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Maximizing CDI Technology to Enhance and Protect Brands

by Nigel Abraham, 3DCD, LLC. (Diffractive Arts)

May-June, 2014

This article explores the art of creating perfect diffractive (prismatic) imagery for packaging, including what to consider when choosing the latest production techniques and technologies to enhance text, logos and color, as well as how to create mockups that demonstrate the successful interaction of print and diffractive imagery.

When incorporating diffractive imagery into a package design, it is important to begin with the end result in mind. To achieve the best results, print and diffractive imagery must complement each other, and this must be planned from the beginning phase of any project. The manner in which print, text and diffractive imagery are incorporated requires finesse, and its implementation should be considered carefully.

Diffractive lenses create some of the most compelling effects due to their versatility in design application and replication methods. A more traditional lens technique that has worked well with print is the Fresnel Lens, a mechanical process that uses a ruling engine to create impressive image depth and strong reflectivity that is both non-diffractive and not dependent on lighting. Unfortunately, Fresnel Lenses are expensive to produce and are limited in their use because they must be cast due to the depth of the cut made by the ruling engine. New diffractive imaging technologies are able to provide lenses that are much more cost effective and feature more flexible application techniques.

The CDI revolution
Nano-fringe writing technology – specifically Coherent Diffractive Imaging (CDI) – has gone beyond holography in image brightness, clarity and security. CDI technology is the most flexible diffractive imaging technology available, providing a wide variety of lenses and effects, as well as a multitude of environmentally friendly applications. CDI can accommodate a vast range of products and application systems – including Cast & Cure, hot stamping foil, cold foil, lamination, transfer foil and labels – all while achieving a 100-percent anti-counterfeiting success rate. CDI also is at the forefront of developing application technologies like injection molding and Direct Diffractive Print (DDP), a much needed update to the Cast & Cure system.

New replication methods such as injection molding and DDP, allow for complete recyclability and do not add any additional materials. These processes not only are environmentally friendly, but cost-effective in both the short and long term.

Virtually anything is possible with CDI
The greatest benefit of CDI technology is the exclusively wide variety of lenses available – all of which can be combined in a myriad of ways with other diffractive and print features – creating endless possibilities in packaging design. With the largest library of diffractive lens features available, CDI technology is the natural solution. Diffractive lenses are not lighting-dependent and can be seamlessly combined with other lenses and diffractive features.

The Conventional Diffractive Lens has universal appeal and creates great reflective depth, particularly when applied as Cast & Cure. While Cast & Cure works well with this effect, overprinting on laminate can cause legibility issues with small text due to the brightness of the lens.

Axicon Lenses are used to create effects that are highly animated and produce strong focal points. These lenses bend light reflections into a vortex, which creates abstract, twisted reflections with vivid spectrums of color. The Axicon Lens does not create the depth that Conventional Diffractive Lenses do because of the distortion that the lens causes in the light reflections. Instead, it provides dramatic color to print designs.

The Linear Vortex Lens creates one of the most vivid diffractive optical features. As a highly animated linear adaptation of the Axicon Lens, the Linear Vortex most commonly is used to create a splash of color. It also creates the secondary colors of cyan and magenta, which act as a unique security feature because no traditional diffractive effects can produce these shades. This lens would be an attractive option for overprinting, but considerations for text legibility should be taken.

As its name implies, the Cylindrical Lens creates a 3D cylindrical prism effect. It primarily is used to add dimension and bright linear color. Similar to the Linear Vortex Lens, the Cylindrical Lens also creates the secondary colors of cyan and magenta – the only other lens feature to do so. Cylindrical Lenses should always be used in a repeated fashion to maximize the 3D effect of the lens.

Hybrid Lenses – or diffractive lenses overlaid on non-lens diffractive features – provide spotlight effects for print. Examples of Hybrid Lenses include using a diffractive achromatic effect beneath Conventional Diffractive Lenses or a linear diffractive effect beneath a Linear Vortex. Hybrid Lens effects work best when applied via hot stamping or laminate to maximize the visibility of the effect.

