Advances in technology are opening the door for more innovative ways of using holograms for packaging, says Ian Lancaster, general secretary of the International Hologram Manufacturers Association, who highlights some of the latest eye-catching — and award winning — developments.

New developments in film coating and manufacturing technology continually push back the boundaries for the use of holographic materials in packaging, while a wide variety of specialist origination techniques offer an infinite variety of colourful 3D visual effects, ranging from the bright and stunning to more subtle graphic features.

In particular, holographic films are ideal for a wide variety of flexible eye-catching applications, further increasing the creative visual opportunities for packaging and print designers to reinforce brand identities, catch the customer’s eye and reinvigorate mature or aging pack designs.

Holography’s ability to refresh and reinvigorate brands continues unabashed, says the IHMA. Recent holography industry awards have showcased imaginative solutions, reinforcing the important role the technology plays — particularly in tackling product anti-counterfeiting and authentication.

A hologram used to enhance a product pack recently won the Best Applied or Packaging Product category at the Excellence in Holography Awards 2014. Istanbul’s BEP Hologram’s anniversary pack for Unilever Turkey is a striking example of holographic technology used to mark and celebrate a product milestone — the 25th Anniversary Magnum ice cream. The over-printing particularly impressed with the reversed-out "M" showing the hologram capturing the essence of the product.

These types of holograms are produced for large size layer laminations on which printing can be applied and apart from decorative wallpaper type patterns, can be custom designed to include product names, emblems or company logos. Thanks to their design, the films increase the attractiveness of the product at the point of sale, offering eye-catching appeal to consumers, reports IHMA. The films can be used for flexible packaging or paper-carton laminations in the cosmetic, food, cleaning supplies, automotive or CD/DVD industries.

U.S.-based Hazen Paper was commended in the same category for its Nike™ Gift Card, which is produced on a multi-ply paper to produce a card that feels like a plastic one but with the advantage that it can be recycled. Holography is also pushing the boundaries in other areas of packaging, specifically in expanding the range of anti-counterfeiting and brand protection applications. The technology’s ability to incorporate other data forms and product tracking information is becoming increasingly important, and commercially acceptable, with the added bonus of being able to link on-pack product identification with supply chain management, market enforcement and forensic support services.

A brand protection system for OKI Data Corporation, for instance, using Lippmann photopolymer holograms combined with a tracking code is an interesting development that provides a high degree of packaging authenticity and can be used as a measure against counterfeit ink ribbons and toner cartridges (millions of fake toners and inks are seized annually in a sector where the major suppliers lost almost $2 billion in 2003 to the counterfeiters, according to an ISC report).

The move is claimed to be the world’s first system combining a Product Control Authentication System (PCAS) from TUV Rheinland and a Lippmann hologram from Japan-based printing giant Dai Nippon Co Ltd, which use special materials and manufacturing processes, to make them extremely difficult to counterfeit.

Product authenticity is improved because of the inclusion of the security device on a self-adhesive label, which also acts as the carton seal, while the PCAS number can be entered on to a new web-based service, managed by OKI, as its authenticity assessment web page. The PCAS number uses a randomly generated 13-digit alphanumeric code which is encrypted to produce an ID code unique to each label for every item.

New imaging techniques and combinations of other overt authentication technologies with holograms are producing advanced optical security devices that combine ease of recognition benefits with significantly enhanced resistance to counterfeits, enabling products to be controlled through an expanded system solution involving security authentication features, tracking mechanisms and investigative services.

So, with the forward march of technology, there’s no reason why the hologram will not continue to evolve as packaging designers see the benefits and are comfortable with a technology that has a lot to offer.