Fast-approaching a year in our hands, what has investment in water-based inkjet to manufacture flexible packaging meant for us at Eco Flexibles, as well as our fast-growing customer base?

Whilst not new per se – we’ve been around since 2019 – our business has skyrocketed since we started working with digital last year to produce flexible packaging in-house. As the first user of the Fujifilm Jet Press FP790 outside of Japan, this has given us the opportunity to not only differentiate ourselves in this increasingly competitive market but also to break new ground and innovate within a historically conservative and conventional sector such as flexible packaging. Yes, digital has previously made inroads in various ways and places but, for us, water-based inkjet is the clear choice when looking to take things to the next level.

From speeds and throughput comparable to flexo, to sustainability benefits from using an environmentally-conscious manufacturing technique: water-based inkjet offers it all, and more.

As a brand owner, you might ask, “So what?” and “Haven’t we heard this all before?”. In short, no. Things are different. Your markets have evolved, consumer appetites have changed. At the same time, a new breed of printing technology has emerged that helps you change and evolve in kind. We are only just at the beginning of an exciting new chapter when it comes manufacturing flexible packaging, digitally and at scale. As a business at the forefront of this change, let us detail first-hand the lessons we’ve learnt and share some of the experiences we’ve had.


In theory

The Fujifilm Jet Press FP790 has been specifically engineered to combine the benefits of digital – agility and flexibility – with volume requirements and quality demands that continue to reign supreme when it comes to flexible packaging. This is important to understand when it comes to embracing digital. There’s no benefit to printing at a slower speed onto films that are too narrow to be viable as packs and pouches that consumers engage with each and every day. Similarly, having the ability to run wider widths of material at thunderous press speeds precludes you from responding efficiently and effectively in today’s world of near-instantaneous communication.

With a width of 790mm and printing at a minimum of 50m/min, Jet Press FP790 provides an ideal platform to achieve flexibility and agility, with an effective throughput that makes the platform viable for today’s brands and their packaging needs. Coupled with a 1200×1200 dpi resolution and two digital white channels that can achieve an opacity of 55-58%, you add quality into the mix and create a potent combination for almost any brand. Also, almost all and any brand colour can be printed without costly spot colours or special inks, making colour matching to your own personal identity a doddle. These water-based CMYK inks we print with deliver consistent and vibrant results.

They are more environmentally-positive than their solvent-based counterparts too. With no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted during the printing process, they help create a cleaner natural environment and minimise air pollution. In turn, this is better for our operators who are in close quarters to the machine and inks. So, water-based inks not only benefit you and your customers by being greener, but they’re safer for our staff.

The press can then print onto paper-based substrates and mono-materials, allowing us to meet the ever-growing demand for packaging that is easier to recycle and kinder to the environment. This is essential to any brand and its packaging portfolio today.

Being digital, there’s no longer the need to invest in expensive inventories of plates and dies for each and every packaging iteration, rather it’s all now handled in the pre-press environment and produced on press, as and when you need, in the quantities you require. A ‘run of one’ is possible, but the reality is that multiple jobs can be loaded onto the press in succession and runs of many thousands of linear metres printed in no time at all, without the need for all the associated consumables, lengthy changeovers and costs that you’re used to, but without compromising quality.

All of the above requires me to reiterate that water-based inkjet digital printing is the clear and obvious choice.


In practice

Don’t just take our word for it, let the work we’re doing speak for itself. Our customer book expands day-by-day as more and more brands switch on to the message we are sharing, with one of those to have benefitted being Whitworths. A renowned dried fruit and nut snack brand, it sought an overhaul of its packaging as part of a major refresh to help cut through the market noise of health-focused brands vying for consumer attention.

We were tasked with using our knowledge of flexible packaging design and digital production to create an eye-catching range that was simple to produce in high volumes and recyclable. The result was a seriously good range of packaging for Whitworth’s “Mission Nutrition” campaign.

Printed onto polyolefin monopolymer structures as specified by the customer, some including high barrier characteristics, we used the Fujifilm Jet Press FP790 to create proofs that were faithful to the designer’s vision and delivered the visual impact needed to stand out. Approval of such a project would typically be a long and drawn-out process but for “Mission Nutrition”, 15 designs were printed in the space of an hour on the press. Designs were signed off by all stakeholders the same day, dramatically accelerating speed to market, in terms of both approval and production.

When it came to full-scale production, bold graphics through to delicate nuances have been produced, creating a winning look on the shelf for Whitworths and its all-important packaging refresh.

This collaboration perfectly illustrates the potential to efficiently and effectively create highly impactful packaging that is recyclable, using cutting-edge tools and processes. We enjoyed working with Whitworths on its successful completion and look forward to completing many more successful projects in the future.

To find out how you can benefit from collaborating with Eco Flexibles and its digital production nous, contact us here.