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NPIRI’s Closing Session Focuses on New Technology Innovations

By David Savastano | 10.10.13

The National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers’ (NAPIM) annual National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI) Technical Conference concluded its successful program on Oct. 4, with a look at important new technologies in equipment, packaging, color control and conductive inks.

The Oct. 4 session focused on New Technology Innovations. Tom Dunn, Flexpacknology, began the session with his presentation, “Good Manufacturing Practices and the Food Packaging Supply Chain.”

“Packaging is the part of the system that delivers food safely,” Mr Dunn said. “If you’re printing food packaging, the requirements are clear-cut, but compliance is problematic. You’d better be sure.”

Dr. Mark Bohan, Printing Industries of America, followed Mr. Dunn’s talk with a look at “New Press Technology: Lithographic Developments.” Dr. Bohan noted there are new ways to get information, ranging from barcodes and QR codes to PURLs, NFC, RFID and augmented reality. He added that offset printing has seen its own technical developments, which are adding capabilities for printers and brand owners.

He noted that inline applications for offset printing include coatings, texture and smell, UV printing, metallic effects, pearlescents, cold foil, combination printing, processes inline and quality control.

Among the latest offset technologies he has seen are automatic transfer between job, faster makereadies, press and inspection control, introduction of robotics, H-UV curing, increased automation of coating units, variable sleeve technology for flexible packaging and hybrid print production.

“Printing technologies all have their place,” Mr. Bohan concluded. “Offset is all about productivity.”

“The Conductive Ink Panel,” which I led, was next on the schedule. Printed electronics are reaching commercialization, and selecting the right material for conductive inks is critical. I was joined on the panel by Darren Bianchi, president of NanoGap USA; Richard Morris, business development, Saxby Business Development, representing Si-Cal Inc., PChem Associates and TouchCode.

Mr. Bianchi’s topic was “Silver Nanoparticles and Nanofibers for Conductive Inks and Transparent Conductive Films.”

NanoGap develops, manufactures and sells novel nanomaterials, largely in dispersion form for industries and applications including coatings and inks, plastics and composites, textiles and biomedical. Its nanoparticles have properties that include conductive, anti-microbial, magnetic, fluorescent and catalytic.

Mr. Bianchi noted that there are key market drivers, such as developing ways to print on inexpensive substrates and finding an alternative to sputtered ITO. There are also market barriers, such as cost and technical aspects, but these concerns are being overcome. He concluded with a look at the CLIP (Conductive Low Cost Ink Project) ink development achievements, which has worked with screen, flexo, inkjet and aerosol jet inks.

“Potential cost savings in inkjet and aerosol jet printing are achievable through more efficient use of silver (level of conductivity achieved from weight of silver deposited) as a result of performance improvements,” Mr. Bianchi noted.

“Nanoparticle-based inks for printed electronics have been one of the many over-hyped areas of nanotechnology, with the market growth failing to meet expectations over the last 10-20 years,” Mr. Bianchi concluded. “However, there are now good signs on the commercial uptake of nanoparticle-based inks.

“Innovation is solving technical problems and leading to improved products, such as stable nano inks that are efficient (resistivity), and with high conductivity, and are low temperature sintering,” Mr. Bianchi added. “Cost issues are being addressed; with commercial uptake and scale-up, cost will fall and competitive position will rise, and supply chain collaborations and strategic partnerships are key to success.”

In his presentation on “Conductive Inks and Printing,” Mr. Morris noted that printed electronics can be defined as the printing of flexible electronic layers, components and circuits. The printed systems are often disposable, and are conformable, robust and light weight. They typically run on low power, and are often based on low temperature, inexpensive films.

Currently, printed electronics are produced by hybrid systems, by attaching conventional electronic components, but in the future, multiple elements and components will be printed in line.

Mr. Morris spoke of the benefits of nano inks, such as lower cost, more efficient use of metals, material reduction, process advantage and lower processing temperature, which allows for lower cost substrates, including PVC. Nano inks provide finer resolution and less that 25 micron features. He also showed some new products in the field, including the EKG Glove.

Tucker McNeil, MWV, offered his thoughts on packaging in his talk on “Packaging Matters” MWV Packaging Satisfaction Study.” Mr. McNeil offered a few examples of innovative, successful packaging, including Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop! Pop Up Bowl, SPAM Singles, Gemey-Maybelline – Instant Foundation and iD Chewing Gum from Stride.

“Packaging matters – to us, to you, to brand owners and to consumers,” Mr. McNeil said. “A small minority of consumers are ‘very satisfied’ by their packaging, while one in ten are frustrated. When it comes to product satisfaction, price and quality are a given. Brand and packaging are inseparable linked in consumers’ perceptions of overall product experience.”

Brian Ashe, X-Rite, Inc., closes the conference with “Color in a Digital World,” a demonstration of color in the digital age though the use of the Cloud. Mr. Ashe discussed a project for Heinz that X-Rite conducted with Chesapeake Printers, in which the company reported that it achieved a 27% reduction in press makeready, 37% waste reduction and 75% reduction in color variation on the final product.

Overall, NAPIM officials were pleased with the conference.

“The 2013 NPIRI Technical Conference was one of our most exciting and successful events,” said George Fuchs, NAPIM’s director, regulatory affairs and technology. “We feel that this year’s registration was especially strong because of the quality of the business, technical and regulatory presentations. In addition, our industry awards dinner on Oct. 3 was attended by more than 150 ink manufacturers and suppliers, and is continuing its reputation for being the most exciting, fun and interesting social event of the year for our industry. We are thrilled with the enthusiasm and high level of interest that this conference continues to generate.”