By Olivia Cahoon
Digital print vendors expand technologies and push limits to improve quality and efficiency. New features, such as the ability to digitally print white, neon, clear ink, and metallic are a reality. Faster foiling techniques emerge alongside glitter, braille, and crystal features. These effects are achieved through fifth imaging units and special presses for post-production in mid- to high-volume environments. Smaller devices serve low- to mid-volume demands.
In this article, we review effects available through fifth imaging units as well as solutions provided by specialty finishing devices. We also investigate how print service providers (PSPs) justify the cost of specialty printing and finishing.
In addition to high quality, short-run digitally printed output; print buyers are looking to stand out in vertical markets. Businesses want to capture the attention of their target audience, and to do so they need captivating images. Specialty finishing devices offer desired effects.
In addition to standard CMYK configurations, additional color capabilities obtained with a fifth imaging unit improve the color gamut and the “wow” factor.
“Five-color printing puts more tools in creative teams’ toolboxes, which gives them a better chance at catching their audience’s eye and getting their message across,” says Chris Wysong, product marketing senior manager, production printing business group, Ricoh USA, Inc.
He suggests that the use of five-color printing allows print providers to create special effects like clear and white ink, foiling, fluorescent, gloss, metallic, neon, and watermarks.
Len Christopher, worldwide product manager, Kodak, says that specialty inks and fifth imaging units help create uniquely different printed products that aren’t normally economically feasible at short run lengths. Using these features, PSPs can achieve an expanded color gamut, color stability, and mid-tones for their print jobs.
Driving the demand for these features include financial and security applications that use specialty inks like metallic and clear for watermarking and tracking. Marketing applications also look to these effects to generate attention.
Lynn Kolevsohn, marketing director, Scodix, believes the pressure for printed products to have shorter life cycles as well as localization and product differentiation drives the demand for digitally printed applications. Kolevsohn says this relates directly to marketers who produce smaller quantities and hope to make lasting impressions on consumers for effective brand differentiation.
In addition to expanded color configurations, digitally produced special effects, such as dimensional print, are available today. Kevin Abergel, marketing and sales VP, MGI, suggests that dimensional textures create a strong interaction between people and print. “Special effects can bring print to life and engage customers in ways that resonate in deeper and more meaningful ways.”
He says a convergence of business to business (B2B) and business to customer (B2C) market trends are calling for digital special effects. In B2B, printers are attempting to increase profitability ratios by adding value, securing new application revenue streams, and strengthening client relationships with new ideas for their customers.
“The B2C pull factor is driven by the demographics of millennial generations who have a digital perspective on information and communication. The personalization of material and embellishment of special effects is a critical path to connecting print applications in a multi-channel world,” adds Abergel. Together, B2B and B2C trends create demands for digital print enhancement.
Effects in Use
Fifth imaging units and special presses for post-production are used as often as needed, which varies greatly depending on the print provider, its customers, and the job at hand. A variety of applications, from security to direct mail, are suited for added effects.
Christopher shares that its customers use Kodak’s non-Light Black fifth station ink for ten to 15 percent of overall pages. He adds that Kodak users create a variety of applications with specialty ink features ranging from short-run checks to high-impact marketing collateral.
More than 250 customers use Scodix special effects products worldwide and many customers upgrade their platforms to solutions that handle specialty features says Kolevsohn. Recently, Avery Dennison Corporation increased their portfolio from one to ten Scodix systems in its manufacturing facilities worldwide.
MGI customers use digital finishing solutions in different patterns that range per customer. “Our customers start putting varnish and foil designs on their own business cards and brochures and use the JETvarnish 3D to create new samples and sales tools that generate new business opportunities that energize the firm’s image and identity in the marketplace,” shares Abergel.
White and clear toners are used for security features on loyalty cards, decals, and backlit applications. Inline specialty printers also bring these applications in house, such as invitations, oversized media, point of purchase displays, tri-fold brochures, and window clings. “That fifth color can really make all kinds of applications pop, so it’s being widely adopted across a lot of types of new applications,” says Wysong.
There is an opportunity for those who do operate these devices to further maximize their potential. Wysong sees a growing trend amongst five- and six-color press owners who don’t use these effects often. “It’s because the manufacturer just sort of drops the device off and lets the customer have at it. If this is your first five- or six-color device, you might not be sure what you’re capable of—and, in some cases, you may not even be sure how to use the extra colors,” he adds.
The Price of Beauty
In demand special effects typically require added operating costs.
For example, Kodak’s specialty inks require a one-time purchase of the Dry Ink Station and Hopper. The Hopper allows for quick switching and is used with each ink. “There is no separate click charge for the fifth station, customers pay for only the ink and developer they use of each particular fifth station,” says Christopher.
Customers who require a specific color to match a brand, logo, or security feature seek the proper equipment to replicate their images. Print providers take advantage of this demand by investing in a fifth imaging unit and taking business that wasn’t possible before.
Kolevsohn points out that digital solutions replace conventional analog methods and eliminate dies, plates, molds, and other costly materials. “Digital solutions translate in makeready cost-savings for short- to medium-sized runs, helping PSPs grow their business, expand their product offering, and realize high ROI. With all the tools they need in-house, PSPs manage and control foil enhancement applications, profit from rapid turnaround time, gain independence from third party suppliers, and maintain print job confidentiality,” she shares.
