What if you could finish a job with an exotic accordion fold? Or produce a special scratch ‘n sniff scent? What about a morphing lenticular image? In today’s competitive environment, firms are seeking to differentiate themselves from their peers. Printers are no exception.
“Printing is becoming a commodity, and printers need a special angle to differentiate themselves from everyone else,” said Greg Morhardt, sales manager, Rochelle Printing, Ill. “If you can capture a part of the market that no one else has and do it well, you’ll stand out.”
Dan Maurer, vice president, postpress product management, Heidelberg USA, pointed to the economic downturn and resulting excess capacity as a reason for specialty finishing to emerge as a growth market. “Prices for standard products like booklets, folded pieces, books and mailers have dropped as printers and binderies compete for a smaller market and print buyers are under pressure to search for best prices,” he said. “This effect is compounded with the rise in Web-to-print providers making geographic proximity for these standard products less important than it was just a few years ago. At the same time, specialty finishing applications—such as die cutting, foil stamping and embossing, novelty folding, sample gluing and mailing applications—have emerged as a growth market.”
Making a Scene
In Rochelle Printing’s case, its specialty niche is its patented CyberCene Flex-n-Tuck products. For the past five years, the company has been marketing these products to help its customers add visual impact to point-of-purchase materials, greeting cards, ceiling danglers, counter/case toppers, tents, signage, cartons and similar items. With the standard CyberCene, 2D promotional images are printed on clear rigid polyester and are then mounted on a die cut, folded, 18 point frame to create a multi-dimensional, almost 3D-looking, free-standing display.
“We use CyberCene for greeting cards, memorabilia and souvenir jobs,” said Morhardt. “We count as customers Disney, Cartoon Network and DreamWorks. We began by printing this technique on our Heidelberg 40-inch press using a plastic substrate.”
Recently, the firm added HumanEyes 3D lenticular and animation printing capabilities, which adds a 4th dimension to its CyberCene Flex-n-Tuck products. “We spent one year of intensive testing and achieving the best prototype,” said Morhardt “The colors were very vibrant, yet it was economical for our customers. We started offering it for point-of-purchase displays. The response we got was outstanding. Customers said it was the best 3D lenticular they had ever seen. Now we can print the base image layer as 3D using HumanEyes lenticular capabilities, adding an incredible, almost ‘4th dimension’ effect to the product. Our customers are increasingly expressing interest in the added depth, dimension and higher visual appeal we can now give to their packaging and store displays.”
Since installing the HumanEyes 3D software, Rochelle Printing has produced several lenticular and flip jobs. For example, one job was a package for a utility fold-up cart from a major manufacturer. The package included a “moving” flip image that provided an easy-to-understand illustration of how the product inside can be set-up—much more helpful than a static image.
In addition, the company received a gold award from the IAPHC in the Best Use of Lenticular category for the Breast Cancer Awareness CyberCene it produced in the fall of 2007. The award is part of the IAPHC’s annual showcase of printed samples that exemplify the craft, art and science employed by the global printing and graphics arts community.
“Currently, CyberCene is about five to ten percent of our business,” said Morhardt, “but we know there is a huge market for it in the travel, retail, pro sports and many other markets. And we’re exclusively offering the product. Everybody who sees it, loves it. We’ve had interest from pro football teams that wanted to produce CyberCene for their ticketholders. We produced die-cut round pins for salespeople to wear promoting the Energizer Bunny batteries. As they moved around the store, the image changed on the pin. It’s an eye-grabbing, attention-getting technique.”