Embossing Impacts Form and Function

Diamond Packaging, Rochester, NY, knows the value of an embossed package. In April, the converter took “Best of Show” honors in the annual competition sponsored by the National Paperbox Assn. (paperbox.org). (See the May 2004 issue of PFFC, p53, for more info.)

In addition, the converter also boasts two 2003 Gold awards and one Bronze award garnered from entering the annual Gold Leaf award competition, sponsored by the Foil Stamping and Embossing Assn. (fsea.com).

Though Diamond's award winners were produced with graphic enhancements such as die-cutting and high-end printing, the three award-winning packages were embossed, illustrating that many “winning” packages employ this enhancement technique.

Yet embossing is not limited to aesthetic utilization these days. “It's no longer just a value-added [component] for appearance,” says John Pasquale III, senior VP at New Era Converting Machinery, Paterson, NJ (neweraconverting.com). “I think it has very functional uses as well.”

One area in which the functionality of embossing plays a rather big roll seems an unlikely place — on the highway.

Pasquale says today, deep optical-grade embossing techniques are important functionalities in the lighting and safety industries. “If you're familiar with the road-safety signage you see on highways, like the yellow markers placed in the middle of the road, many of those markers are produced with a deep-embossed process — the angle at which the web is embossed has to do with how the light is refracted,” explains Pasquale.

Far from the highway, nearer to, say, your baby's or grandbaby's bottom, embossing also can provide a better-performing product, says Brad Foster, VP of marketing of the Engraving Group of Standex Intl., Salem, NH, which includes OEM embossing machinery lines BF Perkins (bfperkins.com) and Eastern Engraving (easternengraving.com).

“Many times, you're trying to [get both aesthetic and functional value] when you emboss. For instance, in a baby wipe, you're putting a design in there that has lambs, ducks, or bears, but these patterns also help to bond or bulk up the material.”

Pasquale says embossing also is making an impression in the electronics industry, particularly in applications in which thin “textured” or “finished” films are utilized for the end product.

“We're finding more and more of this today in the electronics industry, for example, in protective films and coverings,” adds Pasquale.

While embossing seems to be making its functional properties more pronounced, embossing machine manufacturers seem to agree the overall technology growth has been incremental. “It's the continued requirement for versatility, such as quick-change rolls,” reports Foster. “Also, the ease of operation with computerized control boards. In the old days you needed an operator there that could tweak every little setting. Today, you have solid-state panel boards that just let them punch in numbers, and everything will run from one central location.”

As in their other converting processes, today's embossing converters require faster speeds (when possible) and more efficient production changes from their embossing-machine technology, say both OEMs interviewed for this article. Pasquale says he thinks that direction will continue. “I think higher speeds and wider widths on thinner webs is where it seems to be going.”

In addition to the embossing machine and roll manufacturers, you can get information about the current and future status of embossing in the newly updated 2nd edition of A Different Breed: The Designer's Guide to Foil Stamping and Embossing, which is available for purchase on FSEA's Web site (fsea.com/bookstore/DesignersGuidebook.asp).

There you can peruse all of 2003's Gold Leaf competition winners. Among the embossing converters awarded in the Gold Leaf contest for their work were: HUB Folding Box (White Diamonds box, one-pass embossing, Best of Show); Bert-Co (Business Plan Writer carton, single-level bevel emboss, Silver Leaf award), and Behrmann Printing Co. (Ford label, foil stamped and embossed to register with brass sculptured die, Bronze Leaf award).

Restrictions of time and space limit the number of companies, products, and trends that we can discuss in these reports. For additional information, see PFFC's features and departments each month, consult the June Buyers Guide, and check pffc-online.com.


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