Perfecting Packaging with Conductive Ink

Perfecting Packaging with Conductive Ink

By Heidi Reidel

Conductive inks and pastes are currently a $2 billion business and are poised to grow in areas such as in-mold inks and stretchable inks. Conductive ink has the power to enhance several industries, but its use in the packaging industry could be significant.

An Emerging Market

According to research director for IDTechEx, Dr. Khasha Ghaffarzadeh, solar cells are the largest consumers of conductive ink. However, Roy Bjorlin, global commercial and strategic initiatives director for Sun Chemical Advanced Materials, asserts that there is a substantial amount of curiosity towards electronic packaging and smart labels. “It is likely that production volumes will grow as the traditional packaging converter base starts developing more manufacturing capabilities for electronics at lower costs.”

Applications in Packaging

Flexible sensors appear to be the field where applications in packaging will gain traction. Flexible and printed electronics can be used for smart packaging, labels, shipping, storage, etc. This will allow brands to give consumers a more personalized experience through packaging.

T+Sun, a partnership between Sun Chemical and T+Ink, created an embedded code called TouchCode. TouchCode can collect data analytics about users’ purchasing habits. Bjorlin states that TouchCode is “a great first step to engaging an interaction with consumers.” When asked how TouchCode can be directly applied to packaging, Bjorlin says that the code can be directly printed on packaging or used for label manufacturing.

The “tailored experience” provided for the consumer is a menu of interactive programs, supplying everything from product information to the security of knowing that their purchased product is direct from the manufacturer. TouchCode encourages the consumers desire to purchase. TouchCode doesn’t only benefit the consumer. The brand receives collectable data analytics on consumer purchasing habits, information that can be used to enhance future sales.

Barriers and Progress

Conductive inks still have room for perfecting. They create issues with both conductivity and deposition. Cost is also a factor and a challenge. Yet, progress has been made in these areas, with Sun Chemical taking the lead in conductive ink development. Chief technology officer at T+Ink, Terry Kaiserman, assures that conductive ink can replace RFID codes at a fraction of the cost and offers more security than QR codes. The company has already collaborated with Coca-Cola, Walmart, and McDonalds.

Arjowiggins Creative Papers is looking at opportunities, particularly in the luxury packaging and traceability field, and apparently paper substrates are the key. According to Mark Heise, Application Engineer for Arjo, “Some products we have looked at need high-temperature sintering to reduce the resistivity and perfect the circuit. Paper can withstand the high temperatures required for low-resistance silver ink without discoloration.”

With the applications of conductive ink in packaging still in their infancy, it is hard to say what the future of such technology will look like. Experts, however, seem optimistic about that future. No company wants to miss out on this burgeoning potential and fall behind.

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