PLASTICS DECORATING MAGAZINE, OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2009

October 14th, 2010 | Articles

Unifoil Corporation’s, (Fairfield, N.J.), award-winning patented and patents-pending Ultralustre® technology is now being used to produce sustainable distinctive super-bright silver in-mold-label cups and music pass cards.
Ultralustre is an environment-friendly metallization process that can be used on a variety of substrates, including polypropylene, synthetic paper, polystyrene, APET, PVC, Polycarbonate and PLA from 2 – 36 gauge thicknesses.

The Ultralustre process is compatible with recyclable and regrindable IML and IMD applications. In 2009 the Association of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators (AIMCAL), awarded its first Sustainability Award to Unifoil Corporation for the Ultralustre technology. Film-free and foil-free, recyclable Ultralustre plastics are made without solvents and satisfy consumer-product-goods companies’ sustainability initiatives. Ultralustre materials contribute to source reduction, use less energy and fewer materials compared with alternative products and can significantly reduce a company’s carbon footprint.

Ultralustre can be used to create image-enhancing finishes, available in metallic silver, or custom holographics.

  • Sustainable Shimmer
  • Achieving Ecofriendly Packaging Pizzazz
  • Going green doesn’t have to mean lackluster package and product designs, nor is sustainability synonymous with compromised shelf visibility.

With today’s state-of-the-art packaging and printing materials, companies can flex merchandising muscle while adhering to ecofriendly principles, not just in the eventual disposal of the finished product but in the manufacturing process itself.

Also, techniques like Ultralustre® transfer metallization—including silver, colors, and holographic or security options—don’t just offer on-the-shelf flash and sustainability benefits; they can be used to thwart counterfeiting, enable security, and verify authenticity.

A leg up

While the use of reflective foils in packaging goes back several decades, the modern era for metallic-effect packaging began in the early 1990s with the introduction of Unilustre®—a recyclable nonlaminated metallized paper or board. In fact, it was environmental concerns that prompted the creation of that product, developed to reinvent the design of L’eggs® pantyhose containers, which were clogging up landfills and generating poor publicity for the manufacturer. The new, ecofriendly design came to life without losing a single ounce of packaging pizzazz.

That initial application of the Unilustre® metallization process was used on a paper product and eventually chosen for the packaging of dozens of personal care, cosmetic, and sporting goods items, as well as beverages and confections. Ten years later, plastic substrates used for music cards, sports- and entertainment-themed collectible cups, and in-mold labels are capable of being enhanced with the same state-of-the-art graphics that support end users’ sustainability initiatives.

Unifoil’s transfer-metallization process employs a water-borne, solvent-free chemistry. It requires no heat or thermal drying, and that dramatically reduces the carbon footprint. Moreover, the carrier film is 100 percent recycled. In addition, fewer pallets and shipping containers are used for the finished product. All this adds up to a truly sustainable process that companies can boast about to their customers.

Ultralustre®, a newer product, builds on the Unilustre® capabilities to include flexible and rigid plastics, and it can be applied selectively—that is, to particular areas—of the finished package. In addition to the aesthetic appeal, Ultralustre materials are cured by energy-efficient electron-beam technology, which eliminates postcure headaches. It gives off zero emissions and, consequently, does not generate air contamination or other hazardous wastes. Cost savings are enhanced as well, since UV’s reliance on many, rapidly burning-out bulbs is eliminated. EB requires no scrubbers or solvents.

The bottom line: the product sent out to companies is as recyclable as the materials coming in the door.

If you seek to stay true to the principles of sustainability, it’s important to do your homework. Some companies might capitalize on the green trend with nothing to back up their claims. If a company belongs to a reputable organization, such as the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IOPP), or subscribes to the philosophy and principles of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, those are signs that its leaders are dedicated to following the reduce-reuse-recycle directive. Seek out companies that truly want to form a partnership to pursue sustainability and will work with you from design inception to finished product to create a package that will please your customers and be good for the bottom line.

Eye-grabbing greetings

Sustainability can become an important marketing concept today. Touting it to consumers on packaging, websites, and blogs with legitimate statements, recyclable symbols, and SFI and FSC logos, when appropriate, might just make the difference between a product’s being placed in a grocery cart and its remaining on the shelf.

But, as everyone knows, consumers need to see the statement in the first place, and high-end appearances offer a great way to draw eyes to products. The proof is in the numbers, and companies indicate, on average, a 10 percent, sometimes as much as 25 percent, boost in business once they switch to metallized or holographic packaging.

