The Evolving World of Holograms

By Lisa Nieves | July 8, 2005

Taking the "rush for the clock" into consideration, marketers have centered their packaging and labels around glitzy, eye-catching strategies

A wise person once said, "Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once." Everyone is pressed for time. Rushing back and forth in an endless path of chores and deadlines, even the most simple task of shopping for groceries can become a dreaded task. Taking this "rush for the clock" into consideration, marketers have centered their packaging and labels around glitzy, eye-catching strategies to stop the rushed consumer in their tracks and lure them in for a closer look. Holograms, they realize, have filled this need. According to the Holopack-Holoprint Market Report and Industry Survey from Reconnaissance International, Cherry Hill, Colo., approximately $700 million worth of holograms were used worldwide in 1997, a figure now reaching $1 billion. This 1997 figure represents an average industry growth rate of more than 30 percent per annum since 1992. The study also includes estimated projections of sales to 2002, when the market is predicted to be worth $3 billion.

In addition to such statistical figures, the survey reports the composition of the industry and notes the trends in hologram production patterns and applications. There are a variety of different types of holograms. Some examples are 3D, 2D/3D and surface diffraction gratings. Tina Anagnostis, manager of marketing programs for Van Leer Metallized Products, Franklin, Mass., and Brian Monaghan, president of International Holographic Paper (IHP), Chalfont, Pa., provide a brief overview of each style.

"Surface diffraction gratings are made up of 'rainbow' diffraction images. They create colorful effects but provide no true depth. They can be created by mechanical means and by dot matrix exposures," says Anagnostis.

John Hazen, president of Hazen Paper Co., Holyoke, Mass., comments on the use of dot matrix holograms. "Dot matrix holograms have a lower resolution with fewer dots per square inch. This area is experiencing a lot of growth because dot matrix is relatively inexpensive to originate, and as a result are more viable for packaging and labeling applications," he says. For the holographic market, Hazen Paper specializes in laminating holographic film or paper to paper or paper board, providing high dyne print receptive coatings, and maintains the ability to register sheet. As for 2D/3D holograms, says Anagnostis, "These holographic images demonstrate true depth based on the spacing of different layers of flat artwork. Computer generated art, as well as conventional print graphics, can be used to create a 2D/3D hologram."

Three-dimensional holograms, she adds, are true, full three-dimensional images created from a one-to-one scale model or can be computer generated. "All three of these types of holograms can also be combined to provide a complex, unique image," she says. According to the Reconnaissance study, global sales of three-dimensional "laser photographs" have skyrocketed from $100 million in 1990 to more than $600 million today, and are expected to reach $1 billion within two years.

Reeling them in
Products that utilize holographic material in their packaging or labeling applications gain immediate shelf appeal. "The effects of this eye catching material provide a unique combination of color play as holographics diffract the light," says Anagnostis. "As a customer walks down a busy store aisle, the holographic effects change as the amount and angle of light that hits the package changes. This provides an effect of actual movement," she adds. "This movement and color play stops the consumer in their tracks and entices them in for a closer look."

Michael Saul, marketing manager, Technicote Inc., Miamisburg, Ohio, says this perception of movement and depth has helped thrust holographic labels into markets such as electronics, health and beauty and wine. "I can already imagine that the wine and beverage industries will use holographic substrates to create labels with the images of glittering snow, falling rain or perhaps a flickering fire to highlight their products," says Saul. "In fact," he continues, "I've already seen a holographic label designed to show bubbles flowing out of a glass of wine or champagne."

Anagnostis adds to the list of eye catching applications for holograms. "Packaging and labeling applications that utilize holographics range from peanut butter to soup, gift wrap to gum wrappers, beer to wine, fish food to video boxes," says Anagnostis. "Products that are looking for a unique point of differentiation from their competition utilize holographics to stand out on busy store shelves. For example, holographic products are being used to package cosmetics and perfume providing a sophisticated impression of quality and value to consumers."

Van Leer Metallized Products' HoloPRISM has been used for a variety of applications. "The unique aspect of HoloPRISM is that the product is 90 percent paper," says Anagnostis. "The rest of the product is composed of a thin layer of aluminum and coatings. This means that HoloPRISM converts similar to white paper, and is suitable for any paper application."

