Tetra Pak pioneers digital colour carton production

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Multinational food packaging giant Tetra Pak has claimed it will become the first flexible and carton manufacturer to introduce full-colour digital print production capabilities, in an innovative collaboration with press maker, Koenig & Bauer (K&B).

Tetra Pak said it will be the first in its sector to install the hotly anticipated RotaJet 168 digital printing press, which is currently being built by Koenig & Bauer, after it is said to have been monitoring digital print technology for the past 20 years.

K&B RotaJet 168 digital press

The RotaJet 168 digital printing press 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.

Tetra Pak is looking to introduce digital technology to its worldwide clients as a complementary service offering to its existing flexographic print facilities once the successful pilot launch and field testing to North American customers from Denton has been completed.

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.”

Brand continued, “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 flexo process was still key to its operations and, he commented that this 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 takes its name from the tetrahedron shape and has head offices in Lund, Sweden, and Lausanne, Switzerland. employs in excess of 24,000 people around the world.

With revenues of €11.5bn (£10.2bn) and at the last count the company was operating 55 production plants in territories including the US, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Canada, China, Colombia and Mexico Tetra Pak is truly one of the world’s leading packaging businesses.