There are two major global trends in packaging printing
Drupa - the print media fair (29 May to 11 June 2008) promises to offer everything packaging design-ers` and printing service providers` hearts desire. The combination of print-ing inks, the appropriate printing substrates, the right printing machinery and finishing technologies as well as the industry`s innovative drive is unparalleled and stimulates vital impetus for the future development of packaging printing.
The European packaging printers and finishers are pulling out the stops - all in aid of a result that`s shiny and chic. Gold and silver dominate, but other metallic effects also catch the eye. Varnish, UV varnish, matt and gloss varnish, foil stamping, cold foil, rapid-drying inks - all of these are finishing effects intended to entice customers into purchasing at the point of sale. Printers are able to work on all surfaces, on the broadest spectrum of substrates - in fact, it is impossible to try and put a figure on just how wide that spectrum is.
Sheet-fed offset packaging printing is regarded as the most highly indus-trialised of the individual segments - the range of printable substrates is broad and extends from corrugated board and plastics in every imaginable thickness to tin plate, composites, lightweight/heavy/double-sided paper and cardboard. And there are virtually no limits to what printing machin-ery builders can achieve. With processing speeds of up to 18,000 sheets per hour, the set-up measures are about to undergo further automation, resulting in increased cost effectiveness.
Gravure printing is big in China and Japan, above all because of the large print runs common in those countries. Another important factor is ciga-rette printing on the reel, especially as tobacco is booming worldwide.
Is the RFID boom cooling already?
Among the highly active packaging printers and designers, security experts are some of the most hard working. A search for the keyword "RFID" alone turns up tomes` worth of patents, conferences, products and articles. Major printing service providers have been relatively quick to establish their own companies that focus exclusively on the high-tech field of security. Even within this narrow field, there are a host of diverse sub-sectors: RFID with special machinery for producing the substrates and transponder labels, not to mention holograms of every variety, diffraction foils, lenticular effects and other technologies.
In recent years, the printing and packaging industry has been swept up in the euphoria surrounding all things RFID. Now, the mood may be gradually becoming more subdued. The first setbacks occurred in the USA and Ger-many where data protection officers complained of customers being turned into open books. A second criticism is undoubtedly to be found in the fact that cost-effective labels are neither within reach nor market-ready. As of late September 2007, the global status quo was: Depending on the size and type of RFID labels, their intended application and the size of print runs, prices range between EUR 0.05 and EUR 0.80 per label. This is clearly too much for most products. Experts therefore have a far more sober out-look on the debate and the move is consequently to RFID labels being used exclusively in manufacturers` and traders` logistics chains.
Data handling is playing an increasingly important role. In the form of labels and barcodes, the printing and packaging industry are provided with large quantities of customer data. This data and ultimately the print data are being put to use in a variety of ways ranging from security codes to what you could call gimmicks.
As a general rule, security printing aims to provide protection against counterfeiting and thus grey markets and product piracy both within Euro-pean countries and beyond. The damage to goods that safety measures on packaging are intended to prevent runs into hundreds of billions of euros. Help is at hand in the form of a wide palette of options extending from guilloche printing through holograms to security thread. From among this wealth of possibilities, colour codes and colour combinations stand out thanks to the millions of possible variations. Another increasingly attrac-tive option is so-called fingerprints whose characteristics aren`t apparent at first glance.