Differentiation is what every brand owner wants for their product, but in increasingly crowded markets, it is becoming harder to achieve. 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 product 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 colors used for foiling, but a wide range of colored foils are available.
Application across industries
Hot foil stamping is used across 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 artwork.
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 retain 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 smartphones.
The stamp of sustainability
Sustainability is becoming a bigger priority for brand owners and is in itself 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 the traditional hot stamp foil processes.
Besides, 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.
How is hot foil stamping evolving?
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 maybe in line with a printing press 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 supplying 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 referred to Power Register 2, which delivers perfect foil-to-print register in MasterFoil 106 PR, a hot foil stamper from Bobst. It is also packed with Bobst ingenuity, with features like 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: The hot foil stamping pioneers
From the Bobst SP 1260 BM of the 1960s, through to today’s sophisticated equipment, flatbed Bobst presses have pushed forward the boundaries of the hot foil stamping process.
Bobst’s ExpertFoil 142 is reported to be the only size VI die-cutter hot foil stamping machine on the market. Until the arrival of the ExpertFoil 142, only ‘bolt-on’ foiling solutions were available to finishers working in the size VI format.
“It is an amazing machine that gives customers a bigger margin to make a margin. Getting extra products onto a sheet can dramatically change the profitability of the process, especially when margins are tight,” said Reymond.
Bobst has also developed an entire range of hot foil stamping solutions that cover the complete range of production needs, from straightforward block foiling, through hologram application with pinpoint accuracy, to the creation of highly complex foil effects.
Beyond the machines
Bobst machines are associated with several key differentiators, including precise registration at high speeds, low foil consumption and fast job change-over time. Customers can also benefit from Bobst’s global service, training and application support.
“And customers know we are always willing to invest in new technology that has their interests at heart. Even as we speak, major new developments are in the works in hot foil stamping at Bobst,” Reymond added.
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 the packaging and provide a visual shortcut to the quality of the product inside.