Thermochromic Ink

Thermochromic technology changes color when cold or heat changes materials inside CTI patented and trade secret-manufactured microcapsules. Specifically, within the capsule, fats melt and solidify either to bring dyes and developers together – or to keep them apart. CTI is the most recognized thermochromic ink manufacturer that developed this temperature-sensitive ink for high-speed commercial printing environments and brand applications. Examples of our innovative applications include CPG food and beverage packaging innovations; medical and pharmaceutical supply chain indicators; product security, authentication and anti-counterfeiting features; and more.

Candy Cotton

Explore

the many types of CTI thermochromic temperature-dependent technologies:

Thaw-Sensing

Freeze-Sensing

Cold-Activated

Cold-Activated Reveal

Cold-Activated Trigger

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Warming-Sensing

Body Heat-Activated

High Heat-Activated

Retort-Stable

for Cold, Body Heat or High Heat Activation

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Thermochromic Ink Thaw-Sensing Technology

CTI’s BlindSpotz™ Thaw Alert technology gives supply chain managers and shipping receivers a quick visual color indicator that a frozen food or medical product has remained frozen or thawed during transport or storage. For instance, if a vaccine should remain at -0˚C or colder, the sensor color would be dark and start fading at 0˚C and lose color fully at 2˚C. Keep in mind that there will be a difference between the core temperature of a product and the temperature of the outside packaging surface. Your CTI team can help make the best recommendation – contact us today.

 

Thaw Alert Advantages:

  • Quick visual indicator

  • Printable technology, just like other high speed commercial inks

  • Full control over brand identity, graphic design and placement, either through existing printed label or direct package/container printing

  • With printable technology, no raised surfaces interfere with stacking or moving through automated systems

  • Place on individual products, due to low relative price when compared with electronic data loggers and other chemical devices

  • Combine with other sensors like Warming Alert

  • Use with QR codes that are scannable or unscannable, depending on the product state

  • Pennies per package versus dollars with competitive devices

  • Long-term chemical and light stability

  • Target temperatures tunable with high-volume implementations

  • Quality control possible throughout manufacturing – see it work and reset if desired

  • Safe for indirect food or drug contact

  • BPA-, BPF-, BPS-free and compliant with REACH, Prop 65, CONEG, and many other regulations

Light and Shadow
thaw-alert-steak.png

safe

unsafe

Temperature Direction

Ascending Temperature

 

Color Transition

Full or Darker Color below Freezing Target Temp. Clear or Lighter color above Thawing Target.

 

Standard Temperature Ranges
Freezing:
 
0°C / 32°F to 
-50°C / -58°F

Thawing:
-15°C / 5°F to 
5°C / 41°F

 

Industries and Applications

Foods  Ice Cream, Seafood, Raw and Cooked Meats, Juice Concentrates and Cooked Meals

Pharma  DTaVaricella vaccine (A); VAR: Varivax (chickenpox) zoster/shingles); MMRV: ProQuad; mRNA COVID-19; Zostavax (herpes zoster/shingles)

 

Availability

UV Flexo, Solvent-Based Flexo, Solvent-Based Gravure. Other formats may be available.

 

Thermochromic Ink Freeze-Sensing Technology

Concerned about frozen vaccines become less effective or foods quality being ruined? Freeze-sensitive foods having their quality compromised before retail purchase? BlindSpotz Freeze Alert technology changes color – and stays changed at room temperature – so that at-risk items can be quickly identified and easily visually sorted. CTI Freeze Alert sensors command accuracy at +/-.0.5 C and target temperatures range from -6C to +1C, depending on the product application. Different substances freeze at different temperatures, and packaging and printing/label placement may impact the desired color change. Contact CTI to discuss your project and to explore recommendations.

 

Freeze-Sensing Advantages:

  • Quick visual indicator

  • Printable technology, just like other high speed commercial inks

  • Full control over brand identity, graphic design and placement, either through existing printed label or direct package/container printing

  • With printable technology, no raised surfaces interfere with stacking or moving through automated systems

  • Place on individual products, due to low relative price when compared with electronic data loggers and other chemical devices

  • Use with QR codes that are scannable or unscannable, depending on the product state

  • Pennies per package versus dollars with competitive devices

  • Long-term chemical and light stability in typical environments

  • Quality control possible throughout manufacturing – see it work and reset if desired

  • Safe for indirect food or drug contact

  • BPA-, BPF-, BPS-free and compliant with REACH, Prop 65, CONEG, and many other regulations

Light and Shadow
freeze-alert-spinach.png

above 0˚C

0˚C or below

Temperature Direction

Descending Temperature

 

Color Transition

Full or Darker Color below Freezing Target

 

Standard Temperature Ranges
Freezing:

