At first it sounds like a bold challenge. In 2008, date of its foundation, MR Cartonnage Numérique immediately bets on an emerging technology that is far from having passed all proof tests in the world of high-end packaging: digital offset printing. “When we explained our project, we were considered with a lot of surprise,” recalls Jonathan Mihy, Sales Director and co-founder of the young French company. “Digital printing for prestige packaging was something entirely new and the general opinion was barely sceptical.”
Nevertheless new technology already had many advantages: firstly, production is easy to launch (initialisation usually requires 3 sheets only, against 3-400 for traditional printing), secondly its flexibility makes it ideal for producing mock-ups or small batches (1 to 10000 units) at acceptable costs, producing the exact amount of units required, therefore without generating surplus or accumulating stock. What remained then largely unknown from potential customers was the quality of the final products. “Clearly, digital printing was viewed as a poor quality office printing technology, and unfortunately it is still sometimes the case.”
Thus, the company’s beginning was focused on new and specific uses, mainly the production of prototypes, which the new technology made feasible at a very reasonable cost, as well as preproduction. Digital printing appeared ideal for fine-tuning luxury products packages, as the sector is striving for perfection. “This allowed us to demonstrate the level of quality we were able to get,” said Jonathan Mihy considering that today “there are no qualitative difference between industrial offset and industrial digital printing”.
Such an achievement has been made possible thanks to the use of more efficient technologies, namely the HP Indigo digital offset, to the know-how acquired by the company, and the mastery of all decoration techniques (including varnish protection, selective coating, laminating, embossing, stamping, Braille, cutting, gluing). No need for specific cardboards, the same grades as those of traditional offset are used, depending on customer specifications.
Small and medium series
Of course the limit of digital printing is volume. Beyond 10 or 20 thousand units, depending on the project, industrial offset is more competitive. In contrast, small and medium series (1 to 10,000 units) are a natural market for digital printing that offers a real qualitative solution not only for emerging brands and niche products, but also for the limited series of major brands or to meet the growing trend towards the personalization of products. “The big companies call us for their models or limited series. Smaller structures are asking us to take charge of their entire production,” confirms Jonathan Mihy.
For instance, the founders of DiCorsica, a young beauty brand offering wellness products based on plant extracts from Corsica, have chosen MR Cartonnage Numérique for printing the external packages (folding boxes and gift boxes) of their products, while opting for a cardboard sourced from sustainably managed forests.
Growth and investments
Eventually, MR Cartonnage Numérique, which currently employs 19 staff, has met success. In 2012, the company moved into new premises in the Paris greater area, quadrupling its surface (from 400 to 1,600 sqm) and invested more than one million euros in new machines, including a new printing machine, and in a converting line. The aim of the management team is to stay ahead of what they see as the future of printing.
“Digital printing quality is already a reality, with true achievements,” concludes Jonathan Mihy.