Usually, private-label makers want a premium look for a premium product. Now, given today’s economic uncertainties, store brands want to compete aesthetically by using those types of packaging. Consumers want to feel good about their purchases, and a store-brand will be better poised to edge out the national brand if it showcases cutting-edge designs.

In terms of investment of time and resources, printing performance on nonlaminated products should be better than it is with materials that use foil or film on top of paper, which not only inhibit sustainability but could present absorption issues. Transfer-metallized non-laminates won’t curl, nor do they interfere with the pristine quality of the design image, as can occur with a film overlay.

‘Foiling’ the counterfeiters

So far, we’ve seen how “packaging with pizzazz” can push a product to the forefront in consumers’ minds while also encouraging sustainability. But techniques like holography, 3-D, and metallization also can authenticate, combat counterfeiting, and provide other security measures, including packaging integrity.

One organization taking full advantage of all of the benefits of recyclable holographic metallized Unilustre® paper is the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, with its monthly, bimonthly, and weekly passes. Those transit cards use various holographic images whose complexity increases with the value of the pass. State lotteries also favor the technology.

Even behind-the-counter drugs feature such methods so that pharmacists will know they’re filling prescriptions with genuine medicines and not bogus, health-threatening concoctions. All it takes is a $20 laser pen to make the verification.

As for the future, the United States likely will see a big trend in the use of in-mold labeling, which is enjoying popularity in Europe. Selective metallization, in which only a portion of a package is enhanced, will pick up steam. Visually bold, reduced-size packaging also packs sustainability appeal and will be in demand.

The directive today is clear. Create a package, printed item, or product that is good for business, the environment, and the customer. Methods, such as Unilustre® and Ultralustre®, that use ecofriendly transfer-metallized and holographic images offer the ideal way to achieve that goal.

  • Unifoil Corporation—Label & Narrow Web Magazine:  Household Goods Labels

Answers provided by Joseph Funicelli, CEO and President, Unifoil Corporation, www.unifoil.com; 973-244-9900.

What materials does Unifoil offer for household goods labeling?

Unifoil Corporation (www.unifoil.com), a Fairfield, New Jersey-based global specialty converter of paper, board, synthetic paper, plastic, film, foil, and custom holographic and metallized substrates, offers converters and household goods manufacturers a variety of options for label applications. Converters and end users can choose among clear, metallized, holographic and special effect film laminates for pressure sensitive applications, the award-winning Unilustre® nonlaminated metallized and holographics for pressure sensitive paper labels, and the patented and patents-pending Ultralustre® nonlaminated metallized and holographics for in-mold label (IML) applications.

Unifoil label materials also offer tamper-evidence and anti-counterfeiting properties, such as High Refraction Image and Hidden Image, when security and authenticity are desired.

Why are those materials desirable/effective for that application?

Unifoil’s label materials drive product differentiation on the retail shelf by creating an extremely appealing aesthetic that attracts the consumer and enhances the perceived value of the product. Experience demonstrates that when end users want to launch a brand or refresh an older one, or emphasize a new ingredient in a product, for example, a metallized or holographic label, in particular, has proven to be an especially effective tool in catching the consumer’s eye and driving a new message.

As a converter, what challenges did Unifoil have to overcome to create those label materials?

At Unifoil we develop label materials that are designed to eliminate production challenges and enhance downstream functionality. For example, our Unilustre metallized paper and Ultralustre metallized in-mold label materials are nonlaminated, which means they will not delaminate during production and remain curl-free. They also offer environmental benefits that are desired by any manufacturer or consumer, interested in supporting sustainability. Unilustre and Ultralustre materials are recyclable and Ultralustre is also regrindable.

How does the end user benefit from the finished material?

At the end of the day, the converter gets a highly functional material and the end user and consumer get a superior package that offers environmental benefits. End users are also gaining unexpected value of choosing Ultralustre® for an IML application. Besides the production functionality, aesthetics, and environmental benefits, IML is extremely durable. If the consumer decides to reuse a container made with IML, the brand name displayed on it is going to be sharp and colorful for as long it sits on the consumer’s countertop or shelf.

Does Unifoil notice any trends in labels for household goods?

We definitely see a trend in private labeling. Manufacturers of store brands have proven that their product is as good as name brands and they are no longer willing to live with a package that makes them look like second best. They want to showcase the value of their product and make it as attractive to the consumer as the premium brand. To that end, we’re seeing a desire for dynamic materials, design consultation and production expertise that will help drive business.