• Olly Jordan

Chapter 19 - 'Belle' Perfume - Packaging in Industry Research - Uni 3rd Year 2017/18

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Printing in Industry

There are a wide variety of technologies that are used to print stuff. The main industrial printing processes are:

Additional printing techniques were developed for very specific applications. These include flock printing, letterpress, intaglio, pad printing, and thermography.


In offset lithography a printing plate, which is most often made from aluminum, contains an image of the content that needs to be printed. When the plate is inked, only this image part holds ink. That inked image is subsequently transferred (or offset) from the plate to a rubber blanket and then to the printing surface. The process can be used to print on paper, cardboard, plastic or other materials, but these have to have a flat surface.

Below is a picture of a 4 color sheetfed printing press. At the far end is the intake where individual sheets of paper are automatically fed into the press. The 4 towers or printing units each print one color, typically black get printed first, followed by cyan, magenta and yellow. The stack of printed sheets is visible on the front of the machine, underneath the press console & monitor which the press operator uses to control the press.

For higher volume work offset presses use rolls of paper. The picture below shows such a much larger web press. It is so fast that the printed paper needs to be force dried. The black unit at the end of the press is an oven.

Offset is nowadays the most widely used printing technique for an extensive range of products such as books, newspapers, stationery, corrugated board, posters, etc.

There is a trend that printing promotional material is gradually migrating to digital printing while some packaging printing is moving to flexo.

You can find more information on the page dedicated to offset printing.


In flexography the content that needs to be printed is on a relief of a printing plate, which is made from rubber. This plate is inked and that inked image is subsequently transferred to the printing surface.  The process can be used to print on paper as well as plastics, metals, cellophane and other materials. Flexo is mainly used for packaging and labels and to a lesser extent also for newspapers.

Some packaging printing is moving from flexo to digital.

Digital printing

Digital printing can be done in various ways. Two technologies dominate the industry:

  • Inkjet – In an inkjet printer the image that needs to be printed is created by small droplets of ink that are propelled from the nozzles of one or more print heads. Inkjet devices can print on a wide range of substrates such as paper, plastic, canvas or even doors and floor tiles. Inkjet printing is used a lot for posters and signage. It is also economical for short run publications such as photo books or small runs of books. In-line inkjet printers are sometimes combined with other types of presses to print variable data, such as the mailing addresses on direct mail pieces.  The press shown below is the HP PageWide C500, meant for printing on corrugated board.

  • Xerography – In xerographic printers, such as laser printers, the image that needs to be printed is formed by selectively applying a charge to a metal cylinder called a drum. The electrical charge is used to attract toner particles. These particles are transferred to the media that is being printed on. To make sure the toner is fixed properly, the substrate passes through a fuser that melts the toner into the medium. Laser printers are not only used in offices but also for small run printing of books, brochures and other types of document. These printers are also used for transactional printing (bills, bank documents, etc) and direct mail.

In 2009 both techniques jointly accounted for around 15% of the total volume of print.

Digital printing is increasingly utilized for print jobs that were previously printing using offset, flexo or screen printing.

  • In short run small format (A3 size) printing, digital is taking over from offset for both color and B&W printing. Quick printers and copy shops print digitally on presses from vendors like Xerox, HP, Canon, and Konica Minolta.

  • Labels are also increasingly being printed digitally.

  • Billboard and point-of-sale or point-of-purchase jobs are being done by wide-format inkjet devices.

  • There is a wide range of small format printers used to print on phone cases, mugs and other products.

  • In book printing publishing companies start to rely more on print-on-demand. The Espresso Book Machine pictured below is well suited for that job.

There are a number of other digital printing processes that are geared towards specific niche markets:

  • Dye-sublimation is a printing process in which heat is used to transfer a dye onto the substrate. Dye-sub printers are mainly used for printing on textiles, for proofing and for producing photographic prints. Some printers can print on a variety of materials such as paper, plastic, and fabric.

  • In the direct thermal printing process heat is used to change the color of a special coating that has been applied to paper. This process is used in cash registers but also to add markings, such as serial numbers, to products. For this a transparent ink is used that changes color when a laser applies heat to it.

  • In the thermal ink transfer printing process heat is used to melt print off a ribbon and onto the substrate. It is used in some proofing devices but seems to be gradually disappearing off the market.


