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Smart Packaging 2004: from RFID tags to tamper-evident chromatic inks, Smart Packaging 2004 offered a wealth of information on smart and intelligent packaging solutions and applications.

Smart Packaging 2004, the conference on smart and intelligent packaging applications and solutions, was held Sept. 8-9 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Chicago. The conference provided more than 300 attendees the opportunity to network and gather information on the latest smart and intelligent packaging systems, solutions and applications.

In addition to packaging experts from Kraft Foods and Procter and Gamble, industry specialists were on hand to make presentations.

Paul Rieger of Procter and Gamble presented "Supply Chain Management in the Consumer Goods Market." Mr. Rieger started his presentation off by saying that in regards to smart packaging, "It's been a wild ride and it's going to get wilder." He went on to say that for more seasoned companies, the ride will be easier. In order for smart technology to become more readily and easily integrated into the manufacturing process there needs to be standardization of electronic product code (EPC).

According to Mr. Rieger, EPC, which will eventually replace the UPC bar code, "is an industry initiative to drive efficiencies and effectiveness using radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies to uniquely identify, track and trace individual pallets, cases and consumer units through the supply network."

Currently EPC tags are used for three primary applications: anti-theft, anti-counterfeiting and identification. In the future, Mr. Reiger predicts a universal source-tagging system standard with multi-functional, discreet, flexible tags that are applied in-line. In order for this to occur, two things must happen: price of these tags must decrease and the performance must increase.

"Smart Packaging and Intelligent Packaging in the Food Industry," presented by Panos Kinigakis of Kraft Foods, dealt with the development of advanced packaging systems for food with value added features. According to Mr. Kinigakis, "The use of smart materials produced by modern conversion processes in combination with advanced packaging operations offers value added features for packaged foods." Some of these value added features include extended shelf life, improved safety, enhanced sensory properties and information on quality during transportation and storage. Some of the key drivers and opportunities for application in food include the use of chromatic inks that change color to indicate food spoilage, tamper evidence, authentication, abuse indicators and handling history indicators.

Novel Applications

Dr. Gail Barnes of TetraPak presented "A Packaging Suppliers' 'Chilled Perspective'." In her talk, Dr. Barnes presented an example of a Sweden-based dairy company that utilizes time temperature biosensors, which combine biotechnology with RF electronics, to measure the temperature history of the product. This technology utilizes thermochromatic inks, which are inks that become visible at certain temperatures, to ensure food safety.

According to Dr. Barnes, "an unbroken cold chain is more important when handling valued added products. Hence, dairy quality systems have stricter control than normal."

Dr. Barnes also presented several concept cartons that were developed by TetraPak's R&D staff. Carton one contained product sensors, an interactive display that monitors a product's temperature and a display that shows temperature history and vitamin content. This carton would use organic semi-conductors printed on the inside of the package. They would be configured to detect small changes to indicate the growth of pathogens. Carton two utilized RFID in an interactive display that offers the consumer supplemental health and lifestyle information. Taking this idea further, Dr. Barnes envisions an interactive shopping experience where a shopper would have a hand-held device that would be able to "speak" with the packages on the shelf. Each product would be able to communicate its benefits to the consumer.

While Dr. Barnes acknowledged that these envelope pushing ideas are still just concepts, she said, "Application of these technologies are really only limited to the limits of our imagination."

Another novel application for smart packaging was presented in "DNA: a Smart Tagging Initiative Checks Authenticity in a Covert Manner" by John Barnett of Applied DNA Sciences. Mr. Barnett's presentation focused on his company's use of plant DNA to provide counterfeit protection across a wide range of products, applications and industries. The DNA material can be integrated into inks, slurries and watermarks, as well as textiles.

"What makes this technology state-of-the-art is that it is robust and encapsulated," said Mr. Barnett. "However, if someone tries to tamper with it, it become fragile and denatures." The DNA microchip and DNA embedded ink can be used in a wide range of applications, including passport stamps, bulk and primary packaging in the form of DNA tamper evident tape, inks and adhesives, as well as tamper-proof DNA embedded seals and labels for pharmaceuticals.

"Smart Packaging and Product Authentication," presented by Mark Oosterlink, CCL Label, offers an overview of smart labels for brand identification packaging. "Labels are a unique vehicle for carrying smart technologies," said Mr. Oosterlink. Smart labels can be used for tracking within the supply chain, authentication, data collection and storage and for promotion and novelty. When tracking with standard bar codes, there is opportunity for theft, according to Mr. Oosterlink. "With RFID that's not possible because each label is unique," he noted.

