Dr Glenn Wood, COO of foil technology specialist, Fresnels Innovation, considers product enhancement features that add value – and sales – to packaging design and brand ownership.

Investment in innovation by surface effects specialists continues to bring highly innovative, eye-catching features, which incorporate advanced optical technology, to the world of luxury and brand packaging. In turn, this now provides packaging designers with advanced new graphic tools, enabling them respond to the current trend for color shifting effects. It also provides a measure of deterrence against piracy.

For instance, while mechanically produced fresnel lens effects remain fascinating additions to packaging, the real value is digitally produced images that offer graphic designers so much more scope for creativity and imagination. New technologies such as Fresnels’ Cellini are seen as being similar to digital sculpturing, facilitating the creation of masterpieces for brand and packaging enhancement.

Unquestionably, the visual appearance of a package is critically important to a product’s success and lasting shelf appeal. It would be true to say that the packaging itself offers the brand owner the last opportunity to convey important messaging to discerning consumers and influence their purchasing power. Through the use of special effects beyond printing, the look of the package can be elevated to a new level to engage, stimulate and tempt the consumer, producing a premium brand experience.

We have long seen how the combination of embossing and metallized media is an established way of attracting the consumer’s attention as well as communicating a brand’s essence, quality and value. There are a variety of ways to add embossing to enhance a metal effect on a package - rotary dies, flatbed or platen dies are traditionally utilized for the embossing process.

This is shared by Duncan Watson, CTO of Fresnels Innovations, who adds that while delivering brand benefits, there are aspects of the process that can make embossing prohibitive in certain cases. Brand owners will often compromise their creative processes and design vision when considering the addition of embossing, either by eliminating the process altogether or keeping the embossed areas to a minimum. Such decision-making can be influenced by factors around tooling, and package functionality, performance and quality.

Concerning tooling, costs will vary depending on the complexity of the embossing design — a multi-level or sculptured die being the most expensive, while the actual size of the embossing area and therefore, the size of the die, is also a cost driver. Large areas of embossing are often avoided as this may require multiple passes on the embossing machine due to limitations in weight distribution (embossing tonnage). This increases production costs and throughput.

In line with most mechanical processes, embossing can also be inconsistent. For example, depth may vary throughout the run with some packaging cartons showing negligible embossing compared to the desired standard. So choices around package functionality, performance and quality are driven by how an embossed surface will impact the optimum surface COF (coefficient of friction) of a carton, which may result in reduced packing line speeds, and a desire for a lay-flat carton blank to run efficiently on packaging lines (embossing can distort the carton blank). ‘

So, to compensate, designers and brand owners are investing in new foil technologies that can strengthen packaging brand identity, while simultaneously offering improved resistance to the threat of piracy and counterfeiting: they can be applied by brand owners, printers and converters using standard foil application techniques. This eye-catching, nanotechnology-based imaging technology, such as Cellini, is ideal for retail and consumer packaging applications, particularly in the cosmetic/fragrance, healthcare and alcoholic beverage sectors. 

Cellini, which reflects advances in digital sculpting processes, has the appearance of molded metal completely devoid of color. It engages the eye and the touch via a raised appearance and a tactile, sophisticated feel, which renders the embossing of paper or carton unnecessary. The foil offers multiple benefits: from enhanced design and creativity through lower tooling costs to faster, more consistent production runs. Indeed, Cellini’s qualities reflect the technology’s important impact on the economics of luxury packaging for brand owners. This impact is in relation to traditional embossing methods to produce 3D raised effects on folding cartons.

Furthermore, there is more to Cellini than meets the eye. Custom made using proprietary technology designed for high security application, each Cellini image contains three levels of security, Level 1 is overt and intended for consumers, Level 2 requires a hand held device such as a magnifier which can reveal features such as micro-text and Level 3 is forensic level which is discussed only with the brand owner who can feel reassured that this decorative feature is doing double duty as an eye catching print enhancement feature and also an anti-counterfeit device.  Fresnels Innovations is also delivering Cellini as a plastic-free transfer product in addition to hot stamping foil.

Fresnels’ Peacock foil on the Rosé box packaging design concept has been recognized by FSEA, scooping the Gold Award for technical difficulty in the category 'Best Use of Foil Embossing on Folding Carton’, cementing success for a new product that’s receiving considerable interest from the brand packaging and design community. The foil has been used directly on the white paper to create the letters spelling ‘Rose’ - textured dies create an engraved effect to the lettering, while adding security to the box - before a digitally created crest, using Cellini technology, is applied using silver metallized stamping foil. The level of detail far surpasses that which can be achieved by blind embossing.

It’s clear that the use of new foils and digital processes are gaining traction among designers and brand owners, heralding new opportunities for exciting new packaging concepts and unprecedented creativity in the retail space.

Fresnels Innovation is part of Fresnel Inc., a privately funded company, led by technology providers with 100 years of combined expertise in the commercialization of optical microstructures. Its technology is supported by customer services, technological excellence and experience in relationship building in key markets.