Special effects – whether seen in the movies, on photographs, or on the labels of a new product – are designed to do one thing: catch peoples’ attention. Advancements specific to the label industry have afforded brand owners the luxury of multiple options in terms of holographic papers, specialty inks and sophisticated converting processes.
Cast and Cure
One such process, Cast and Cure, is used to enhance the traditional varnishing process by casting a matte, press-polished, or holographic image into the surface of the varnish. This micro embossing technique allows for the application of light-refracting surface manipulation to printed materials at a significantly reduced cost compared to traditional applications (holographic lamination or hot/cold foil). Cast and Cure is also a fully sustainable process, providing designers a broad pallet of decorating options while maintaining environmental consciousness.
Breit Technologies, based in Overland Park, KS, USA, is a company with more than 40 years of experience in the printing industry. The company is a global supplier of Cast and Cure, selling all of the specialized equipment and film needed for this process.
According to Dan Plash, sales manager at Breit Technologies, the Cast and Cure process is “probably the least expensive, highest visual impact effect on any given label or carton that’s out there today.”
Part of the allure of the Cast and Cure process is its flexibility. The effect is applied only where the UV coating is printed, allowing for a wide range of design options. Thus, the need for opaque white is eliminated. Additionally, the process can be applied to almost any substrate that can be UV coated. Examples of Cast and Cure’s substrate capabilities include usage on toothpaste tubes and cartons, DVD “O” covers and slip sheets, outer cartons, as well as inside labels.
Cast and Cure offers a viable alternative to hot and cold foiling techniques, largely because of the process’s repeatability.
“You can run Cast and Cure on a traditional foil webpath,” Plash says. “If customers run it on equipment for cold foil, they’ll get about three or four turns out of it. Using Cast and Cure, it can be anywhere from 12 to 20 uses.”
“If customers are running cold foil right now and want to experiment with Cast and Cure, they buy a roll of Cast and Cure film and run it through their process,” Plash says. “What we typically find is that they go out and present the process to their customers, and once they get the orders, they upgrade their equipment and get more use out of the roll.”
Plash says that Cast and Cure becomes a very low-cost application once converters have the equipment – which works for both the Cast and Cure and cold foiling processes – to handle the process. “The ironic thing is that we have customers who have purchased Cast and Cure equipment and say that when they run cold foil, the results are better than what they were achieving before,” he says.
Appealing to five senses
Recently, Breit Technologies announced its latest enhancement in matte finishes. By utilizing a special matte Cast and Cure film in combination with traditional gloss UV coatings, the company says this combination creates a consistent and highly durable matte finish, without the use of matte UV coatings.
“The ability to apply the Cast and Cure process in selective locations allows for unique matte/gloss combinations while still providing consistent rub protection and COF stability achieved with UV gloss varnishes,” the company says.
Developed in conjunction with Schaumburg, IL, USA-based INX International Ink Co., Breit Technologies has recently introduced a new series of soft touch matte applications. This process creates the soft-touch tactile feel with the visual matte finish desired to give a full sensory combination to attract consumers in addition to the durability of a gloss UV coating. This new soft touch combination is highly durable when compared to traditional soft touch applications and provides mare and scuff resistance that is traditionally unavailable through current methods (lamination and water-based coatings). The soft-touch feel can be manipulated by varying the chemical composition of the coating and coating weight.
INX International Ink Co. has been producing inks for more than 20 years, operates more than 15 plants in North America, and has more than 50 locations on four continents. According to Mike Sajdak, senior R&D chemist at INX International Ink, the company is currently involved in markets ranging from cosmetics to food and beverage labels.
Sajdak says that the market potential for special effects labels has steadily increased over the last couple years. “It is quite simply being led by those consumer product companies seeking to differentiate themselves or highlighting their preferred products,” he says.
“Historically, perhaps the most commonly sought after effects have been those intended to make an impact visually. Pearlescent, interference pigmented systems – those that change color based upon the viewing angle – and metallic and fluorescent colors have been staples of the visual effects repertoire for many brand owners, graphic designers and printers.”
Sajdak adds that throughout the last few years, there has been increased interest in the potential impact that coatings and varnishes can have upon a finished product. “Not only can a gloss, satin or dull coating influence the aesthetic properties of a label,” he says, “they can be combined in various manners in order to emphasize or augment existing effects or items of interest. Various printers have used such visual effects with ever-increasing interest.”
