Ecoleaf metallisation technology eliminates the need for films and so helps reduce waste. (Image: Actega)
Sustainable print finishing
Highly finished packaging and labels always attract attention at the point of sale. Embossing, special colour effects, contrasting matt and gloss and metallic sheens in particular immediately catch consumers’ eyes. Conventional metallisation processes, however, usually require the use of plastic-coated films. But a sustainable alternative has now arrived.
Finishing prints with embossing foil these days is a common method for realising metallic finishes. Pressure and heat are used to apply metallic shapes to labels and folded boxes. But this process leaves plastic film behind that needs to be disposed of as waste. The new Ecoleaf metallisation process, however, is able to transfer the metallic pigments in a targeted manner. All metal particles are used and placed only exactly where they’re needed. The process employs ‘liquid film’ instead of the plastic-coated backing films that are used in conventional hot- and cold-foil embossing, which results in significant reductions in waste and the use of plastics as well as the minimisation of the environmental impact associated with the production and disposal of these plastics. The process also maintains the aesthetic and quality standards that are demanded by brand owners. Switching from hot- or cold-foil embossing to Ecoleaf technology should therefore make it possible to produce eye-catching metallic label embellishments with significantly improved environmental profiles.
"Many companies across Europe are already taking advantage of the benefits that Ecoleaf offers at their digital-, screen- or flexographic-printing production lines. This technology has the potential to transform the industry."
Timo Kondziela, Head of Global Marketing at Actega
The technology is compatible with a range of printing methods and, depending on the production processes employed, allows a wide variety of metallic finishing options to be realised. It is, for example, possible to produce tactile metallic effects in rotary or flatbed screen printing without the need for embossing and to realise very fine metallisations at high resolutions in flexographic printing processes and to create seamless and variable metallisations in inkjet printing.
The Ecoleaf system may be incorporated at various points within the printing process. (Image: Actega)
The Ecoleaf module may be installed at the start, in the middle or at the end of the printing process or even as an off-line option. Technically, the printing result can be realised with the help of a printed ‘trigger image’ on to which a metallisation unit transfers an ultra-thin layer of metallic pigments via a dispenser roller. The process then allows a variety of metallic effects to be realised.
The first Ecoleaf LA430 module was initially designed for use with narrow web presses and the production of labels. But metallisation units are also to be launched for folded boxes and flexible packaging in the future. The innovative process has already been recognised and has won the German Design Award 2022 for outstanding design quality in the category of Excellent Product Design for the industrial sector.