Most recently, this innovative product was featured on the underside of The Campbell Soup Company labels with collectible scenes from the Rugrats Movie. HoloPRISM also debuted on Xtreme Sport and Xtreme Sport for Your Health drinks, to convey the high energy of the product.

Marybeth Stetson, product manager, specialty business for Avery Dennison, Fasson Roll North America, Painesville, Ohio, says she has observed a significant amount of interest from the personal care market. "We have received many inquiries for our holographic material from the personal care market, for shampoo, conditioner and deodorant," says Stetson. Avery Dennison is now offering its FasPrism line of holographic material, available in five patterns: Classic, Glitter+ II, Iridescence, Ice and Shear.

"Holograms are popping up all over the place, but another big area would be children's toys and decals. The holographic label creates a more racy and engaging look, and consequently allows the toy or product to look ultra sleek and fast," says Saul. He adds that holograms are also popular around the holidays — such as Christmas and Halloween — for special promotional items.

Aside from labels, packaging also stands high on the holography charts. "We're seeing more and more in packaging, as opposed to promotional or point of sale," says Bob Rumer, VP sales, Unifoil Corporation, Passaic Park, N.J. Rumer says toothpaste cartons sparked the interest for this trend. For the holographic market, Unifoil is currently highlighting its Holographic Unilustre, available with pressure sensitive adhesives. The company specializes in laminating, coating and metalizing technologies.

According to the Holopack-Holoprint survey, the packaging industry uses more holographic material than any other sector, 45 percent of the total produced.

Holograms for security applications are also topping the scale due to its highly sophisticated and difficult to counterfeit qualities. The Holopack-Holoprint study reveals that more than $150 million worth of holograms were used last year alone in security print applications.

Hutchison Miller Sales Co., Doylestown, Pa., supplies a metallic acetate targeted for security applications. Paul Routier, vice president, says this acetate base embosses well and tends to be extremely fragile, providing excellent authenticity properties for security applications. As for growing trends in the market, Michael Wanlass, VP sales and one of the founders of Spectratek, Los Angeles, Calif., says many end users have begun to shift away from the busy and flashy patterns of the past, and are now seeking holograms that replicate the metallic film look. For this new appeal, Spectratek offers its Spectrasheen substrate.

On the lookout
Anagnostis says the "sticker shock" associated with holographic material is a major challenge. "However," she adds, "once customers have experienced the increased sales that result from using these products, the benefits outweigh any increase in material cost."

Hologram manufacturers have been finding ways to reduce costs. "One way," says Saul, "is by laminating a half-mil holographic film to a 30 lb. base paper. This provides the durability, strength and stability of a film, but is much more cost effective."

IHP has introduced a computer-to-plate holographic system. "Technology keeps changing," says Monaghan. "A fortune can be spent on R&D, but in the end it pays off to the consumer." He adds that the attitude of suppliers has changed. "You (the label industry) don't have to conform to our industry anymore, we have to conform to yours," he says.

Another challenge is reducing the number of shim lines on the substrate. Shims are used to emboss the holographic design into large rolls. A shim line, says Saul, is the point at which the plates creating the pattern come together and leave a small gap in the pattern. "The print area is fine, but the holographic pattern could look discontinuous; or worse, it could have a line running through the center.

"In recent months," he continues, "holographic manufacturers have greatly reduced the number of shim lines and most converters have worked around them, but until the cost is greatly reduced, the less scrap that is created, the more likely holograms will be used in everyday labeling."

Monaghan predicts the development of instant holographic label devices, which will be completed at the push of a button, as well as a device created to be placed on press which enables the direct writing of holograms (i.e., an automatic laser ablation process). The development of a wider variety of materials is also on the horizon. IHP plans to introduce a synthetic holographic paper later this year.
For more information on the Holopack-Holoprint Market Report and Industry Study, contact Reconnaissance International at 825 East Tufts Ave., Cherry Hills CO 80110; tel: 303-806-0071; fax 303-781-6889; or visit the web site at reconnaissance-intl.com.
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