Pushed to the wall, commercial printers are looking for any new opportunity to create margin –and adding value is a key option. But where do opportunities exist for commercial printers to add value in finishing, particularly in embellishment? What sort of equipment is available to them? And what is the case for the new digital embellishing systems? Some printers claim the cost of new inline embellishment processes customised for digital printing use consumables, especially inks, that are prohibitively expensive.
However, developing a genuine short-run or variable-data market for a specialty product can make digital embossing and other finishing processes viable for a particular subset of customers, and that business model can mean either bringing these add-ons inhouse or outsourcing to a trade specialist.
neopost duplo DDC-810
Visitors to the Neopost booth at PacPrint may have been taken off the stand by Jimmy Nguyen, Print Finishing product manager, and walked upstairs to the special VIP suite where the company was showing its brand new Duplo UV Spot Coater.
With an investment level around a third that of the bigger digital spot UV systems the Duplo is set to appeal to a larger number of printers. Nguyen says, “Printers can add value to their print with an eye catching layer of texture and depth that you can touch and feel.”
Using inkjet technology together with an ultra violet lamp for instant curing, the DDC-810 applies a clear, gloss varnish to defined areas of the substrate for visually impactful images. A CCD cameras – which automatically corrects for shrinkage, stretch, twist and skew – along with registration marks ensures the accurate alignment of the spot UV layer onto the printed document. It has a small footprint to fit into limited spaces, user-friendly PC controller software, easy pre-press preparation and operation, air suction feed and sheet alignment system, with 600x600dpi inkjet heads. Max paper size is 364x740mm, with weights up to 450 gsm.
At PacPrint, Kurz Australia demonstrated its DM Liner, a purpose designed press that applies foil to most common digital print. Says David Murphy, Kurz Australia’s national sales manager: “The DM liner provides excellent results for short runs and variable information. The specific foils applied, beside displaying high gloss levels, also enable overprinting in full colour either digital or traditionally and deliver stunning results.”
In terms of inline features available, Murphy believes that the extensive range of embossing and foiling tools from Hinderer & Muehlich is well suited to foil embellishment and blind embossing. “The nano-embossing is impressive as it changes the foils structure to provide stunning results and offer movement that catches the human eye.”
So what are the advantages of having features like these as run-of-the-press, rather than added offline from standalone kit? “It is that they complement digital print advantages and enhance both traditional and digital print, offering metallic effects, and embellishment not achievable through other print media,” responds Murphy.
Generally Kurz supplies high-impact foils in a range of shades and designs, he adds, as well as ‘state-of-the-art tooling for flat stamping and nano-structured dies, and embossing tools and counters. We offer both brand enhancement and brand protection through our holographic Trustseal images’.
Konica Minolta: MGI
Konica Minolta’s increased stake in the French-based company MGI has propelled it into a new world of embellishment through its range of JetVarnish offerings, says David Cascarino, national manager, Industrial Print, at Konica Minolta says, “It is capable of producing a traditional 2D spot-UV effect, as well as a raised 3D spot-UV effect. In addition, there is the ability to apply a hot-stamp foil, and it is all on one unit. It is available in four different widths (364mm, 520mm, 640mm and 750mm) to suit different sheet sizes and at a length of 1200mm,” he says.
At drupa last year, and at PacPrint just gone, Konica Minolta upped the ante with its latest iteration of JetVarnish, the MGI/Konica Minolta Evolution (Evo for short). The MGI JetVarnish 75 was operational and on show at PacPrint on the Konica Minolta stand. “It brings with it many new advances that refine what digital spot UV and foiling can offer its users,” states Cascarino.
He says, “The commercial printer installing an MGI Evo has the opportunity of field scalability — to upgrade from an Evo 52 (520mm) to an Evo 65 or 75, depending on their growth and how their business changes. This maximises the life cycle of the equipment, as well as increasing productivity.”
Cascarino reports that the raised spot-UV and foil effects can be produced at a height of 200 micron. “This feature alone opens prospective discussions with clients to produce high-class print work. Around the globe, users of MGI JetVarnish technology are opening up new markets for example – braille, short-run embossed covers, point-of-sale material or targeted marketing pieces.”
Having established itself as one of the key finishing houses to turn to when Australia’s print providers want their litho print embellished, acclaimed embellishing house Avon Graphics then turned to pioneering the digital route.
At PacPrint 2013, Avon drew raves when it partnered with Fuji Xerox to add effects to a booklet promoting Clear Dry Ink on the Xerox Color 800/1000. The embellishes included high-build UV, screen UV, foil stamping and hand-tooled, sculpted embossing.
But four years on, digital embellishing is not quite at the commercial-for-use stage yet, in fulfilling Avon’s philosophy as described by co-managing director Tate Hone: “Our processes add value to all printed products in taking a printed item and making it a luxury item.”
Avon’s machines are standalone units offering one process and are run offline as a service to the printing industry, he emphasises.