There are a number of technologies being utilized in the production of smart labels. Optically variable devices (OVD) are used to protect the currency of 75 countries and has never been counterfeited, according to Mr. Oosterlink. SecureShift Technology consists of ultra-thin, multi-layered micro flakes that have a unique structure, which provides a color shift in appearance when viewed from different angles. The color shifting effect is generated when the material's layered construction causes interference of light waves.

Ink Tracker consists of encapsulated ink, temperature sensitive ink that is invisible until a predefined temperature is reached. They can be mixed into ink or varnish and used for product authentication.

"Adding Security to Packaging Films," by Dr. Tony Port, CP Films Inc., featured an overview of covert and overt effects that can be integrated into packaging films and a look at the building blocks for these optical effects. Dr. Port described overt optical and other effects used in security and anti-counterfeiting applications, such as holograms, watermarks, thermochromatic inks, angle-dependent pigments and inks and micro-optic devices. Covert and semi-covert effects used in security and anti-counterfeiting applications cover a whole range of different effects including fluorescent and phosphorescent inks, chemically reactive inks and substrates, oxygen sensitive inks, photochromic inks and micro-optic devices.

"Tackling Counterfeiters with Security Printing" by Rob Schellekens, Drent Goebel, dealt with the global problem of brand theft and damage, security features on packaging and solutions for tackling counterfeiters. Packaging printers can integrate a number of security elements using various methods of printing such as high resolution offset and coding, intaglio, hot foil applications and OVI screen application and back side registering.

Jason Brewer of Precisia presented "Smart Labels Drive Supply Chain Logistics." In his presentation, Mr. Brewer calls for partnership between manufacturers and suppliers to come up with cost effective solutions when using RFID technology.

"By printing RFID antenna, label and packaging converters can lower the RFID tag cost while meeting performance requirements," said Mr. Brewer. "Our industry has some of the best engineers. We just need more partnerships and roundtable discussions and we will find a solution."

Ink Companies Develop Innovative RFID Technology

Realizing the enormous opportunities that smart packaging offers, printing ink companies are working to develop innovative products, particularly in RFID.

A number of ink companies have begun developing RFID products. For example, Precisia LLC, Coates Screen, Color Converting Inc. and BCM Inks are working on RFID.

Precisia LLC, a developer of advanced printed technologies, has formed a partnership with Thin Battery Technology (TBT) to capture the rapidly expanding market for ultra-thin batteries. The partnership combines the battery design expertise of TBT with the high-speed printing, advanced ink and electronics capabilities of Precisia, a subsidiary of Flint Ink.

At less than one millimeter thick, ultra-thin batteries are ideally suited for smart labels, RFID tags and active packaging applications that require an external power source. They serve as an affordable replacement for button batteries in applications including greeting cards, cereal box giveaways, printed board games and credit cards.

"Our strategy of developing applications for ultra-thin batteries utilizing our high-speed printing technologies and advanced printed components will provide customers with an affordable product that is thinner and flexible," said Jim Rohrkemper, president of Precisia.

In addition to Precisia, other ink companies are forming partnerships to develop cutting-edge RFID technology.

ANI Printing Inks and Acheson Colloids Company have announced a three-year partnership in which ANI will serve as the exclusive distributor of Acheson's polymer thick film conductive inks for RFID applications in North and Central America. These inks will be utilized on pressure sensitive and self-adhesive labels, film applications, folding cartons, plastic cards and tubes through flexo, letterpress, rotary screen and offset.

At Drupa, Sun Chemical has announced that its Coates Screen business unit is working with QinetiQ, one of Europe's largest science and technology solutions companies, on the development of RFID systems such as low-cost, high volume RFID security/tracking tags, along with a host of other applications where a fine metal pattern is needed, such as labels, smart cards and antennae.

Ink manufacturers are optimistic that RFID will be an ideal opportunity for growth in the coming years.

"In my opinion, the increased use of RFID will lead to more business," said Rob Callif, vice president of operations at BCM Inks, which currently supplies a variety of security inks. "Some of the new technologies that BCM is working on in the RFID arena are conductive inks to be used as an antenna and alternative ways to apply an RFID chip to the package."
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Author:Pianoforte, Kerry
Publication:Ink World
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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