Multinational food packaging giant Tetra Pak has claimed it is to become the first carton manufacturer to introduce full-colour digital printing capabilities, in a collaboration with Koenig & Bauer (K&B).
The company said it will be the first in its sector to install a RotaJet 168 digital printer, currently being built by K&B, after monitoring digital print technology for the past 20 years.
It will be installed at Tetra Pak’s 6,830sqm converting plant in Denton, Texas, US, and is expected to begin field testing to North American customers in early 2020.
With head offices in Lund, Sweden, and Lausanne, Switzerland, Tetra Pak will look to introduce digital technology to its worldwide clients as a complement to its existing flexographic print facilities.
Tetra Pak executive vice president of product management and commercial operations Charles Brand said: “Conversations have been collaborative between K&B and Tetra Pak, using both of our industry expertise to reach the end goal. The printer developed for Tetra Pak represents the best-in-class for single pass inkjet printing and has been developed specifically in order to fit our requirements.
“Digital printing enables a customer to produce customised designs in smaller batches for special campaigns around holidays or other special events or launch special designs and promotions for particular drinking products, such as on selected airlines. The digital printing process also allows them to test a new package design in a small market and with a limited number of products.
“Our ambition is to continue to build our reputation as a trusted full service partner to our customers in the digital era. Through partnerships and innovation, we intend to use technology such AI, predictive maintenance and the internet of things (IoT) to increase efficiency and profitability for our customers.”
While Tetra Pak will introduce digital as a new component of its offering, Brand clarified that its plate-based flexo process was still key to its operations and, he said, will “remain the preferred alternative for the vast bulk of our production for the foreseeable future”.
The development of the full-width RotaJet 168 represents one facet of Tetra Pak’s investment in Industry 4.0 technologies. Digital print will allow for faster turnaround times and lower prices on short runs, according to Brand.
Tetra Pak employs more than 24,000 people around the world on a turnover of €11.5bn (£10.2bn). It runs 55 production plants in territories including the US, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Canada, China, Colombia and Mexico.