The answers to many questions about printing on plastic depend on what kind of plastic printing a company does. For one thing, the phrase, "printing on plastic" doesn't mean very much all by itself, since the term applies equally to printing on plastic grocery bags, secure credit cards and all stops in between, including POP and backlit displays, outdoor signage and banners, tags, cards, menus, labels, maps and floor graphics, as well as lenticular printing and packaging. In addition, a printer's approach to printing on plastic will vary according to whether it also performs ink-on-paper printing.
Jet (formerly Jet Litho), Downers Grove, IL, does business in both worlds. The privately held company does around 75 percent of its business in plastic and 25 percent in paper. Over the past 15 years, Jet has become very heavily involved with plastic, due to the growth in its unsecured gift card business, in addition to which it also produces POP display and general printing work on plastic.
Complementary or Not?
Joe Tenyer, vice president of operations, says that the relationship between Jet's paper business and its plastic business is a complementary one. "Most gift cards are manufactured, then tipped on or affixed to a paper-type carrier, which you would see in a retail outlet, or folded into a direct mail piece. We print the plastic card, then marry it to the paper."
Jet expects to produce about 250 million laminated cards and upward of 500 million direct mail cards in the next year. The company prints on a wide variety of substrates, primarily PVC, styrene, polyester and polycarbonate, and prides itself on its ability to handle notoriously "difficult" materials, such as wood veneer and canvas.
Serigraph, headquartered in West Bend, WI, handles only plastic, and the graphic arts is just one of the multiple segments for which it produces printed plastic. "We've been exclusively plastic for about 20 years," explains Executive Vice President Robin Reis. "We exited paper based on our judgment that the plastic business would be more specialized and less competitive."