By Olivia Cahoon
Direct to object printing technology enables custom decoration on a variety of products like golf balls, luggage tags, phone cases, and water bottles. As today’s consumers begin to expect access to personalized products with short turnaround times, these applications are in high demand.
Create a Novelty Print
Established in 1996, Novelty Printers is a print shop based in Winnipeg, MB, Canada. Sholom Stitz started the company in the basement of his 9,000 square foot home with no employees. It originally offered golf ball logo printing to its local area.
Today, Novelty Printers supplies branded golf balls and hockey accessories to all of Canada. The company purchases large quantities of blank goods such as dog tags, golf balls, hockey pucks, mini hockey sticks, phone grips, poker chips, power banks, and security covers. “We print on these goods for promotional distributors as a branding tool for their clients,” shares John Fraser, president, Novelty Printers.
The shop used pad printing machines until 2013 when it purchased a direct to object UV digital printer to decorate hockey pucks with logos. Because Canada has a limited golf season, this helped the company expand its year round revenue. For its entry into digital printing, the company selected an Ampla UV digital printer rebranded by Inkcups.
According to Fraser, the UV digital printer eliminates the need for expensive plates and ink mixing.
In 2017, Fraser and his brother/business partner, James, purchased Novelty Printers from Stitz. At the time, digital printing was a relatively small part of the overall business. “However, in the last three years we have added and continue to add new products based on distributor request and ability to print on the surface of various new items specific to branding,” shares Fraser.
Novelty Printers’ primary focus remains golf and hockey but the company has added other sports-related products as well as technology items. Currently, an estimated 30 to 35 percent of its products are UV digitally printed. “This is a definite area of growth for Novelty Printers,” adds Fraser.
Since taking over the business, Fraser has purchased three additional large format Ampla UV digital printers for a total of four UV digital machines. This includes the Inkcups X2 flatbed UV printer.
The Inkcups X2 flatbed UV printer is a six-color device offering CMYK plus the capability for two opaque UV LED curable white inks. It prints up to 21×25 inches with a maximum speed of 12 square meters per hour.
With this device, Novelty Printers produces logos on everything from hockey pucks to divot repeat tools, mini flashlights, phone grips, poker chips, power banks, USB drives, webcam security covers, and wireless chargers. The company continually adds products to this list.
The blank objects are sourced from several places. For example, hockey pucks and sticks are made in Canada with an option for importing pucks from Sri Lanka, which is still an official game quality puck. The company also sources products from the China and the U.S. Sourcing depends on many factors including availability, quality, printability, shipping costs, and price point.
For software, Novelty Printers employs a proprietary solution that works with several formats but most notably the art files are preprocessed using Adobe Illustrator. The machines are currently on their sixth version of the software.
Inside the Production Process
Novelty Printers’ production process begins with a customer or promotional distributor placing an order through the company’s website. From there, artwork files are transferred to an in-house graphics specialist who ensures the artwork file is of sufficient quality. Pantone color matching is then performed and embedded in the file as well as proper sizing and positioning of the object being printed to.
The file is then sent back to the customer as a virtual mockup and a preproduction sample is printed and sent to the customer for tangible hands-on approval when requested. Once approved, the file is sent to production where it is again loaded into art files and reformatted for the digital machines.
The product is then picked, unpacked, and loaded onto the custom jig for the specific product, and the printing process begins. A sample is printed, checked against color guides by a quality control person, and sent to the graphic artist for a second approval. After this process the order is printed and packaged in preparation for shipping.
While Novelty Printers runs a successful direct to object printing operation, challenges do occur. “The machines are extremely precise and require constant maintenance, daily upkeep, and replacement of parts to ensure they run accurately and with the quality and detail we require,” explains Fraser. Parts can be upward of thousands of dollars to replace, therefore he believes it is imperative to maintain a constant routine of proper daily maintenance.
Compared to alternative methods like transfer printing, Fraser believes direct to object printing technology has advantages for time and material cost savings, which are passed on to customers. It also eliminates set up costs associated with other processes as well as the ability to print full color without the need for color charges.
“Direct to object printing is a very reliable and efficient format for UV digital printing,” adds Fraser. “It works very well on many products for Novelty Printers.”
Memorial Golf Tournament
In 2019, a repeat customer approached Novelty Printers for poker chip ball markers and divot repair tools for a memorial golf tournament.
“The client wanted to raise awareness about mental illness in the community and end the stigma around seeking help when needed,” shares Fraser.
After the client submitted the artwork—which included specific color requirements—Novelty Printers used the Inkcups X2 flatbed UV printer and a top-quality UV ink to print onto the poker chip ball markers and divot repair tool blanks. According to Fraser, the UV ink the shop prints very fine detail on relatively small surface areas.
The company printed nearly 100 poker chip ball markers and divot repair tools to accompany golf balls and t-shirts decorated with a separate process. Novelty Printers completed the job in five days from artwork approval to finished product.
The shop experienced a few issues to work out along the way. “Challenges can arise with any of our jobs. Commonly, these include timelines, always ensuring color matching, and quality of print,” adds Fraser.
Overall, the client was pleased with the printed poker chip ball markers and divot repair tools and continues to be a repeat customer.
For companies like Novelty Printers, direct to object digital printing is an efficient option for customizing products. With its Inkcups X2 digital printers, the company continues to produce a variety of customized objects. dps
May2020, DPS Magazine