1°C / 34°F to

-6°C / 21°F

 

Industries and Applications

Foods  Cream-based soups and sauces; cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados; meringue desserts; cooked pasta; cooked rice; lettuce and other greens; mayonnaise and mayonnaise-based salads; sour cream, yogurt, soft cheeses, milk; raw potatoes

Pharma  Vaccines: DTaP; DTaP-hepatitis B-Hib-IPV (hexavalent); DTwP, DTwP-hepatitis B-Hib (pentavalent); Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; Human papillomavirus; LAIV: FluMist; Meningitis C (polysaccharide-protein conjugate); Pneumococcal (polysaccharide-protein conjugate); T, DT, dT; freeze-sensitive medical devices; freeze-sensitive prescription and OTC medications

 

Availability

UV Flexo, Water-based Flexo, Solvent-based Flexo, Solvent-Based Gravure. Other formats may be available.

 

Thermochromic Ink Cold-Activated Technology

The mountains turning blue on Coors Light cans signaled the first worldwide application of CTI’s thermochromic cold-activated technology on aluminum cans, which then extended into other high-speed commercial print formats, such as PET bottle labels; heat-transfer glass bottle labels; laminated films and foils; coated and uncoated papers; plastic; and many others. Cold means refreshment, and seeing a color change occur when a beverage promises icy cold refreshment builds brand loyalty and engages consumers. Cold-activated thermochromic prints go from barely-visible residual color to vibrant color – see color charts for the format you need. (They can only go from color to colorless in higher temperature applications.)

 

Cold-Activated Advantages:

  • Strong visual color change at target temperature and colder

  • Printable technology, just like other high speed commercial inks

  • Full control over brand identity, graphic design and placement, either through existing printed label or direct package/container printing

  • Metal Deco inks compatible with the fastest industrial Stolle Concord or Rutherford metal decorators, as well as monoblock extrusion and deep drawing processes

  • Formulas for flat sheet offset metal printing, steel cans and more (2-piece or 3-piece)

  • In metal deco, low-misting, high mileage and minimal cleanup, while allowing heavy coat weights for outstanding color

  • In solvent for Flexo and Gravure flexible packaging, easy operation, amazingly smooth print laydown and high mileage

  • Long-term chemical stability for most formats

  • Safe for indirect food contact

  • BPA-, BPF-, BPS-free and compliant with REACH, Prop 65, CONEG, and many other regulations

Light and Shadow
new-coors-light-cans-web.png

warm

cold

Temperature Direction

Descending Temperature

 

Color Transition

Full or Darker Color below Temperature Target

 

Standard Temperature Ranges
Cold-Activation:

8°C / 46°F to

12C°C / 54°F

Other temperatures may be available, depending on print format and color. Subzero temperature are generally not recommended due to the speed of color change when the product enters room temperatures. Contact us to discuss your application and our recommendation. Custom target temperatures may require a development fee or guaranteed minimum quantity.

 

Industries and Applications

Food and beverage  Beverages: canned or fountain sodas, juices and waters; canned or bottled beer, wine, spirits; cold bottled or canned coffees and teas). Foods: packaged foods with cold storage requirements, generally between 2C – 8C; candy bars and other consume-when-cold items like chocolate cookies.

 

Availability

Metal Deco, Wet Offset, UV Wet Offset, Dry Offset, UV Dry Offset, UV Screen, Water-based Screen, UV Flexo, Water-based Flexo, Solvent-based Flexo, Solvent-Based Gravure.

 

Thermochromic Ink Cold-Activated Reveal Technology

Taking cold-activated thermochromic to the next level, CTI’s Reveal technology allows customers to experience “theater-in-the-hand,” where a graphic image goes from a warm color state to a cold-color state, then finally to a third room temperature color state. We call this Reveal because a hidden message or graphic appears after a beverage has been consumed. Check out this video to see Reveal thermochromic in action. Reveal application may require CTI’s patented Dynahide design technique and careful planning and qualification. Consult your CTI technical team to see how Reveal can work for your brand or customers.

 

Cold-Activated Reveal Advantages:

  • Strong visual color change at target temperature and colder

  • CTI technical support for designing, trialing and producing unique Reveal concepts

  • Printable technology, just like other high speed commercial inks

  • Full control over brand identity, graphic design and placement, either through existing printed label or direct package/container printing

  • For metal deco applications, compatible with the fastest industrial Stolle Concord or Rutherford metal decorators, as well as monoblock extrusion and deep drawing processes

  • In metal deco, low-misting, high mileage and minimal cleanup, while allowing heavy coat weights for outstanding color

  • In solvent for Flexo and Gravure flexible packaging, easy operation, amazingly smooth print laydown and high mileage

