Nanotechnology has been around for a while—the term was coined in the 1980s—but new technologies mean that there’s more nanotech around than ever before. Nano-Packaging and printing are finally getting into the game—but how will nano-technology change flexography?
What Is It?
Nanotechnology is basically the manipulation of structure at the molecular level. There’s already over 800 commercially available products that incorporate nanotechnology, according to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, a federal organization which researches and develops nanotechnology applications.
The Market is Growing
According to a report by consulting firm Priority Metrics Group, the market for nano-packaging will double by 2014:
In 2004, nano-related food & beverage packaging represented US$ 860 million in sales from more than 250 nano-packaging products. The total nano-enabled food and beverage packaging market has grown to over $4 billion in 2009 and is forecasted to grow to over $7 billion by 2014. Active technology currently represents the largest share of the market, and will likely continue to do so by 2014.
What’s Driving The Demand?
From snack packaging to military equipment, research on potential nanotechnology uses runs the gamut from the everyday products to more sophisticated deployments.
Environmental Concerns: Plastic in landfills has become a hot-button environmental issue, and there are new types of nano-packaging being developed to replace plastic food containers with options that are biodegradable.
Food Shelf Life & Protection: Nanotechnology in food product packaging can preserve food for longer periods of time, protect it from spoilage and tampering, and indicate the presence of bacteria, pesticides and contaminants.
Functionality: Nanotechnology is being used to make everything from eyeglasses to textiles tougher—even to the point of offering low-level ballistic protection.
Nanotech fans say that nanotechnology is “green” but many environmentalists don’t agree. Reportedly, nano-particles in food packaging can enter the consumer’s blood stream or travel from one organ to another. The FDA has called for more studies by food and packaging companies on potential health effects.
The Newest Printing Technology—Nanography
Benny Landa invented commercial inkjet printing in the 1990s, and his latest venture was unveiled last year. Called Nanography and Nanographic Printing, his Israel-based company Landa claims their nanoprinters and ink print high-quality, high-speed, sharp dots on plain paper and any plastic film or label stock.
At print show Drupa in Dusseldorf, where the new printers were launched, Landa said that his nano-products aren’t intended to replace traditional, long-run offset printing, but instead offer an alternative for shorter runs.
[quote]“But the market is demanding shorter and shorter run lengths, and that’s where nanography comes in to enable print service providers to produce those short to medium run lengths economically at offset speeds,” he said. [/quote]
Expect other print technology companies to follow in Landa’s footsteps with competitive products looking for marketshare.
Learn more about nanotechnology at nano.gov’s Nanotechnology 101.