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Printed Electronics World
Posted on January 15, 2013 by  & 

Heidelberg showcases visionary print applications

Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) is showcasing visionary application concepts based on innovating printing processes at the Heidelberg site's Research & Development Center (FEZ). The successful Innovation Gallery at drupa 2012 can now be visited at the FEZ, with exhibits highlighting the areas where Heidelberg is looking to play an active role in shaping the future of print. Market-ready and demonstration products show just how much is already possible in the area of surface finishing and printed electronics. Other areas of application, such as printing on 3D objects, digital imaging, and drying are displayed as pioneering technologies for the future. As Frank Kropp, Head of Research and Development at Heidelberg, explains: "The FEZ's new Innovation Gallery is intended to highlight what Heidelberg is capable of. At drupa, we focused on application-oriented topics. In the future, the FEZ's Innovation Gallery will cover other key topics and document the progress made. We will also be exhibiting some extraordinary things to highlight the full scope of future developments."
The FEZ's Innovation Gallery demonstrates that printed communication has long ceased to be confined to paper. Heidelberg believes such applications offer great potential for manufacturers of branded goods, advertising agencies, and print media companies and is looking to enter into dialog with exactly these groups to move beyond the conventional image of print and provide a glimpse of the progress being made at its research laboratories. "We are making it clear that print has a real future and that we will play an active role in shaping this future. This applies to both conventional and functional printing and to the printing of decorative elements," says Kropp.
Fascinating surfaces create new finishing effects
One application that sets products apart from the competition in traditional sheetfed offset printing is already set for market launch. In the "Fascinating surfaces" section of the FEZ's Innovation Gallery, the "Cristala" creative concept, demonstrates how existing drip-off coating equipment can be used to produce new finishing effects. Specially prepared prepress data creates structured surfaces with a strongly accented gloss effect that is quite unique in the sheetfed offset industry. Structured coatings create different gloss effects depending on the angle of inclination and the direction of viewing. The exhibition also includes examples of surfaces with geometric lines, textures, ornaments, and contone images and typographical samples.
Intelligent surfaces from the press - interactive, illuminating, and smart
Many applications in the area of functional printing are still little more than visions for the future. Printed, intelligent surfaces called touchcodes that Heidelberg is showcasing in the FEZ's Innovation Gallery in the form of interactive printed ID cards with an integrated electronic structure are one example of an application that has already reached the market-ready stage. Placing a touchcode card of this kind on an iPad opens an app or web browser that offers access to specific content. The card therefore serves as a copy-protected license for electronic information in protected or closed applications, for example, thus building a bridge to mobile terminals. Unlike conventional QR codes, there is no need to take a photo using a smartphone. The touchcode acts as a paper key and is simply placed on the display. In cooperation with Chemnitz-based Printechnologics GmbH Heidelberg has developed touchcode technology applications for particular market segments and shows, how these applications can be employed.
Another example of an intelligent surface is a film-based lighting element that takes the form of "printed light". The lighting effects are based either on electroluminescence or on printed OLEDs (organic LEDs, light-emitting diodes). They can be applied to folding cartons either as a solid area or as an informative detail in the form of numbers, text, or logos. Printed electronics in print products thus constitute the lighting elements of the future. Heidelberg is currently working on advanced concepts for decorative light on larger areas.
Another new application from Heidelberg is the "Smart Shelf", which delivers concepts for the packaging shelf of the future. In this case, both the folding carton and the surface of the shelf are equipped with printed electronic components to communicate information such as the shelf's fill level. This technology can also be used with point-of-sale applications for interaction with the customer.
Printing on any surface - including 3D
The "decorative printing on any surface" section of the FEZ's Innovation Gallery showcases possible applications for printing on any curved surface. Although the development from 2D high-productivity industrial printing to 3D is still in the early stages, initial applications are already possible. The focus here is on how everyday objects such as furniture, sports goods, toys, cars, industrial products, architectural elements, and entire facades can be decorated with customized and, if appropriate, reversible designs.
Surface drying and digital imaging
In the "drying and structuring surfaces" section of the FEZ's Innovation Gallery new dryer technologies and systems are presented, including energy-efficient UV LED dryer modules and a laser drying technology that heats only the ink and not the substrate, a development that is advantageous from a process engineering perspective. The major benefit is that the waiting times between press and postpress can be cut drastically.
The display also features a laser module concept that enables the partial drying or structuring of surfaces. This digital multi-channel module opens up the possibility of further potential future applications in the area of digital imaging.
Source and top image: Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG
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