- June 03, 2009, By Claudia Hine, Managing Editor
ORLANDO, FL | Nearly 350 attendees, including PFFC, gathered at the Hilton Walt Disney World Hotel May 17-20 to take part in the EskoArtwork Worldwide 2009 User Conference. Started as a CAD group 19 years ago, the conference has evolved to include graphics and more. This year’s event featured six tracks: structural packaging design; digital flexo; color, proofing, and digital printing; packaging workflow automation; packaging pre-production; and collaboration.
The conference provided users with an opportunity to hear about the future development of products, participate in hands-on workshops, and see demos of software and hardware, including the Kongsberg XP Series digital cutting table.
The Kongsberg XP is said to set a new standard for digital cutting tables, handling the combination of corrugated board and other rigid materials used in packaging, POP products, and product displays, as well as providing 24/7 production. Vacuum zones are flexible, depending on the material being cut, and the optional I-cut vision system reportedly guarantees a perfect match between the cutting contour and the printed graphics.
Top speed of 100 m/min can be reached on several materials. Tool changing reportedly is easy; the system recognizes the tool units automatically through electronic identifiers. The XP has an Automatic Tool Leveling feature that calibrates the vertical operating level. A fully automatic load mechanism is said to handle a half-ton of corrugated material.
Packaging Workflow Automation
In a session devoted to workflow, Filip Carrein, product manager, server platforms, presented attendees with the “Workflow Server Automation Development Roadmap.” He covered updates and benefits of the current BackStage and Nexus workflows and gave a demonstration of the Nexus-BackStage integration.
Carrein also provided a timeline for the new Platform 10 Automation Engine, which will be rolled out in three phases. The first phase is commercial availability by the end of 2009; it will replace BackStage and Nexus for new customers. By the end of 2010, Platform 10 will implement the Editor (ArtPro) automation and replace Nexus for existing packaging customers. Phase three will replace the Odystar workflows.
EskoArtwork executives held a press conference for journalists attending the event. CEO and president Carsten Knudsen acknowledged that this is “a time for painkillers,” as many companies in this industry are suffering. He revealed that EskoArtwork enjoyed double-digit growth in the third quarter of 2008, single-digit growth in the fourth quarter, and “satisfactory” results for 2009’s first quarter.
Knudsen also fielded questions on results of the Survey of Brand Owners the company recently conducted in partnership with Adobe and the International Packaging Inst. to gain an understanding of trends in packaging design.
According to the survey, the majority of brand owner respondents reported that prepress/repro work, creative surface design, and creative structural design are outsourced; 40% of respondents have no design department in their company. Demand for private labeling is growing, with 54% of respondents reporting that their private label business accounted for up to 25% of revenues.
Surprisingly, only 15% said that providing sustainable packaging solutions was critical to or already addressed in their businesses today. Knudsen suspects that the low percentage is a result of the current economic climate, but he says EskoArtwork’s products can help the environment by taking cost out of the packaging supply chain, e.g., concentric screening that uses less ink consumption. For that reason, the Gent, Belgium-based company sees good development in the mature markets of North America and Europe.
Arjen Maarleveld, senior VP products, provided an overview of the company’s planned areas of focus over the next few years, including Platform 10, which is a series of engines that brings together the core technologies of two former competitors—Esko Graphics and Artwork Systems—on a single platform.
He also covered the new partnership with Strata in which Strata will market a new product, Strata Enfold 3D CX, which is based on EskoArtwork technology. EskoArtwork will include the ability to import Strata Foto 3D CX data files into its ArtiosCAD. Now designers can create packaging for a product before it is manufactured, without waiting for a model.
Maarleveld discussed the introduction of HD Flexo, a system that combines 4,000 dpi HD optics along with unique screening technologies for sharper, more accurate imaging. This technology will be available on new Cyrel Digital Imagers.
The latest version of ArtiosCARD, v7.4, focuses on much easier administration of packaging projects along with new design features for curved creases and mating folding parts and multi-component designs. Curved Creases reportedly makes it easier for designers to work with curved folds and cuts by allowing them to visualize designs with curved creases as part of its 3D module.
Tabletop Displays and More
Conference attendees also found time to visit displays from partner companies, including HP/Indigo and Gallus, as well as to participate in a Hands-On Color Lab and less lofty pursuits—such as crab races—at a casual dinner event that had to be staged indoors rather than poolside due to inclement weather.