One of the secrets to remaining a successful company is by differentiating yourself from your competition. For print service providers (PSPs), the ability to offer unique finishes or services certainly sets them apart. This month, Wide-Format Imaging examines how white ink, varnish, spot color, and lenticular imaging have allowed PSPs to gain market share and increase profits.
Many manufacturers offer printers that can handle all types of specialty value adds to PSPs, so we asked them tells about their products and features and to explain just how these features can help PSPs increase business.
Agfa Graphics is seeing advancements in finishing functionality within UV systems such as a spot varnish and white printing functionality. “Our :Anapurna Mv can produce a gloss or spot varnish which gives a 3D-like effect, and the newest addition to our UV Inkjet portfolio, the :Anapurna Mw, features white-printing functionality that is quite outstanding,” said Deborah Hutcheson, senior marketing manager, Commercial/Wide Format, Agfa Graphics, North America, Ridgefield Park, NJ.
The :Anapurna Mv (varnish) is a six-color, flatbed, wide-format UV inkjet printer designed for printing high-quality signs and displays. With the :Anapurna Mv, gloss effects can be added to enhance the look and feel of designs with spot varnish or overall varnish. :Anapurna Mw adds single pass pre-white and multi-pass post-white to the :Anapurna M series. This creates new possibilities for printing on transparent material and backlit applications or printing white as a spot color.
Hutcheson noted that digital printing is fast becoming the “go-to” method for short-run and variable-data applications and that wide-format inkjet applications such as trade show displays, billboards, signs, posters, banners and vehicle graphics are helping PSPs expand their product offerings and develop new profit streams.
“The inherent versatility of inkjet technology, and now the availability of a wider range of inkjet inks, are pushing the envelope and the industry even further,” she said. “With specialty inkjet inks it is possible to extend beyond the conventional CMYK color set as utilized in offset printing. These added colors dramatically expand the gamut and provide commercial, sign, display and screen printers with a color palette that allows them to match customized colors and reproduce vibrant, eye-catching output, giving them greater opportunities to gain market share and increase profitability.”
As for the future, Hutcheson said the new UV flexible inks were interesting because they will improve the performance on many substrates and have the ability to produce output on some substrates that were previously problematic or not possible. “The new advancements via UV flexible inks will likely create opportunities for users to expand their application portfolio even more and this is very exciting news,” she said.
“Lenticular imaging is particularly successful at capturing the attention of the consumer because of its visually arresting effects,” said Bradley Fitzhenry, marketing director, Big3D.com Worldwide, Fresno, CA. “Whether used as a direct mail piece, DVD cover, point-of-purchase display, or a giant trade show display, lenticular commands attention and differentiates a client’s message from the competition.”
Lenticular imaging is a very complex print process and Fitzhenry says that very few printers have the capability to produce lenticular, and even fewer do it well. “Partnering with an established, experienced lenticular printer like Big3D can help PSPs stand out in a field where there is very little difference in capability, and enjoy nice margins in the process” he said.
Fitzhenry noted that Big3D is seeing a great deal of interest in the utilization of lenticular printing in the direct mail industry as a way to reverse declining response rates. “We are also spearheading advances being made in the development of oversized, single-panel, large-format lenticular graphics, breaking the traditional 48x96-inch panel size.”
Durst Image Technology
The Durst Rho line of printers has several specialty inks available in the wide-format platform. All of the Rho printers have the capability for white-ink printing, and its flatbed products also have the capability to print varnish as a special effect.
“We have also introduced the new Process Color Additions of orange and violet, or orange and green to our Rho 900 platform, which was launched at the SGIA show in New Orleans,” reported Christopher Howard, senior vice president, sales & marketing, Durst Image Technology U.S., Rochester, NY.
The white ink printing is a key component for many Durst’s clients who utilize it for many types of applications such as reverse backlit printing, printing on a non-white substrate, or for specialty effects such as black-and-white reproduction. The varnish is used mostly in a spot application where a PSP highlights an area of the print with the additional gloss effect to draw attention to, for instance, a product or logo. The process color additions are primarily utilized for gamut enhancing effects, particularly in hitting difficult corporate brand colors that their customers require.
In the future, UV inksets will be developed that will meet other specific market needs, particularly for industrial type applications such as glass, flooring, and packaging market segments. “These specialty sets will drive growth for the digital print industry overall as the demand to utilize digital platforms for these areas is growing quickly,” he said.