Also known as rotogravure, this is a technique in which an image is engraved into a printing cylinder. That cylinder is inked and this ink subsequently transfers to the paper.  Gravure is used for high volume work such as newspapers,  magazines, and packaging.

Gravure is gradually losing market share to offset for publication printing and to flexo for packaging applications.

Screen printing

As its name implies, this printing technique relies on a screen, which is a woven piece of fabric. Certain areas of this mesh are coated with a non-permeable material. In the remaining open spaces ink can be pushed through the mesh onto a substrate. The advantage of screen printing is that the surface of the recipient does not have to be flat and that the ink can adhere to a wide range of materials, such as paper, textiles, glass, ceramics, wood, and metal.

The image below shows a screen printing press that is used to print t-shirts.

Increasingly screen printing is being replaced by digital printing.

Additional printing processes

  • Letterpress – Once a dominant printing technique, letterpress is now used for business cards, wedding invitations,…

  • Flocking – used to add a (colored) velvet-like texture to paper, textiles, etc.

  • Pad printing – used to print on 3-dimensional surfaces.

  • Intaglio – nowadays mainly used for used stamps and paper currency.

  • Thermography – This is more of a finishing process than an actual printing process. It produces raised lettering on the printed side of the paper and is used for wedding invitations, letterheads, business cards,…


Die Cutting

In industry a company may need to manufacture thousands of the same net / package, every day. A STIKA machine or any similar machine will not be able to manufacture such large quantities. When large numbers have to be manufactured a DIE CUTTER is normally used as part of a production line.

1.The design is completed using a computer system and CAD software. The designer is careful to ensure the shape is accurate and that fold lines are in the correct place.

2. In a printers workshop, the blank pieces of card (perhaps rectangular in shape) are prepared and colour is added, as well as the printing. This may be achieved through the use of sprays, layers of coloured paper or automated screen printing.

3. Back in the factory a die cutter is set up. This is made up of several hardened steel blades. The layout of the blades match the exact size as the net. A die cutter is basically a steel stamp that is used to cut and shape the net. It is designed to cut through the card on some lines whilst slightly cutting others (these are the fold lines or crease lines).

The steel die cutter is made up of specially hardened steel cutters. Each is like a blade, with a serrated edge. Sometimes the blades can be rearranged to form other shapes of net.

The die cutter is pressed into the card by the force of the machine. The ‘stamped out’ net is then automatically placed on a folding table. Parts of the table move/fold, forming the basic package. People sometimes finish the more delicate folding operations. (This depends on the complexity of the package).

In industry most of these operations are carried out by one large packaging machine that is able perform a series operations including, printing/colouring, die cutting and folding.


Although we at uni do not have a die cutter like this, I could use a laser to create a similar effect as it can cut through a lot of materials as well as engrave in them which would give me the fold lines that I would need, I could then use a boning tool to create the folds. I am unsure however as to whether I would like the effect of the laser cutter as it would give a slight burnt edge, but it would be worth a try if I have time.

Papers and Industry

Notes from Graphic Design A Levels -

'Grammage - In the metric system, the density of all types of paper and paperboard is expressed in terms of grams per square meter (g/m²). This quantity is commonly called grammage though most printers still refer to the 'weight' of paper.

Typical office paper has 80gsm, therefore a typical A4 sheet (1/16gsm) weighs 5g.

While paper is measured out by weight, card is measured by thickness in mircometres.

Tracing Paper - Approx 70gsm for the higher quality, some is available at 35gsm.

Layout Paper - Typically 50gsm. Use to trace work when developing drawings and designs.

Copier Paper - Typically 80gsm. Used for photocopiers. Also known as Reprographic paper, copier paper, dual-purpose, or xerographic paper. Generally thin with a small amount of transparency. The grade of paper is determined by brightness levels which is how light reflects from the paper. It is the largest category in the uncoated commodity printing paper grade and many businesses use it for all of their laser printing, fax, and copier needs.

Recycled Sugar Paper - A range of colours available. Colours fade quickly, used for displays and general low quality graphic work.

Cartridge Paper - Used for general drawing. It is often good quality and generally 100 - 150gsm. The paper is used for project work and will take colour pencils and fine black markers well. It does not bleed very much.

Mounting Board - High quality board typically used as a base for displays or to frame photographs and paintings.

