Feature article

Coke explores printed electronics

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VP Editor Emeritus, Packaging World
A recent campaign by Coca-Cola Central and Eastern Europe, though limited in scope, bears watching because it involves an intriguing use of printed electronics.

The technology behind the campaign comes from Berlin-based Inuru, a specialist in Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED). On labels from Inuru applied by Inuru to a limited edition of 700 glass bottles, the iconic Coca-Cola logo lit up when touched. The 330 mL bottles were sent to Coca-Cola employees and “influencers” as part of Coke’s #BeSanta campaign.

“When I saw samples of this technology, I just fell in love with it,” says Georgi Blaskov, senior brand manager Coca-Cola CEE. He readily acknowledges that using printed electronics like this in a mainstream commercial application would be cost prohibitive “at this stage.” But he adds this: “We are certainly interested in future developments that could drive the cost down and eventually permit the use of this technology in at least seasonal or promotional mainstream packaging activities.”

Inuru CEO Marcin Ratajczak says that for this project, the labels were produced in two steps. First, a trusted partner from the label converting space, All4Labels, used conventional inks and printing technology to produce pressure-sensitive paper labels bearing all the typography and colors typically found on a Coke label. Rolls of these labels, including release liner, were sent to Inuru, where paper labels printed by Inuru were laminated on top. “We print both the light source and the energy source,” says Ratajczak. “When the label is touched, it’s like a circuit is closed between energy source and light source, which causes the Coca-Cola label to light up.”

Ratajczak describes this as the first OLED product in a packaging application brought to a sizeable audience by a major brand. “The potential of our technology lies in the fact that we can scale the production easily to billions of units because our inks make it possible to print OLED at a fraction of the cost of state-of-the-art technologies used in the production of electronics products like TV screens,” says Ratajczak. “Not only can we get the price down to cents per package, these are organic electronics, which means the technology is environmentally sustainable. And illumination, as you see in these beverage labels, is just the start. We believe we will one day be able to bring video onto packaging materials.” Click here to see how the Coca-Cola logo lights up.

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