When digital media was launched, it was perceived as copier paper—plain white paper for office printing—she adds. But it now has reached the point where it can be used in high-end projects traditionally printed on offset machines. In short, the quality once associated strictly with offset is possible with digital.
Thus, Neenah Paper is seeing increasing demand for its pearlized product line, which is called Esse, and for pearl effects that are also offered in its Classic, Stylized, and Starwhite paper lines, Shannon says.
The pearl effect allows a four-color photograph to be given a striking dimensional effect with the pearl showcased underneath, she explains. Shannon believes the product is a perfect fit for retail and consumer packaged goods companies seeking to differentiate their brands.
Whether it is pearlized, colored, or textured, today’s more innovative digital media allow printers to up-sell their customers into higher product lines, and thereby put more money into their own pockets, she says.
When asked to name some of the more creative new applications she has seen, Shannon immediately cites digital photobooks and variable printing. “No matter what people say about the future of the US Postal Service, the reality is direct mail will continue playing a role,” she says. “By using variable data along with heavier stocks, some color, and texture, our research shows those who differentiate themselves these ways can reap up to 20 percent higher response rate than if they used thin-coated white sheet.”
At the top of Kirby’s list of creative applications are “onserts.” An onsert rides atop a magazine, and has to be packaged with the magazine, but provides the capability of delivering a fully customized ad to the magazine recipient.
There’s also the capability to produce very short-run magazines of fewer than 200 copies, each boasting an appearance that is anything but that of a publication run on a copier, Kirby says. The final exciting application takes the form of 16- to 50-plus-page coupon books, fully utilizing loyalty card data to tempt consumers with attractive cents- or dollars-off offers on products competitive with products to which they’re loyal. “They’re getting more relevant,” Kirby says.
One intriguing application Kimpton saw is a jigsaw puzzle run on an Indigo press and laminated to thicker substrates, then cut into puzzle pieces for a toy manufacturer. Another is a clothing maker’s catalog, featuring an insert of dye-cut labels. A clothing buyer at a retailer can pull off the labels and easily stick them on any of the pictured items to show they will buy those lines, she says.
Matching Substrates to Devices
One question perplexing many printers is how to make sure particular types of digital substrates are compatible with their specific output devices. Niesen urges gaining specific information from the press maker, discussing the potential match with substrate specialists, and then testing the material. “We go a lot further than many in that we have a print trial process,” he says.
“With our partners, we give them education and a file, coupled with any substrate they want to test, so they can understand how that substrate will perform. It’s not just a matter of whether it will feed or get good toner adhesion. It’s about how well will it fold, will it score, will it go through the mail, will it have to be coated or laminated, and can it be coated or laminated? It goes back to that need for education I spoke about earlier.”
Choosing the right substrate requires a consultation with the substrate manufacturer, agrees Kirby. “In Appleton Coated’s case, it’s the sales rep on premise, the management and the technical services team,” he adds. “The consultation focuses on compatibility, what you can expect on press, and to provide insight if what you’re trying to do will be a challenge for that equipment.”
“It’s all about what you’re trying to do,” adds Neenah Paper’s technical sales specialist Tony Difford. “If you’re looking for that first moment of impact, look at colors. If you have a bright color, like a bright pepper ink that will really stand out, then your second moment of impact would be any of the textures you could add to that. Now it really begins to get your attention.”