Ink matters31 October 2016
Ink continues to be a major component of packaging production. With regulation pressures, brands demanding innovation and a future that will see more interactive packaging, ink has to keep pace with today’s developments. Dave Howell reports.
According to the latest research from acutemarketreports.com, the UV curable inks market is set to see revenues of US$3.50 billion by 2020, registering a CAGR of 15.7% during 2015-2020. Transparency Market Research also notes that the global solvent-based inks market was valued at US$5.42 billion in 2015 and is projected to reach US$7.92 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 4.4% from 2016 to 2024.
Ink has of course always been an essential component of the converting process. This element of packaging design and production is moving through a period of change as technologies advance to offer the converting industry whole new ink formulations that answer the demands that brands are placing on their converting partners. And with interactive packaging beginning to make itself felt across the marketplace, conductive inks are transitioning from novelty to mainstream.
“There are two drivers at the moment, digital colour management and UV LED curing,” says Flint Group’s Peter Baird, Sheetfed Marketing Director EMEA, Packaging and Narrow Web. “The digital revolution affects service offering more than ink formulations, but for inkmakers it's a string to their bow that is becoming essential as brand owners expect higher levels of brand colour consistency across substrates and geographies. That's why Flint Group is taking the lead by creating the most advanced digital colour management service in the world – VIVO.”
“UV LED curing is a phenomenon that is now starting to move into the converting industry – it offers environmental and process efficiency, food packaging print safety, and cost benefits over conventional UV-cured inks and coatings. Therefore, inkmakers being able to offer a full range of UV LED-curable inks, including low migration versions, and all manner of special effects inks and coatings is essential.”
In addition, the Flint Group has also become the first official ink licensee of Variprint – the next generation of the DataLase revolutionary Inline Digital Printing solutions. Product Director of Paper and Board EMEA at Flint Group, Kari Raassina, said: “The Variprint solution from DataLase demonstrates a high level of innovation and enables us to respond to brands’ demands for engaging, high-quality, customised graphics on pack.”
DataLase technology uses patented laser-reactive pigments that are incorporated into a coating which is conventionally printed onto a product or package. When exposed to a laser at the point of manufacturing, packing or filling, a colour-change reaction is generated, resulting in a high-definition, premium-quality digital print. The DataLase solution enables high-speed, fast-turnaround printing, which is ideal for late-stage customisation and real-time marketing, maximising relevance to the consumer and value to the brand owner.
All of the major ink developers have long development roadmaps that will see an increase in the use of water-based inks to meet growing concerns regarding solvents and the environment. However, other ink formulations are also seeing advances.
The hubergroup have recently unveiled new ink technologies to support UV printing that uses LED lamps for iron-doped lamps. Carsten Zölzer, product manager for UV inks at hubergroup, said: “These new curing technologies make it possible to customise press technology more specifically to customers’ requirements.”
Ink technologies alone of course can’t deliver the finishes and versatility that converters need to meet their customer demands. An understanding of the ink’s performance and what printing platform is in use can deliver are also important factors. A good recent example comes from Omega Packaging.
They have developed a new decorating technique that uses photo-quality CMYK digital printing. Usually applied to labels, the new technique can be used directly on the substrate the packaging is using. Using UV-curable ink designed for the pharmaceuticals sector, the technique has been proven on the company’s own range of polypropylene (PP) closures range from sizes that start at 48mm up to a maximum of 120mm.
In the past, converters have used thermographic inks to great effect: the Coors Light can than is able to change its colour, and, more recently, as a promotional tie in with the new Ghostbusters movie, the Hi-C Ecto Cooler project developed by Coca-Cola’s vendor partner, Chromatic Technologies Inc., sees the technology used to bring back the drink after a 15-year absence.
“Hi-C Ecto Cooler fuelled a pop culture phenomenon that is well remembered and beloved by fans to this day,” said Charles Torrey, vice president, Minute Maid/Hi-C Brands, Coca-Cola North America. “Sony Pictures was extremely enthusiastic about bringing it back for this special occasion, and the timing of the upcoming Ghostbusters film made this the exact right time.”
The advances in ink technologies have given converters and their design partners an almost unlimited palette of colour to choose from. Brands have been quick to take advantage of this. A good example is the packaging design for SQUISH Candies. A new retail experience was supported with bright packaging that complements the store design and clearly marks the company as unique in the high street.
A fantastic use of ink can also be seen with the ‘Amado by Hyatt’ packaging design created by Anagrama. ‘Amado by Hyatt’ is a Mexican artisan bakery and candy boutique specialising in typical regional products characterized by their flavours, colours, and textures. Anagrama explained: “Hyatt reached out to us to develop a branding identity for the new boutique opening in its hotel lobby. The naming was inspired by the pursuit of grand Mexican creative minds that could identify themselves with the brand’s essence and its products. ‘Amado by Hyatt’ strives to bring together both the romantic and classic spirits of Amado Nervo’s poetry and the modernist style of Mexican architect Luis Barragán.”
