Printed electronics are the cheapest and most efficient way to make packaging smarter, more useful and safer for the end user. Dr Moazzam Ali, CEO of Saralon, speaks to Packaging & Converting Intelligence about the company's functional inks that make printed electronics compatible with any type of printer.
Printed electronics used to be merely a buzz phrase in the packaging industry; about 15 years ago, the words were ready but the technology wasn't. Following notable research and development, the end products finally justify the hype and printed electronics is positioning packaging as an innovative industry once more. The power of printed electronics is the simplicity with which it makes packaging smarter.
"You can print electronics the way you print colour," says Dr Moazzam Ali, CEO at Saralon. "You don't need a new printer to integrate it into packaging. To make packages smart or communicative, you have to use printed electronics."
Saralon's functional inks add plenty of value to a product and allow packaging to be equipped with printed electronics. The company is committed to ensuring that buying its inks, using them and understanding their impact is easy for its customers.
"There are many companies producing functional inks," Ali says, "but the problem is that they are not very organised." Often, chemical companies will only produce a single type of ink, which makes it difficult for consumers or printers that require more than one ink for a job.
Saralon decided to develop multiple inks in house, including conductive and semi-conductive inks, dielectric and light-emitting inks, and inks for transistors. "We make it easy for printers and package manufacturers to produce electronics," Ali says. "We make changes to our ink so that it is compatible with existing printing machines."
Saralon succeeds because of its focus on brand protection, premium packaging and promotions. Its functional labels with electrochromic displays and printed batteries protect products by transmitting a message when packaging is opened for the first time or if it is damaged. When it comes to premium packaging and promotions, Saralon thinks brightly. "Light always attracts customers and we are able to include it with printed electronics," the company says.
The packaging industry demands innovation to stay relevant, exciting and distinguishable from its competitors. "You always have to bring something new," Ali says. "Simply printing colour or embossing is not enough."
It is this search for development that drives Saralon. With ties to the University of Technology Chemnitz, the company gains direct insight from some of the best minds in chemicals and packaging. Being able to interact with some of the country's top students is also a boon. "We have access to very skilled staff," adds Ali. "The concept of printed electronics is not the same as electronics; it's not printing; it's not chemistry," Ali says. "It's a mixture of these and it's very difficult to find the right person for the job. With the university, we get the person who knows printing, electronics and inks - someone with the complete set of skills."
Ali believes that wireless communication with packaging is the most significant recent development in the industry. "There is only one way to make packaging a thing among the internet of things: printed electronics," he explains. "These can be produced and printed at high speeds, and easily disposed of. Conventional electronics, on the other hand, are expensive, cannot be disposed of and are difficult to integrate with existing packaging."
The real excitement about this communicative capability is what it means for the end user. Ali cites the booming pharmaceutical market in India, where counterfeit drugs are a calamitous scourge: "People buy cancer medicine and spend huge amounts of money but they don't really know whether it's real or fake."
Saralon's technology has already been rolled out to help protect these consumers. Negating the need for a smartphone, Saralon's printed electronics produce a packaging label that need only be touched for a message to appear confirming whether the product is genuine or has been tampered with.
As Ali says, Saralon stands for simplifying electronics, but its commitment also means smarter packaging, a more creative industry and safer consumers.