Corrugated Board - Generally, the larger flute profiles give greater strength and cushioning. The smaller flutes help enhance graphic capabilities while providing greater structural integrity. By experimenting with flute profiles, designers can vary compression strength, cushioning strength and thickness.

Folding Box Board (FBB) - This card is ideal for making boxes,it has a white semi-matt front with a matt reverse. Weight is typically 505 microns (315gsm) or400 microns. Used for packs such as cosmetics, confectionary, and other high-quality foods. FDD with a cream back is used for food products (including frozen), medical packaging and cosmetics. FBB can also be coated by plastic extrusion or laminated with materials such as aluminium foil or grease proof paper.'

I have managed to find some of my notes from previous education in Graphic Design at A Levels where we learned about papers and where they are commercially used, looking back through my notes here will allow me to understand what kind of card I could use for my perfume packaging. It would seem to be that if I am to follow general expectations and traditions of packaging within the industry, I should use Folding Box Board for my perfume packaging seeing as it is used so much within the world of design for products. I do not want my packaging to stand out for the wrong reasons by picking a random paper or card type unless it was intentional.

Packaging Symbols and Logos within Cosmetics

Understanding the symbols used in cosmetic packaging design are necessary for any designer working in the packaging industry. These symbols educate the consumer about the product, helping them use the product safely and effectively once it’s been opened. As packaging designers, it is important to understand these icons when working on cosmetic packaging. Keeping customers informed about the product is my first priority when tackling a design solution, and while this can be communicated through the design itself, it is important to include widely accepted symbols to communicate warnings and information.


There are currently no regulations requiring cosmetic companies in the U.S. to label shelf life, however European standards require that any product with a shelf life of less than 30 months be labeled with a “best used by” date. For products lasting longer than 30 months, the product must have a “period after opening” symbol. This is shown by a jar with the lid off, and a number. This indicates how long the product is good for, in terms of months, after it’s been opened. If you’re like me, you’ve pulled an old dusty face product out from the depths of your makeup bag having no idea if you can still use it. Old products can cause breakouts and skin irritation, the opposite of what you want!

Tip: label the date you open something for the first time so you can know when to keep it, and when to toss it out!


This symbol is used when there is not enough space to include all the necessary information – an indication to look for it in the packaging. This is especially important when using a new product, you don’t want to mix up directions that could cause pain or injury! This may also contain the ingredient list, which is important to check if you have allergies or are sensitive to anything in the product.


The Estimated Symbol (or E symbol for short) is used to show that the product is filled using “average fill system”. Shown in grams or milliliters, this basically means you get “X” amount of product advertised. You want to get what you pay for! The E symbol would be placed directly after the amount indicated on the container.


Green dot is used to show that the manufacturer pays to recover and recycle the product. This is the product you DEFINITELY want to recycle. Although the symbol is trademarked worldwide, the recovery program is currently only in Europe. This should be placed alongside other symbols, and is not to replace the recyclable symbol, which indicates what products are to be recycled.


This one is obvious, but if the product has the possibility to go up in flames, definitely make sure it’s indicated on the packaging. Don’t use near an open flame, or expose to high heat! This is not the product to use while you are lighting your favorite candle, you don’t want those precious locks to catch flame when you break out that can of hairspray.


Usually seen on plastics, the SPI (Society of the Plastics Industry) resin identification coding system is used to identify polymer types when recycling. This is very important when labeling packaging because just one wrong item could potentially ruin a batch during the recycling process. Plastics are recycled according to the resin type, and the recyclables are either hand sorted, or done through a process of shredding and separating through air or liquid density separation. Plastics must be sorted according to this system in order for the final product to be usable.


This symbol marks that a product has not been tested on animals, bunnies don’t wear lipstick! It pledges that the product is cruelty-free to a standard set by The Leaping Bunny Program. A company is authorized to use the symbol when they take a pledge that none of it’s products or their suppliers use animal testing at any phase in development and production, as well as commit to not doing so in the future.


Another symbol to depict a product not tested on animals at any point, and is cruelty free, is the PETA Bunny. No bunnies (or other animals) were harmed in the making of this product! PETA is an organization that fights for animal rights and safety, and will certify a company as being cruelty-free. Once this is done, the company has the opportunity to license the PETA Bunny logo.


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