Sheet-fed Cold Foil Finding Niche with Folding Cartons

by Jeff Peterson, editor-in-chief, PostPress
Many companies have been making the switch from more expensive metallic board to cold foil applications.

The use of cold foil for large-format sheet-fed applications has certainly been on the rise in the last few years. Folding carton companies have been a prime candidate for cold foil technology. Why? First and foremost, the technology in equipment, foil and adhesives has continued to improve, thereby creating an efficient workflow for carton printers. This has led to a great deal of confidence that cold foil can be a reliable decorative choice for many packaging applications.

“The process of cold foiling is now recognized as a serious alternative to other systems,” commented Tim Self, president of Compact Foilers, manufacturer of cold foil and Cast and Cure™ equipment headquartered in the United Kingdom. “Foil manufacturers have improved the foil quality and consistency, and there also have been improvements with foil saving capabilities of the equipment.”

Increased confidence in cold foil technology has led many packaging manufacturers to begin replacing metallic foil board with the cold foil process, saving significant costs and helping with lead times as well.

“One of our largest customers had items that required foil board, which would have resulted in extended lead times, not to mention being quite expensive,” explained Jennifer Wozny, marketing communications manager for Rohrer Corporation, a blister card and folding carton manufacturer based in Wadsworth, Ohio. Having a close relationship with a printer in Germany (that was an early adopter of offset cold foil technology) gave Rohrer a better understanding of the benefits of the technology. “After evaluating our options, we knew that cold foil would be a good fit for us and our customer base,” she added.

Even lower-end packaging has begun taking advantage of opportunities provided by cold foil technology.

Jim Rutt, president of Keystone Paper & Box Co., a folding carton producer in South Windsor, Connecticut, added cold foil technology to help his company differentiate itself from the competition. “In the carton packaging business, there are not many things that we can speak to when seeking out new business,” he explained. “We all sell quality, service and the standard capabilities. Cold foil and Cast and Cure helps us bring something new to the table.”

Most cold foil equipment is set up to apply Cast and Cure as well. Cast and Cure applies a clear holographic effect to the printed sheet, where cold foil uses a special tacky UV coating to apply the foil. The Cast and Cure process lays down a special adhesive on the sheet in the areas where the holographic look will appear. However, the major difference in the process is that the Cast and Cure film is not actually applied to the sheet, and the roll can be used several times over on the same job. Rather than the foil being removed from the polyester film carrier, as with cold or hot foil, the Cast and Cure clear holographic look is achieved through micro-etched patterns in the film being pressed into the UV coating and instantly UV cured, with the pattern remaining on the printed sheet once the film is stripped away.

Potential new business with cold foil

With decreased cost potential when using cold foil vs. metallic board, folding carton companies have opened the door for more customers to consider cold foil technology. “Cold foil has attracted even lower-end packaging, such as soap boxes, pet food and breakfast cereal, especially on promotion packs,” Self said. “In many cases, cold foil has simply opened the door to more foil applications, not replaced current hot foil stamping.”

Rutt pointed out that adding cold foil/Cast and Cure equipment provided the opportunity for his compnay to land a job in the beverage carrier market. “Over time the account generated close to $250,000 in profitable revenue and gave us entry to an account we would not have had without it,” he said.

Rohrer has seen its cold foil capabilities help the company switch many of its existing customers to cold foil instead of more expensive metallic board. “We have been able to convert several customers from foil board to cold foil,” Wozny explained. “Just one pass on press delivers the high-end look without the high-end cost, making it a popular choice amongst new and existing customers, as well as setting us apart from our competition.”

Another advantage cold foil has over metallic board is the ability to reverse out the white areas on a printed layout instead of using white opaque ink, which is sometimes difficult to work with and may take more than one pass to cover up the metallic areas on the sheet.

Cold foil is not always the answer

There are many opportunities for cold foil, but it is certainly not the answer to every application. Many of the folding carton manufacturers that have added a cold foil module to a printing press have used it to help relieve capacity for their hot stamping equipment.

“Cold foil is not a direct replacement for hot foiling but an alternative process,” Self stated. If the job is predominantly longer runs and small coverage for the foiled area, then hot foil stamping is probably the better way to go.

If the customer is looking for embossing as well as foil, then hot stamping is usually the best choice because the foil and embossing can be achieved in one pass on press. However, this again depends on the overall coverage of foil the customer is looking for.


With the emergence of sheet-fed cold foil technology and the increased use of digital foil technology, metallic decorating is at an all-time high. Customers are demanding metallic decorating, and cold foil provides another alternative along with hot foil stamping and digital foil.

“The ability to offer inline foil to high-end cosmetic and confectionary accounts, among others, has generated some nice accounts with good margins and has created carton packaging that has done well for the customer,” Rutt explained.

He suggested folding carton manufacturers do their homework before investing and develop a marketing plan for the specific work cold foil technology provides. “It can make all the difference in a successful implementation.”


Rohrer Corporation – 330.335.1541,
Keystone Paper & Box Co., Inc. – 860.291.0027,
Compact Foilers LTD – +44-0-1823-283411,