MiraFoil from Henkel in use at topac GmbH
Sustainability and glamour - can the two be combined? Very well in fact, as MiraFoil from Henkel shows. At topac GmbH, a company specializing in print products and carton packagings, the environmentally sustainable metallic-effect UV coating delivered convincing results in extensive practical trials.
"We see ourselves not just as suppliers but as consultants and a source of ideas for existing and prospective customers," asserts Susanne Klose, Sales and Marketing Manager at topac GmbH in Gütersloh, Germany. The company, which specializes in print products and carton packagings, belongs to arvato AG, the services division of Bertelsmann AG. "We keep a close eye on the market with a view to identifying promising innovations that can help our customers to gain an edge over their competitors." One such product that topac identified is MiraFoil, the UV metallic-effect coating from Henkel.
Susanne Klose: "MiraFoil seemed especially interesting to us because it opens up a completely new approach to finishing. For one thing, the visual impact of a package is the decisive factor at the POS, and MiraFoil already showed its strengths in this respect because of the variety of gloss effects it can produce. The other aspect is that Henkel also turns the spotlight on sustainability with this product. And it is precisely this issue that increasingly tips the scales for or against a particular finishing method. We are already taking this into account through our Top Green Line product group, with which we introduced climate-neutral packagings using FSC-certified materials. There is a very definite focus on sustainable packagings in the cosmetics industry, especially for nature-based cosmetics, but we are also seeing this more and more often in the entertainment sector as well. Here, economics is an equally important factor, and this is where the metallic-effect coating scores once again."
Since MiraFoil is a completely new kind of UV coating, the topac management decided at the end of 2010 to run extensive line trials in collaboration with Henkel. The two companies are longstanding partners. Ever since topac was founded 27 years ago, this packaging specialist has relied on Henkel's expertise in adhesives and coatings to achieve a common goal: end products that meet the highest expectations in terms of both visual impact and functionality. In folding-carton production, for example, one of the essentials is to achieve a perfect match between the UV coating and the adhesive. As Susanne Klose says: "This allows us to produce packages without having to mask off areas for the finish because the coating and the adhesive are compatible."
For the MiraFoil trials run in close interaction with Henkel experts, topac therefore set the bar as high as possible. "The purpose of our feasibility study was to explore all the possibilities of this effect coating - to push it to its limits, you might say." Accordingly, the prepress department at topac was called in to try out different scenarios with anilox or screen roller combinations. For example, more than 20 machine passes were run each time to compare the results on a variety of substrates.
Even during application, MiraFoil already demonstrates its strengths in terms of sustainability and resource conservation. In flatbed or rotary screen and flexo printing processes with appropriate machine configurations, the coating can be applied inline just like standard UV coatings. This eliminates the effort required for hot or cold foil stamping - the extra work step, transporting of materials, and the time involved. Another plus is MiraFoil's stability. Since the effect coating neither foams nor thickens, it can be left in the machine circuits for several days. It is also possible to pump the remaining coating out of the coater for later use, which means there are no material rejects.
The glamour factor that MiraFoil brings with its silver, gold and copper varieties is due to micro-thin aluminum platelets in different sizes. During curing under UV radiation, these platelets align themselves into a highly reflective structure similar to that of fish scales. This effect remains even when the coating is overprinted with ink. It gives designers the freedom to create an impressive metallic brilliance with any desired color.
"MiraFoil convinced us both technically and visually. We rated the results of our trials as excellent," reports Susanne Klose. "At the same time, we were able to determine the parameters for optimal printing results, for example regarding the quality of the substrates and the settings for the rollers. In terms of design, we see two major advantages over hot foil stamping - overprintability and the possibility to use small fonts with both positive and negative images." To demonstrate this, topac designed and produced a series of folding cartons for a fictitious brand of nature-based cosmetics it called 'Juventas'. MiraFoil, used here in its gold and copper varieties, showed all its versatile performance features and its top-class visual appeal. The latter was in some cases actually noticed more by consumers at the POS than packagings that had been hot foil stamped with a higher degree of gloss, according to the results of a shopper survey.
Equally important in topac's eyes are the advantages of the effect coating versus conventional technologies in terms of sustainability and the associated cost-efficiency. Since MiraFoil can be applied with utmost precision and in a very thin layer, material usage is restricted to the actually required volume. There is no excess material to dispose of, such as die-cutting scrap with foil stamping technologies, and any coating that is not used can be saved for another job. These are just two of the factors with which MiraFoil demonstrates its superiority over the hot stamping technique and especially over metalized board with vapor-deposited aluminum. Add to that the savings on resources due to the single-step inline production process and the possibility to separate out the coating during de-inking.
The life cycle analyses that Henkel is conducting in collaboration with respected external partners cover many more aspects than that. In order to determine the ecological footprint, all impacts in terms of global warming and aquatic eco-systems are being investigated - from manufacture through processing and use to disposal or recycling. Henkel will be publishing detailed results of these analyses soon. The internal interim results show that, with MiraFoil, the company is well on the way to establishing itself as a supplier of combined system solutions for sustainable printing and bonding.
Henkel operates worldwide with leading brands and technologies in three business areas: Laundry & Home Care, Cosmetics/Toiletries and Adhesive Technologies. Founded in 1876, Henkel holds globally leading market positions both in the consumer and industrial businesses with well-known brands such as Persil, Schwarzkopf and Loctite. Henkel employs about 48,000 people and reported sales of 15,092 million euros and adjusted operating profit of 1,862 million euros in fiscal 2010. Henkel's preferred shares are listed in the German stock index DAX and the company ranks among the Fortune Global 500.
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