The market forum on "New print applications for innovative print products", hosted by the Print Media Academy (PMA) of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) in mid-April 2011 was well attended. Manfred Jurkewitz, Head of Research and Development at Heidelberg, provided an insight into the topic and pinpointed printed organic electronics as one approach that could change the face of printing technology in the future.
Subsequently, Professor Edgar Dörsam, Head of the Institute for Printing Presses and Printing Methods (IDD) at the Technical University of Darmstadt, described the visual effects and applications that can be developed at the interface between today's print applications and the printed organic electronics of the future. For example, he is confident that the development of printing technologies for new products will generate added value for print media. This is the focal point of the research activities of the Organic Electronics excellence cluster, a cooperation network involving partners from industry and research. He believes that further added value will be generated by new technologies for enhancing print media, known as "functional" printing. A joint research platform founded by TU Darmstadt and Heidelberg focuses on this particular application. The cooperation was recently extended to 2012.
Dr. Martin Schmitt-Lewen, Head of Technologies for Future Business in the Research and Development section of Heidelberg, reported on the initial results of the joint research work. For example, new surface finishing technologies are being developed that extend far beyond the matt/gloss effects achieved with drip-off technology. The appeal of print products is being improved further still through new techniques, such as gloss with 3D tilt effects and tactile qualities. Surface finishing is being enhanced with textures and contones, for example. Current examples of functional printing include OLED displays, which employ electroluminescence for illuminated control elements, a printed keyboard with conductive polymer material, and an electroluminescent demonstrator for the point of sale. In the future, Schmitt-Lewen envisages printed interactive packaging with a display, keyboard, and power supply.
The market forum participants were fascinated by the first practical applications, which were demonstrated by Günter Thomas from GT Trendhouse 42 GmbH in Gelsenkirchen. Combining customer focus with print processes, this innovative surface finishing company has been developing and producing high-quality and unusual print and design applications for over 40 years. "We have to take print to the next level and communicate with customers on paper by giving our applications a true-to-life feel," explains Thomas. "We work with our customers to create top-quality, complete solutions." With purchasing decisions taking an average of 1.6 seconds, this is all the time packaging has to make an impact. "If the eyes don't stop, the feet won't either," explains Thomas. The samples he showed with new gloss effects really spoke for themselves.