There are a lot of interesting opportunities for flexography, and the Flexographic Technical Association’s (FTA) 2014 Annual Forum covered many of these possibilities during it annual conference last month in Baltimore, MD.
The conference’s theme was “Breaking New Ground,” and the concurrent session on “Emerging Flexo Markets: Is Your Business Positioned for Future Growth?” showcased high-growth markets such as packaging and brand protection, as well as potential opportunities such as printed electronics.
Co-chaired by Mark Mazur of DuPont Packaging Graphics and Penny Holland of Sun Chemical Corporation, the four presenters covered topics ranging from packaging design and brand security to laser marking and printed electronics.
In her presentation, “Groundbreaking Design: What’s Next for Packaging?” Lynn Dornblaser of Mintel showcased some packaging that is particularly effective. One example Mintel cited was Bombay Gin’s use of electroluminescent ink.
“It is a great example of packaging that captures the imagination,” Mintel said. “Packaging can be fun and unique.”
Aside from the trend of creating a fun package, Mintel said that healthy living is another key area. Quinn’s lemon and sea salt popcorn, which can be completely recycled, is an example of this trend. A third trend, the faster pace of life, is also important.
“Consumers are living their lives faster than before,” Mintel said. “The demand instant access and instant gratification. Fifty percent f consumers say they just heat meals rather than prepare them.” Campbell’s new soup pouch is a good example of this trend.
Jim Reiman of Sun Chemical then discussed “Protecting Brand Integrity,” a look at anti-counterfeiting and brand protection.
“Unauthorized products are rampant and growing, not just in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, but any product that has brand equity,” Reitman said. “Global estimates range up to $700 billion in unauthorized products, but no one really knows.”
Reitman then discussed the various means – overt, semi-covert and covert – that brand owners employ to protect their products and customers. These range from specialty inks, taggants and substrates, and flexo printers play a role in this process.
“All of these can be printed with flexo,” Reitman added. “These help converters differentiate themselves.”
“Breakthrough Process Efficiencies in Laser Marking” was the topic of the talk given by Chuck Pemble of Datalase. Pemble covered variable data printing on packaging, adding that new advances in laser marking technologies make it faster, more sustainable and cost effective than inkjet.
“Laser technology is evolving,” Pemble said, adding that there is even laser printing being done with color-changing inks.
James Lee of Jones Packaging concluded the Emerging Markets session with his talk on “Printed Electronics – Tomorrow’s Packaging, Today.” Lee offered his experiences producing printed electronics for Smart Packaging using flexo, as well as insights into new markets such as wearable electronics.
“Printed electronics is giving up unique capabilities,” said Lee. “It is not going to replace silicon, but it can offer lower cost manufacturing of flexible circuits and rapid manufacturing due to faster tooling.”
Lee added that printed electronics can help capture the customer’s eye, offer brand security, as well as providing information on whether temperature-sensitive drugs have been affected by out-of-tolerance events.
“Smart packaging will become a multi-billion dollar market,” Lee concluded. “Printed electronics can augment manufacturing and add capabilities.”