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Smart packaging – fiction or reality

In the science-fiction film Minority Report, Steven Spielberg had Cornflakes packets with printed cartoon films playing on them.  Although this particular vision is still a long way off – the film is set in 2054, the technology to make this kind of thing happen is already within reach.

‘Smart packaging’, which provides additional information to consumers in different languages, can read out instruction leaflets to visually-handicapped people, or play an advertising spot on printed foil monitors. Already the road to achieving this kind of electronic wizardry is mapped out. The key is intelligent ink. The strip conductors and components are made of organic polymers which are dissolved in a liquid phase, making them processible on a kind of inkjet printer.

etiqueta rfid

RFID Label  (Photo:  Cypak)

The declared aim of the developers here is to be able to offer such a chip for use in the mass segments of the beverages industry, at a price of under one cent. Within just a few years this should be a reality. These printed RFID labels will then be able to monitor temperature accurately all the time and store and transfer data. And it´s not only this kind of passive data storage that is at the threshold of large-scale industrial manufacture, so, too, are active electronic circuits made up of transistors, resistors, LEDs and capacitors also manufactured with inkjet printers. One idea is even to supply energy from printed batteries or solar cells. That is the key to animated images or advertising jingles.

Printed electronics is opening up fascinating new potential: According to a report by market researchers NanoMarket, the market volume in electronic inks and substrates used in the manufacture of printed electronics, will rise from 1.1 billion dollars in 2008 to over 11.5 billion by 2015. And if visions can be valued in money, this shows one thing quite clearly: the smart future is already well under way.

Just what innovations are in store in the global packaging market can be seen this week from 14 September at drinktec 2009 in Munich, the world´s No. 1 fair for beverages and liquid food technology.