and display can be created with photo quality graphics that extend a company’s brand and image, using the cardboard itself to market to the customer.
There are several different methods of print that are used today to transfer ink to cardboard.
First there is preprint. In this method, the paperboard that will be used to make the linerboard of the corrugated cardboard is unwound from its roll and printed, the same as any paper. Then it is rolled back up before being glued to the medium. This is an easy and cost effective way to print, but it requires printing a large number of boxes with the same text or image.
Flexographic printing has been used for many years. After the cardboard is formed, flexible rubber ink plates stamp the board with water-based ink, leaving an image behind. Flexographic printing can be done in multiple colors if multiple plates are used, and is a lower-cost option.
Screen printing involves forcing ink through a very fine mesh screen that includes a stencil cutout of the image where the ink will go. It produces higher resolution images and can be done in multiple colors. It is more appropriate for small runs of boxes.
Litho-laminating means printing an image on a separate, print-quality piece of paper, and then laminating that paper to the cardboard. This produces very high definition images and bright colors and is often used for marketing materials such as a custom printed mailing box and POP displays.
Digital printing is just starting to become available for corrugated cardboard. A computer transfers an image directly to the corrugated using a special large-sized ink jet printer. The quality of digital printing is extremely high, but the process is very slow and the cost is still quite high.
When you custom order your boxes or mailing supplies, don’t leave your cardboard plain. Printing your boxes means making use of an incredible opportunity to convey information and branding to your customers and clients!