Embossing can turn an ordinary label into a piece of three-dimensional art. For consumers, the first part of the shopping process is done visually, and when a product on shelf first catches the eye, this “first moment of truth” can than lead to the hands-on, “stop and hold” moment. It’s at this point that the consumer uses his or her sense of touch, where a label with a tactile effect can make an impact.
Embossed labels have raised images, patterns or text that can transform what is a relatively ordinary piece of packaging to perhaps something more – suggesting that the product is more elegant or refined than its competitors. Take a wedding invitation, or a letter from an important dignitary – embossed, these pieces take on added meaning. In the labeling space, the same idea applies. Embossing is prevalent in luxury goods markets, often found on wine and perfume labels. Consumers of these products may be more susceptible to be swayed by an elegant label, being given the sense that what’s inside the bottle is something special.
From a technical standpoint, embossing in the printing industry refers to dies pressing against the substrate and leaving an imprint, causing a raised effect on the printed surface. Thus, adding a new dimension. While many think of the wine, spirits and other luxury goods markets when considering embossing, the technique is also used in applications where aesthetics is not the key driver. For example, Braille, where a label can communicate with the visually impaired, and also some security and anti-counterfeiting labels incorporate embossing technology.
Label converters have options when it comes to embossing. The process can be done inline or offline, and serving the market with equipment and consumables are press manufacturers, finishing machine specialists, and die and tool makers.
“With a focus on cost savings and production optimization within label production, we are now see more sophisticated label designs with 3D-effects, brilliance, and outstanding details on the shelves,” says Jakob Landberg, sales director at Danish press manufacturer Nilpeter.
For Nilpeter, the trend in label embossing is marked by a shift from rotary to flatbed embossing. “The shift from rotary to flatbed embossing leaves the converter with several advantages in terms of quality and cost-savings,” Landberg says. “Flatbed embossing allows the printer to decrease his response time considerably due to the option of making the tools in-house. Flatbed technology has made high-quality hot foil and embossing more accessible, and much more competitive compared to the traditional methods.”
Landberg explains that if the label printer knows how to mount the tools and treat them correctly, flatbed technology makes it easier and faster to set up a job for production. He says, “As the preparation work is done off-press, you spend a minimum of valuable machine-time, and can run more jobs per day.”
Besides traditional rotary embossing – polymer plates and engraved cylinders – Nilpeter provides its FP-4 inline flatbed embossing units on press with or without a hot foil option, which runs up to 100 meters per minute. “The strength is that we offer a combination of various types of embossing with various types of hot foil – all in one inline process. This solution is a part of Nilpeter’s modular printing press system, having designed configurations with as much as three FP-4 units in one press,” Landberg says.
By taking away multiple steps for complex labels, Nilpeter’s integrated embossing approach offers the market the possibility to achieve embellishments in one in-line, lean process. “This solution is very popular in the pressure sensitive market, and we even see how the sheet-fed market migrates towards the PS market to obtain the inline benefits,” Landberg says.
With twenty tons of pressure, the FP-4 is a value-adding unit for hot foil and embossing and is designed to produce consistent, sharp and solid results on conventional as well as rough and textured substrates. The unit is robust, compact, easily accessible, and operator-friendly, says Landberg, adding, “Low tooling costs make the FP-4 perfect for short runs.” In addition, Nilpeter has also introduced a lean rotary embossing unit, designed to dramatically reduce setup times.
The FP-4 has actually been a key driver in numerous Nilpeter press installations, particularly with wine label specialists. Concludes Landberg, “It allows the converter to place the embossing and the hot foiling individually on the press. The flexibility is at a maximum, and job changes become considerably faster. With 20 tons of pressure and high heat at our disposal, we can make lasting embossing in complicated and critical substrates at various depths. When you combine this with the unit’s foil saving function and low tooling costs, converters find the decision to invest an easy one.”
Delta Industrial, a designer and manufacturer of web converting and packaging machinery, offers the label industry its Spectrum Finishing System, which has coating, semi-rotary cutting, slitting and hot stamp and embossing capabilities. The system can be custom-configured with many additional modules that add value to a converter’s label manufacturing process.
