By Cassandra Balentine
Print enhancements are getting a lot of attention amongst digital print providers. However, the ability to add foil effects to a printed document isn’t a new concept. For decades, print and finishing providers utilized hot foil stamping techniques for embossed and metallic effects to embellish traditional print.
Digital solutions came to the scene quite some time ago, but are now gaining traction as customers look to add special effects to commodity items like stationary and photo books. Further, as specialty units on production presses and UV spot coating technologies continue to advance and emerge, print providers have multiple options to achieve that foil effect.
As previously mentioned there are several methods to achieve special effects on printed output. We’ve heard a lot about print embellishment systems from MGI and Scodix; as well as metallic inks found in fifth imaging units of key digital press manufacturers like Kodak, Ricoh, and Xerox; and advanced UV spot coating machinery that can apply specialty dimensional effects.
However, it started with hot foil stamping. This process utilizes a special die, which is a metal etching of the image that is to be printed in foil. It relies on heat and pressure to apply the impression. While this method is tried and true, it is expensive and only cost effective for longer runs.
In this article, we discuss digital foil printing and stamping solutions. For shorter runs at a cost-effective price, digital foil printing/stamping is an attractive option for foil effects. The benefits of digital, die-less foil printing/stamping include the cost to run—factoring in both materials and labor, and personalization.
Toner-based foil transfer—also known as fusing, sleeking, or flaring, does not require dies. It utilizes heat to bond the foil to a toner-based image.
Another option is foil printing directly to the object, which uses traditional stamping methods, without the need for dies or a lot of pressure.
Depending on the demand, print providers can invest under $3,000 to add foil effects in house. This can be a big differentiator as the market for personalized, high-quality solutions continues to gain traction.
While there a variety of solutions on the market, each technology is unique. Here, digital foil system manufacturers provide insight on digital foil printing as well as their products.
Rita Mascari, co-founder, ImPress Systems, explains that for them, digital foil printing/stamping is the process of transferring hot stamping foils without the need for dies, typesetting, or other printing tools. In addition to eliminating dies, digital foil systems don’t require the force of a traditional hot stamping press. Impress Systems uses real hot stamping foil that prints directly to the object, so it is not a two-step process. Because it goes directly to where the foil is printed, limited foil is wasted.
ImPress Systems provides compact, digital, desktop printers to replace traditional hot stamping, screen printing, and pad printing processes. Its digital printers are able to transfer computer-generated, variable images directly onto a variety of products and substrates including leather and bonded leather, plastics, paper, and coated surfaces.
The company offers the Foil Xpress with Auto Position (AP) Option, an on demand, digital foil printer that prints on a variety of items, which can be personalized. The Foil Xpress is the company’s most versatile printer. Further, the Cyclone Cylinder Option makes it possible to print flat and cylindrical items like pens, pencils, markers, and glow sticks.
Its Foil Direct solution is designed for printing cards—including invitations, greeting cards, and announcements, using its digital foil printing technology and new automated card feeding system.
The company has been designing and manufacturing digital foil printing systems at its facility in the U.S. for 20 years. Mascari says the need for its products has never been greater. “We provide the solutions companies need to offer their customers the hot stamped foiled items that they are currently demanding. They also make it possible to capitalize on the profits generated by providing this service in house rather than outsourcing.”
ImPress Systems digital foil printers range in price from $5,500 to $7,500 USD.
Roland DGA Corporation recently announced the DGSHAPE LD-80, a laser foil decorator, designed to make it easier and more cost effective to decorate polycarbonate, acrylic, and other plastics with metallized and holographic foils.
Matt Anderson, product manager, educational/3D solutions, Roland DGA, explains that the use of a semiconductor laser—with low heat usage and low-pressure technology—allows for foil decoration on a wider variety of plastics.
The DGSHAPE LD-80 is compact, portable, and easy to operate, allowing users to enhance the appearance and value of gifts, and promotional giveaways merchandise. Its small footprint and portability is attractive for settings like retail and special venues. Users choose from a variety of foils with different textures and colors. A range of fonts are available and small text and fine details are achievable. Vector data can also be imported, including custom designs like illustrations and logos.
In addition, the LD-80 meets the safest Class 1 International standard for products equipped with laser devices. Its full cover design ensures safe operation without laser light being visible outside the unit, says Anderson. It also features a failsafe that stops the unit automatically if the cover is opened during operation.
The DGSHAPE LD-80 is available with a MSRP of $9,995 USD.
Therm-O-Type has developed a process its high-speed foil fusing (HSFF), which fuses foil to selected toner image areas on sheets up to 4,000 impressions per hour. The HSFF process is typically run on traditional foil stamping equipment but does not require a die. “Compared to traditional foil fusing, HSFF offers higher throughput speed, reduced foil waste, the ability to fuse foil to textured papers, and the ability to selectively apply foil to specific toner image areas on the sheet,” shares Van Pelt.
The company manufactures traditional foil fusing equipment and currently offers four different models. Its machines range between $2,250 and $10,800 USD and are used for small volume production.
It also offers the NSF line of high-speed foil stamping presses, which use the HSFF process and to flat foil stamp, blind and foil emboss using traditional metal dies. They are also used to die and kiss cut. NSF presses are available in three sizes and range in price from $137,000 to $225,000. They can be used for short-, medium-, and long-run orders.
Considerations for Digital
There are several advantages to offering digital foiling services.
Anderson points out that digital technology increases the freedom to innovate and make your business more agile. Digital foil decoration can be incorporated into existing digital workflows using the same computing hardware. “In addition, the agility of production provided by this technology makes it possible for businesses to accept more customers in a shorter amount of time, allowing long-term business growth and increased profits.”
There are limitations to consider as well.
Van Pelt explains that traditional foil stamping equipment allows printers to flat foil stamp, blind and foil emboss, and die/kiss cut. Using foil fusing/sleeking, print providers are limited in suitable papers, excessive foil waste, slow throughput speed, and in some cases, multiple pass registration problems through their printer when aligning foil and non-foil image areas.
Mascari says since its systems do not use the force of a traditional hot stamping, they do not create a debossed look. “It is also more difficult to print on heavily textured materials—again because our printers do not use tons of pressure like a press.”
Anderson says the low-pressure application and small platform size of the DGSHAPE LD-80 limit certain applications. However, it does allow for the decoration of a variety of objects, including more delicate items.
One trend in foiling is production devices adding effects and embellishment—either as optional units or as standalone solutions like those offered by MGI and Scodix. Van Pelt points out that over a short period of time, these solutions have evolved significantly and offer larger sheet sizes, faster throughput speed, and improved optical registration. However, this equipment is expensive and carries a large footprint, so is not ideal for every environment.
However, foil fusing/sleeking technologies are also improving and more foil options are available for this process.
Foil and other effects are popular for a range of applications—from greeting cards to small objects. Digital foiling solutions support personalization and shorter runs among other benefits.
Aug2018, DPS Magazine