  • Long-term chemical stability for most formats

  • Safe for indirect food contact

  • BPA-, BPF-, BPS-free and compliant with REACH, Prop 65, CONEG, and many other regulations

Light and Shadow
Drink cup warm cold temp inks.png

warm

cold

consumed

Temperature Direction

Descending (Cold-Activated) and Ascending (Reveal) Temperatures

 

Color Transition

Full Color below Temperature Target, then persisting color after product rises to room temperature

 

Standard Temperature Ranges
Cold-Activation:

8°C / 46°F to

12°C / 54°F

Reveal:

18°C / 64°F to

26°C / 79°F

 

Industries and Applications

Food and beverage  Beverages: canned or fountain sodas, juices and waters; canned or bottled beer, wine, spirits; cold bottled or canned coffees and teas). Foods: packaged foods with cold storage requirements, generally between 2C – 8C; candy bars and other consume-when-cold items like chocolate cookies.

 

Availability

Metal Deco, Solvent-based Flexo, Solvent-Based Gravure. Other formats may be available.

 

Thermochromic Ink Cold-Activated Trigger Technology

Most cold-activated thermochromic technologies delivered through printable high-speed commercial inks develop color within about four degrees Celsius. For instance, the Coors Light can blue mountains go from a barely visible residual color to brilliant blue at 8°C. That color develops as the can chills below 12°C. In other words, you’ll see the color appearing just around 12°C, and most of the color is present at 8°C. CTI Cold-Activated Trigger inks develop color over just a couple degrees Celsius, enabling sharp color transitions to indicate a temperature change at a critical point. Coca-Cola used an Aqua Trigger ink on its seasonal 12-pack to show that every can in the FridgePack was icy cold. Your CTI team can tell you if your application might benefit from Trigger thermochromic technology.

 

Cold-Activated Trigger Advantages:

  • Sharp transition and strong visual color change at the target temperature

  • CTI technical support for designing, trialing and producing unique Trigger concepts

  • Printable technology, just like other high speed commercial inks

  • Full control over brand identity, graphic design and placement, either through existing printed label or direct package/container printing

  • Long-term chemical stability for most formats

  • Safe for indirect food contact

  • BPA-, BPF-, BPS-free and compliant with REACH, Prop 65, CONEG, and many other regulations

Light and Shadow
FridgePack.png

warm

cold

Temperature Direction

Descending Temperature

 

Color Transition

Full Color at and below Temperature Target

 

Standard Temperature Ranges
Cold-Activation:

4°C / 39°F to

8°C / 46°F

 

Applications

As in the case of the Coca-Cola FridgePack, Trigger technology comes into play when requirements specify a sharp temperature change – a color change within a couple degrees Celsius, as opposed to a broader temperature change over four or five degrees.

 

Availability

Metal Deco, Solvent-based Flexo, Solvent-Based Gravure. Other formats may be available.

 

Thermochromic Ink Body Heat-Activated Technology

Thermochromic technology can also work for applications where a color change occurs at warmer temperatures from 29°C / 84°F to 35°C / 95°F. We call these body-heat activated because typically, an end-user will touch or rub (to create heat from friction) the print to change a color to clear or another color. Unlike cold-activated thermochromic technology, warm and high heat thermochromic applications always change from the full color to either the residual color or another lighter color. Changing back to the original full color state depends on the difference between the ambient environment temperature (inside a building or outdoors) and the target temperature of the print. For instance, if the printed red color clears at 29°C / 84°F and the room temperature is 21°C / 70°F, the color will change back to red very quickly. Obviously, if the target temperature is 31°C / 88°F and the outside temperature is 35°C / 95°F, the color will remain cleared until the temperature drops. That why you will never see the moon eclipsed (black thermochromic with a clearing point of 35°C / 95°F) on the USPS Total Solar Eclipse Forever stamps if you’ve stored them in your trunk on a hot day.

 

Body Heat-Activated Advantages:

  • Strong visual color change from darker color to residual or lighter color at target temperature and warmer

  • Printable technology, just like other high speed commercial inks

  • Full control over brand identity, graphic design and placement, either through existing printed label or direct package/container printing

  • High print quality for many print formats like Wet Offset, UV Wet Offset, UV Flexo, Solvent Flexo, Solvent Gravure, UV Screen, Water-based Screen and more

  • Long-term chemical stability

  • Safe for indirect food contact

  • BPA-, BPF-, BPS-free and compliant with REACH, Prop 65, CONEG, and many other regulations

Light and Shadow
Stamp.png

ambient

warmed

Temperature Direction

Ascending Temperature

 

Color Transition

Residual or Lighter Color at and above Temperature Target

 

Standard Temperature Ranges
Cold-Activation:

29°C / 84°F to

35C°C / 95°F

Other temperatures may be available, depending on print format and color. Consider the in-market date, as warmer summer or colder winter temperatures may affect desired color change functionality. Custom target temperatures may require a development fee or guaranteed minimum quantity.