Wendy Stromberg, speaking on adding value, says, “Embossed and heat-stamped labels distinctively set apart and add value to wine, specialty food and confectionary products. While the ability to emboss and heat stamp is not new to the label industry, the ability to produce these labels in cost effective, short runs is.”
With Delta’s Spectrum Finishing System, each finishing operation is independently servo driven and computer controlled, which provides flexibility to converters as they manufacture both short and long run jobs.
“Delta’s embossing module is especially unique in that the converter may use this module to emboss and/or hot foil stamp in one pass of the machine,” Stromberg explains. “This feature saves time and materials and ultimately reduces product cost and time to market.”
Delta offers a variety of equipment and machinery for flat, semi-rotary and full rotary embossing and hot stamping applications. Stromberg adds, “Our team is constantly working to stay innovative in our approach to the converting and packaging industries. Our solutions are a product of innovative people and proven Delta Mod-Tech Modules, and they are designed to meet customers’ current and future applications.”
Schober offers the label industry its variable hot foil system VHFS 2650 and HFS 850 hot foil system for rotary heat embossing and hologram technology. These units – available as “of-the-shelf” equipment – are designed to eliminate product counterfeiting and piracy while also enhancing the aesthetics of product packaging. Available for in-line of off-line applications, the 850 is 33.5 inches wide with speeds to 500 feet per minute. Digital drive technology ensures flexibility, smooth start-up and operation, as well as high register precision with minimal waste. Programs are easily saved to reduce set-up time for future projects. Operating parameters such as temperature, foil registration, speeds, etc., are easily stored.
Digital drive technology also makes the installation into an existing press easier, and allows the optimum use of foil tape. Designed to be easy to install, program and operate, the VHFS 2650 and HF850 simplify the changeover of handcraft converting to modern, repeatable, efficient and maintenance-free production processes. With these systems, sealing segments are individually adjustable in radial and axial directions, and has a foil unwind system for reel sizes up to 15.75 inches in diameter and core chucks for 3-inch cores. Each reel has individual tension control through the dancer/unwind brake system. A foil saver feeding system with servo-driven feed rollers is provided as is a foil guiding system. In addition, a servo motor-driven heat transfer cylinder is synchronized with the register control system of the printing press.
Schober also provides tools and modules for the embossing of Braille letters and symbols. With this technology, the embossing process can be accomplished at speeds that allow it to be used in-line at the printing press or offline in a converting system. It is applicable for both web and sheetfed processes in a wide variety of materials including paper, board, laminates and more – allowing it to be used for all kinds of printed materials, including various types of packaging.
The Braille set is comprised of a negative segment that includes all possible 288 Braille positions and a positive segment which holds the changing Braille embossing patterns. It can be quickly and easily exchanged, yet holds tight tolerances. In certain instances, this technology can be integrated into existing cylinders as an upgrade. This allows printers and converters to enter the Braille embossing market quickly and with minimal costs.
Kocher + Beck
Die and tool maker Kocher + Beck says it is seeing increased demand for embossing in the label market with a focus on higher end labels such as wine/beverage, cosmetics and health & beauty. “This is providing a higher value position for the converters and buyers which in turn promotes more shelf appeal to the consumer,” says Kocher + Beck’s Daniel Grammatikos. Kocher + Beck provides two primary products for embossing. The first being two steel hardened rolls that are concentric from end to end with very tight tolerances. There is also a timing gear included that allows for adjustment to optimize registration of the images. A male and a female photopolymer plate is applied to the rolls. The foil or substrate then passes between the male and female plates creating the embossing. This method is primarily used for short to medium sizes jobs and is very cost effective, Grammatikos says.
Another option Kocher + Beck offers is steel CNC engraved rolls. This method engraves the image into a male and a female steel roll. This, too, comes with a timing gear to optimize registration of the image as well as side register rings (as needed) for lateral registration.
A steel CNC-engraved roll is primarily used for longer runs and/or thicker substrates in order to justify the additional costs, Grammatikos says. “There are other options available, but as it is with flexo printing, there are many variables to consider before determining optimization of the best process. Kocher + Beck has six US regional sales managers ready to service and support technical needs and job specifications in order to optimize the most beneficial and cost effective solution.”