2020 has no doubt been a challenging year for us all. Looking back on these past twelve months though, we are happy to see all the interesting advances and exciting innovations made in the print industry nonetheless!

2020 might have been a year dominated by the global pandemic, but it also was a year full of print revolution and groundbreaking innovations. To make sure those advances don’t get lost – and to hopefully give you a more positive outlook on the future – we have gathered the most interesting and exciting articles of our drupa blog for you!

Shaping the Future

In 2020, 3D printing was everywhere! In design, it was a valuable asset for Adidas’ new running shoe and for HorizON, they combined the groundbreaking print technology with traditional Italian glass-making. 3D printing changed the world by creating the first-ever community of 3D printed houses for poor families in Mexico. It started a food revolution with the first 3D printed vegan steak. 3D printing even made it to space: When NASA goes back to the moon in 2024, the new lunar base might be built using astronauts‘ urine and moon dust. Researchers from Norway’s Østfold University College found out that these materials are capable of withstanding enormous weights while retaining their structure when used to form samples in a 3D printer. They even survive repeated freeze-thaw cycles without breaking. But that is not all, 3D printing might even conquer Mars. A first step toward 3D printing in space was taken by installing a 3D printer on the International Space Station in 2016 and in an interview with the Observer, Made in Space president Andrew Rush says that 3D printing can make even Elon Musk’s dream of landing a million people on the Red Planet by 2050 a reality.

Experts see 3D printing being used pretty much in every product development process in the near future. It is already entering a new phase, the phase of mass production. The next Industrial Revolution seems to be very close and 3D printing is quite literally shaping the future.

Sensors Finding Their Way Into Various Areas

When it comes to future technologies and functional printing, “sensors” seem to be the number one buzz word in 2020. A team of researchers led by Francesco Greco developed inkjet-based “tattoo electrodes”, revolutionising brain signal measurement. Engineers even developed a new, heat-free sintering process that allows to print wearable sensors directly onto the human skin. But we didn’t just find new ways to use printable sensors for humans to find new, convenient ways to monitor human body functions, we also found a way to secure supply chains with printable sensors: Chromatic Technologies, Inc. (CTI) created printable thermochromic ink to help ensure the safety of pharma products and vaccines. Keeping the supply chain for pharmaceutical and medical products stable and secure has always been an especially challenging task, not only do producers and suppliers need to maintain the cold chain, they also have to prevent tampering and ensure the authentication of the products every step of the way. Those new printable sensors are able to detect temperature changes like freezing, thawing and gradual warming, as well as tampering and even authentication. The effects of COVID-19 and the upcoming challenge of producing and distributing the vaccine all over the world, have reminded all of us of how pressing the need for a secure supply chain actually is for our everyday life.

A Story of Sustainability: Adapting to Customers’ Demands

In packaging production, sustainability turned out to be the top trend of 2020. In addition to the usual industry 4.0 and workflow automation advances, it was one of the most discussed topics of this print sector and showed promising advances these past twelve months.

Food packaging has been criticised a lot in recent years, so it comes as no surprise that we saw a rise in innovative sustainable food packaging options right at the beginning of the year. Sustainability rose to its prominence by being the top priority of both consumers and retailers which signified a huge shift in the market. In an attempt to make packaging more eco-friendly, paper became a new, yet familiar packaging trend! But all in all, almost every company tried to play its part to go with the mantra of the green revolution “reduce, reuse, recycle” by focusing on circular economy and leading packaging materials back into the recycling circuit.

But combating the challenges facing the packaging industry will take more than just a nice new coat of green. The e-commerce sector has proven to not only be a chance of growth for the packaging industry but also a challenge: Customers’ demands call not only for eco-friendly alternatives, but also for more flexibility which requires improved management systems that in the end pay off in every area of our industry.

We are looking forward to seeing what the creative minds in companies, research institutions, start-ups, agencies and associations have in store for us in 2021!

What were your print highlights in 2020? Which advances are you most proud of? Let us know in the comment section!

Leave A Comment