 

Industries and Applications

Security  Authentication of government-issued identification or other official documents; banking checks; high-value branded product packages

Food and beverage  Interactive brand features on flexible snack bags and other food items

Textile/clothing  Unique color-changing effects for athletic shirts

Pharma  See supply chain and security solutions.

 

Availability

Wet Offset, UV Wet Offset, Water-based Flexo, UV Flexo, Solvent Flexo, Solvent Gravure, UV Screen, Water-based Screen. Other formats may be available.

 

Thermochromic Ink High Heat-Activated Technology

Seeing a visible color change for items that have been heated can warn or inform that a food item is too hot to handle or consume; that a shipped item’s quality could have been compromised because it was exposed to high heat; or that your pizza has been delivered melty-cheese hot. High-heat thermochromic colors always change from the full color to either the residual color (red to clear) or another lighter color (purple to pink). These indicators are reversible; for tamper-evident indicators, see our Security and Anti-Tampering solutions.

 

High Heat-Activated Advantages:

  • Strong visual color change from darker color to residual or lighter color at target temperature and hotter

  • Printable technology, just like other high speed commercial inks

  • Full control over brand identity, graphic design and placement, either through existing printed documents, labels or direct package/container printing

  • High print quality for many print formats like Wet Offset, UV Wet Offset, UV Flexo, Solvent Flexo, Solvent Gravure, Water-based Flexo, UV Screen and more

  • Long-term chemical stability

  • Safe for indirect food contact

  • BPA-, BPF-, BPS-free and compliant with REACH, Prop 65, CONEG, and many other regulations

Light and Shadow
Pizza.png

ambient

hot

Temperature Direction

Ascending Temperature

 

Color Transition

Residual or Lighter Color at and above Temperature Target

 

Standard Temperature Ranges
Cold-Activation:

40°C / 84°F to

65C°C / 95°F

Other temperatures may be available, depending on print format and color. Custom target temperatures may require a development fee or guaranteed minimum quantity.

 

Industries and Applications

Food and beverage  Hot indicators and reveal messages for microwaved, boil-in-bag and sous vide food items; warmed and ready to serve indicator for pet foods; hot warning message for hot beverages such as coffees and teas; hot pizza delivery quality indicator.

Security, Supply-Chain and Pharma  See Security and Anti-Tampering for Heat Tamper applications

 

Availability

Wet Offset, UV Wet Offset, UV Flexo, Solvent Flexo, Solvent Gravure, Water-based Flexo, UV Screen. Other formats may be available.

 

Thermochromic Ink Retort-Stable for Cold, Body Heat or High Heat Activation Technology

No matter what CTI color-changing thermochromic technology you may put into the hands of consumers, you may have food pouches or beverage containers that pass through a retort process for sterilization. This involves steam, pressure and time. As you might imagine, those conditions might challenge a technology delivered through a printable ink. CTI recently made breakthroughs in our manufacturing techniques that allows our solvent-based thermochromic ink to survive retort. First commercialized for pet food pouches, we’ve now made retort-surviving ink available for all color and temperatures. For questions about this exciting new technology, call us now.

 

Retort-Stable Advantages:

  • Strong visual color change at target temperature

  • CTI technical support for designing, trialing and producing unique thermochromic concepts

  • Printable technology, just like other high speed commercial inks

  • Full control over brand identity, graphic design and placement on laminated retortable pouches and labeled or shrink-wrapped beverage containers

  • Solvent-based Flexo and Gravure inks for flexible packaging offer easy operation, amazingly smooth print laydown and high mileage

  • Long-term chemical stability

  • Safe for indirect food contact

  • BPA-, BPF-, BPS-free and compliant with REACH, Prop 65, CONEG, and many other regulations

Light and Shadow
cat-food-pouch-retort.png

ambient

warmed

Temperature Direction

Descending (Cold-Activated) and Ascending (Warm- or Heat-Activated) Temperatures

 

Color Transition

Cold-Activated:

Full Color below Temperature Target.

Body or High-Heat Activated:
Residual or Lighter Color at and above Temperature Target.

Standard Temperature Ranges
Cold-Activation:

8°C / 46°F to 12°C / 54°F

Body Temperature Activation:

29°C / 84°F to 35C°C / 95°F

High Heat Temperature Activation:

40°C / 84°F to 65C°C / 95°F

 

Industries and Applications

Food and beverage  Retortable human or pet food pouches in laminated pouch containers; shrink-wrapped labels for foods or beverages to ready to drink coffees and teas.

 

Availability

Solvent-based Flexo, Solvent-Based Gravure.