Both the roll-to-roll and hybrid QS series printers from EFI Vutek use flexible inks, which add value to its customers in several ways, according to RJ Sullivan, product manager, EFI Vutek, Meredith, NH. “PSP’s are using our flexible inks to print on very thin substrates without embossing or curling and the ink does not crack when folded,” said Sullivan. Customer replaceable backlit signage is very popular in Europe because the image quality is fantastic and the end user can easily replace image.
“The key to success is the image can be folded and shipped in a standard envelope,” explained Sullivan. “This simple shipping method is economical and environmentally friendly because it reduces the packaging materials that are typically required for a large display. Folding an image causes extreme stress on the ink. The QS series inks can be folded without cracking, which enables this application.”
As for what’s coming down the road, Sullivan thinks the next step for inks will be improved adhesion and durability, which will eliminate the need for lamination.
“We have been offering white ink as well as the Ultratone colors—orange and violet—as options on all our UV flatbed presses for the past few years,” reported Jeffrey D. Nelson, product marketing manager, Wide Format Flatbed Solutions, Fujifilm Sericol, USA, Kansas City, KS.
White is a popular option and offers opportunities to print on colored or clear substrates and can be used as part of the image content or as an underprint or overprint layer. The company’s Acuity Advance can also print white ink in-line, allowing much greater flexibility in the application of white within a job.
“The use of orange and violet has been instrumental in enabling our customers to differentiate their output based on a wider color gamut and cleaner, more vibrant colors in certain areas of the gamut,” said Sullivan. “This enables printers to more closely match corporate brand colors or create areas of spot color within an image.”
The Inca Onset family of printers can produce variable gloss levels, from high gloss to matte. Specific areas within an image can be printed gloss, while the balance of the image is printed matte, according to Sullivan. “This creates a spot varnish look without the extra step of applying the varnish,” he explained. “The ability to easily alter gloss levels is very appealing to customers and opens up opportunities to create unique graphic appearances.”
The ability to print white, hit specific colors or produce gloss levels is a strong factor in winning business for customers. “Customers are accustomed to paying additional money for overprint clears to be applied. The ability to do this on the equipment without the extra processing step enables customers to improve their margin,” stated Sullivan. “The ability to produce high-quality backlit graphics on a digital press is considerably lower cost compared to photo processing or production via film. The capability to produce double-sided graphics in registration and the ability to print on a variety of materials also helps PSPs meet the demands of customers and increase market share.”
Sullivan said high-production equipment like the Inca Onset series is dramatically altering the landscape and pushing UV digital printing deeper into the analog print market. “The ability to digitally produce stunning print quality, print white, and print an expanded color gamut is also expanding the capabilities to digitally print output previously only printed screen or offset,” he said. “The next capability within wide-format digital is the ability to print variable data files efficiently. Variable data capabilities, coupled with white ink, additional colors, and the ability to print gloss or matte will redefine digital printing.”
Gerber Scientific Products
The Gerber Solara ion uses a proprietary matched technology system that includes a specialty UV ink called GerberCat Cationic UV Ink. “It offers several unique benefits over free radical UV ink including unmatched ink adhesion to the widest variety of substrates, unmatched color output, and unmatched chemical resistance,” said Curt Brey, executive director, digital solutions, Gerber Scientific Products, South Windsor, CT, adding that Gerber is the only inkjet manufacturer to offer a Cationic UV ink product. “GerberCat Cationic UV inks are being used in hundreds of installations around the world to produce short-run production of printed graphics, signs, POP, exhibit displays, and many more applications that benefit from the strength of Cationic UV ink.”
Brey said PSPs have been able to expand market share in diverse new applications made possible only through ink adhesion to a wider range of substrates including glass, ceramics, textiles, paper products, wood, metal, etc. Additionally, the Solara ion is a direct-to-rigid flatbed printer. “This application combination eliminates the need for vinyl materials and the associated application labor cost in rigid printing applications,” explained Brey. “We have had numerous businesses respond to Gerber that they have been able to dramatically increase profit margins while becoming more competitive in their market.”
As for the future, Brey said the growth of UV printing technologies continues at an alarming rate. “Our approach to the market is unique as we offer a family of UV printers with the ability to be upgraded into each new technology as it becomes available to the market,” Brey reported. “This technology upgrade model has been well received as it provides the buyer with some degree of obsolescence protection as these printing technologies continue to evolve.”
