Back in 2021, DataLase was awarded an Innovate UK SMART grant for a year-long project commencing in March 2022. Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency, which provides money and supports organisations in making new products and services. Our project was based on the application of our revolutionary photonic printing technology to provide a label-free solution for plastic bottles in the beverage space.
As we conclude the project and share our final report with Innovate UK, this blog provides an update on what we have achieved over the year.
As you’ll be aware, our photonic printing uses laser-active pigments, which are colourless until exposed to laser energy. They can be readily incorporated at the bottle masterbatch stage at low concentrations, or as coatings, remaining colourless within or on the formed bottle until laser imaged.
The technology offers a decorating solution that does not involve labels or inks and contributes zero to plastic waste. Vital for decoration, information, serialisation and displaying anti-counterfeiting marks, plastic labels can be eliminated by laser-imaging directly onto bottles. This in turn makes a significant reduction in waste and carbon footprint across the supply chain, whilst reducing energy and transportation costs.
For PET bottles primarily used within the beverage sector, we made good progress, being able to apply black and white information directory on the bottles through our masterbatch approach. Similarly, coatings have been formulated that can be applied directly to bottles, giving single colours.
The project has also branched out from PET bottles to LDPE and HDPE versions. It is thought that doing so will mean that the technology could be used in other market segments outside of beverages, such as household goods and personal care. Testing has been done before using various coloured plastics having colourless to black DataLase pigment incorporated and laser imaged. In this, we achieved strong black colouration across a range of background colours, which opens a number of options for the market.
From an engineering perspective, it looks like our VAReLase Cup Solutions could be used to decorate plastic bottles. We trialled this successfully with DataLase coated white PET bottles. Following this, we could potentially provide a solution for paper cups and plastic cup decoration or associated containers, like bottles.
Lots of successes here, so watch this space for the final results.