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UV-Coating Adds Appeal to Labels

by Chris Calomino, ACTEGA Kelstar

August-September, 2014

Coatings have been around for a long time. However, due to the increased visibility in consumer packaging, there has been a greater focus on delivering value via post-finishing techniques. This is where coatings come into play. Specifically, UV coatings offer the widest variety of value-added finishes from both a visual and tactile perspective. Regardless of whether printing on a narrow-web or wide-web flexographic press, the demand for specialty products is the same.

Understanding the market for UV finishes
UV coatings had their start as a protective varnish for labels. Today, looking past the printing of the labels themselves, is the land of the brand owners – always looking for the next best thing. UV coating options that add a decorative effect can be the answer to that quest. Printers sometimes have a difficult time providing this vision because they are not the consumer. Some printers have brought that design element into their pressroom, in which they can incorporate a consumer perspective by demonstrating specialty applications into their selling points.

To help clarify, ACTEGA works closely with consumer products groups and has developed an understanding of how they develop their concepts in labels and packaging. The consumer brands speak in terms of the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) and Second Moment of Truth (SMOT). The FMOT is when a customer sees the package on the shelf and gravitates towards it. The SMOT is when the customer grabs the package and puts in the cart. Labels are beginning to combine both of these sensory marketing trends in order to engage the customer on a more intimate level. Newer trends in the label market, from a SMOT perspective, are soft-touch, grit texture and raised tactile effect. Trends from a FMOT perspective include using metallic, pearlescent and strike-through effects to create the visual impact that drives consumers to the shelves.

With all the creative presentations that can be generated from UV coatings, a label converter still will encounter the traditional challenges. One of the major challenges is press configuration. Is the right anilox roll available? Does the press have the right number of lamps? Do the lamps have enough power? Does the job require a high-press speed and, if so, can the coating accommodate it? Will the coating work on flexo, rotary screen or both?

Digital printing adds a challenge
Add in the newest challenge – digital printing – and there is an entirely new set of rules to follow. Digital printing is working its way into the label printing industry as a way to meet the demand for short runs (typically print jobs of 5,000 lineal feet or less) and quick changeovers. With print quality improving, digitally printed labels are just starting to climb the mountain of their life cycle.

Digitally printed labels with specialty UV coatings are in their infancy. The standard UV matte, gloss and satin coatings have been around for some time; however, the constant evolution of these printing presses has generated a need for regular updates to finishing solutions. ACTEGA works very closely with OEMs and digital press manufacturers to stay on top of new press developments and the challenges they bring. Currently, the biggest challenge is adhesion. The unique chemistries involved with the digital printing press inks, toners and waxes pose adhesion challenges not only for coatings, but also for other overprint solutions.

Decorative options with UV coatings
The possibilities for consumer appeal are almost endless when coatings are combined with the printed label.

Gloss or Matte – Gloss UV coatings provide a high level of sheen or gloss, and matte coatings give a dull effect. Both types can be applied in a spot application or overall pattern. These coatings can deliver high clarity, outstanding flexibility and rub resistance that rival or exceeds film lamination. However, the combination of these two technologies on the same printed piece can maximize the visual contrast between the gloss areas and matte areas. The result is that the glossy areas jump out at the viewer. Raised or Embossed – This finish is created with a special high-viscosity UV coating applied in a heavy pattern to exhibit a unique dimensional profile that is comparable to mechanical embossing. Capable of being applied to a thickness in excess of 5mils, these coatings provide excellent gloss, clarity and protection for any piece.

Soft-Touch – Soft-touch coatings are unique finishes that deliver the feel and appearance of a velvet or flocked fabric substrate. These are typically two-part coatings and have been used for several years in the automotive industry. The advantage to soft-touch coatings are their tactile appeal.

Glitter – Glitter typically is comprised of finely cut squares of metalized film and can be used in combination with raised/embossed or specially engineered UV gloss coatings. The embossed/glitter combination allows designers to create unique specialized effects with different colors, shapes and dimensions. In addition, emboss/glitter combinations can be applied to a thickness in excess of 5mils and provide excellent gloss and clarity to any printed piece.

Pearlescent – These coatings also are used in combination with an emboss or specially engineered UV gloss coatings. By combining a very small discrete particle of a shimmering pearlized compound with a gloss coating, designers can create their own unique personalized effects using different colors, shapes and dimensions. The effect is a rich, pearly finish.

Thermochromic – The effect actually changes colors with temperature and often is used to conceal type or graphics so that prizes, offers and messages can be revealed only when over-rubbed. The heat from the friction caused by rubbing causes the coating to change colors. Thermochromic coatings are available in various colors and temperature ranges (4° C and 37° C).

Holographic – This decorative effect involves the use of a reusable micro-embossed film that transfers the holographic image to the uncured UV coating, commonly known as Cast & Cure™ (a trademark of Breit Technologies, Lenexa, KS). The UV coating then is cured through the film to create the holographic pattern.

Environmentally friendly – It would be remiss not to mention the consumer preference for environmentally friendly or recyclable materials. ‘Green’ coatings are available, based on renewable resources, containing low or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and have a low carbon footprint. Printers, in conjunction with finishers, can make the finished product even ‘green-er’ by using low VOC or soy-based inks and then applying a UV coating that is environmentally friendly.

With all the challenges and opportunities out there in the label market, coatings must be press-friendly and have a wide-operating window. With the competition increasing for both press type and consumer brands, the need for differentiation and protection in UV coatings is at an all-time high.

Chris Calomino is marketing manager for ACTEGA Kelstar. ACTEGA is the global innovator in high-performance, specialty and customized coating technologies for the packaging and printing industries. The company’s applications expertise on coater and coating technologies makes the difference. For more information, call 856.735.2022, email chris.calomino@altana.com or visit www.actega.com.