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Thermochromic Tape and its Uses in Temperature-Sensitive Packaging

“Whenever you see an opportunity to create a WOW moment, act on it” -  Shep Hyken, Customer Experience Expert.

Predictable is “boring”. When you’re out there, trying hard to make your product stand out, every element of surprise helps. And, although you least expect it, tapes could add the intricate level of detail to push your brand apart. 

In packaging, different types of tapes have distinct applications. For example, tamper-evident tapes are used for high-security shipments. Or, gummed paper tapes make for an eco-friendly packaging option. 

But, if there’s a contender that adds a new dimension to taping, it is “thermochromic tape”. 

Thermochromic Tapes - Definition

Thermochromic tapes are adhesive tapes that change colour with temperature changes. The tapes themselves aren’t different. They use a temperature-sensitive colour coating. This layer shifts from one colour to another depending on the temperature. Thermochromic tapes make it effortless to monitor the temperature of the adhered surface. You can know the package temperature instantly.

Thermochromic Tapes - Uses

With the thermochromic pigment market estimated to reach $2,612.9 million by 2022, the tapes are shooting up in popularity. That’s because thermochromic tapes add a function. They serve a purpose. 

They are used to:

  • Verify cold temperatures
  • Identify package tampering
  • Prevent counterfeiting
  • Improve branding and buyer experience
  • Boost popularity
  • Improve food packaging safety

These tapes have different applications right from storage, transportation, and packaging of temperature-sensitive consumer goods to environmental monitoring, quality control, branding, engagement elements on the packaging and so on. 

Thermochromic Tapes - Working

Thermochromic tapes are like any other plastic tape. Except that they are printed using inks that exhibit thermochromism. Thermochromism is the property of a substance to change colour upon exposure to a different temperature. 

For example, Coors Light Beer Cans have a coolness indicator on the can itself. When the can is cold, the graphics turn a brighter colour, as opposed to a warm can. 

coors-light-thermochromic-indicator
Coolness indicator on a Coors Light Beer Can

Another example is the wetness indicator on Pampers diaper. The change in colour of the indicator lets one know the diaper is soiled.

Types of Thermochromic Inks

Now, thermochromic paints, tapes, and labels generally make use of two types of inks. The choice of ink depends on the particular application of the tape.

1. Leuco Dyes - For Quick Indication 

Leuco dyes are the more commonly-used printing inks in temperature-sensitive tapes. They are useful in areas where temperature accuracy is not mandatory. Leuco dyes illustrate if something is too hot, too cold or if the temperature is alright. Novelty items, kettles, bath toys and so on, use such dyes. 

2. Liquid Crystal Inks - For Precise Indication

Liquid crystal inks have crystalline properties. They change their colour at very specific temperatures. Such inks are useful when an exact indication is important. For example, in medical packaging, refrigerators, thermometers, and so on. 

However, thermochromic liquid crystals are not widely used as they are difficult to work with.

Thermochromic Tapes in Packaging

In packaging, thermochromic tapes can engage the audience or add a premium convince feature. 

For instance, certain pharmaceutical drugs or food packages need to be stored at a certain temperature. Such tapes can easily indicate the temperature. In beverage packaging such as beer cans or coffee cups, thermochromic tapes can indicate if the containers are sufficiently cold or hot. 

Specific packaging uses include:

1. Counterfeit Prevention

Product authenticity is important. With an increase in the need for security features in packaging, thermochromic tapes act as an alternative to a hologram and other security seals. Tapes with thermochromic inks that permanently change colour are useful for making tamper-evident packaging. They can also incorporate branding details but are more relevant because of the purpose they serve. 

holographic-integrated-temperature-sensitive-feature-security-sticker
Image Courtesy: Indiamart

These are especially useful in the packaging of pharmaceutical products. Also, considering the recent concern in food delivery owing to the Zomato incident, tamper-proof tapes can be used for the delivery of sensitive packages as well.

2. Novel Packaging for Brands

Coca cola thermochromic labels
Image Courtesy: Dieline

Research says, 2 out of 3 consumers are willing to switch to a brand that provides a guarantee for hot or cold. That’s the exact sentiment Coca-Cola Turkey played on. The company introduced packaging for its canned beverage. The can changes colour when the beverage is chilled and is ready for consumption. You can achieve the same effect using thermochromic tapes and labelling on the packaging. 

3. Interactive Marketing

Thermochromic tapes and labelling are great for making interactive packaging. Such packaging encourages consumers to take the product off the shelf and explore it. Products that unexpectedly change colour when held in hand are sure to grab attention.

Make the Right Choice for Your Business! Explore 5 Types of Packaging Tapes & Labels

Final Word

Whether you think they’re cool, exciting, fun, or simply necessary, thermochromic tapes add a layer of unique function to packaging.

They have a wide application — right from being making the packaging interactive to being an innovative security packaging solution.

What’s your take on thermochromic tapes? Would you consider using them? We’d like to know.

You might also like to read about different packaging printing methods.

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