Packages as works of art

Is that still a package, or is it a work of art? When I was holding a bottle from the O-I : Expressions series in my hand for the first time, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. Instead of a label, the glass container featured an elaborate work of art that was not only a feast for the eyes but could also be felt by running my fingertips over it: filigree structures that gave the visual and tactile impression as if the bottle were wrapped in lace.

Even though I knew beforehand how this effect is created – I couldn’t really believe it. You see, what for the uninitiated appears to be an elaborate glass embossing is in actual reality “only” a printed image that is produced on a DecoType machine from Dekron.

O-I, the world’s biggest manufacturer of glass containers, was among the first companies to take note of the technology developed by the still-young Krones subsidiary. “We thought about what the future of glass decoration would look like, and hit upon digital direct printing,” explains Melianthe Leeman, Global Innovation Platform Leader at O-I. The starting point of these deliberations was a significant change in the packaging market that O-I had observed, and which was attributable to the high pressure of competition in the food and beverage sector. From new variants and designs right through to completely individualised products – today’s consumers want to be surprised and enthused afresh time and again. Needless to say, any producer wishing to play this game with the requisite creativity and promptitude needs the appropriate tool enabling him to do this.

Individual branding for small batches

And this was precisely what O-I found at Dekron because thanks to their DecoType technology it is possible to change the bottle decoration at the touch of a button and to cost-efficiently produce even ultra-small batches. O-I exploits this advantage, for example, in order to supply relatively small customers filling their products in standard bottles with personalised packages. For this purpose, both logo and brandname are simply printed on the bottle by means of digital embossing, with the result looking deceptively similar to glass embossing.

But the options provided by digital decoration go far, far beyond that. To discover them and to push their limits, that’s what O-I’s team has set out to do: “In the initial tests, we were still printing designs that looked like traditional labels,” recalls Melianthe Leeman. “But the more familiar we became with the technology, the more clearly we realised: instead of printing rectangles on bottles, we should preferably be developing new designs specifically tailored to direct printing and its possibilities.”

A new technology unfolds its talents

The result is packages that provide the consumer with a multi-sensory brand experience: designs offering both visual and tactile effects – thus exerting quite a special attraction of their own. The remarkable thing here is this: the capability of creating such works of art had already been completely incorporated in the DecoType technology. But the entire scope of the concomitant options provided was only revealed in actual practical operation at O-I. Even the people who had developed this technology were flabbergasted by the talents that the glass-container manufacturer managed to extract from the Dekron technology.

You would like to find out why? Just read the whole story in the upcoming krones magazine (the 2/20 and 3/20 issue will appear on 15 May), and a slightly shortened version of it in our references on the Krones website.