While Avon has a range of equipment including foil stamping, embossing, screen UV, flexo UV, forme cutting, laser cutting plus full inhouse prepress for tooling, there is still some way to go before digital embellishing becomes genuinely viable, argues Hone. “We do not feel that the digital machines are ready for us to use. There needs to be further advancements in the technology until we can offer it as a trade service.”
At Allkotes, Darren Delaney, business development director, shares that take on digital embellishing. “At this stage, while these new devices provide a good result, the costs are still too hard to justify the spend. The outlay is a big commitment and the price of the material is quite high. To get a return on your investment, you would need a high volume of work.
“Digital finishing equipment can be expensive and non-conducive to volume production. Raw materials are costly and the constant acceleration in technology makes it difficult to absorb the capital cost over a short period such as three years.
“After that, it is time for a machine upgrade and that is never cheap, certainly not at the volumes in our market. Trade finishers have generally absorbed the costs of their machinery and offer pricing that is competitive with fast turnarounds.
“The advantages of having our specialised equipment provides our customers with a reassurance that the job will be done once and done right. Offering the products that we do under the one roof takes the burden off our customers of having to move their
“The flood of equipment being offered to the market can be quite daunting, and risky, should you be looking at these options. There is a certain skillset that you need to undertake when looking to run any new pieces of equipment and this needs to be part of any future decision making process.”
To provide the high quality and consistency the market requires, Allkotes provides a level of service that places the company at the forefront of embellishing, with laminating, encapsulating, all varieties of screen-based and specialised screen-based products, as well as pattern or all-over UV requirements. More recently a 3D product has been added to the range.
Tom Ralph, managing director of Graph Pak Australia, is scathing about some of the digital embellishing processes on offer around the world. He says that while the goal is automation, ‘to be frank, it has to be about supplying automation that really works; an industrial solution — and not a toy that will only last a short time and carry no value on resale’.
Digital or traditional, he does not see any inline embellishing solutions that have really impressed him. “I don’t see any real inline press options as good as genuine industrial-built solutions.”
Supplied by Currie Group in Australia Scodix is a digital embellishing system that includes foiling and nine different embellishments. Available in B2 format a B1 version was shown at drupa and will be launched next year.
Scodix is a sheetfed single-pass inkjet that can print a clear UV-cured spot varnish and apply metallic and other foils with no need for metal dies. The nine embellishment are: Spot, traditional high gloss UV varnish; Sense, raised and textured spot varnish; Foil, dieless cold foil application; Metallic, spot varnish on Deprosa’s Soft Touch matt metallic laminate; Crystal, multiple passes simulating glue-on gems; VDP/VDE, variable data printing/enhancement; Braille; Cast & Cure, diffraction; and Glitter, particles applied pre-cure.
A cold foiling unit is standard. This brings foil into contact with the tacky polymer where it adheres before full curing.
Scodix Foil Station is an optional module, that runs in-line with the Scodix Ultra Pro Digital Press, delivering foil enhancement capabilities, including high gloss, embossed, variety of densities for short to medium runs, using an advanced digital process. Scodix Foil is aimed at commercial printers, coping with short to medium runs, who today have to outsource the foil application or to use a long and expensive make ready process including moulds and dies, as well as for converters doing high-end short up to medium runs.
Scodix Foil deploys a wide range of hot and cold industry standard foil films, coupled with a variety of substrates, including offset, digital, plastics, laminated/non-laminated, and coated/ Without coating Applications include business/greeting cards, folders, book covers, brochures, labels, packaging and more.
Watermarx Graphics is a specialty trade print finisher, specialising in foil stamping, gilding, embossing, letterpress printing and die cutting. Its focus is on embellishing short runs for the digital market and has capability up to A2 sheet size.
Alan Fawcett from Watermarx shares that there is no doubt that the offerings from the digital print market are progressing in leaps and bounds when producing ink on paper – but it still has a long way to go to produce quality results that compete with the traditional processes of embellishing like hot foil stamping and embossing. The substrates on offer to digitally embellish are still limited.
Incorporating artisan principles of printing, Watermarx utilises the patented Cliqx embossing system to emboss and deboss paper, card, polypropylene, PVC, adhesives and Braille applications. Recently it has also been using the system for texturing to create specialty stocks for the digital market.
There is much scope to integrate the ways of the old and the new. Cliqx is now available to offset, digital and label printers, and those interested in embossing polypropylene to use in house – as a retro fit to existing equipment.
Watermarx says that by being innovative and looking for new solutions to service customers – there is scope for the printer to use their existing equipment to value add for little additional cost to them.
Cliqx embossing dies are now available to label printers, polypropylene converters, offset and digital printers via licence. There is scope for Cliqx to run inhouse as a standalone system or integrated into a press run either offset or digital. Cliqx is also currently under development using similar principles for rotary embossing.
Watermarx says applications for Cliqx are numerous and can open new markets to the printing industry. The technology serves as a cost-effective add-on embellishing process to existing equipment for little financial outlay and a potential large gain.
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