Digital embellishment capabilities can open the door to printed electronics and custom content. Most importantly, it can help create differentiation.
With the help of digital embellishments, print is “poised for a comeback as an engine of growth,” contends Jack Noonan, marketing coordinator for MGI USA. Although digital embellishments are still a relatively new area of growth for commercial printers, there is a definite potential for new job and profit expansion.
One of the key trends in digital embellishments is the increase in research and development dedicated to printed electronics.
The most common forms of printed electronics are Remote Frequency Identification (RFID) and Near Field Communication (NFC) tags, which are commonly used in smart packaging. Noonan explains that they work as antennae for transactional encounters, data transfers or as the informational link between a printed piece and digital communications. An advantage of this technology is that it can be used on a variety of substrates, including paper, synthetics and plastics.
Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED) is another form of printed electronics that, as Noonan describes, uses “organic materials that are deposited as micro or Nano particles used in a custom-designed way to light up flexible display substrates.” The technology can be used in applications to create a source of light or provide internet connectivity. For example, OLED can be used to create illuminated flexible displays or interactive labels and packaging.
Another printed electronic solution, Quantum Direct Development (QDOT), has “subatomic energy properties” making it similar to an OLED application, according to Noonan. The technology utilizes the chemical properties of intelligent ink to generate energy that is converted into light or heat.
A more advanced printed electronics application, Organic Photovoltaic (OPV) technology is ideal for the production of solar cells using printable energy circuits.
Looking at the future of the printing industry, Noonan believes that this aspect of digital embellishments will be the future of print, from a business standpoint. The technology offers new job volumes and profit opportunities.
“The application base will be growing exponentially every year that goes by because we’re heading into the Internet of Things and integrated digital connectivity,” he says. “Not only are computers, satellites and cellphones connected but, in fact, everyday objects and engineered manufactured materials can be connected. It’s going to be a very dynamic and vibrant world of three dimensionality in terms of information and communication.”
Digital embellishments play a key role in the evolving omnichannel world of print and digital communications. However, it’s crucial to utilize customer data to reap the full benefits of digital finishing technology. Noonan explains that embellishments — such as 3D digital textures, 2D spot UV and variable embossed foil — can be used to personalize direct mail, which helps to build customer relationships. For example, he says if a printer were to analyze customer data and find that a consumer prefers a specific type of product, that product could be added to a piece of direct mail and embossed to emphasize the personalization.
Noonan points specifically to variable data hologram technology as a solution for unique versioning and security measures with personalized images and text. He explains that by using MGI Meteor Unlimited Colors Press Series technology, for example, printers can create customizable holograms more cost-effectively than by traditional methods. According to Noonan, the technology is highly complementary to digital enhancement applications, and can serve as a way for commercial printers to secure more business with added value capabilities.
“The future of print is a blend of traditional ink and paper with digital connectivity because we now live in an electronic world of information,” he says.