Cold Foil Printing vs. Hot Foil Stamping: What’s The Difference?

cosmetics packaging with cold foil printing

The metallic effect on this cosmetics packaging was created with cold foil printing.

Hot foil stamping has been around for centuries.  With this method, a die uses both heat and pressure to adhere the foil and a heat-activated adhesive to the substrate.

Cold foil printing is a relatively new technology.  Inkjet print heads jet UV-activated adhesive onto a substrate, and foil is briefly pressed onto the substrate and passed under a UV light.  The adhesive cures instantly, and the foil is stripped away, remaining only where there was adhesive.

At EPS we are excited about the decorative possibilities of cold foil printing.  To us, the usual advantages of digital inkjet (the potential for variable data, or print-runs of just one unit) only add to the advantages of cold foil printing versus hot stamping.  In addition, heat and pressure are not viable options for some substrates. Furthermore, drop-on-demand technology means gradients are possible.

Advantages of Cold Foil Printing vs. Hot Stamping:

  • Heat, pressure not viable options for some substrates
  • Drop-on-Demand means gradients are possible
  • Lower tooling costs
  • Less make-ready and downtime
  • Inline process vs. secondary process
    • Colors, varnishes, coatings can be applied inline over foil
    • Reduced need to store semi-finished goods;
    • Faster speed-to-market

But the biggest single advantage of cold foil printing over hot stamping is the lack of tooling costs.  With hot stamping, whether you are making one part or a million, you first need to make a stamping die.  With cold foil printing, there is no need for a die, and thanks to variable data capabilities, a part decorator could have a production run of a million parts, each one marked differently.

Because there is no die to change, make-ready and downtime is much less with cold foil.  According to some estimates, hot stamp average changeover time can take anywhere from a half-hour to 8 hours, whereas changeovers on a digital inkjet print machine can be as simple as a few clicks of a mouse.

Other advantages of cold foil printing revolve around the fact that cold foil is an inline process as opposed to a secondary, offline process, meaning final part decoration can occur immediately after the part pops out of an injection mold.  Not only does this eliminate the need to store and handle semi-finished goods, but colors, varnishes, and other coatings can be applied inline over the foil in a seamless, integrated process.  All of these factors lower cost and increase speed-to-market.

You can read about how one company converted to cold-foil printing here.

Want to find out more about cold foil printing?  Drop us a line!

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