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Antimicrobial laminates to become the new ‘norm’ – huge opportunity

Laminates and films, antimicrobial, with added silver (or copper & zinc) ions will become the new ‘norm’ says a leading Korean producer. Every SmartPhone, iPad, tablet, touch console, door push and possibly product labels may need to play a part in limiting the transference of viruses and bacteria. But there is more to know.

Antimicrobial silver
Silver is an effective anti-microbe agent in ionised form (courtesy World Wound & Infection Inst.)

Our article on Hexis’ Pure Zone anti-microbe laminate film has sparked many comments and it is becoming clear that this emerging sector represents a huge market opportunity for sign producers and applicators. It is a huge issue with regard to stopping the spread of Covid-19. In October, the BBC reported that Australia’s CSIRO found: “The [Covid] virus was ‘extremely robust,’ surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and both plastic and paper banknotes, when kept at 20C (68F), which is about room temperature, and in the dark.”

Stewart Kim is CEO of Neoteny which controls a specialty chemical products developer based in Korea, that offers antiviral and antibacterial films. He observes:

“Objects touched by human hands are proven sources of virus transmission. In our everyday lives, people often get infected with viruses and get illnesses caused by bacterias without our being aware of it by touching objects such as mobile devices and doorknobs.

Neoteny produces both copper and silver imbued films and each product has different strengths, as Kim details below:

  1.  Copper film is more cost effective than silver film.
  2.  Due to color and transmittance issues, Copper film is not suitable for touchscreens such as IT devices, ATM, kiosk, touchpanels and so on. Long exposure to translucent color in the screens can harm eyesight. Copper film is often not prefered in high-end applications such as hotels and department stores. Silver film is Transparent/Clear – vs – Copper which has translucent color.
  3. The durability of silver film is typically up to 1 year, while that of copper film is 2-5 mont
  4. The base material of Neoteny’s silver film is PET, (polyester) that is more expensive than other materials and is used for diverse applications such as IT, solar, insulation, packaging and so on due to its technical properties. PET has high thermal stability and high scratch resistance.
  1. PET Silver film also offers a protection function - shatter resistance - for touchscreens, in the same way that existing ‘screen protectors’ do. It is one of the key requirements for expensive IT devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs.
  2. Silver PET film uses special adhesive designed for IT displays - Normal acrylic adhesive for copper film can damage the sensitive IT displays. They should not be used especially for smartphones, tablet and notebook PCs that have delicate touchscreens.
    Lami Menu
    Menus - just one of dozens of  AM laminate uses

There are obvious applications in signage where tactile interaction happens - wayfinding, braille, POS displays, train route maps, restaurant menus etc.

In the labels sector, Jet Technologies offers its SteriLam antimicrobial film with Biomaster Ag+ additive, which has seen good success. Labeled products and packs on a supermarket shelf can receive a lot of handling, presenting another opportunity for cross-infection. Renowned label printer Hally Labels of Brisbane and Sydney now offers Biomaster labels protected this way.

Not a substitute for cleaning

However, it should be noted that antimicrobial laminates are not a substitute for normal cleaning procedures with disinfectants. They are a secondary protection. A US study found that, in order to achieve the 99.9% destruction of microbes on a surface, the pathogen must be in contact with the silver ion-treated film for up to two hours (Hexis Pure Zone claims half of this time.) This would present issues in high-traffic touchpoints but certainly has benefits in overall hygiene. Also, while some have been tested for Feline Coronavirus effectiveness, most tests for killing Covid-19 are still underway. Nevertheless, they have been proven against a range of other, non-coronavurus, pathogens such as Salmonella and E. Coli.

Silver is a well-documented antimicrobial, that has been shown to kill bacteria, fungi and certain viruses. It is the positively charged silver ions (Ag+) that possess the antimicrobial effect, by disrupting the pathogen’s DNA and preventing respiration and reproduction (see diagram above)

So antimicrobial films and laminates containing silver ions are one more weapon in the arsenal to destroy Covid-19, and a worthwhile one - and a good business opportunity with a good cause. Just make sure you offer the right solution and check testing certifications.