Lenticular printing allows designers to expand their creative horizons with movement, depth and animation...and the applications are limitless. “Our turnkey solutions give printers the ability to expand their portfolio of capabilities and services with new and unique solutions for all advertising media,” stated Jeff Miller, sales director, Americas, HumanEyes Technologies Inc., Jericho, NY. “Our applications include large-scale advertising, retail signage, and POP, plus magazine covers, inserts, greeting cards, and more.”
Miller said that for some applications, lenticular can do more than just foster bold and unique creations, pointing out that the nature of the lenticular substrate reinforces plastic card quality and life expectancy. And, as lenticular is extremely difficult to counterfeit, adding lenticular to a card also adds an additional security feature.
“Lenticular imaging allows PSPs to produce a wide variety of unique visual applications to differentiate themselves from competitors with a new, eye-catching technology,” said Miller. “It allows PSPs to catalyze productivity gains by getting additional use of exiting equipment, which in turn leads to higher profit margins.”
Lenticular printing is becoming more and more popular within wide-format printers, according to Miller, especially those who use a flatbed wide-format printing machine. In the past, lenticular flatbed printing was difficult due to the relatively low resolution of flatbed printers. The latest generation of flatbed printers has much higher resolution capabilities than was previously available. “This development, combined with the versatility of UV inks, makes direct-to-lens flatbed lenticular printing a viable option for many projects,” said Miller.
Inca Digital Printers
The Inca Spyder and Inca Onset S20 are both capable of printing white, in addition to CMYK, while the Onset S20 is also capable of offering a spot varnish effect. “This is not produced by printing a coat of varnish, but by layering the areas that are to appear as gloss in a different pass than the other portions of the artwork, and subjecting them to a different drying time,” reported Heather Kendle, director of marketing, Inca Digital Printers, Cambridge, UK.
Kendle noted that because Inca Digital presses offer vacuum tables for tight registration, all Inca printers are capable of offering lenticular work. Lenticular projects require printers with exceptional accuracy. The volume and accuracy of the inkjet drop on an Inca Digital printer enables printing onto 10-40 lenticule per inch (lpi) material commonly used in wide-format printing. “For example, an Inca Spyder press uses either small 10 or 28 picoliter drops, which, when combined with Inca software and highly tuned engineering, enables more lenticular ‘flips’ to be achieved and additional images to be seen than other flatbed equipment,” said Kendle. “As a result, printers can now produce excellent lenticular results with relative ease.”
Kendle said spot varnish or gloss effects allow a printer to highlight certain areas of artwork and this requires a printer capable of offering gloss/varnish, as well as a print provider capable of providing design/prepress expertise to create a gloss layer. “This allows a print provider to charge extra for design time and for specialty printing—along with the ability to differentiate itself,” she explained. “In the same way, lenticular is still very specialized work, and allows a print provider to differentiate its services with high-quality artwork that can command higher profit margins.”
Kendle said that while spot colors are of interest, as color management provides greater color accuracy and viable specialty ink sets provide a wider spectral gamut, there will be less demand for spot colors and more attention to maintaining a single ink set, such as hexachrome, which is capable of producing nearly all spot (corporate colors).
Océ North America
The Océ Arizona 350 XT and 350 GT UV flatbed printers offer a white-ink option that can be added at the factory or in the field. This option enables underprinting for non-white media or objects, overprinting for backlit applications on transparent media and/or printing white as a spot color.
“Underprinting white ink provides a base for non-white surfaces upon which color can be added, giving users the ability to expand their range of offerings to include specialty applications,” says Randy Paar, display graphics product manager, Océ North America, Trumbull, CT. “Overprinting white ink provides a diffusion layer for backlit applications that will be viewed from the unprinted side, enabling users to produce high-quality backlit images for point-of-purchase applications.” The ability to also print white ink as a spot color enables white features of images to be highlighted for greater effect.
The white-ink implementation in the Océ Arizona printers enables users to specify how white ink is applied: first, last or in-between colors; as a spot color or as a flood layer; and in one or two layers. This gives users the flexibility to create a wide range of applications on a variety of surfaces.
“PSPs see how this option can enable them to increase their offerings by being able to print on a wider range of media—not just white paper or white boards, but off-the-shelf pre-manufactured items,” explains Paar. “Some of these applications can be considered premium applications, which can net a higher margin for the shop with minimal capital investment.”
Paar believes print providers should explore what products they can produce with their equipment to provide better returns. “Printing ceiling tiles, tabletops, custom furnishings, etc.—these can be sold at a premium to maximize profitability,” he said.