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FTA Forum looks at trends, tech and color

March 27, 2012

Two topics of note at this year’s Forum include Emerging Trends and New Technologies and Expanded Gamut.

If you ask Scott Schultz, market development manager at Eckart America and presenter at this year’s FTA, it’s all about the bling. During his presentation, Evolution of Metallic Pigments, Schultz focused on the use of metallic inks in packaging and labeling as a way to differentiate products on the shelf. In 2011 alone, he said, the market had thousands of product SKUs launched in the U.S.  Industry standards for creating a premium metallic effect include metallized substrates, foil stamping, and now, metallic pigments. Advances in pigment technology, he said, can optimize the reflectivity of inks. Emerging trends in this aspect of the industry include bronze pigments, which can give a printable, 24-karat gold effect. Shrink sleeves and flexible packaging, both applications that were previously off-limits to metallic pigments, are growing in popularity at a rapid pace.

Colleen Larkin Twomey, assistant professor of Graphic Communications at California Polytechnic State University, gave an interesting presentation on the trends and impacts of electronic enabled packaging. Demand for electronic packaging – also called active, smart or intelligent packaging – is growing in leaps and bounds, thanks in large part to the growing population of mobile technology users. Expected to grow 8% annually in the U.S. and 20% overall until 2015, electronic packaging has changed the way CPCs target their consumers. According to Twomey, mobile technology has changed packaging from a single, decisive moment of purchasing into an experience that involves social media, interactivity, and gaming, among others. For those in the flexographic industry, this translates into an increase in QR codes, snap tags, near field communication labels, and augmented reality. Similar to the yellow “first down” line seen on a TV screen during a football game, augmented reality is the integration of digital information with live video or the user’s environment in real time. In other words,  its another way to integrate a product’s label into a consumer’s life.

The Expanded Gamut session, co-chaired by Al Bowers of RR Donnelly and Ellen Farrell of DuPont, featured several industry professionals’ input on the utilization of ECG. Panelists included Johnny Dye, printing operations manager at Accredo Packaging; John Edwards, director of business development at Sun Chemical Corporation; Gary Hillard, graphics and technical manager at Hood Packaging; Robb Frimming, print service director at Schawk Inc.; and Kelly Owens, creative services director for all Kaytee and SuperPet brands. The globalization of brands has significantly increased the need for repeatability, and color is the single most influential aspect of a consumer’s impression of a product on the shelf. Benefits of expanded color gamut include the use of fewer spot colors, which reduces ink inventory, and higher volumes of seven-color inks. Edwards, of Sun Chemical, summarized the economics of ECG printing this way: “The same colors are used for all or most jobs, anilox rolls stay in the press longer, there is less press washing, reduced press setup time, and more press up time.”