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DENSISSIMA™: High Speed Letterpress Quality, Pressure Sensitive Labels – Finally!

By Joe Chauncey, BOXWOOD and Stephan Martinez, Trysk Print Solutions

As wine quality continues to improve, designers seek new ways to convey the quality in the bottle with innovative, expressive package design. In the early years, we achieved this with offset and flexographic printing processes and a wide range of pressure sensitive papers, inks and foils that could be augmented with embossing plates. Then came decorated bottles, oven-cured ceramic paint that allowed designers to think three-dimensionally as the bottle’s surface became the painter’s canvas. More recently, digital presses have made dramatic inroads and their quality and flexibility have improved our design options.

Currently, the heaviest Estate-grade pressure sensitive label paper is #70. If care is taken in the design of the emboss – broad, soft, inner or outer bevels – one can gently stretch the paper to get maximum relief. However, applying too much pressure to increase the height of the emboss results in paper fatigue at the edges. The paper is literally cut and when applied to the bottle can catch on the backing or downstream show wrinkling at these stress points especially in cold storage. In addition, increased
pressure between the adhesive layer and the carrier can create dispensing issues during application by, in effect, marrying the two layers together.

Much of what we see and experience on the bottle is a result of what can be produced on high-speed presses and placed on the bottle with high-speed bottling lines. Time is money and wineries count pennies when it comes to the cost per bottle. If a winery’s production is more than a few hundred cases it was not possible to have a label on thick paper with deep letterpress relief, crafted one label at a time and hand-applied…until now.

For this experiment, BOXWOOD turned to Trysk Print Solutions. Trysk, collaborating with Wausau Coated Products, is the company that brought a material and adhesive process to the market that would not discolor and fall off the bottle when placed in an ice bucket to chill and can be implemented on any face stock a customer chooses. They named it IceBreaker™. It took more than three years to develop. After its one-year exclusive license to Trysk, Wausau renamed the paper EverOpaqueTM and it is available to all printers.

For the past 16 months, BOXWOOD and Trysk have been working on an idea that would result in heavier, pressure-sensitive label paper designed to achieve the one-off letterpress quality labels mentioned above. BOXWOOD completed a package design for RR Poet in Walla Walla that would be the first test of the new heavier paper and they were on board with this idea.

We started the experiment by laminating two 70# papers together – the paper on top was always our desired finish paper. Various papers and foils were tried as the underlayment. Initial results were positive as dramatic changes in the surface plane of the paper were achieved when embossed and debossed. This enhanced both the tactile feel of the label and the reflected light and shadow at the edges of the emboss. There were just two problems, small random wrinkles as the paper was flattened
to laminate the two layers together, then rolled back on the core, and then flattened again to run through the bottling line. There was also some delamination occurring after the label had been on the bottle for a period of time. The culprit was the adhesive which was not capable of unifying the two layers into a single paper as well as the delta in expansion rates of the two materials.

Wausau, responding to a variety of ideas from Trysk, began laminating papers together using their production equipment and developed a 163# paper with a Cotton Courtyard face that appears and acts like a homogenous single layer paper. Trysk has named this new exclusive paper Densissima™ and has a one-year exclusive right to its use.

The next step was to test it by die-cutting, embossing and debossing and then place those samples onto bottles and run through vigorous testing. We needed to know that a paper twice as heavy as anyone had ever used would roll off the backing and on to the bottle and perform after application as the industry expects. Thicker paper could have a strong memory which would cause it to flatten out after application and lift off the bottle over time. Trysk created test blanks in advance of a first run and worked with Wausau’s stringent laboratory on making sure that adhesive tack, laydown over time, humidity chamber, and accelerated aging tests all checked out. In addition, some bottles were refrigerated and others were placed in a temperature-controlled storage room to test adhesion. The result: no wrinkles, no delamination, and no lift-off.

We ran the final labels at Trysk on their digital offset HP Indigo press. They are 6.25 inches long, debossed, use CMYK inks, metallic UV ink, and are gold foil hot-stamped. Boxwood has designed labels for three wineries in anticipation of Densissima™. In addition, Trysk Print Solutions plans on using this paper extensively in the coming months with various projects already in the design phase.