This well organised two day conference held between September 23-24, with two parallel streams, took place in the excellent Centre des Congres in view of the magnificent Reims Cathedral. It was in French, with simultaneous translation of some sessions. It involved an excellent cross section of over 220 users, suppliers and researchers in packaging from Veuve Cliquot to Schneider Electric.
Well designed packaging saves lives, improves health and safety, entertains, reduces waste and raises living standards. However, given the appalling pollution of the seas, damage to animals and other dire consequences of plastic packaging, it was good to see a major focus on environmental issues at this conference. Solutions discussed included recyclable, reconfigurable and reusable packages, use of biopolymers instead of non renewable sources and minimising carbon footprint from cradle to grave. The printed electronics industry needs to align with the packaging industry and adopt many of these concerns more seriously.
There are language problems. At this conference, the term smart packaging was loosely applied to anything that is somewhat improved.
The tough issues
Bravely, there were work and exchange groups on such subjects as "How to convince Marketing to agree to reduce oversized packaging?" and "How to measure the commercial and financial impact of new packaging in a factual way?" and "Nanotechnologies - precaution and information" for example. It was accepted that the health risks of nanotechnology are not fully understood and the legal, control and communication aspects of this were aired. Indeed, Sylvain Martin, Advocate at the Court of Appeal in Paris, said that even established chemicals that are not necessarily in nano form are getting a new examination.
Titanium is now suspect
The case of titanium was cited. As oxide, it is widely used in toothpaste, paper, in plastics as an opacifier, and elsewhere. As metal it is used in implants, for example. IDTechEx notes that it is used in printed electrophoretic displays. Martin said that, for eighty years, it has not been classed as carcinogentic. Yet now, following some tests in a French laboratory, the International Centre for Research in Cancer CIRC has now put it in Category 2B which means it is considered to be a possible carcinogenic agent in humans. This has prompted a rethink in industry. He was unable to clarify whether it was the metal or the oxide which caused the concern, however.
Martin is involved in the European Regulation and Authorisation of Chemical Products REACH. He said that, contrary to popular understanding, it is not confining its remit to materials but involving finished products as well and there is now much more onus on manufacturers to warn of what is and is not known about the safety of their products. He said the arm of the law is not confined to Europe or the recent past, citing how a Concorde designer aged 77 and two US employees of Continental Airlines are shortly to appear in court in Europe concerning the Concorde crash many years ago.
Involving more senses
The obvious and not so obvious
There was much on the psychology of packaging and repeated truisims such as "Innovate" and there was discussion of the methodology used in creating new packaging, life cycle design and eco-design. The Carbon Trust made it clear that packaging with low carbon footprint tends to be low cost, low energy and more saleable - indeed, 67% of consumers say they are more likely to buy a product which has a low carbon footprint. The Trust said that it is important not to confuse carbon footprint with the (misleading) number of miles a product travels in its creation, sale and use.
Jean Claude Sirost of $4 billion Sun Chemical, the world's largest ink maker, discussed intelligent inks from those that fluoresce in two colors, have microcapsules emitting aroma when scratched to thermochromic, photochromic and other formulations. No inks for printed electronics were announced, though the company is working in that area and magnetic, electric and soft touch inks were mentioned in passing. In a separate session, he volunteered that Sun is about to announce an electronic ink when its patent is granted. Sun Chemical collaborates with printed electronics pioneers such as Kodak, Heidelberg, MacDermid Printing Solutions and Kodak.
A discussion session covered the uses and limitations of RFID. Michel Paluel Marmont, of food company Michel & Augustin, pointed to the decline in national brands and growth of distributor's brands and new brands caused by the need for brands to meet their promises. He recommended a very broad approach based on five senses and involving audiovisual point of sale materials, websites, blogs and more. IDTechEx observes that printed electronics can bring more of this promotion and information to the package itself.