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Printed or Plain Boxes

What happens if I want my box printed?

It takes longer to make and costs more.

In small quantities it can cost 50% to 100% of the cost of the box. Eg plain box $1, printed $1.50 to $2.

In production runs in the hundreds to thousands, a few cents more if it is printed using the flexographic method or a lot more if it is printed using offset lithographic.

So, what are the methods of printing.

Digital Printing. This can be done two ways.

The first method. Imagine a large ink jet printer, on a large table. The printer head moves back and forward across the table, slowly printing the sheet of cardboard. Output is a good as a photo, but very slow and relatively, the most expensive, see above.

The second method. Technology is now becoming available for digital printing to done during the box making. This is faster than the first method but the quality is not the same, good for your logo and address details.

Flexographic Printing. The cheapest. Done on "casemakers", see my Blog post on Box Making Methods. This method uses water based inks. The print needs to be bold as the technology does not allow fine print. Because of set up costs and machine speeds a few hundred cartons is the minimum quantity required for an order. (The quantity varies, the smaller the box, the higher the minimum quantity). Mostly a maximum of 3 colours and print registration is not precise, with an movement of around 1mm between the colours.

Printing is done by making a "stereo" of each colour that is to be bolted onto the "casemaker".

Time has to be allowed for the artwork to be produced for approval and the "stereo" to be made. See the blog post on lead times.

The cost of a "stereo" ranges from $400 + for one colour to several hundred to a thousand or so for 3 colours. It varies depending on the amount of printed area and the number of colours. This is a one off tooling cost.

Printing flexographic an order of 1000 cartons adds about 3c per colour, to the cost of a plain box.

Offset Lithographic print provides picture quality print. It is also the most expensive, requires larger production runs and take the longest to make.

This is because the print has to be produced first on a sheet of paper and the paper is then laminated onto finished board or onto "single face" board and then put through a "casemaker" or "die cutter".

Plate costs are expensive - $200 per colour, for 4 or 5 colours, plus artwork costs means printing tooling is normally around $1500.

Production times for offest litho print onto corrugated carton boxes tends to be 4-6 weeks, in Australia.

Compared to a plain carton, printing this method could cost 20% to 100% more, depending on the complexity of the box making. Costs have gone down, where a few years ago it was 200 to 400% more expensive.

I hope you have found my brief explanation of the different methods of printing corrugated cartons helpful.


Please note, Wise's Boxes only makes plain boxes, without print. We do this because we want to keep it simple. Printing slows down the process.


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