When security is a priority
Based on the techniques that CDI utilizes, all of the lenses mentioned in this article are secure; however, the following six lenses currently are some of the most popular choices when security is paramount. The Asymmetrical Lens is popular because it is easily verifiable at a glance. Look for an oblong or oval-shaped light reflection in the lens to verify.

Transparent Lenses are used for bending reflections and adding dimension to shapes. One of its advantages is the wide variety of combination possibilities. The Transparent Lens is the result of two or more lenses layered on top of each other, which is what defines the security of this feature.

If focal points need to be enhanced or logos need to stand-out, the Expanding Lens is a popular choice that can be used in a variety of combinations. As its name implies, the Expanding Lens expands and contracts over the top of other diffractive or print features, which is unique and makes it very easy to verify.

The Lightbeam Lens often is used to create a burst or spotlight effect. The Lightbeam Lens blends multiple Conventional Lenses with a common center point and different focal lengths to produce a light beam-type effect. The security value of this effect is the unbroken or continuous light reflection that is not seen in typical diffractive lenses.

Stacked Lenses can be used to create a framing effect. With this technique, multiple lens types are stacked on top of each other, and the lenses can be blended to create a seamless lens transition, if desired. A wide variety of combinations are possible, allowing for any lens type to be framed by different lens types behind it. Traditional holographic techniques cannot blend or stack lenses, which is what makes this effect very secure.

The Bubble Lens is an attractive new lens feature that produces a unique 3D water droplet-like effect, which no other feature can simulate. This lens works very well when applied as Cast & Cure. It is dynamic in its applications as a spotlight feature and a wallpaper pattern.

When it comes to security, there are other non-lens-based overt and covert diffractive techniques to consider. Overt security features include Stereograms – 2D and/or 3D animated imagery; Switches – positive to negative or color to black and white; Achromatic Imagery – 360° white and pearlescent white; Vivid Diffractive Spot Colors and complex Dotz Imagery.

Covert options include forensic effects like Micro-Barcodes and Micro-Text. The Micro-2D Barcodes typically are 0.1mm in size, are vectorized and customizable and can be used as evidence in a court of law. Forensic options are very appealing because they only are visible under a microscope, they provide steadfast defense against counterfeiting and they can be displayed in a variety of formats, including in custom shapes, text and barcodes. Another advanced way to ensure security is via a Covert Laser Read (CLR) – a customizable message that appears white at all angles, but can be decoded with a laser.

Creating successful mockups
Text incorporation is not the only hurdle when it comes to successfully incorporating diffractive imagery into packaging. Every package presents unique challenges for diffractive imagery, and mockups are a critical step that should not be overlooked. During the mockup stage, customers should be able to see how everything will work together to create shelf and sales appeal. In order to accurately simulate how the diffractive techniques will combine with print, the highest quality films must be used.

When overprinting will be used, physically overlaying printed film using white plates usually provides a good simulation for production. When simulating Cast & Cure, diffractive imaging can be directly applied by hand to print via a UV coating. Photoshop mockups also are a valuable tool for simulating complicated masking techniques and showing how existing packages could look with diffractive enhancements.

With its ability to create exceptionally clear images that exceed the quality and security of traditional holography and e-beam technology, CDI’s precise fringe writing system has revolutionized the art of diffractive imaging. The techniques that CDI utilizes create exclusive, secure products that not only look great, but are incredibly difficult to replicate and are environmentally friendly.

Nigel Abraham works as vice president of special projects for 3DCD, LLC (a.k.a. Diffractive Arts) in Denver, CO. This article is based on a presentation he gave at The 2013 Holography Conference, organized by Reconnaissance International. Abraham can be reached at nabraham@3dcd.net or 303.705.6554. Learn more at www.diffractivearts.com.