What’s next in digital beverage can printing

Digital printing, which is expected to reach $17.5 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 12.1% from 2021 to 2026, is penetrating deeper into a wide range of packaging formats, from packaging flexible to cartons.

With the collaboration of a major player in the packaging market, Velox brings the versatility of technology to beverage cans starting with craft beers.

The company entered the digital printing market four years ago with the introduction of the Velox IDS-PT 250 and Velox IDS-AC direct-to-shape systems for decorating tubes and cans aerosols. Last year, Velox announced a partnership with Crown Holdings to develop systems using the same platform for high-quality beverage can decoration. Applications include small batch varieties, seasonal and short-term promotional products, or multipacks containing a variety of SKUs.

We unpack the details in this interview with Merav Sheffer, Head of Marketing, Velox.

Tell us about digital printing for beverage cans.

Sherffer: The Velox IDS-NC series for necked beverage cans, for example, operates at mass production speeds of up to 500 cans per minute and offers a viable replacement for shrink sleeves and labels. It offers high quality printing, including photorealistic images, an extremely wide color gamut, precise color matching and new decorating possibilities by using Velox’s highly opaque Selective Digital White to completely block the metal surface of the box or use it by applying the translucent colors of Velox to obtain superb metallic colors.

The unique technology further enables end-to-end decoration with seamless 360° printing with no gaps or overlaps, as well as chime and neck printing that helps brands stand out on the shelf.

While the craft beer industry is one of Velox’s target markets, aluminum cans are increasingly being used for beverages like seltzer water, hard cider, cocktails and water. Velox systems also offer a cost-effective, durable and flexible production solution for all of these types of beverage cans.

Several systems have been marketed for decorating necked beverage cans in North America. The first installation is estimated for early 2023.

Image courtesy of VeloxVelox wise_beer-172x400.png

What does 500 cpm do for customers?
Sherffer: By offering a decorating speed five times faster than other digital solutions on the market, it enables a high level of operational agility. For example, printing any run length with no minimum quantity required or switching to print-on-demand speeds time to market and eliminates overproduction. Velox solutions deliver low total cost of ownership by increasing production capacity with near-zero machine setup time and extremely fast print speeds.

What is the machine configuration?

Sherffer: As an all-digital printing solution, the machine configuration is close to zero. Once artwork is uploaded to the system and sent to print, printing begins within minutes. Time-consuming setup that includes cleaning the drum, adjusting plates or screens, mixing colors, and calibration time is virtually eliminated. Switching between print jobs is quick and easy, and thanks to the system’s mass production speed, manufacturers, beverage can wholesalers, co-packers and fillers can print different run lengths and offer faster time to market. Velox also enables a more sustainable decorating process by reducing calibration waste, as well as eliminating the use of shrink sleeves and labels. Additionally, using Velox solutions allows manufacturers to save on equipment and materials, reducing energy consumption and chemical usage.

Compare this technology to applied and pre-printed stretch or shrink film labels.

Sherffer: Digital decoration directly in the shape of Velox makes shrink sleeves or labels for necked beverage cans obsolete. It offers major sustainability improvements by eliminating labels, label liners, adhesives and label production waste. With Velox’s fast turnaround and mass production digital printing, inventory storage of sleeves and labels is reduced.

Additionally, shrink sleeves and labels must be stored in temperature-controlled rooms, so energy consumption increases with storage. Shrink sleeves require hot air tunnels, which use even more energy to apply them to necked beverage cans. Less equipment is required throughout the direct-to-shape digital decoration process, reducing overall energy consumption.

Image courtesy of VeloxVelox-Vs-sleeving.jpg

Without labels or shrink sleeves, aluminum cans are also more recyclable. Collared beverage cans with sleeves increase the number of cans discarded at recycling facilities. Additionally, the shift to print-on-demand, enabled by a solution such as the Velox IDS-NC series, reduces beverage can overproduction, shipping, inventory storage and the risk of obsolescence. Brands can print any quantity at mass production speeds to gain operational flexibility that is only possible with digital decoration technology.

Shrink sleeves and labeling materials and application on beverage cans are expensive. By using direct-to-box printing, you eliminate these costs. Additionally, with the high speed and time savings on setup time and sleeve/label handling and application, overall production capacity is increased. The ability to decorate on demand eliminates overproduction and wasted inventory, further reducing costs. All this translates into a lower total cost of ownership compared to the alternative decoration method of shrink sleeves and labels.