He adds that brand owners have also shown interest in appealing to consumers’ other senses; as a result, tactile effects have been implemented. “Some raised coating effects have served in place of embossing in certain instances, and reticulation effects in combination with gloss UV coating have added a new dimension to a standard gloss/dull contrast,” he says.
“By far the latest buzz word has been ‘soft touch,’ though there is increasing interest in the potential to create holographic or unique combinations of textured effects using a single coating or varnish, coupled with a Cast and Cure process,” Sajdak says.
Deanna Whelan, global marketing manager for Flint Group - Packaging and Narrow Web, also believes that tactile effects have grown in popularity. While nearly every market uses special effects to promote eye and shelf appeal, Whelan says, appealing to all of consumers’ senses is increasingly popular in health and beauty, household goods, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food, and wine and beverage labeling.
“In addition,” she says, “special effects labels are used for security applications and to ensure brand identity – through the use of holographic images, microtaggant technology, and other high end effects and applications.”
Whelan maintains that the interest in special effects labels has always been high – due largely to competition – and points out that the cost to produce these labels sometimes deters brand owners from using them. “However, there are cost-effective ways to achieve special effects, such as cold foiling, Cast and Cure and metallics,” she says.
While special effects labels are often driven by the competition faced on store shelves, Whelan believes that the future of these labels will be driven more by a need for security features. “The demand for effects on labels will always exist,” she says. “More effects will integrate security more than they do today. But, as always, these effects cannot add additional costs to the label, which can produce an interesting challenge to the printer and those that supply materials to create the label.”
As more tactile effects are added to labels, along with security features, inks, substrates and electronics are expected to become more sophisticated. Whelan points out that augmented reality – defined as a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view – is a relatively new development, and is already growing in popularity.
In fact, according to Juniper Research, mobile augmented reality is expected to account for more than 200 million unique users throughout the world by 2018. To put that number into context, there are an estimated 60 million users today. These numbers aren’t just limited to the label industry – they include the gaming and entertainment sectors, arguably the largest markets for this technology so far – but their expected widespread use will no doubt influence the market for special effects labels and product marketing.
“In the end,” Whelan says, “the more unique the label, the better. Effects will change from touching only one of our senses – i.e. visual, touch, smell, or sound. The market will want effects labels that will enhance all senses at one time.”
Another way to ensure that consumers are experiencing a label – and therefore, a product – with all five senses is to print it on non-traditional paper. To this end, Fenton, MO, USA-based Masterpiece Graphix has recently introduced a wood substrate and plans to release a line of metallic substrates in the near future.
MGX Wood Veneer is available in C1S and PSA, and in both birch and cherry finishes. According Lanie Dattilo, director of marketing at Masterpiece Graphix, MGX Wood Veneer is not only eco-friendly, but can be utilized in nearly any market.
“This is a great thing for pretty much any market, as it is a spin on special effects labels that has not been done before,” Dattilo says. “It can offer a vintage look or a purely modern one based on the design one uses. Jim Beam is currently using a version of wood veneer label on one of its bottles.”
Dattilo says that a challenge in this market is that some may be hesitant to print on real wood. She emphasizes that it does not splinter in printers “and also provides a clean look and holds color amazingly well.
“Another interesting fact is that the wood grain is never the same twice since it is all from different trees,” she says, “so different rolls will flow a little differently, providing amazing finishing.”
Dattilo says that the wood is also environmentally friendly, a customer concern that has been growing over the years. “It is all 100% natural and harvested from managed forest and is never chemically processed, steam heated, or sanded. As a bonus, the adhesive used with this wood veneer is non-ozone depleting,” she says.
The company will release a new line called Masterpiece Metallix in the near future. The line includes metallic papers, foils, rigid vinyls and polyesters.
“We’re debuting this line as the comprehensive answer for amazing applications with a ‘wow’ factor,” Dattilo says. “Since it has papers, polyesters, foils, and other options, this line has something for every market.”
As the market for products change, Dattilo says, companies will have to change the labeling and packaging along with them to keep consumers interested in the aesthetics of the brand. “There will always be a demand for special effects materials for labels,” she says.