PKN's latest print issue – the AUSPACK 2019 Preview – is hitting desks this week, bringing readers a collaborative cover experience with a difference. Each of the 5000 variations of the cover also incorporates an AR activation, triggered by scanning the cover or the digitally printed stand-up pouch inserted in the issue.
Key collaborators with PKN and AUSPACK on the project were APPMA member Currie Group, AUSPACK exhibitors Dreemar and HP, plus animation studio Smoosh Creative, pouch printing specialist Read Labels & Packaging, and magazine printer Blue Star.
AUSPACK, the packaging industry’s leading trade show in the Australasian region owned by the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), is a biennial showcase of cutting-edge packaging innovation and trends influencing the industry. So what better way to illustrate this than to produce a promotional cover on the packaging industry’s leading magazine that talks to the top trends and technology?
Finding the best subject matter was the first step. Recognising that flexible pouches are the fastest growing packaging format in many food categories, and that digital printing’s star is rising in the flexible packaging sector, an idea took shape around illustrating the process of printing and forming flexible pouches in a smart manufacturing environment.
AUSPACK also wanted to integrate the latest consumer engagement technology that has application in packaging, in the form of variable printing for personalisation and customisation, and the interactive experience of augmented reality triggered by visual design. (The AR experience will be demonstrated at AUSPACK 2019 by Dreemar on PKN's stand B120.)
PKN approached APPMA member Currie Group and its technology partner HP to ‘blue sky’ a cover concept, since the media brand had previously worked with both companies on producing successful and highly creative variable printed covers – most recently the much-talked-about #rhinosdownunder cover (see PKN March-April 2018).
Currie Group labels and packaging director Mark Daws and marketing manager Matt Tangey devised the initial concept for the illustrated factory layout and called on Dreemar to manage the design, AR and app development. Dreemar in turn reached out to Melbourne based Smoosh Creative to assist with the graphic design and animation.
For the variable printing element, the collaborators decided to draw on HP’s software innovation. The cover would be printed on an HP Indigo 7800 digital press at PKN’s printer Blue Star using HP SmartStream Collage, part of the HP SmartStream Designer suite (for Adobe Illustrator and InDesign).
“In a nutshell, how it works is that it uses images or other graphic elements of your choice and combines them to create virtually unlimited variations. Each variation remains unique, and at the same time, tied to the same ‘family’, which enables users to retain maximum control of their visual identity,” Mark Daws explains. “The user defines the images, seeds or other graphic elements along with basic rules – like, in the case of this cover, which areas on the factory floor could field variable elements. You couldn’t have an operator ending up under a pallet or on top of a machine. This did make the task more complex than running variable elements on a beach scene, for instance.”
As Daws explains it, HP SmartStream Collage randomly places the image (or images) on the page while observing the rules and constraints the user defined. The results can then be used as the variable image assets in the graphic design of variable jobs. Users can define the areas where each element is permitted, and control for minimum and maximum quantity, opacity, rotation, and the overlap of the graphic elements. In the case of the PKN AUSPACK cover, more than 5000 unique variations were printed.
POUCH MAKES A STAND
Once the artwork was on the drawing board, so to speak, Daws had the next idea: ‘Why not produce a stand-up pouch with the front and back cover printed on it to reinforce the concept with a hands-on example?’ Why not, indeed. To this end, he called on customer Ross Read, managing director of Read Labels and Packaging, a pioneer in digital printing for flexible packaging. Read has recently installed an HP Indigo 20000 digital press, the first in Australia used to print flexible film for pouches.
The idea was that the pouch would carry the static image of the cover, and be inserted in the magazine so that the reader had a point of comparison of the static design with the ‘collaged’ one appearing on the cover (the pouch also activates the AR experience).
The cover illustration showcases latest digital technologies in flexible packaging application – including the HP Indigo 20000 digital press, and the Pack Ready Laminator and newly launched DSUP Pouchmaker from Karlville.
“HP Indigo Pack Ready Lamination technology creates a laminate film without the use of adhesives and the need for cure time, enabling immediate conversion to sealed pouches,” Daws says. “The process uses a film with a thermal active ply that is heat activated so that it bonds instantly to the HP Indigo ElectroInk printed layer.”
According to Daws, some of the key benefits to packaging converters are faster time to market with zero cure time and robust bond strength, energy consumption savings and reduced material waste.
“It’s also the best model for short runs, with minimal waste, inline slitting and trimming, and the added bonus of being low maintenance and easy to use,” he says.
The next step in the illustrated process is converting the laminated product in the Karlville DSUP Pouchmaker, which is designed to suit digital short runs.
“The machine is compact, with an intuitive HMI making it easy for inexperienced operators to learn to use. Among other features, it’s toolless, which allows for fast changeover, and has a splicing table for ease of operation during roll change, with integrated pneumatic film clamping system to maintain film tension throughout the machine,” Daws adds.
POWER OF AR
Bringing the whole project “to life” was an important final step, which is where Dreemar came into the picture, creating the AUSPACK2019 App to give readers an AUSPACK-themed augmented reality experience.
“The app is designed to be used in conjunction with the AUSPACK branded March/April edition of PKN,” explains Bill Atta, chief product officer at Dreemar. “The reader simply hovers their smart device over the magazine cover to see the image come to life.
“The experience itself is a 2D animation shown as an isometric projection to give the feeling of 3D. Components of the background marker are masked out allowing the experience to seamlessly merge with the background collage elements,” he says.
Commenting on the final result, Anne-Marie Mina, marketing director at ETF, the organiser of AUSPACK, says: “We were delighted with the execution of this complex project, and teaming up with partners who are exhibitors, APPMA members, and local industry players was an important driver for the collaboration.”
APPMA chairman Mark Dingley says, “The technology illustrated conceptually on this special cover is in keeping with our AUSPACK conference theme of Smart. Connected. Sustainable, and also with what the AUSPACK exhibition stands for – a showcase of the best in class technology and the latest packaging trends.”
The digital issue of PKN March-April is available here.