The Future of Ink on Packaging

By Kerry Pianoforte, Ink World Associate Editor | 06.24.09

The Future of Ink on Packaging featured presentations on the latest developments in ink and printing techniques to achieve shelf impact and brand image

The Future of Ink on Packaging, sponsored by IntertechPira, was held July 19-20 at the Doubletree Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. The show featured 20 presentations on the latest developments in future packaging printing technologies including radiation curing, digital printing and intelligent inks.

The event featured speakers who presented topics based on five themes: enhancing the brand through ink innovation; intelligent and smart packaging through ink innovation; environmentally friendly packaging; UV and EB curing; and future printing innovations.

Enhancing the Brand Through Ink Innovation

The conference commenced with a number of presentations based on the theme “Enhancing the Brand Through Ink Innovation.”

“Ink Effects: The Brand Owner’s View,” presented by Wynn Wiksell, manager of packaging quality for General Mills, addressed how important color consistency and quality are in maintaining a brand’s image.

“General Mills is concerned about color consistency, batch to batch, substrate to substrate, printing process to printing process,” said Mr. Wiksell.

Another key issue is how to enhance the brand through ink innovation. According to Mr. Wiksell, 70 percent of purchases are made at the shelf. Primary packaging has a huge impact on brands. Some of the tried and true tricks that ink manufacturers deliver are vibrant color, gloss, contrast and holographic effects.

“But we are constantly looking for something new,” Mr. Wiksell] added. “Some examples of General Mills using innovative inks technologies include back side printing, edible inks, glow in the dark inks, thermo inks and scratch and sniff inks.”

Mr. Wiksell then went on to detail General Mills’ “wish list” for its ink suppliers. Key features included odor- and migration-free, color management, antimicrobial properties and food grade inks all of the time for food packaging contact applications.

“The Efficiencies of Speaking a Universal Color Language in Today’s Digital and Global Packaging Marketplace,” presented by Brian Rooney, chief technology officer at Pantone, offered solutions on how to define and communicate a brand’s colors in any environment and how to ensure the proper display of a brand’s color in both digital and print media.

“Improving color communication between color specifiers and color producers is critical and helps customers build and protect brand equity, reduce lead time, increase speed to market and reduce errors,” said Mr. Rooney. “The key is using digital standards in combination with physical standards.”

“Latest Ink Innovations to Promote Packaging Brands,” presented by Martin Spatz, marketing manager, Sun Chemical, detailed the company’s first vegetable oil-based sheetfed offset metallic inks that are mineral oil-free. According to Mr. Spatz, these inks meet the most stringent environmental requirements and provide improved runnability and metallic brilliance.

Mr. Spatz explained that specialty inks can be grouped into four categories: shelf appeal, interactives, brand security and trace and track. Sun Chemical has developed some innovative inks in the specialty inks category. For shelf appeal inks, Sun Chemical now has vegetable oil-based inks for sheetfed applications. Interactive thermochromics, which change color due to temperature fluctuations, have always been popular, and now Sun Chemical has easier-to-print versions.

“When using specialty inks and effects, collaboration during the design process is important,” said Mr. Spatz. “Technology continuously marches forward. Make sure you are using the best available technology.”

Intelligent and
Smart Packaging

The theme for the next group of presentations was “Intelligent and Smart Packaging Through Ink Innovation.” “OnVu: The Label that Makes Freshness Visible” presented by Dr. Kathie Hoekstra, senior chemist, imaging and inks, coating effects segment, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, described a novel time temperature indicator for chilled perishables that provides a simple visual display of cumulative chill-chain history.

“This is an effect that is not just visual but also functional,” said Dr. Hoekstra. “OnVu labels allow you to diagnose the freshness of a product.”

According to Dr. Hoekstra, as a result of a longer and more complex supply chain, there is more opportunity for food spoilage, and it is becoming increasingly important to control the quality of the product through the chill chain. The FDA has recently suggested using time temperature indicators (TTI) on individual products.

ONVu TTI makes freshness visible by displaying the cumulative time temperature history of a product through a simple, irreversible color range. The rate and color change depends on the time and temperature. OnVu labels can be stored in an ambient room; when they are ready to be used, they are charged with a UV light to activate and are then applied to the package.

“Printed Intelligence for Fast Moving Consumer Goods,” presented by Eero Hurme, customer manager, pulp, paper and packaging industry, VTT Technical Center of Finland, described a number of intelligent packaging systems for food and pharmaceutical applications, as well as new business opportunities for consumer packaged goods.

