The panel consisted of experts from leading ink manufacturers. Mike Buystedt, vice president of Flint Group Narrow Web North America, discussed the benefits of specialty LED curing inks, Kurt Hudson, head of key account management at Actega, explained how inks could be used to separate brands at the shelf, and Helen Rallis, field marketing manager at Sun Chemical, talked about the benefits of specialty coatings. In addition, Anderson & Vreeland’s Kevin Schilling looked at metallic ink optimization.
According to Hudson, the label and package printing industry needs to continue to redefine value, which represents a combination of what is expected and what is different. “It’s about being different in a competitive environment,” said Hudson. “Are we ready to accept a new definition of value? One size fits all fits nothing well.”
A recent Cal Poly study said that 59.5% of consumers agree or highly agree that packaging influences purchasing, while 80.5% agree or highly agree that they often pick up and handle a package before purchasing.
Utilizing specialty coatings
Specialty coatings provide not only sensory enhancements, but they have the ability to convey a personalized or specific message. According to Sun Chemical’s Helen Rallis, the average time spent in a store is 22 minutes, and 75% of purchases are not planned. Only 10% of shelved brands attract consumers’ attention, leaving products 3-7 seconds to make an impact.
That moment of truth provides an opportunity for the label to pop with specialty graphics and coatings. Rallis said that the most commonly requested coatings are matte, soft touch, and paper feel.
“By applying matte coatings, you cut the glare of the lights and allow shoppers to better see your product,” explained Rallis.
Aroma coatings are also trending, as 35% of smell is remembered versus just 5% of what shoppers see. Aroma coatings will rely on water-based and UV coatings, as solvents can’t be used. There are also hundreds of different smells available to consumers.
For Sun Chemical, popular coatings include glitter, metallic, color shift, emboss, thermochromics, phosphorescent, among others.
“A general rule of thumb when applying coatings is more is better,” said Rallis. “But you want to make sure it works in the application. You have to be ready to invest in new anilox rolls and test thoroughly in advance, as well as dry and cure new thicknesses.”
Laser marking coatings also provide an opportunity for late stage differentiation. This technology can provide personalization, a quicker response to customers through track and trace, variable data, QR codes, and social media opportunities.
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Rallis concluded that specialty coatings offer emotional engagement through sensory appeal. Connection and communication can take place across many platforms.
The LED advantage
Flint Group’s Mike Buystedt explained the numerous benefits associated with LED curing. In North America, there are 300 plus LED lamps installed for narrow web applications. In addition, there more than 70 100% LED presses spread across all major press suppliers.
UV curing systems require inks formulated specifically for this process, which means a system approach with inks, machines and lamps. According to Buystedt, LED lamps have a 5-year running time before a bulb will need to be changed.
“It provides great depth of cure and you really improve adhesion,” explained Buystedt. “It penetrates deeply through the coating, and it’s really maintenance free.”
When dealing with inks, LED enables printers to lay down heavier or denser blacks while offering opaque whites. Better ink cure and performance is also possible, as are sharper edges. Specialty inks and coatings can also run in thicker layers.
“It’s a totally different paradigm,” says Buystedt. “Our industry has come to accept the downtime related to mercury curing lamps as that’s been the only option. With LED curing, we don’t have to accept the unnecessary downtime associated to mercury lamp failures and inefficiencies and hazards.”
LED technology has improved as it has become prevalent in the label and package printing industry. Costs have significantly declined, and there is an increase in productivity due to instant on and off capabilities and press improvements. Energy savings are reported between 50-80%, along with faster speeds. Buystedt added that there are 20-30% faster speeds on average and less press downtime.
Testing metallic inks
Anderson & Vreeland’s Schilling detailed metallic ink optimization, and explained how several factors can affect print performance. According to Schilling, it’s important to know the particle size of the metallic ink pigments, as well as the size and shape. Different variables can affect the type of anilox roll required.
When testing metallic inks, the substrate is an important factor, as well. Coated versus uncoated substrates can affect performance, along with the differences between surface types of rough, smooth, absorbent, paper, and film materials.
When testing the inks, Schilling utilized a 13” inline label press and a 10 micron metallic particle size. Four different anilox rolls were tested on a PS semi gloss and PS BOPP.
Schilling noted that there was a distinct improvement in gloss and brilliance when adding surface screening to the plate when using VMP flake at the 10 micron size. There was also no visual evidence of improvement by adding surface screening for these flakes at 10 microns.
“Remember, none of this works without the prior testing, so do a banded test or comparison with an existing anilox,” said Schilling. “Run a mileage test because metallic ink is not cheap. Just because metallic inks are not an everyday item does not mean they don’t need the same attention and preplanning.”