RK PrintCoat Instruments – Editorial

17 July 2019

If asked, many associate luxury products and the accompanying packaging with high-profile high street brands – which may include much hyped cosmetic, fashion, electronic and electrical goods. Branded high-cost ticket items are bought for many reasons, they may convey prestige, a sense of importance; maybe they define who we are; maybe they are bought because they give us a lift and make us feel and/or look good. Then again, and without any deep psychological analysis they are of course purchased simply because we like the look of them. For whatever reason consumers settle upon an item and make that purchase – packaging is often the determining factor, especially when we buy on impulse. 

Packaging as a sale tool really comes into its own with luxury products. Designers and marketers are often at their most creative when it comes to conveying elegance, luxury and prestige on a pack – but more of that later. First though let’s give some thought to the term: luxury. 

Different people, different generations, the young, the old, those with little money, the wealthy and the disadvantaged all have different viewpoints with regard to the products that they buy and whether or not they are a luxury. Many items are considered a luxury simply because the purchase is unusual, out of the ordinary; not an everyday event. For instance: purchasing a very expensive piece of jewellery to mark an all-important anniversary may be a one off, one-time purchase. 

On the other hand, those reasonably priced little items: that gift pack of scented packs of soaps, mood enhancing candles; the mini-selection of jams, the gourmet foods and personal ornamental accessories may not be especially grand but they constitute luxury in not being part of the traditional weekly shop. What generally makes them stand out from all of the other clutter on the shelf and around them in the shop is the packaging. 

Packaging can help to elevate the status of the product. Packaging generally has no influence on product quality, that’s down to the supplier, but it certainly grabs the attention of the consumer, and if the item is being given as a gift – a highly decorative pack increases the pleasurable expectations of the recipient. 

There are many substrates that can be used for packaging luxury products but for optimum billboarding opportunity paper and paperboard is a popular choice and is becoming even more popular with consumers due to the growing anti-plastic publicity. Paper and paperboard are recyclable, compostable and made from renewable resources. Paper and paperboard afford a variety of decorative possibilities and are effective brand communication vehicles. 

So much though rides on colour, it is the one area where much can go wrong. Despite the best intentions of designer and marketers sometimes a products’ colour just does not look right in the cold light of day. Even if the graphical content, logo and other value-added attractors seem a good fit, if a colour is wrong, if there is a tonal mismatch or colour is not reproduced effectively then the product will fail to please and will fail to sell.

Colour can make us sit up and take notice or when used inappropriately can leave us unmoved and indifferent. Colour, especially when chosen at boardroom level and even when approved by colour psychologists can still present confusing results at press side. 

While advancements in technology make it theoretically easier to control colour, the printer or converter must be aware of the variables or inconsistencies that arise when printing for packaging. For instance, ink film thickness can impact on pigment/ vehicle ratio sometimes adversely affect printed product appearance. 

A deep red or yellow may look good when the designer presents the customer with a visual either as a hard copy or on screen and it is easy to become carried away by the enthusiasm of the marketing department. 

Sometimes the results are not so pleasing when run on press. For example, if a high gloss appearance is required slight absorption increase in the stock may result in the high concentration of pigment particle protruding through the surface varnish layer resulting in print that looks lighter and perhaps less glossy than desired. 

Opting to go for a slightly lighter colour will allow less pigment loading and will make for thinner ink film. Doing so will permit a print operator to make ink colour adjustments as they go and over the course of the run without compromising too much on quality. However, if the customer is adamant that they want the specified, albeit problematic deeper colour then the operator can always perhaps try making two impressions, wet on wet. 

Another variable that affects colour reproduction is the stock. The absorptivity of paper stock can vary not only from batch to batch but also within the same batch. This can affect the gloss of the ink film by letting more or less of the vehicle portion of the ink film to penetrate into the stock. Fortunately print processes such as flexo, gravure and silkscreen are more accommodating than other print processes and can print heavier ink films more easily. 

Currently many soap, fragrance and gift items that are specifically packed in paper wrappers and lightweight paperboard are featuring ‘Art & Craft’ movement, V & A and impressionistic art effects. With this in mind, there is little in the way of a margin for error when it comes to reproduction, print quality must be of the highest and colours must match. 

Interpreting colour and getting it right time after time and run after run remains a challenge. Even the decision to change paper stock, perhaps for reasons of cost can be problematic. Paper brightness, surface quality and neutrality, deviance from colour cast all have a dramatic effect on how colours will appear once printed. 

Regardless of the difficulties the package printer must meet the demands of the customer and produce a quality product. Colour communication, proofing or as they often referred to as sample preparation devices, enable users of many descriptions, including ink manufacturers to meet colour targets quickly and with minimal waste. 

The FlexiProof family of devices for users and producers of flexo and flexo inks are used for colour matching purposes off press and for resolving ink and other related issues speedily. The FlexiProof 100, FlexiProof UV and FlexiProof LED UV can be used for trialling unfamiliar substrates and consumables; product development purposes and for determining printability, for instance gloss, durability, rub, scuff and chemical resistance, etc. 

The FlexiProof UV differs from the original FlexiProof 100 designed and developed by RK Print Coat Instruments in that it incorporates an integral miniaturised UV system, enabling curing/printing to be undertaken inline and with a seamless action. This offers many benefits including the ability to detect inconsistencies such as pinholes, not normally detectable using a conventional conveyor system. The reason for this is that during the time taken to remove a sample from the conveyor for analysis and comparison, chemical changes will have taken place. 

The LED UV also incorporates a miniaturised UV system, it differs from the FlexiProof UV in that the spectral output of the LED lamps is typically tailored towards output either at the important 385 or 395 n wavelength. 

A drawback with traditional mercury arc lamps is that they tend to peak at around 365nm but there are extraneous spikes in the visible and infrared bands, which in turn is responsible for the heat that these lamps generate. This heat can distort a sensitive substrate. This is not the case with the LED UV lamps such as the Phoseon Firejet products used with the FlexiProof LED UV, which facilitate the processing of heat sensitives. 

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