We visited glass manufacturer Owens-Illinois’ O-I Innoval site in Chazelles-sur-Lyon (Loire, France), home to the first O-I Expressions line that began production in May of this year.
The US glassmaker has invested €5m in its first dedicated line in France for O-I Expressions, the personalized decoration technique on glass via digital printing. France was a natural choice, according to O-I, as the wine and spirits market seems to have the most potential given consumer appetite for personalized products. The solution allows for printing in relief, with great detailing, thanks to varnishes offering a qualitative tactile effect. "With O-I Expressions and the diversity offered by digital printing, we can offer our customers truly differentiated bottles to boost their brand visibility," remarks Robert Gachot, Southwest Europe manager at O-I. While direct digital printing is not new, this marks the first time it has been used on glass bottles on such a scale.
To develop the technique, O-I works with Dekron technology, developed by industrialist Krones, but also relies on the expertise of its Innoval entity, which specializes in decoration and printing on glass packaging. The L-shaped printing production line is a "factory within the factory", says Olivier Dangmann, innovation manager at O-I. Depending on the complexity and number of colors of the printed decoration, production capacity ranges from 500 to 4,000 bottles per hour. Only cylindrical shapes can be customized, but all formats, from small jars to champagne magnums, are possible.
The relief effect is of particular interest to the luxury sector, says O-I global innovation platform director Mélianthe Leeman: "We’re in contact with major spirits groups that are interested in this emerging technology for limited series or premium bottles customized with specific types of decoration". Wine brands have been the first to sign on; winegrowers Rhônéa chose a lace motif for its rosé Ma Belle Pomelle, a bottle previously decorated via silkscreen printing.
Other products include agency H2H's new packaging concept for a premium engine oil for Mercedes-Benz where logo and brand name appear in relief, as does a mechanic's hand print, giving the container a luxurious touch and appearance. Each bottle was also personalized with the customer's name. For Betto, a fine-foods shop in Milan, 6th agency played on the collector effect by designing a range of 26 glass jars, each with a different letter.
A second O-I Expressions line is currently in the works for 2020/2021 in North America, another target market with strong potential, according to the supplier.