Story | 04/25/2023 05:36:51 | 4 min Read time

UPM x Koenig & Bauer: Optimising digital printing for barrier papers

See the results of the recent co-creation project between UPM Specialty Papers and Koenig & Bauer

How co-creation powers your purpose:

  • Inkjet digital printing has been optimised for barrier papers
  • UPM Specialty Papers barrier papers show superb results
  •  The partnership transforms how flexibly even small batches of packages can be produced

Optimising digital printing for barrier packaging

UPM Specialty Papers and Koenig & Bauer came together in a co-creation partnership with the goal of testing and analysing the compatibility of digital printing for UPM Specialty Papers’ barrier papers. Combining digital printing and barrier papers had the potential to transform how flexibly even small batches of packages can be produced.

Testing new ground

With the ability to change designs simply by updating a file, digital printing opens new possibilities for brand owners and converters, from accelerating time to market through to creating more customized packaging.

As a globally active printing press manufacturer, Koenig & Bauer is looking to the future with the development of its RotaJET inkjet printing press, a highly flexible digital printing system capable of working with numerous different substrates and applications.

The RotaJET uses GMP (Good Manufacturing Produced) water-based polymer pigment inks, which are Swiss ordinance compliant. Digital printing also involves far less time and effort invested in creating printing plates or cylinders. This translates into a more efficient, more flexible, and far more effortless process. But would it work like that on food-safe barrier papers? The two partners set out to produce samples of a real-world product to find out.

“This co-creation was ideal, combining the paper and processing expertise of UPM Speciality Papers with our knowledge of machines, inks, temperatures and so on,” says Falko Baltrusch, Senior Manager at the Koenig & Bauer Customer Technology Center. “This allowed us to control the whole process to see if the papers were printable and, if so, make sure that the print was of the right quality. We achieved both goals.”

The perfect match

The companies agreed to run the tests on UPM Confidio™, UPM Asendo™, and UPM Prego™ barrier paper families, which offer a variety of different coated and uncoated surfaces. The tests also allowed UPM to trial their papers on digital printing technology, since packaging is traditionally printed with flexo, rotogravure, or offset methods, which require high volume runs.



Given the limitations of conventional print methods, we were very keen to see how our barrier papers performed on the RotaJET printing press,” says Markus Kamphuis, Technical Sales Manager, UPM Specialty Papers.


“The results were extremely successful from the beginning. UPM Confidio™ incorporates an additional heat seal function, so it was also important to find out if the temperatures for drying ink would activate the sealing function or change the colours of the design. Neither was an issue, and the colours were really sharp and vivid. Our papers matched perfectly – it was simply a matter of setting the parameters, optimising the system, then printing. It just worked!”


Real world samples. A whole a new world of opportunity.

This level of flexibility, combined with food safe, heat-sealable barrier packaging, opens up virtually endless possibilities to brand owners.


“It allows brand owners to meet legal requirements for higher levels of traceability and localised packaging materials – as well as develop highly customized packaging,” explains Falko.

“Take the final of the Superbowl or the Champions League for example. You can wait until the last minute to print the packaging when you know which teams are in the final. And they can do all this while also making the transition to fibre-based materials, meeting their sustainability goals.”

A recyclable alternative to laminates

The UPM Confidio™, UPM Asendo™, and UPM Prego™ barrier paper families are easy to recycle in existing fibre recycling streams. And now, they have now been proven compatible with digital inkjet print technology and ready to take advantage of the benefits on offer.