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FAQ

General

Our packages are primarily produced in Southeast Asia, mainly China and Taiwan. Depending on the type of box, we sometimes manufacture here in the United States.

  1. Our typical structural design projects range from $8,000 and up depending on complexity.
  2. Sampling costs range from $500 and up depending on structure and material.
  3. Production costs vary depending on quantities and various other factors.

Every project is unique, and there are many factors to consider. Here’s what you can expect for the primary services we offer:

Brand Design: 8-12 weeks
Packaging Design: 8-12 weeks
Production Sampling: 4-8 weeks
Tooling: From weeks to months with revisions/adjustments
ISTA Testing: 4-6 weeks
Mass Production (Paper-based): 3-4 weeks
Air Shipping: 2 weeks including customs clearance (China to U.S.)
Ocean Shipping: 6-8 weeks including customs clearance (China to U.S.)

Our award-winning team is comprised of packaging experts at our main offices in San Jose, New York, Taipei, and Southern China. Meet our team!

Print Production & Manufacturing

We do not have an MOQ. Although, costs are usually more economical with 10K+ volume.

We perform various drop and stress tests during the rapid prototyping phase, and once the design is ready, our team in China conducts the same tests using certified equipment. We offer ISTA testing in addition to other packaging readiness tests upon request.

Once the structural design is validated and the packaging design mockups are approved, we create the golden sample. The golden sample is a fully printed package, complete with all interior and exterior artwork and finishes.

Design

We believe in experimentation supported with frequent rapid prototyping. As a team, we explore many different avenues before arriving at the right solution. We typically provide multiple concepts and work with clients to refine a single concept. Packaging is an extension of the product, so clients usually become an integral part of the process. Check out our Design page to learn more.

Absolutely. Achieving true sustainability is a complex challenge, so we developed a specific framework to help companies practice sustainable packaging:

  1. Purpose: We examine the purpose of the packaging and validate its necessity.
  2. Reduction: We look for ways to reduce the amount of energy and material used to achieve the goal.
  3. Supply: In addition to focusing on using sustainable materials, we look deeper into partnering with sustainable suppliers.
  4. System: We validate designs with all stakeholders to ensure real positive outcomes.

Check out our Sustainable Packaging page for more information.

Just like an architect creates blueprints for a building, a structural designer creates a dieline for a package. A dieline is a two-dimensional drawing—usually created in a computer design program like Adobe Illustrator—indicating the precise layout of a design that will be die cut and formed into a package. Structural engineers, graphic designers, and printing specialists use the same dieline as a guide to ensure the final package is manufactured and finished according to the original design intent. We create our dielines in house. A few items to consider:

  1. Dieline creation fees vary.
  2. Rebate programs are available.
  3. Client owns 100% rights to the dieline(s) after payment is completed.

For more information on dielines, we recommend the Wikipedia entry. And if you’re feeling extra curious, take a journey down a Wikipedia rabbit hole with a click on the entry for graphic design, followed by the history of printing.

A rapid prototype is the first step in validating a structural design. Our designers use a large format cutting table to transform a digital dieline into an unprinted prototype using cardboard or similar paper-based materials. The cutting table follows the dieline, then designers fold along perforations to construct the box. This happens in minutes, allowing designers to notice flaws, make adjustments, and do it all over again. Learn more about the process on our Rapid Prototyping page.

Since packaging is a physical product, and every computer screen is different, screens are not an accurate benchmark for comparing printed colors. We print our files in CMYK and Pantone, the standards for printed designs. Digital designs use RGB color, which tend to be brighter, especially on a digital screen. When creating a style guide, brands choose RGB colors for digital applications such as web or mobile and assign corresponding CMYK colors for printed applications like packaging. If a company is particularly print focused, they may choose corresponding Pantone colors as well. At Zenpack, we take color matching very seriously, always striving for the best possible match.

First introduced in 1963, the Pantone company created the Pantone Matching System (PMS) as a universal color language tool for designers and printers worldwide. Pantone produces a single “spot color” rather than a combination of the CMYK dots (cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black)). Spot colors originated in offset printing; one ink is transferred from plates to rubber to a printed surface in a single run. CMYK, however, uses process colors, a series of dots in different colors over multiple runs. While Pantone has expanded to digital, the company began with Pantone chip books, now essential tools in every design studio. For example, a brand can request that their package is printed using Pantone 13-0647. We can grab that exact chip from the Pantone book, and our print technicians in China can too, ensuring that the final printed package matches perfectly.

Pantone produces Coated and Uncoated swatch books to help people see how the color will print on coated paper and uncoated paper. This may seem redundant, but every paper varies in its ability to soak up ink. For example, if you’re printing a package with a glossy surface coating, you will choose a coated Pantone color. If you’re printing an instruction booklet on uncoated paper, you will choose an uncoated Pantone color.

Litho is short for lithographic printing, one of the most common printing methods in packaging today. Litho comes from the word “stone” in Greek, referring to the limestone slabs used by the first lithographic printers in the late-18th century. Originally used for printing maps, texts, and fine art, now printers use the lithographic process for most mass-produced materials such as magazines, newspapers, books, posters, labels, and packaging. These days, commercial lithographic presses are massive machines requiring routine maintenance and expert technicians. Instead of limestone, modern lithographic plates are made from aluminum or plastic. The digital file is laser-etched onto a series of plates, which are then wrapped around a cylindrical drum, one plate per unit and color. Paper is fed through each unit where it is squeezed through a series of cylinders containing ink, water, and chemical emulsions. It sounds complicated, but it’s a relatively simple process made possible by sophisticated digital printers.

Also known as UV printing, spot UV uses ultraviolet light to enhance designated areas of a printed surface with a glossy, satin, neutral, or reflective effect. This technique works best on artwork features with clean and sharp edges such as logos, text, or other graphics. Once the standard printing process is complete, technicians spread a polymer varnish over a die-cut template so that the varnish only covers the specified areas. Next, the entire sheet is exposed to UV light for a few minutes, causing the varnish to cure and harden. The result is an elegant, texture-rich surface that immediately enhances packaging quality.

Both finishing techniques use metal plates, and both can take your packaging to the next level. An embossed area on paper is raised above the surface like puff embroidery on a baseball cap. A debossed area on paper is pressed below the surface, like a boot print in fresh snow. From there, you can add silver foil, gold foil, and a variety of other colors.

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