Metallic blister-cards impact gels

January 29, 2014

5 Min Read
Metallic blister-cards impact gels

When Pentel of America successfully launched the first liquid-gel ink pen on the market, the marketing plan called for a new kind of packaging that would emphasize point-of-purchase appeal and reinforce the innovative nature of the product. The solution was visually striking metallic blister cards, manufactured and converted by Dot Packaging Group, Batavia, IL.

"The packaging sells the product by creating consumer awareness of our EnerGel pens," says Steve Koch, materials manager for Pentel. "The packaging stands out on the retail rack, clinching impulse sales at the point-of-purchase level, and communicates Pentel's commitment to product excellence." The benefits of the metallic blister cards include special-effects graphics, a mirrored appearance, a high-gloss finish, opaque and transparent colors, high-speed heat sealing, destruct seals and custom coating options, PD is told.

Released in the spring of 2002, EnerGel pens come in two types: one with a silver and one with a metallic blue outer shell. The blister cards are made from SBS paperboard. Koch adds, "It's important that the pens' outer-shell metallic colors are exactly the same as the blister cards, and they are." Blister cards are printed in seven to 10 colors on a flexo press.

Metallic caution
At first, Pentel had some concerns about how the inks would lay on the metallic blister card. Dot worked with Pentel's art department and determined that coating the metallic blister cards with white ink before printing any of the colors would make the colors appear clearer. The heavy, opaque white coating reduces the metallic color and helps produce a truer color, PD is told.

Koch says, "Historically, designers and manufacturers have been leery of the production problems that metallic foil can cause." A big challenge is the color reproduction, but applying the blisters to the cards is another. Glues do not adhere well to the metallic substrate, and the thermoform and product tend fall from the card.

Dot uses proprietary inks–the whole blister-card system is proprietary–that are not typical for the blister-card business, PD is informed. A heat-seal coating is applied to the top of the ink

A computer screen shows the artwork and ink layers for the EnerGel pack.

to make it soft. Dot uses soft inks to withstand the heat needed to secure the packages in the blister-sealing stage. Jack Fuechsl, technical director for Dot Packaging Group, adds, "That way, the metallic blister cards create a strong bond when the blister and product are applied to the card. Our metallic stock allows heat to penetrate below the substrate to create a consistent fiber seal. Also, evidence of product tampering is clear when the bond is broken."

Additionally, Target Stores require that all writing instruments that it merchandises be color-coded with a 1/4-in. stripe at the bottom of the package that designates the type of item in the package, for customer convenience. For the EnerGel pens sold at Target, the pack has a specific turquoise stripe. The pen retails for $2.95.

When viewed from an artistic and promotional standpoint, the ink technology developed by Dot results in eye-grabbing graphics and interesting special effects. The white coating, under the colors, creates a 3D effect that makes the graphics stand out on the retail rack. Also, the transparent inks allow the silvery metallized card to show through. "Typically, a combination of transparent and opaque inks is used to create special effects," comments John Rissman, Dot Packaging Group's prepress specialist. Also, critical attention is paid to the ink/water balance and drying properties of the inks used.

The drawing board
During the development stage for the blister card, a prototype was provided to give a physical representation of the ink colors for review to Pentel. The color proofs appeared on the same paperboard that was eventually used. A board's thickness at Dot can vary from .014 to .028, depending upon the application; the actual thickness for the Pentel blister card is proprietary. Other

An operator at Dot Packaging checks the 28340-in. blister-card sheet. Dot offers a combination-run program that allows for unlimited order amounts.

adjustments were made to compensate for the typical dot gain on the silvery board, where ink lays or floats on the substrate's surface.

At this point, the design-development team decides whether to send a blister-card prototype to the customer or to refine the graphics. In metallized environments, this can take many revisions because the image cannot be viewed digitally. A digital image will not show dot gain or a 3D effect. The metallized board can make colors darker, and Dot designs graphics to compensate for this and for dot gain. Also, Dot's blister cards break down to paper pulp and recycle into paperstock, PD is informed.

After Pentel approved the proofs, Dot printed the blister cards on 28340-in. sheets of the metallic cardstock on one of its multicolor, presses. Fuechsl adds,"We offer a combination-run program, maximizing press efficiency, that allows for unlimited order amounts and unlimited designs using multiple skus in die-cut, as well as standard shapes. The Pentel cards are die-cut on high-speed die-cutting machines and are then stripped, packed and shipped to Pentel."

From there, Pentel uses a proprietary six-station rotary blister-sealer to apply thermoformed blisters to the cards. Pentel uses 75-ga thermoforms from various suppliers for the EnerGel packaging.

Marked for success
Connecting with a knowledgeable and innovative partner helps to promote a cutting-edge blister card, Fuechsl says. "Pentel does a great job with graphics. They understand the unique aspects of ink densities and ink systems as applied to blister cards. We receive graphic files from Pentel that come with black on one side and all the other colors–special colors and spot colors–on the other side. Silver metallic within the board can be tinted with transparent color or contrasted with an opaque color to create an endless array of blister-card looks while providing the production performance of conventional blister cards," he adds.

Steve Koch concludes, "We've had no problems whatsoever with anything we've printed on the metallic blister cards. The cards look fantastic. We have used Dot for more than five years, and we're very happy with all of their products, printing and service."

Card converting: Dot Packaging Group, 630/879-0121. Circle No. 233.


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