These examples illustrate how ink technology has progressed to the point where converters can offer an almost limitless colour-space that can be digitally printed to meet the needs of short run and also personalisation when this is needed. Also, converters have been freed from the traditional constraints when choosing inks as colour gamut has continued to expand, as well as the overall performance of inks, especially across the UV sector.
Ink will continue to offer converters a range of options when developing new packaging form factors. Ink, though, doesn’t have to be passive. Here, interactive packaging is showing new opportunities that brands want to embrace but that converters are tasked with delivering. Conductive inks offer a way to move packaging away from its passive heritage and into a new environment of interactivity.
For example, Pizza Hut have taken the humble pizza box and turned it into a playable turntable. Using printed electronics developed by Novalia, the pizza box is transformed into a fully working mixing desk. “DJ-ing is a huge passion for many of our guests so we thought it would be a great idea to give our pizza boxes a new lease on life by transforming them into real DJ decks,” said Kath Austin, Pizza Hut's Marketing Director.
And DuPont have also continued to innovate in this area. For converters, their in-mould innovation could have far-reaching effects on the packaging industry as a whole. Conductive ink with existing in-mould systems do not need re-tooling, thereby reducing costs. Converters that currently offer in-mould attributes as part of their product ranges could massively innovate with this technology.
Environmental concerns are never too far from any debate about the use of ink across the converting industry. Siegwerk announced its new range of inks based on natural resins. The use of water-based inks has expanded their popularity, and with Siegwerk’s UniXYL series, converters can enhance their own environmental credentials.
“As one of the leading ink manufacturers, we want to set a good example and champion the development of ecofriendly inks. At the same time, we have tried to reduce the biomass obtained from food or feed plants, which we have now achieved with UniXYL”, explains Pierre-Antoine Noirot, vice president of the Global Innovation Network at Siegwerk. The fact that the biomass used in UniXYL is composed of forestry or agricultural waste products is reflected in the product name: XYL hinting at the Greek word ‘xylon’, which translated means ‘wood’”.
Colour and performance
Diversification across the converting sector has enabled it to remain relevant to its clients for decades. When focusing on packaging and ink solutions, a recent innovation from Xerox illustrates how print and ink can work seamlessly together.
The new print system is capable, the company claims, of printing onto any three-dimensional object using the new Xerox direct-to-object inkjet printer. The inkjets are compatible with virtually any type of ink chemistry including solvent, aqueous and UV inks and can be operated at temperatures as high as 140°C, enabling jetting of specialised inks that meet demanding requirements.
“This innovation opens up a path for creating customised products instantly at a time when the consumer’s appetite is all about personalisation,” said Brendan Casey, vice president of Xerox Engineering Services. “Imagine a sports fan coming home from a game with a helmet or ball that was personalised right at the stadium, or a retailer offering on-demand personalisation on hundreds of different store items”.
Building on its established technology, Domino Printing Sciences has developed a new solution for coding and marking for the beverage market. “Printing legible codes onto certain bottles can prove to be a challenging task,” explains Greg Treanor, product marketing manager, CIJ at Domino Printing Sciences. “Thanks to extensive research and development, we have created an advanced high-contrast opaque yellow ink that is visible on a dark surface. The ink is particularly suited for use in returnable glass beverage plants, as it can be readily removed when the bottles are ‘caustic-wash’ cleaned for refilling”.
Significantly, the 2YL955i has excellent adhesion even in areas where surface condensation is present during the coding stage. Thanks to the ink’s fast-dry properties (1-2 seconds), the printed code resists refrigerator storage and immersion in water, making it ideal for beer, soft drinks and assorted beverage applications.
Dr Hauke Wilcken, inks manager at Ardagh Metal Beverage, says: “The future of ink technology includes identification and differentiation. Identification means that inks and colours help the brand to be recognised and identified. Brands will have unique signature colours that need to be reproduced accurately. Cost pressure is a driver – specifically, to provide stronger colours for lower prices as well as the colour management of the tremendous number of colours (above 8,000 different colour tones).”
For converters, the continued advances with ink technologies have enabled them to innovate. Brand owners understand that they need to develop new form factors and also pay close attention to how their packaging communicates with consumers. Innovations that have delivered more environmentally friendly inks, inks with a wider colour gamut and even inks that can offer interactive components to form factors are all rapidly advancing to offer brands and their converting partners a diverse toolbox with ink playing a central role.