Yes. Samples are available as part of our pricing process. Please tell us more about your packaging needs, and we’ll let you know if Lumi is the right fit.
Unlike sampling in other industries, packaging samples are not an exact representation of the final production. Machine setup for samples often takes as much time as the production run itself, so it is not sustainable for a factory to set up a machine to produce a single sample.
This is why we have different types of packaging samples to show different aspects of the final product. With each sample type, you can get an idea of what the final product will look like, without the costly machine setup. There are samples to show print quality, structure, and the look of a custom color printed on specific material.
Of the sample options below, Reference Samples are the only ones that aren’t custom manufactured for your product. All other sample types will add weeks to your lead time. We’ve included estimated lead times for each custom sample option, so you can factor sampling into packaging lead times. These lead times do not include shipping, so add 3-5 days for shipping within the US and 3-4 weeks for shipping from Asia.
Here are the different sample options you have:
Note: Not all of the options listed here are available from all of the vendors in the Lumi Network. If a particular sample is necessary for your decision-making process, talk to your CSM and we can suggest options.
A reference sample is a sample from a vendor in the Lumi Network or a Lumi customer. We have reference samples for most of the products in our catalog.
Uses You can request reference samples that show specific aspects you want to see or compare. If you are deciding between a flexo and a litho printed box, we can send you one of each. If you want to compare the feel of a poly mailer with that of a flexible kraft mailer, we can send options of both. If you are trying to choose between manufacturing partners, we can send some of their previous work.
Limitations We don’t have samples of every possible combination (i.e. specific Pantone values on specific materials), but we can usually send something close.
Cost and timeline Reference samples are free, you may just need to pay for shipping. If the samples are coming from Lumi HQ, they will be shipped within a couple business days of your request. If they’re coming from a manufacturer, they will be shipped in up to 10 business days.
A color drawdown is a sample of your custom Pantone or GCMI color, mixed by the factory and hand-applied on a specific material. Ink colors, when printed, will not look exactly like they do in a Pantone or GCMI book. A material’s color and porosity greatly affects how an ink color will appear.
Uses A color drawdown helps you come to an agreement with the vendor on the color you want used in production, and on acceptable color tolerances.
Limitations It’s a small swatch, so you won’t get the idea of the overall print quality. It is also common to see variation in ink opacity, even within a single production run. The drawdown will not show that variation.
Cost and timeline For most factories, color drawdowns are included with a PO, and you may need to pay for shipping. It can take up to 10 business days to create a color drawdown. If you need to make changes to the color, this process can take several iterations.
A structural sample is a sample that is cut, scored, and/or molded without printing or other customizations. For corrugated boxes and folding cartons, a structural sample is an unprinted, table-cut sample. For molded pulp or injection molded products, a structural sample can be 3D printed.
Uses Before placing your order, you can request a structural sample to test product fit, customer experience, and transit performance. When you place an order for custom corrugated boxes or folding cartons, vendors will often send a structural sample for your approval before production starts. See our guide on how to review a structural box sample for a list of things to check for.
Limitations Sometimes, the material will not have the exact specs of the production boxes (i.e. fluting will be correct but material color or strength could differ) — this will depend on what material is in stock where the sample is cut. Corrugated structural samples are table-cut, or cut on a table using a single blade and scoring wheel. In production, boxes will be cut using a cutting die. The cutting die applies force to the material, which creates deeper scores and compresses the layers of the corrugated board. This means that table cut structural samples are more rigid than production boxes.
Cost and timeline The cost depends on where you are in the order process. If you’re using the structural engineering services of Lumi Experts, structural samples are included as part of a project. If you have placed an order and request a structural sample to approve before starting production, the structural sample is usually free. If you need a structural sample for any other reason, see Lumi Experts rates. It can take up to 5 business days to create a corrugated structural sample. Structural samples for other products or from international factories can take up to 15 business days.
Printed structural samples
A printed structural sample is a structural sample with printed artwork. For boxes, a printed structural sample is usually digitally printed with your design. There are also options for other product groups — like digitally printed mailers or screen printed bottles or jars — but boxes are the most common.
Uses A printed structural sample will help you understand the artwork placement and get a better feel for the overall experience.
Limitations Since these are table-cut samples, they have the same cutting limitations as structural samples (above). These samples are also digitally printed. Assuming you are not ordering digitally printed packaging for the final production run, the print quality and colors will not align with those of the final production version. For print process and color samples, we recommend requesting color drawdowns.
Cost and timeline Cost depends on the product. Reference the Lumi Experts rates to see pricing for printed samples for boxes. It can take up to 10 (domestic) or 15 (international) business days to create a digitally printed structural box sample. If you want a printed structural sample of another product, contact your CSM for cost and timeline information.
Pre-production samples (PPS)
A pre-production sample (PPS) is made with the tooling and machinery that will be used in a full production run. This type of sample is usually impractical for US-based production because of the cost, but is more reasonable for Asia-based production.
Uses See exactly what the production run will look like, printed with the production print process and cut with a cutting die.
Limitations Cost and time are the main limitations, since the setup and tooling for creating a production sample is the same needed for a full production run. If you are using a non-standard material, you may need to pay for the vendor to special order material. Some vendors are unwilling to produce production samples because of the costly setup. Creating a full pre-production sample is not typically possible with flexo or litho-printed corrugated boxes, especially for those produced in the US.
Cost and timeline A production sample requires the same amount of setup as a full production run. Like a full production run, you will need to pay for the tooling (cutting die, print plates, mold, etc.) and other fees. If you approve the production sample and don’t need changes to the tooling for the full production run, you will not need to pay for tooling again. Depending on the product, it can take up to 20 business days to create a production sample.
AQL inspection levels are separated into two categories: general and special.
General inspection levels (GI, GII, GIII) and special inspection levels (S1, S2, S3, S4) indicate the size of the inspected sample batch, which determines the number of defects allowed based on product-specific criteria and tolerances. Special inspection levels call for smaller sample sizes, with S4 being the most stringent of the four options.
Lumi prescribes AQL 2.5 Inspection Level S4 because it’s a happy medium for the quality control needs of packaging. This level allows for an adequate number of samples to be inspected without delaying the production schedule or the receiving process.
Acceptable Quality Limit (AQL) is a quality control procedure used both for manufacturing and receiving goods, to ensure they meet the agreed upon quality standards. AQL uses a randomized sampling process, to statistically estimate the number of defective units in a production run. Learn how to perform an AQL quality inspection using our step-by-step guide.
The standard AQL level used by factories in the Lumi Network is Special Inspection Level 4. This level is designed to pull an adequate number of samples to represent the overall quality of the production run while staying on schedule.
Each defective unit within a sampled batch is flagged as minor, major, or critical. Once the total number of each designation has been counted, the sampled batch and larger production run is given a pass or fail. Per AQL 2.5 Inspection Level S4, these are the maximum defects permitted in a sample batch before the batch (and in turn, the larger production) goes from pass to fail.