Using these specialty printing and finishing effects, print providers add simple features to popular applications such as invitations and greeting cards. “Real gold foil is expensive, and producing a lot of invitations with that look can be very resource- and time-consuming,” says Wysong.
Rather than using a special die for a gold foil invitation, the PSP can reproduce the look of foil quickly and easily.
We asked several vendors what they offered for fifth imaging units and special presses for post-production in mid- to high-volume environments.
Kodak produces the NexPress Platform, featuring CMYK plus a fifth ink station. The fifth station is used with ten different specialty inks and can change out inks in ten to 15 minutes. Christopher shares that every new press ships with Kodak NexPress Light Black HD Dry Ink in the fifth station.
Other NexPress Dry Ink options include clear, dimensional clear, red fluorescing, MICR, opaque white, gold, red, green, and blue. The dimensional clear ink has seven different finishes available in the job ticket to simulate specialized papers while the clear ink is used with gloss, protection, spot, photo modes, and Dura Coat. “Dura Coat mode automatically places clear dry ink over any CMYK ink it finds on a surface, providing both protection as well as a satin look that designers seem to really like,” explains Christopher.
The company recently came out with the Spot Color Recipe feature that creates unique blends, like CMYK and gold metallic effects. The feature assigns a specific name to provide the same recipe so the same look is maintained across multiple jobs.
In April 2016, Konica Minolta announced it is to invest an additional stake in MGI Digital Technology (MGI), the French-based leading decorative printing equipment manufacturer, with which Konica Minolta has had a financial and strategic alliance since January 2014. The stake investment of a further 30.5 percent of MGI’s shares increases Konica Minolta’s stake in the company to 40.5 percent and adds MGI’s products for commercial print, labels and packaging to Konica Minolta’s existing and growing portfolio.
MGI offers the JETvarnish 3D digital post press series with 2D and 3D UV coating, dimensional textures, and embossed foiling solutions. Its most recent version, the JETvarnish 3DW, is a roll-fed digital label enhancement press that creates 2D spot UV coats, 3D raised UV textures, and personalized embossed foil. “Foil can be applied on coated and uncoated papers, synthetic and plastic substrates, laminated films, and aqueous coated surfaces,” says Abergel.
MGI also features the Meteor Unlimited Colors Press series with a color gamut that uses light-reflecting qualities of metallic foil. Abergel describes the possible output as a virtually unlimited number of colors including metallic, glitter, and holographic effects. “Overprinting the foil with CMYK toner ink produces a brilliant rainbow spectrum of new hues, tints, and shades,” he adds.
Ricoh provides the five-color RICOH Pro C7100X series featuring white or clear toner. “We recognize how daunting the cost of getting into five color printing can be. We tried to minimize that as much as possible by offering the RICOH Pro C7100X series at a very affordable price point, and we don’t roll clicks into the cost,” says Wysong.
The Pro C7100X is designed to emulate foil and emboss effects including inline finishing options like booklet making, a multi-folding unit, punching, stapling, and saddle stitching. It has a 1,200×4,800 dpi near offset image quality and features a Vacuum Feed Large-Capacity Tray for feeding a variety of media types including coated, textured, colored, and clear media.
“Printing on dark and metallic substrates with RICOH Pro C7100X devices is incredibly easy, and that really opens up a lot of options for creative teams,” says Wysong. The series also comes equipped with Ricoh’s Fifth Color Kit that provides instructions and examples on how to use the RICOH Pro C7100x and achieve special effects. “That, paired with tutorial videos we provide, helps get operators on their way, and we’re seeing our customers get a lot more use of out of their robust features set as a result.”
Scodix offers the Scodix Ultra Pro with nine applications and foil for folding-carton converters to produce tangible enhancements. The press includes an automatic polymer switching mechanism for switching up to three different polymers rapidly. It’s intended for a range of applications that include book covers, boxes and premium packages, greeting cards, marketing literature, photo albums, and stationary items.
Its applications include the Scodix Foil for foil enhancement capabilities and Scodix Spot, which spot varnishes for short to medium runs and recreates the effect of traditional analog flat varnishes. Other applications include enhancements for metallic coloring, an in house digital inkjet glittering station, Scodix VDP/VDE for text and graphic personalization with foil, Scodix braille for the visually impaired, Scodix crystals to create a colorful sparkle, and the Scodix Case and Cure for 3D holographic effects.
Kolevsohn describes the Scodix SENSE as a folding carton converter created for designers and brand owners to craft extraordinary creations.
The Scodix Ultra Pro with Foil targets commercial printers, publishers, and Web to print. “The results speak for themselves. Makeready costs result in a breakeven point of anything between one to at least 5,000 sheets—incomparable cost-savings for short to medium runs,” says Kolevsohn.
Sparkle and Shine
In addition to making print cost effective and efficient, specialty features and presses add value to a commodity item.
“Value-added print and good design can make print fun, interesting, sexy, and thoughtful to people normally tuned into phones, tablets, and computers,” says Abergel.
Consumers want special effects for brand differentiation and lasting impressions. Specialty finishing devices enable PSPs to offer consumers features such as braille, glitter, crystals, and special inks like white, neon, and metallic. Print providers justify the cost of investing in these types of machines by considering the money they save by eliminating the need for traditional finishing solutions like dies, plates, and models and the new business they serve with specialty effects. dps
Jan2017, DPS Magazine