Expert Talk.

The new cold foil packaging trend: fast and cost-efficient, with added value.

To stand out with high-quality effects. This is what manufacturers are asking for more and more often when it comes to promotional packaging for their products. And cold foil application is being used more and more frequently. This is because, in applications where other methods are too slow or too expensive, the FoilStar cold foil module from Heidelberg conjures up fascinating metallic effects on the packaging, quickly and cost-efficiently – inline in just one printing pass. However, as Product Manager Thomas Friedrich explains, this is not the only reason why packaging printers are increasingly turning to cold foil applications with FoilStar.


FoilStar supports a host of unusual surface finishing effects for packaging printing

Packaging embellished with cold foil is increasingly taking over new market segments, for example consumer electronics. Why is this?

The level of embellishment of packaging is increasing, as the wider the product diversity becomes, the greater the role that packaging plays in the battle for winning over the customer. Due to its brilliance and versatility, cold foil is ideal for giving products that something special so that they stand out from the crowd. With fine grids, overprinting, coating and subsequent embossing, as well as the use of foils for particular effects and unusual substrates, it makes it possible to produce unique eye-catching packaging. It also ensures high levels of productivity and economy.

High-quality embellishment at an attractive price: how is that achieved?

It is possible to apply the foil at maximum printing speed. With a Speedmaster XL 106 , this is up to 18,000 sheets an hour. After the cold foil has been applied, the cardboard or the plastic can be printed in several colors and coated in the same pass – with conventional or UV inks. Postpress activities can be performed on the embellished printed sheets straight away, without the need for any interim steps. This shortens the job throughput times enormously in comparison with an offline process – also in part due to the fast changeover.

Higher output and shorter delivery times are an advantage. What about economy?

In offset printing, cold foil is treated like an additional ink. Standard printing plates are used. No extra specific tools or plates, such as those required for hot-foil embossing, are needed to process cold foils. Furthermore, the required shade, such as gold, can be achieved by overprinting the silver cold foil. This reduces the process costs as well as the procurement and storage costs, as it is not necessary to use an additional foil for each different shade of color. Another advantage is the frugal material consumption. Our FoilStar is positioned on the second printing unit. Adhesive is applied to the parts of the printed sheet that are to be embellished at the first printing unit. In the second printing unit, the aluminum pigments are transferred. To achieve this, the foil strip is brought into contact with the offset sheet in the printing nip between the blanket and impression cylinders. In order that only as much foil as necessary is used, we offer our cold foil module with synchronization.

In concrete terms, how much material can be saved?

Depending on the print job, the FoilStar synchronization saves up to 80 percent of the foil. The exact amount is determined by the print motif. Normally, the foil always turns by a complete cylinder rotation and therefore by an entire sheet length. With the synchronized FoilStar, transport stops after the foil has been applied, thus decreasing foil consumption by 30 percent – with every print job. This is augmented by the additional opportunities provided by adapting the foil requirement to the print layout. For example, forwards foil feed can be reduced to 200 millimeters per sheet and, via the format length, it can be variably placed exactly where cold foil application is required. This option gives users a total material saving of up to 80 percent. Strip splitting prevents unnecessary consumption across the format width. With this process, the cold foil is applied to the areas to be embellished in narrower strips instead of in one strip across the entire width of the sheet. Another highlight is that the strips – up to six in total – can be embellished with various types of foil and their width can be selected as required.


Cold foil finishing produces outstanding print products.

And what happens if cold foil embellishment is not needed?

The FoilStar can be switched off and the printing units used can be changed over to offset printing. Just wash the inking unit and clamp on a new rubber blanket. All done.

What additional strategic benefits are generated by new applications and trends?

Cold foil opens the way to pushing ahead into market segments where high-quality embellishment was previously ruled out because it was too expensive or unfeasible. Examples of this are hologram patterns with iridescent rainbow gradients. This trend can be achieved with special foils. With high-end devices, such as expensive smartphones, cold foil in packaging design not only creates a premium look: the special effects are also increasingly being used as safety features. This demonstrates that print shops that can offer cold foil are at the cutting edge.

And what are the plus points of the FoilStar in particular?

Users get an integrated solution from a single source. The advantages are an optimum interplay between the printing press and the cold foil module, as well as a point of contact in Support and Service who helps you in the event of questions about operation and technology.

Is cold foil technology a complete replacement for hot-foil embossing?

No. There are some specific applications that hot foil is the better choice for. For example, with tactile effects. Using the embossing stamp, substrates can be given a structure or a relief at the same time. With cold foil, a second process step is needed for this. Furthermore, pressure and heat create higher gloss than with cold foil. We currently offer three machines in the hot-foil embossing sector, together with our partner MK: the Easymatrix 106 FC , the Promatrix 106 FC and the Duopress 106 FCSB . Heidelberg thus has the right solution for our customers for every application.

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