Brand owners know that packaging is the key differentiator on the shelf, and special finishing techniques – such hot foil stamping and thermal embossing – can elevate their products, and provide consumers with a visual shortcut to the quality of what’s inside.
Hot foil stamping is the process of using heat and pressure to apply metallic foil or holograms to materials such as light papers, carton board, laminated board, plastics and corrugated board.
‘In a world where we have very mature markets with limited opportunity for major growth, there is no question that products need to differentiate themselves somehow,’ said Jacques Reymond, head of product marketing business unit sheet-fed at BOBST. ‘Hot foil stamping helps to reinforce the value to the product and is often associated with premium products. Ultimately, the box is a marketing instrument, and by using hot foil stamping, you can convey the quality of what is inside.’
The term can encompass simple flat foil stamping, deep embossing or embossing combined with foil stamping, hologram and holographic foil application and foil stamping combined with micro and structural embossing. Traditionally, gold or silver are the most common colours used for foiling, but a wide range of coloured foils are available.
Hot foil stamping is used across a wide range of industry sectors, but most notably in food and drink (particularly confectionary such as premium chocolate, wine and liquor bottles, and other premium foods), cosmetics, electronics, banknotes, business cards, greeting cards and art work.
There is no doubt about the value of embellishments like hot foil stamping. According to a study by the Foil & Specialty Effects Association (FSEA), hot foil stamping and other similar enhancements on product packaging can help attract consumer attention faster and keep attention longer than ordinary packaging. In another study of disposable single-serve coffee packaging, the packaging with gold foil attracted the study participants’ attention 2.5 times faster than the control packaging.
It’s not just about looking good. Hot foil stamping is also used for its anti-counterfeiting properties, particularly in pharmaceuticals, and in technology such as smart phones. Sustainability is becoming an even bigger priority for brand owners and this in itself is a means of differentiation. Many assume that packaging with foil is not recyclable and therefore not sustainable, but a study by the FSEA on the recyclability and re-pulpability of foil-decorated stock and board validated the recyclability of paper products decorated by traditional hot stamp foil processes.
In addition, the study found that neither hot nor cold foil-decorated products would give rise to problems that may render the decorated paper products unsuitable for recycling.Hot foil stamping has been around in one form or another for well over 100 years. The process itself has not changed dramatically in that time, but the technology is evolving and enabling better efficiency for manufacturers.
A hot foil stamper may be an offline, stand-alone machine, or may be in line with a printing press and/or other units. While mainly sheet-fed, some high-speed hot foil stampers are web-fed. Whether sheet or web-fed, sophisticated handling systems are needed to position the substrate and foil between the plate or cylinder that holds the dies and that supply the counter pressure.
‘These machines have seen some remarkable advances in recent years,’ said Reymond. ‘For example, normally, hot foil stamping requires several passes through the machine – the printing, then the enhancement, then the cutting. That’s a lot of movement on the sheet registration. But BOBST integrated a power register in MASTERFOIL 106 PR that overcame that. We are always looking to evolve.’
Reymond is referring to POWER REGISTER 2, which delivers perfect foil-to-print register in MASTERFOIL 106 PR, a hot foil stamper from BOBST. It features lower beam cam movement, which allows for longer impressions and higher foiling quality, or a foil unwind system that makes changing foils as easy as pressing a button.
BOBST has constantly been at the forefront of advances in this technology. From the BOBST SP 1260 BM of the 1960s, through to today’s highly sophisticated equipment, flatbed BOBST presses have pushed forward the boundaries of the hot foil stamping process.
While hot foil stamping isn’t the only form of differentiation for packaging – cold foil, varnishes and metal inks are just three examples of other great visual embellishments – it is a steadily growing sector that is here to stay. Simply put, the effect will always appeal on packaging and provide a visual shortcut to the quality of the product inside.