According to Mr. Hurme, printed intelligence is comprised of components and systems which extend the functions of printed matter beyond traditional visually interpreted text and graphics.

“Expectations and demand for printed intelligence include added functionality, low total added cost and environmental and economical benefits,” said Mr. Hurme. The VTT Technical Center is currently working on filling the gap between traditional paper, printing ICT/electronics industry products, towards disposable sensors, smart packages and printed electronics applications.

“Chipless Smart Labels for Brand Protection” was presented by Dr. Timothy Drysdale, lecturer, electronics design centre, Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, University of Glasgow, UK.

Dr. Drysdale spoke about the growing demand for brand protection technologies and the advantages of covert technology. He went on to describe a new millimeter-wave and terahertz label technology which can provide commercially printed labels for inexpensive, high-volume production.

“RFID is not the silver bullet,” said Dr. Drysdale. “RFID is powerful but expensive.” He said that RFID is good for pallet track and trace, but the data can be altered. There is also customer resistance as it can be perceived as a Big Brother tool. Millimeter-terahertz smart labels are a viable alternative for high volume, lower cost production. “Our label is thinner than RFID and cheaper than RFID antenna alone,” said Dr. Drysdale.

“New Metal Printing Technologies that Deliver Brand-Building Packaging,” presented by Dr. Daniel Abramowicz, executive vice president, technology and regulatory affairs, Crown Holdings, gave a brief overview of packaging's role in helping customers build brands. He described a novel flat-sheet and rotary metal printing technology. Some of the new metal printing and decorating technology include thermochromic inks for beer cans that change when they get cold, fluorescence and phosphorescence on metal that create crackle and patterned finishes, and soft-touch coatings that create matte surface. He also discussed high quality printing dryograph (waterless) printing and digital printing.

“Dryograph technology can take metal can printing to a new level of high quality printing,” said Dr. Abramowicz. He then went on to address the issue of digital printing. “Inks are too inflexible for printing on a can,” he said. “Taking a pragmatic approach to achieve digital printing, Crown partnered with Jetrion to produce a digital ink for metal printing. It looks promising and should be commercialized relatively soon. Digital printing will address the future needs for fast response agile manufacturing markets.”

Friendly Packaging

“Bio-Solvent Ink – Environmentally-Friendly and EPA Recognized,” presented by Steve Emery, sales and marketing manager OEM business, EFI, introduced EFI-Inkware’s bio-solvent technology.

“We started development on the bio-solvent ink three years ago,” said Mr. Emery. “Bio-solvent inks are a new class of ink developed by EFI. We have EPA recognition. The solvent is made from corn instead of oil. They are an environmentally responsible, renewable resource.” According to Mr. Emery, the solvent is a bio-degradable, certified “green” solvent and FDA approved for use in food.

“The trend is toward bio-based materials both in regulation and in consumer trends,” said Mr. Emery. “Applications include shrink wrap labeling, building materials and outdoor signage.”

“UV Cure for a Range of Packaging Applications,” presented by R.W. Stowe, director technical communications, Fusion UV, went beyond the basic of UV curing, including the process distinction among inks, coatings and adhesives and methods of addressing heat issues.

Also addressing UV curing was Brian Wenger, vice president, GEW Inc., who presented “Electronic UV Curing Systems that Lower Operating Costs By as Much as 30 Percent While Boosting UV Output and Benefiting the Environment.”

Future Printing Innovations

The theme for day two was “Future Printing Innovations.” Highlights of the final day included “Packaging and the New Business of Printing – What Will Digital Presses Bring to the Packaging Market?,” presented by Anthony Federico, corporate vice president, chief engineer and graphic communications executive liaison, Xerox. He discussed applications for digital color presses that are being used today and how they may apply to the digital packaging market, and advances that are coming for digital presses that may further advance the digital packaging market.

“Increasing the Implementation of Digital Print Processes in Packaging,” presented by Michael White, sales manager, Dotrix high speed digital presses, Agfa, discussed inkjet systems for labels and corrugated boards with a faster speed in production.

“Ink Film Thickness Reduction for Improved Packaging,” presented by Dan Collins of Pliant Corp., examined the trend in the marketplace today to reduce the overall application weight of the ink film applied. Benefits of reducing ink film thickness include improved graphic capabilities, production speeds and more control in overall process. Challenges include higher strength printing inks and inks must maintain functionality in adhesion, gloss and resistance to secondary conditions such as heat resistance, scuff/scratch resistance and shrink.