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Technology Focus

Advancements in Technology Drive Holography Trends

by Staff

November-December, 2010
As shelf space in retail markets continues to shrink and the threat of counterfeiting continues to rise, the use of holography to attract attention and thwart counterfeiters has gained momentum for both hot and cold foil applications. Advancements in film coating and manufacturing technology have opened the doors to increased opportunities across a broad range of markets. From packaging and labels to credit and security card markets, the application of 2D, 3D and customized holographic images provides brand authentication, security, value and eye-catching appeal. InsideFinishing spoke with several foil manufacturers to gain insight as to what advancements in technology are driving the field of holography.

Two areas that are gaining momentum in the field of packaging and labels are seamless and custom holographic patterns. Typical holographic patterns for stamping foils have a shim line – an unsightly line that is a result of the embossing of the film. Processes for producing holographic film used in stamping foils or foil board in packaging require an embossing shim. Similar to a printing plate, the shim is wrapped around a cylinder and the two ends butt up against each other to form a completed wrapped shim. In most applications for labels or packaging, the shim or seam line is imperceptible but when closely inspected, the tiny line can be seen.

In the past, processors were limited in their selection of designs that could be stamped, as the foils were only suitable for smaller stampings or less demanding stamping jobs. To avoid shim lines altogether, it was necessary to calculate a stamping interval that would skip these regularly spaced lines. Another option was to reject those stampings that exhibited shim lines after the stamping process. Both of these options resulted in increased costs in terms of time and materials.

There now exists several methods that either make the shim line invisible to the eye or truly eliminate the shim line altogether. Laser Seamless, a holographic hot stamping foil from Kurz Transfer Products, is characterized by its continuous design that is neither disrupted by shim lines nor by color transitions. The foil is suitable for large-area applications and offers the same gloss level and equally brilliant holographic effects as its predecessors. The homogenous holographic image produced also is highly suitable for overprinting

This product, among others, has led branded companies’ design teams to consider using holographic patterns on many new product launches, particularly in the health and beauty market segments. The use of holographic designs in packaging and labels has proven to increase shelf appeal and drive sales, an increasingly important aspect for new and current products during the past two recessionary years.

Another important change in the industry has been the ability to design and produce custom holographic designs in a timely and cost-effective manner. Speed is an important component to the packaging and label design community. In the past, custom designs for holography took weeks to provide a real sample to use in a mock-up.

ITW Foils has combined two technologies to provide a designer a holographic custom-designed comp within 48 to 72 hours. Initially, a live web-based meeting is held with the holographic designer and the branded company’s design team. Using its current label or package design, custom holographic designs are incorporated into the original art to provide a visual look for the ideal design. Once the team is satisfied on several custom design options, the holographic lab goes to work using iSCAN® laser technology, providing true holographic overprint mock-ups.

Additionally, iSCAN provides actual large format, two-directional images, eliminating the ‘tiling effect’ seen in most custom images today. The technology also can imbed micro text or small images in the holographic design. This can provide low-level security, offering ‘in field’ authentication for the brand owner at no additional cost when designing the custom design for the label or package. With this technology, brand designers can see, in a short turnaround time, the visual impact that using custom holography on a label or package will have on their products.

The Race Against Counterfeiting
Within the last decade, one of the reasons that holography, specifically security holography, has changed is due to the advancements in computer technology and digital printing. The need to fight counterfeiting has grown as the level and quality of knock-offs have become very sophisticated. Increasing levels of counterfeit product are beginning to appear in the marketplace, ranging from health and beauty products and branded goods, such as apparel and leather goods, to automotive spare parts and pharmaceuticals. According to the IHMA (International Hologram Manufacturing Association), statistics on the value of counterfeit goods vary but groups such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) estimate the value globally to be around $650 billion, which is quite an alarming figure.

New generation security images such as HOLOGUARD® and HOLOSHIELD® from API Foils, InfoGramTM from Crown Roll Leaf and TRUSTSEAL® from Kurz Transfer Products make it much easier to distinguish genuine high-quality items from the inferior counterfeit items. These products have some unique, complex and very difficult-to-replicate features that are both overt and covert. Overt features are easily verifiable by potential consumers of a product without the need for additional equipment, giving an instant “yes” or “no” as to whether a product is genuine or not. Covert features are more for brand owner inspectors or customs officials and generally require the use of additional equipment. It is a good combination of both overt and covert features that make a great hologram. These holograms can encompass any number of unique features, including the following:

Overt Features

  • Flip Images – Two separate subjects that diffract within the same area at different times.
  • Animated Effects – The subject changes in shape or position when the hologram is tilted.
  • Embossed or Relief Holographic Effects – The subject has a raised or embossed appearance but it is actually smooth and flat when touched.
  • Non-Diffracting or White Imagery – The subject has a white matte look with no holographic color.
  • Fine Line Guilloche – Very fine lines that can have a dramatic “sweeping” or “radiating” diffraction effect.

Covert Features

  • Hidden Images – The area within the hologram that projects a hidden image and can only be viewed with a laser.
  • Micro-Text – Very small type that has a letter height between .008” and .010”.
  • Nano-Text – Typically this is very small type that has a letter height between .001” and .004” but can be made to be as small as .00035” or 9 microns.

One of the best ways to fight counterfeiting is in a multi-level approach – combining holography with special coatings and substrates. For example, tamper-evident substrates have been designed to self-destruct in certain ways when an attempt is made to remove the label after it has been applied. Substrates also can be customized with additional security features. Additionally, holography combined with sophisticated printing techniques such as ultra-violet fluorescent inks and color-shifting inks are among methods used to make the holographic image more secure.

Cold Foil Holography Gains Market Share
The use of holographic/diffraction foil to enhance the packaging of consumer products has been in demand by both label and carton manufacturers for some time. The introduction of the cold foil process has opened up additional opportunities for web-fed converters to apply decorative metallic foils. Productivity gains and the cost savings cold foil offers have allowed holographic/diffraction foil to be used on several national brand labels, including Wisk, Listerine, Dawn and Secret – high-volume applications that most likely would have never utilized holographics through a more traditional hot stamping process.

Although the application process is essentially unchanged in rotary cold foil applications, advances in the chemistry and layer construction of cold foil, along with a new generation of flexo UV adhesives, has lead to better quality foil adhesion and an increase in application speeds. This has applied to both metallic and holographic foils, opening up additional opportunities for the use of holographic images on labels and cartons.

With the popularity of clear polypropylene labels, cold foil provides an opportunity to apply foil without the worry of a heated brass rotary die that can distort or melt the plastic substrate as the foil is applied. In addition, with hot foil requiring high temperature tolerances to transfer at high speeds, sometimes the heat can cause heat crazing and flakiness as the foil is transferred. The cold process eliminates these variables. The foiled area remains sharp and clean while the metallic appearance remains bright and shiny. However, it should be pointed out that with both holographic and metallic foils, cold foil still does not provide the ultimate brilliance obtainable through a hot foil stamping process.

InsideFinishing would like to thank the following foil manufacturers for their assistance with this article: API Foils (www.apifoils.com), Crown Roll Leaf (www.crownrollleaf.com), ITW Foils (www.itwfoils.com) and Kurz Transfer Products (www.kurzusa.com).