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Visual Systems Inc. -- Deeper than Transparent

October 2005
by chris bauer

Managing Editor

At first glance, a firm known for producing overhead transparencies seems fairly simple. But as you focus in on what Milwaukee-based Visual Systems Inc. (VSI) is all about, you realize that the company's core of ancillary products for educational and supplemental textbook publishers is thicker than it may first appear.

"VSI is a family owned company dedicated to serving the book industry," notes Jeff Hengsbach, vice president. "We provide publishers with high impact and cost-effective printed products that communicate clearly. We've committed to a best workplace culture that serves our community and surrounds itself with extraordinary employees, suppliers and customers."

Founded in 1961, VSI provides the educational publishing market with a variety of visual communication products, including book components, binders, textbook inserts, CD packaging, overhead transparencies, supplemental workbooks, teaching aids, lenticular promotional products, on-demand printing and slide duplication.

Hengsbach reports that, in some areas, the overhead transparency market is still growing—but it has peaked in others—and is starting to decline in some segments. That is where the different parts of VSI's business become even more crucial.

Looking at Opportunities

"Although we will always be committed to the transparency (market), book components represent our largest growth opportunity, by far," Hengsbach says. "To develop book components, we have created new, high impact and cost-effective products and effects. In doing so, we've added value to our publishing customers by helping them sell more books through better covers and jackets."

One technology being used at VSI is called BaseOne, which was the result of a joint venture between VSI and eight other companies. BaseOne has created an alternative to traditional book cover printing.

"We've created a process that will change the way book covers and jackets are produced," Hengsbach enthuses. "BaseOne allows for printing directly on a plastic substrate, eliminating the two-step process of printing on paper and then adding a laminate. BaseOne not only eliminates a step, but it also offers more durable book covers with more design options."

BaseOne was shown at the BookTech Conference & Expo earlier in the year, where Hengsbach led an educational seminar titled, "Book Covers: Design, Production and Manufacturing Tales." A representative from Velasquez Press, in El Monte, CA, spoke about the company's experience using BaseOne to print its Spanish/English dictionary that hit bookstores this spring.

Another joint venture resulted in the introduction of Lextra to the educational publishing marketplace. VSI formed an exclusive partnership with Fort Collins, CO-based specialty printer FiberLok this year to unveil Lextra. It is a combination of heat transfers with multi-colored direct transfer technologies. The product, which was initially used for decorating hats and caps for promotional items, is now patented and used to develop products for the fashion, uniform and automotive industries.

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