A Look at Printing Embellishments: Foil and UV Raise the Stakes
There’s a common refrain that printing and finishing specialists use when they describe a postpress process that takes a pedestrian piece of output and transforms it into a masterpiece befitting your local art museum: It just jumps out at you. Regardless of how one classifies the reaction that’s produced — the wow factor, pizzazz, bling — the results achieved from using foiling, spot coating or digital enhancement presses all say the same thing.
Money in the bank. And last we checked, that’s not a terrible thing.
But perhaps it’s necessary to set the record straight in terms of who is interested in these finishing enhancements and why. When one thinks of a foil or spot UV enhancement, high-end product packaging almost immediately comes to mind, such as cosmetics, fashion and automotive. In that case, it may be necessary to re-educate the masses.
Just ask Jay Mandarino, president and CEO of Toronto-based C.J. Graphics Printers & Lithographers, which is part of the C.J. Group of Companies. Mandarino doubled his pleasure with the twin installations of a Highcon Euclid II digital cutter and a Scodix Ultra digital enhancement press. In a buying atmosphere dictated by lowest cost provider, these machines have enabled Mandarino to push his way to the front of the line. Mandarino is a man who follows his own beat, which is another point of differentiation.
“When I saw the [Euclid] at Graph Expo, it had our name written all over it,” he says. “We’re always trying to do new things.”
The Euclid II series bills itself as a digital cutting and creasing machine, but Mandarino sees it as a Suessian-esque machine of wonderment, a tool that lets designers run amok. As it is the only machine of its kind in Canada, Mandarino has been given a great running start on the competition.
“Not only does it do the typical creasing and scoring for the folding carton industry, it also scores and laser diecuts, and then it automatically strips,” he says. “We used it to create an invitation for our annual open house, and the invitation was a big hit. Everyone is still talking about it.”
The invitation to the open house — which doubled as a fundraiser for a local food bank and their not-for-profit C.J. Skateboard Park & School — was printed black with metallic gold on Neenah Stardream Crystal 105-lb. cover. It was then finished with the Euclid and inserted into a matching envelope. The results speak for themselves.
The invitation, of course, serves as a de facto marketing piece to the 3,500 recipients to showcase C.J. Graphics’ capabilities. In a world where it’s getting increasingly difficult to sit down in front of new clients, the Highcon serves as a point of differentiation that helps printers get their foot in the door.
“The technology is really at the forefront, and there is no technology that is even close to this,” he says. “There are things to be ironed out with it, but it’s really going to revolutionize and change the way things are done in the future.”
The return on such an investment is hard to pinpoint but, in hard dollars, Mandarino sees it as a three- to five-year ROI proposition. But when factoring in the printing jobs C.J. Graphics has garnered from clients seeking one-stop shopping, the road to profit becomes much shorter.
Another company that benefitted from a jaw-dropping sample is Sipe Inc. of Fort Wayne, Ind., a finishing house that caters to printers and marketing firms. The company has a service mark for its Touch Me 3D-UV application, courtesy of the JETvarnish 3D from MGI USA, which has enabled the firm to garner distinction among its client base.
The capability garnered Sipe recognition in the form of a Gold Leaf award at last year’s IADD/FSEA Odyssey conference. The award was for the cover treatment of the Foil and Specialty Effects Association’s (FSEA) annual sourcebook. The sourcebook carried a “Sweet Finishes” theme that incorporated a cupcake smothered in chocolate sauce, rainbow sprinkles and topped off with cherries.
The cover was offset printed in four-color process on 15-pt. Carolina Cover. The cherries and chocolate sauce are enhanced with 100-level micron UV, with the sprinkles set at 200 micron to provide a higher, layered impression. The cupcake wrapper was treated via a textured feel, according to Lisa Hill, Sipe’s vice president of sales and marketing. Rounding out the finishing touches: a clear polymer was used to create a design that spells out “yum,” plus red foil stamping on the FSEA logo and both foil stamping and embossing on the Sweet Finishes title.
“We’re adding value to what printers create for their clients,” Hill remarks. “This is a newer technology that helps them differentiate themselves in the marketplace. We can help them close print business deals by pairing this new technology with our in-house design team to create live samples on their clients’ piece.
“Whether we’re raising their logo off the page or giving texture to an image, when the client sees this embellishment on their piece, they want to have it,” she adds. “They respond in all caps — wow, amazing, awesome. It’s really about capturing and holding attention and conveying the impression of higher quality.”
The award-winning piece did provide some challenges, according to Steve Hatlem, Sipe’s owner. It was difficult getting the foil on the digitally printed piece to release, a problem generally not encountered with four-color offset. But after a little trial and error, the operation was a success.
“This opens doors because it captures people’s attention so much,” he says of the Touch Me 3D-UV. “When we bought it, we were able to expand our market. Northern Indiana was pretty much our territory, but now we’re starting to reach out considerably further, working with customers in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.”
“We’re really creating the market for this and it’s evolving to the point where it’s not viewed as embellishment for only high-end pieces or clients,” Hill adds. “We’re seeing very ordinary applications that can add value to any piece.”
One of the more esoteric examples came from a small, local business that specializes in soil sample analysis. The company wanted its business cards to have the look and feel of … dirt. One of Sipe’s designers created a 3D-UV layer mask that enabled it to get the dirt texture on the printed card. It was a simple application, Hill remarks, with “very explosive results.”
Print embellishments are the go-to for the packaging industry, which relies on quality accoutrements to help nudge past fellow products in the eyes of the buying public. For years, Walter Marrs, of Marrs Printing in the City of Industry, Calif., had to farm out that type of work, which was frustrating. That meant giving up control of the job, with potential quality and scheduling issues.
Not wanting to continue down that path, Marrs obtained the MGI JETvarnish 3D with iFoil. He was intrigued by the raised foil and UV options and the special patterns that were possible.
“This provides a lot of options for designers to incorporate into the packaging product, something to enhance the product we’re printing,” Marrs says. “These days it’s critically important to control schedules when you have so many customers. If you have to send a job out to another supplier, and then if they run into production problems … our customers don’t understand that. They’re not very tolerant about that kind of problem.”
Like Sipe, some of the more commons bumps along the way for Marrs entail the release of the foil. Marrs is working on getting the full gamut of colors for the foils. On the whole, however, he has been thrilled with the results, and the ramping up process has been satisfactory.
Marrs Printing has been enticing its current customers with the capability by sampling their print jobs with the effects. The shop has an off-line UV coater it relies on for spot or full coverage, but adding the JETvarnish 3D with iFoil gave the company, and its customers, more options. The raised effect, in Marrs’ eyes, takes it to another level.
“You need to have the work in the pipeline to justify it,” he concludes. “We had just enough [existing] work to justify adding the machine. The ‘build it and they will come’ mentality works in some cases, but it takes a long time and it’s not practical to do it that way.” PI