Far from Finished

Finishing is about much more than just a trim and a crease. In fact, it can be the key to growing your business in tough times.

You might not immediately see the connection between Wal-Mart; The John Bracelen Company, which was a small auto body shop serving Lincoln, Neb. in the 1930’s; and a way for printers to survive today’s tough print market. However, when I tell you that The John Bracelen Company was the first to coin the phrase ‘One Stop Shop’, then I am sure everything will drop into place.

Bracelen’s auto body shop was the first to hit upon offering a range of services under one roof that customers previously had to source separately. As its advertisements said, “Have it all done in one place. Save your time. Save your money.”

The growth of superstores like Wal-Mart reflects the successful extension of Bracelen’s ‘One Stop’ idea, although they’ve expanded the concept a bit. Today, a single Wal-Mart, Safeway, or Costco offers simultaneous multi-market retailing where you can do your grocery shopping, pick up a prescription and develop your photos all while having your car serviced—the opportunities to spend are almost endless.

There are plenty of companies in the print sector offering the ‘One Stop Shop’ treatment, usually presenting customers with a menu of services from graphic and structural design, through print, to warehousing and logistics. However, many of these printers are missing a trick. By having access to a well chosen range of finishing options (more than a guillotine, a creaser and a collator), printers can increase their sales to existing customers and draw in completely new ones.

There are three finishing processes that hugely extend the range of products you can offer. These are foil stamping, die cutting and folding and gluing, which in different combinations make it possible to manufacture a host of products ranging from stationery, point of sale/point of purchase (POS/POP) materials, direct mail inserts and promotional items, to menus, travel documents, magazine inserts, CD/DVD sleeves, packaging and even drink coasters. Now, with a list like that I’m sure your existing ‘print-only’ customers couldn’t fail to find something new to buy from you!

Vision in Foil

When it comes to control, flexibility and cutting down waste, off-line hot-foil stamping is far superior to in-line cold foiling on your printing press.

A hot-foil stamper gives users the ability to apply any amount of foil, from the small and fine to the large and bold; it can lay down foils with special effects or holograms, all perfectly in register; and create texture in your print by embossing at the same time.

So what can you produce that might include a nice bit of foil or an eye-catching hologram? Greetings cards are the obvious products and the market for them is constantly in need of new designs that stand out from the crowd. This is often achieved by the use of diffraction foils, holograms or finely applied foils.

There are many other opportunities for foil stamped and hologram products such as direct mail, security print, brochures, invitations and tickets, packaging and even shopping bags.

Key to most of these is the ability to foil with great register accuracy and control waste of the—often expensive—foil. The latest development in foil stampers is a foil register control system which reads the location of the print on the sheet and moves it into perfect alignment with the foil being laid down.

With holograms, which generally need to be precisely located and stamped with a textured die to work correctly, a hologram registration device ensures perfect hologram creation every time.

Hot-foil stamping is often used in conjunction with die cutting to create foiled, embossed and shaped products. One way to benefit from both processes is to utilize one of the new generation of foiling presses which can be quickly and easily converted to and from die cutting. This gives users the opportunity to build up a market for hot-foil stamping, while running die-cut work to fill the machine schedule, or vice-versa.

Master Cutting and Creasing

The die-cutting process is probably at the heart of these finishing processes. It lets you offer products that are shaped, creased, have slits or scores, or include cut-outs. This covers a huge range of products from CD/DVD sleeves, caps and inserts, through greetings cards and invitations, promotional material, booklets, packaging and POS and POP materials.

Along with paper and card, the more versatile modern die cutters handle litho-laminates and micro-flute corrugated, not to mention synthetic substrates including PLA. Processing synthetics is notoriously troublesome, but is easier today due to recent innovations which include special systems for hot die cutting—heating the substrate to make it more receptive to cutting and creasing.

Die cutting also allows the user to emboss the product, which can add significant dimension and make it more attractive to the critical eye of the print buyer.

Expert Folding

Last, but not least, comes the folding & gluing process, which is particularly useful in the production of stationery products such as envelopes and pocket or presentation folders, along with CD/DVD sleeves. There’s also a wide range of features available for folder-gluers that allow such processes as Braille embossing, CD insertion, windowing and more to be done inline. These allow you to add even greater value to your customers’ products and create additional business opportunities for you.

So, whether you outsource the finishing, or handle it in-house, making the most of clever finishing techniques available can significantly extend the range of products you offer in your ‘One Stop Shop’. After all, the approach hasn’t done Wal-Mart any harm, has it?

Chris Raney is vice president, Folding Carton products for Bobst Group North America, Roseland, N.J. He is responsible for the Folding Carton Business Area for the North American market. He can be reached at christopher.raney@bobstgroup.com.