Having specialised in conductive and non-conductive fluids for many years, Sun Chemical joined forces with T+ink in March 2014 to develop integrated printed electronics solutions that would ‘provide a seamless bridge between the physical and the digital’ and make any product and its packaging ‘smart and interactive’.
The combined forces behind the T-Sun partnership have now perfected T+Ink’s TouchCode for on-pack application. Already widely used for many interactive cards that can be held up to a smartphone or smart tablet to trigger a multitude of responses, the patented TouchCode technology has been extended for use directly on-pack.
“TouchCode is invisible and takes no space on the surface of the printed product,” said Michel Vanhems, business leader, consulting, Sun Chemical. “Unlike QR codes, it connects directly to the internet without the necessity of opening a camera app to photograph the code in order to access the information, discounts or special offers being promoted.”
He explained that TouchCode technology mimics the E-field (electronic field) of the human finger on the capacitive screen of a smartphone. “TouchCode offers a new way for consumers to interact by harnessing their smartphone’s touchscreen capacity,” he said. “When we put our fingers on the touchscreen, the smartphone responds to the naturally present conductive energy in them. We have hard-coded this capacity into a printed form on-pack, which causes the smartphone to react when it’s held on top of the code.”
Applied using traditional printing technology, T+Sun has currently perfected the use of flexo gravure printing of TouchCode. The process involves printing a conductive ink matrix designed and tailored for the product, followed by a white ink, and then the traditional four-colour process of the final pack artwork, directly onto the pack. No specific code is visible and consumers can be directed to hold their phones over a particular area of the design, therefore adding to (rather than detracting from) brand communication, according to Vanhems.
“Now all consumers have to do is simply hold their phone up to the pack to access instant promotional campaigns, activate websites, tap into music, information, special offers, and more,” said Vanhems. “The engagement with the consumer is only limited to the brand’s imagination.”
He confirmed that high-level trials are ongoing with many leading food and beverage brand leaders: “Having this technology available directly on-pack is really a massive achievement.”
T-Ink has made headway with the use of TouchCode on metallic cans and hopes to commercialise this application in early 2015. In the meantime, glass, cartons and other packaging formats are ideal carriers for the system and can be implemented with TouchCode immediately.
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