CHICAGO — One of the biggest growth markets for printers and packaging firms is, not surprisingly, one of the most eye-catching for consumers: holographic labeling.
Several printers at NPE 1997 in Chicago counted it among their hot markets, and said because it is still relatively new and uncommon, it helps to boost sales and shelf placement of consumer products. Besides the threedimensional images usually considered to be holography, such packaging includes shiny geometric patterns adorning containers.
Holographic packaging played a big role in helping an Aquafresh toothpaste product boost its sales at least threefold, and helped Coors beer get better shelf placement and point of sale purchase, said Aaron Hoffman, manager of corporate communications and investor relations for CFC International Inc., a Chicago Heights, Ill., maker of specialty chemical coatings.
``It is getting a pull from the consumer,'' said Paul Cote, marketing manager with Foilmark Manufacturing Corp., a Newburyport, Mass., maker of equipment for hot stamping and pad-transfer printing. ``Packaging with a brilliant foil tends to get more attention.''
Gift wrap, candy and gum that use holography have experienced dramatic boosts in sales, in part because of such packaging, he said.
``Obviously, it's not all the packaging — they heavily promoted it,'' he said. ``But I think this is a big part of it.''
Technological improvements in the embossing process in the past three years have been a boon to holographic printing, he said.
A factor governing the pad-printing market now is the decline of pad-printing prices, by about 15 percent in the past 18 months, said Stephen Braig, president of Teca-Print USA Corp. in Billerica, Mass. Teca is one of the largest makers of pad printers in the world.
``Quite frankly, I think the market is somewhat oversaturated,'' he said.
More manufacturing in Southeast Asia and Mexico, coupled with growth of in-mold decoration, is pushing prices down, Braig said. The U.S. market has nearly 30 manufacturers and distributors, he said.
But he added that he expects big gains in the Mexican market, as the growth of the U.S.-Mexican border areas begins to spill out.
In spite of Braig's estimation of the growth of in-mold printing, one company in the Chicago area said it expects to boost sales rapidly with post-mold printing. Mark-It Co. in Batavia, Ill., is expanding into a 22,000-square-foot facility and doubling its capacity. It recently acquired a four-cylinder press and accelerated dryers, said Chris Dixon, sales manager.
The firm will target rotational molding processes and polyolefins, which traditionally are harder to decorate, with a process that fuses the decoration to the plastic with a strong adhesive, he said. With in-mold printing, a damaged graphic means the entire part must be scrapped, but post-mold printing means the graphic can be removed and the part preserved, Dixon said.
The firm does less than 10 percent of its business with plastics now, but hopes to do 20 percent by the end of 1997 and 30 percent next year, he said.
A once-slumping end market that now is growing about 7-10 percent a year is printed patterns on furniture and remanufactured housing, CFC's Hoffman said.
Printing on cellular telephones and computers continues to be a strong market for Carol Stream, Ill.-based pad printer Trans Tech America Inc. Trans Tech, a unit of Glenview, Ill.-based Illinois Tool Works, also is seeing continued strong business from printing on golf balls, one of its larger markets, said Heinz Grob, vice president and general manager of Trans Tech.
The new technologies of laser marking and digital printing have yet to make a serious dent in ITW's business, said Thomas Mann, president of Decorating Systems Businesses.
ITW revealed several major acquisitions at the show, including the purchase of two units of Meyercord Co. and a large German pad printer, Marlock GmbH.