Labels are an extremely important communications tool. But in these days labels have to have more functions than just transmitting information to the consumer. Today we will look at recent developments in temperature sensory labels, anti-theft labels and we end with the frivolous part of interactive labels: the animation.
In the past marketing decided about the fancy-grade of the graphics, in these days and much more so in the future the main part of a label will be decided by regulations and the hunger of the consumer for more detailed information about the product, as well as its packaging. But there is more. Labels are increasingly used for sophisticated functions, so called interactive labels, for among others temperature and freshness monitoring, anti-counterfeiting and anti-theft, and tracking and tracing.
Today three new developments in interactive labels. We start with the next generation temperature monitoring labels, the XpressPDF from PakSense in Boise, Idaho, USA.
XpressPDF temperature monitoring labels
Labels monitoring time and temperature of perishable items such as food, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, biologics, and other perishable products during distribution and storage are nothing new. But what is new and sets the next generation of this type of labels, is that the XpressPDF labels, still about the size of a flat sugar packet, feature an integrated USB connection point which can be plugged directly into the USB port of a computer. Once connected, the label automatically generates a PDF data file containing complete time and temperature history including a graph and summary statistics. Simple to use and easy to interpret, XpressPDF Labels eliminate the need for reading devices and proprietary download software.
XpressPDF Labels feature an innovative temperature sensor that is calibrated to NIST standards during manufacturing. The label will take a surface read of the object to which it is attached, providing a closer approximation of actual product temperature versus the general ambient readings provided by bulkier recorders. Light emitting diodes on the label will flash to indicate a temperature excursion and prompt the user to download full cold chain data via the USB connection. In addition, XpressPDF Labels can be uploaded to virtually any third party logistics database via the PakSense Device Interface SDK and are recyclable via the PakSense GreenSense program.
Standard temperature ranges are pre-programmed into labels by PakSense. Users order the appropriate label, press the corner to activate, and attach it to product or product packaging. After activation, XpressPDF Labels sample temperature every minute. Labels are encased in waterproof, safe-for-food contact packaging and are identified by a unique serial number. Users can press a “mark” button to signify significant events such as when product changes hands. An optional “stop” button is available which can be pressed to stop temperature monitoring.
The small, flat, waterproof label enables cold chain monitoring in virtually any packaging configuration, including at the pallet, carton, and individual item level. Because of its small size, packaging modifications are not required to utilize the XpressPDF Label.
From temperature monitoring to monitoring shoplifting.
EP CLEAR Anti-Theft Labels
As retailers have diversified and taken on new lines, that diversification into a broad product range also is an inviting target for impulse shoplifters and organized retail crime gangs. Many products in stores are small, highly portable and easy to walk off with in volume.
Store owners have been forced to fight shop-lifting on several new fronts. In addition to traditional at-risk products as razor blades, medications and cosmetics, store owners now have to protect against theft of food, beverages and electronics, to name a few.
Checkpoint Systems in Philadelphia, USA, introduced a new RF-label in its Enhanced Performance (EP) Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) labels range. Claiming to be a first-of-its-kind EP CLEAR Tamper Tag for placement “on” or “inside” small high-risk items, has a variety of new options on how to design the tag for optimal alignment with the retailer’s loss prevention strategy.
The tamper tag, which has a printing and adhesive that makes it tamper resistant, allows for clear protection against theft of a product package without jeopardizing the brand image. The small-size EAS label with its new packaging grade adhesive is the optimum EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) label protection available for protecting small items and high-value merchandise.
The EP CLEAR labels are a visual deterrent to theft or can be a covert application when used with source tagging programs, i.e., the application of a security device at the point of manufacture. The labels may be applied to products in stores by employees, or can easily be integrated into high-speed source tagging processes by product manufacturers, so that merchandise arrives in stores shelf ready.
