AB InBev Is Using Direct Object Printing to Imprint Label Designs Directly on Beer Bottles
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewing company, is switching it up and experimenting with new labels. Instead of the usual paper labels, the company is testing direct object printing from Tattoo Alpha Plant in Haasrode, Leuven, Belgium, which essentially imprints the labels directly on the bottle. The new "tattooed" labels are for Beck’s Artist Series, a collaboration between AB InBev’s Global Innovation and Technology Center and six up-and-coming artists. The limited run features nine total designs and 200,000 bottles for U.K. release.
Direct object printing has been around for a bit now, but its use by a major international brand could mean that it's approaching wider adoption. Screen Printing magazine has some background on how the technology is evolving:
Inkjet product decoration is not a new phenomenon. As mentioned, small flatbed inkjet systems have been on the market for many years, successfully decorating promotional items such as lighters, mobile phone cases, and USB sticks. But recently, we’ve seen several new vendors enter the market, offering both small- and medium-sized systems that are more advanced both in productivity and capability. Some of these units can print bigger items than before; however, most significantly, we’re seeing that many systems are now capable of printing onto curved objects—tubes, cylinders, and bottles—opening up new opportunities in product customization and personalization at a low entry cost.
Although most inkjet printers designed for product decoration cannot compete with the productivity and cost-effectiveness of screen and pad printing, the latest generation of production inkjet systems go beyond the short-run argument for adopting digital. Today, some of these systems can print 15,000 bottles per hour and have the capability to reach up to 36,000 bottles.
"Direct object printing on glass is a revolution in print, and AB InBev is pioneering this technology,” said Simon Gerdesmann, manager of the Tattoo Alpha Print site, according to MarketWatch. “This digital embossing is one of the most unusual capabilities of this technology. Colorless ink is used to [mimic] traditional glass embossing, bringing a new dimension to bottle decoration—consumers will feel and experience a bottle in a completely different way."
Back in June, we covered Smart Cups, a beverage startup that uses a specialized technique to print flavoring directly at the bottom of their cups, making it a “printed” beverage. While this isn’t the same printing technique used on the Beck’s bottles, it’s still cool to see how beverage containers are evolving.