- March 27, 2012
With razor thin margins and fierce competition in the industry, converters have increasingly looked to bring more operations in-house. One way they are gaining a competitive edge is by skipping outsourced mounting to significantly cut the cost and time to print or foil stamp solid bleached sulphate (SBS) stock for premium retail boxes, packaging, and signage. This can be easily accomplished with sheet-fed offset, screen printed, or flatbed digital printers using heavyweight SBS board.
As a premium bleached board made from virgin tree fibers, SBS often is used in high-end packaging. Since SBS is hygienic with no smell or taste, it is popular for packaging aroma- and flavor-sensitive products like fragrance or chocolate. Its solid white core and rigidity makes it a prime choice for folding carton applications, retail and consumer goods, as well as greeting cards and signage. Standard SBS thicknesses, or calipers, from 15-24 points (0.015-0.024 in.) are readily available for typical applications.
Where quality and perceived value is vital, however, such as in many health, beauty, pharmaceutical, and high-end retail products, thicker, more rigid SBS (from 30-48 points or 0.030-0.048 in.) often is used for premium boxes and packaging. High-end retailers frequently put extraordinary care into their choice of packaging, as they recognize its power both to brand a product with a strong first impression and to encourage brand loyalty.
Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, for instance, obsessed over and patented the packaging for various Apple products, including the iPod Nano’s box and the iPhone’s packaging, according to Walter Isaacson in his recent book Steve Jobs. “Whether it’s an iPod Mini or a MacBook Pro, Apple customers know the feeling of opening up the well-crafted box and finding the product nestled in an inviting fashion,” states Isaacson.
“You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special,” said Jonathan Ive, Job’s chief product designer, in Isaacson’s book. “Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.”
When thicker, more rigid SBS is required, however, the traditional method has been to print on thinner SBS material (such as 18- or 24-point sheets), then send the sheets along with the unprinted sheets to a mounter or finisher. But this adds the cost of mounting and freight. It also delays delivery to the end customer by up to a week while the mounter receives, mounts, and ships the items.
Instead, a growing number of converters are finding that printing directly onto 30-48+ point heavyweight SBS board can save approximately $0.25 per sheet while reducing delivery time by up to a week. This translates to $1,500 in savings on a 6,000 sheet average job.
Unimac Graphics Saving 4-5 Days Lead Time
“With more customers relying on Just-In-Time inventory and delivery, we wanted a faster, more cost-effective process than shipping thin SBS sheets to a mounter to create a thicker SBS product,” says Rick Chassen, purchasing manager for Unimac Graphics, a Carlstadt, NJ-based diversified graphics communications company.
Previously, Unimac Graphics had been shipping two 18-point SBS sheets to a mounter to create a 36-point sheet for a custom, high-end pharmaceutical packaging product. Chassen, however, found it more effective to print on a single, thicker 36-point SBS sheet using one of his company’s own sheet-fed offset presses.
One challenge, however, for converters is that only a few laminators can deliver SBS at thicknesses between 0.030 in. and 0.096 in. flat, square, and consistent each time. Part of this is an equipment issue and the rest is technical know-how. Most laminators limit themselves to two-ply materials. Yet to achieve thicknesses greater than 50 points, more than two plies are required.
For the supply of thick SBS he needs, Chassen turned to Lamitech, a fully integrated paperboard manufacturing company based in Cranbury, NJ. Since the company does its own laminating and converting of paperboard products, it stocks and supplies a full range of boards from fine virgin grades to economical recycled grades, to films and foils for the printing and packaging industries. Because of its vertical integration, the company can ship stock orders of thick SBS from 200–200,000 sheets the same day and most custom and large format orders of thick SBS within 3-4 working days.
“On customer orders, we can go to press rapidly when we can get the material from a laminator like Lamitech that actually manufactures and stocks its own heavyweight SBS board,” explains Chassen. “Compared to outsourcing to a mounter, printing directly on heavyweight 36-point SBS saves us about half the cost and at least 4-5 days of lead time. Plus, our customers are getting a higher quality product because the laminating process is superior to the sheet mounting process.”
Although offset printers have the ability to run heavyweight SBS material, some may be reluctant to run 30–48 point SBS as there are some differences in running it than in running thinner materials. Those who run it can resolve most issues by keeping some pointers in mind.
Running a heavier weight product calls for a few minor adjustments, but most printers master the process quickly. “After we made some adjustments, our equipment runs well and the thick SBS runs smoothly through the press,” says Chassen.
United Paper Box Optimizes Cost, Quality
Mike LeClair, general manager at United Paper Box Co., a Holyoke, MA-based rigid setup box manufacturer that serves industries ranging from cosmetics, luxury, and fine food to marketing, medical, and entertainment. “We cannot afford the cost or time to outsource foil stamping on packaging to a mounter.”Converters that foil stamp are also streamlining their operations using thicker SBS in-house. “If my customers give me a job on Monday, they expect it shipped by Friday,” says
When the thinner 30-point laminate board previously used by United Paper Box for packaging didn’t adequately hold up to the rigors of holding and shipping a high-end candle product, the company switched to 50-point laminate. LeClair selected Lamitech because it manufactured and stocked its own heavyweight SBS board and could deliver it in large quantities when needed.
“We get the laminated thicknesses, sizes, and multiple plies we need, when we need it,” explains LeClair.
According to LeClair, heavyweight SBS is very easy to foil stamp. “Laminated materials stay flat with no curl even in high summer humidity and low winter humidity,” says LeClair. “Since the laminations don’t curl, we’ve had much less waste in production, as product doesn’t get jammed in equipment. Square cornered boxes stay square cornered, which helps to convey a high quality image.”
Because heavyweight SBS is bright white all the way through so the edges look clean, it is also widely used for large format point-of-purchase (POP) signage. For this, Lamitech can supply heavyweight SBS board up to 96 points.
“All in all, Lamitech’s thick SBS has helped us optimize cost, quality, control, and customer order turnaround. It’s been well worth the switch from thin SBS,” says LeClair.