The EP CLEAR Tamper label provides exceptional EAS detection in a small sized label, especially when used with the company’s EVOLVE EAS System. EP CLEAR label and EVOLVE antennas are said to have shown a combined 95% performance rating in retailer pilots.
After the serious part, let’s look at new developments in animation.
Interactive Animation Labels
Innovia Films Ltd., a global manufacturer of specialty films, and PragmatIC Printing Ltd., a pioneer in imprinted logic circuits, have announced the successful integration of printed electronic functionality onto Innovia Films’ biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) label substrates.
Printed electronics has been talked about for many years now as the next big wave of the electronics industry. The ability to “print” functionality which today would require a large silicon fab is seen as enabling a huge range of new products and applications – driven by the extremely low cost of printing compared with traditional silicon wafer processes, and by the greater range of physical form factors enabled by robust, transparent thin-film semiconductors on flexible plastic or paper substrates.
Much of the printed electronics industry has been focused on large area applications, such as displays and lighting. For transistor-based printed electronic logic, one of the key challenges is to achieve suitably small feature sizes – just as with silicon chips, smaller features translate directly into higher performance and lower cost. Most printing processes developed for comparatively large visual features (greater than 10μm, and more typically greater than 100μm) do not scale well to the smaller features required for printed logic. Imprint, however, is not only the oldest printing technology, but is also well established in industrial use at the micron scale, and has been demonstrated to reliably replicate features smaller than 10nm. PragmatIC’s imprint process combines the benefits of a simple roll-to-roll compatible printing method with a proven ability to achieve both micron and sub-micron scale features with high yield – ideal for printed logic.
Even when small features can be printed there is a further problem: thin film transistors are complex 3D structures, and require accurate registration and alignment between successive patterning steps. This is difficult enough in a silicon fab, but becomes even more challenging when dealing with flexible (and transparent) materials on plastic substrates. PragmatIC has therefore developed and patented a range of planar and self-aligned device architectures that dramatically simplify manufacturing by reducing the number of process steps and eliminating or minimising registration requirements.
The first Innovia prototypes are interactive bottle labels that activate a sequence of flashing lights when the bottle is held. This is only one example, from numerous possibilities, of how active packaging can be used to attract, inform or interact with the consumer.
The prototypes demonstrate that PragmatIC’s imprinted electronics can be integrated successfully onto label and packaging films. The advantages could be divided into two categories, brand owner attractions (flashing lights, lighted logos to attract consumer attention) and functional benefits.
This could include built-in decision circuits (already used within the pharmaceutical sector) to let you know a relevant dose based upon (for instance) how old you were. Other advantages could include a touch-sensitive button that, once pressed, counts down to illustrate cooking time, or time and temperature indicator (TTI)-based labels to indicate food freshness.
The products could “attract, inform or interact” with consumers via light and sound. It could, for example, electronically change a price as a product nears its sell-by date. It could also interact with a person’s smartphone, to send him a message to let them know about special offers.
Remotely Activated Interactive Labels
That was the “frivolous and less serious” part of printed electronics. But there is more. PragmatIC Printing Ltd and De La Rue plc, world’s largest integrated commercial security printer and papermaker, have completed prototypes of a range of concepts applicable to security printing markets, following the broad premise of a visual feature (a light or logo) that is triggered by consumer interaction.
The prototypes are a result of the codenamed project “RAIL” (Remotely Activated Interactive Labels), supported by a grant from the UK’s Technology Strategy Board.
For these labels no battery is required as power is harvested wirelessly from a standard RFID (radio frequency identification) or NFC (near field communications) reader. Such readers are quickly becoming widespread, for example in contactless retail payment systems or integrated into latest generation mobile phones.
This means the labels can be extremely flexible and thin (around 50 microns), and are also compatible with conventional hot lamination processes.
PragmatIC’s imprint-based approach to printed electronics is not only able to deliver new security features, but is also a natural complement to other security printing technologies such as holographic embossing.
As we can see labels will have many more functions in the future.