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What is the Origination or Set up Charge?

by Jeannette Jones 16 Jun 2022


Origination, or "Set up" charge explained

Origination Charges for Packaging refer to the cost involved in realising your packaging and taking it from a good idea and images on a computer screen to full print production.  The cost will vary depending on exactly what packaging you are producing, the material and the print methods being used, and it's important to understand each, so that you know what to expect.

The reason for itemising Origination as a separate one-off cost on your first order is to save you money long term. On a repeat order, within 2-3 years, it shouldn't be necessary to pay this Origination cost again.

Some providers will include the cost of origination in the total value of your packaging but this will then be in the repeat order price and then the products are costing you more than necessary. 

So whilst Origination charges may appear with a first order they are to help you save money long term. It is good to be a little educated on the breakdown of costs so that you are not over paying for your packaging.


Packaging Prototypes

Making prototypes for packaging can be a process of trial and error, especially if you're trying to create something a little bit special or unique to you. The net of your packaging will be drawn up in a software package, and then CAD cut on a plotter so that it can be trialled to confirm this is fit for purpose. It is important to trial any prototypes with a full complement of the goods or contents, and also to make sure that it transports safely, for example sending it to yourself by courier or by post. When working on packaging prototypes it pays to consider the whole life of the packaging, this enables you to design features that will make it quicker to use, stronger, and potentially save material wastage and cost in production. It is advisable to speak with a specialist when creating packaging because they will have experience on similar projects which will add value to your final product. Any Prototyping studio that can design and prototype your packaging will have made significant investments in Software, Hardware and training and will be charging in the region of £60 - £120 per hour, but this is an essential investment in the success of your packaging and will add to your customer experience.


Digitally Printed Boxes

These are printed on a Flat bed Inkjet, or Laser printer direct from a digital file so any origination charged will be for file set up probably at around £30 - £90 per hour depending on the complexity, however this is only the Print, on a small quantity of under 50, they would then be cut out with a plotter cut, often running inline with the printer. However this is a time consuming way to cut out more than about 50. So for larger quantities a Die Cutting Tool is made from plywood with Cutting and creasing rules. This cutter is then stored for future projects. Whilst the cutter is an investment the speed of cutting is much quicker making savings on larger volumes 

In the main digital print origination is not charged, for example on digital labels, even with bespoke shapes these can now be cost effectively reproduced without even the need for a cutter.


Flexo print

A Flexo print Stereo, is made from Polymer, this is a thin flexible substrate that is made for the print origination, the cost of these varies hugely subject to the area being printed, and the detail, so they are always quoted subject to the final design, these are kept on file for 2-3 years for future production runs, costs vary from £120 - £680 depending entirely on the size and complexity of the image. There are limitations to any design being reproduced flexo, so it is always worth speaking with your packaging provider before getting too fixed on the design you wish to produce.


Litho Print

Lithographic Print plates are a very thin aluminium plate traditionally imaged by light exposure, however with the onset of Digital Litho Platemaking these are often included in the cost of production and due to the speed of platemaking they are often recycled after each run, so a new set is made for a reprint. If origination is charged separately they are probably still working traditionally Chemically preserving the print plates for repeat. Depending on the quality of your supplied artwork files studio time for preparation may be charged for file set up probably at around £30 - £90 per hour depending on the time and skills involved.


Screen Print

Screen print is very limited in what image can be reproduced but prints a very good solid colour, however it can be a cost effective option for single colour small to medium production volumes. The origination is more cost effective than Flexo, but the machinery is generally hand fed and slower, which adds to the production cost. Screen print is often used for printing ribbon with a very small image area and automated machinery, it is very good for producing a crisp logo on a fabric material, Screen charges can vary from £60 - £600 entirely dependent on the size and artwork detail.

Spot UV and special effects are produced screen printed.


Die Cutting Tools

A Die cutting tool can be flat bed or rotary depending on the machine specification, they are made from a base of stable plywood around 15-30mm thick, that is laser cut from a digital file, and then the cutting and creasing rules are also bent to shape from the digital file, these rules are then placed by hand into the cut slots in the Plywood base, and then surrounded by foam pads which help to eject the material and stop the die cut sheet from being stuck to the cutter. In operation this cutter goes against a hard flat surface and the material in between is cut out. These cutters vary in cost from £60 for a small circle label to £1500 for a very complex multi part project. Die cutting tools are made by specialist companies and the majority of Packaging producers would outsource this service. After about 100,000 die cuts this cutter may require re-ruling subject to the material being cut. Many customers are re-designing packaging styles regularly to refresh products and so the repeat use of cutters may not be a consideration, at the end of life cutters can be recycled as wood and metal.


Foiling dies

Foiling dies are made from Copper or magnesium, they are made to a machine specification, either for printing on large sheets or small labels will affect the cost. Dies can vary from £60 - £900 subject to the design detail and size


A closing note on Origination

Origination is an investment in your brand and your production efficiency, and any tooling is produced specifically for a machine and for a certain material, or print process, and is kept on file for at least 2-3 years from last use (often longer) to save you money on your repeat order, as part of your journey to a better customer experience and better packaging you will need to discuss your requirements with an expert provider like Kudos Giftwrap to ensure that you are making a good investment.

Remember Origination will normally be a one off charge at the start, where “set up” may be for each repeat order, it is always worth asking the question so that you are not paying unexpected costs later.


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