Digital Finishing and How it Enhances Print

Digital finishing technology delivers a world of possibilities and opportunities to professional finishers and print service providers. Finishing technology from such companies as MGI, Scodix, and Esko among others, add value to the printed material, to create new sales possibilities and ensure timely delivery of product.

There is very little downside, if any, to migrating to a digital finishing platform, observed Kevin Abergel, MGI USA Vice President of Marketing & Sales. The finishing community that traditionally used screens and dies for foil stamping and embossing can now experience the cost and time advantages of migrating to digital finishing, while commercial printers and in-plant printers are able to add value and expand their product portfolio.

Cost-effective, digital finishing solutions that replace conventional analog methods eliminate the need for dies, plates, molds, and other costly materials. “By ultimately reducing product waste, we help our PSP customers become environmentally ‘green’ – vitally important in our world and in our industry,” said Lynn Kolevsohn, Marketing Director, Scodix.

What’s more, digital solutions translate in make-ready cost-savings for short to medium runs, helping PSPs to grow their business, expand their product offering, and realize high ROI. “With all the tools they need in-house, PSPs can now manage and control foil enhancement applications, profit from rapid turnaround time, gain independence from 3rd party suppliers, and maintain print job confidentiality,” she added.

“We find that a lot of printers who originally outsourced their digital finishing have brought it in-house,” said Steve Bennett, VP Sales Central & Distribution, Esko. “Digital cutting devices allow the print provider to make faster delivery promises that can be kept. It prevents delays in production and is actually a very nice profit center.”

On a basic level, digital finishing is a moneymaker; a process that can deliver profit margins of 80-100 percent. But, ultimately, beyond profitability, “it’s an attention getter. Digital enhancements make people want to touch the printed material and engage customers and prospects in a way that regular print just can’t do,” Abergel said.

Both MGI and Scodix now offer the ability to customize specially-finished products.

MGI’s Variable Data Foiling (VDF) and digital embossing capabilities, as part of its integrated JETvarnish 3D Spot UV Coater & iFOIL solution, delivered 20,000 personalized, tip-on covers card for GRAPH EXPO 15’s show directory “If done with dies, you would have had to have to create 20,000 different dies, which is clearly not possible,” said Abergel.

Digital finishing has raised the bar on personalized print products, changing the face of the digital print industry, said Kolevsohn. Scodix’s Digitized Inline Foil unit, designed to run on the Ultra Pro digital press, enhances VDP projects with variable foiling.

“Industry research has shown that when it comes to the quality of a uniquely personalized end product, the overall effect of touching and feeling the product, personalized for the individual, maintains the printed card or document for a longer period of time,” she said. “Digital finishing gives PSPs a range of design possibilities that were once unheard of – the ability to give their customers memorable, personalized, high-quality end products that will put them in the forefront of technology and ultimately, a step ahead of their competition.”

Scodix launched a range of products in recent months, in close partnership with its customers. “Scodix Sense promotes exceptional tactile results for embosomed effects, Scodix Foil enhances all types of foil processes, Scodix Spot is for superior silkscreen effects, Scodix VDP/VDE (with barcode) is for unique personalization effects, and a host of innovative applications that include our Scodix Metallic, Scodix Glitter, and Scodix Braille,” said Kolevsohn.

The Scodix Foil station, an optional module that runs in-line with the Scodix Ultra Pro digital press, is designed for commercial printers and short to medium runs, particularly those where foil applications must be outsourced or require lengthy and costly make ready processes.

“Scodix Foil delivers what our customers demand – digitally creating a brilliant foil effect in-house with no waste or mess,” said Kolevsohn. “The application deploys a range of hot and cold industry-standard foil films coupled with a variety of substrates, including offset, digital, plastics, laminated/non-laminated, and coated/uncoated to deliver high-quality business and greeting cards, folders, book covers, brochures, labels, and packaging.”

Scodix Spot is designed for PSPs and folding carton converters to benefit from true silkscreen technology in-house. “A single operator can now recreate the effect of traditional flat varnishes, without the setup time, cost or mess often associated with conventional methods,” Kolevsohn added.

MGI offers multiple different JETVarnish and iFoil solutions, including the premier of its roll to roll digital enhancement labeling system (the “W” Model”) at the most recent Labelexpo Europe.

In January, the first offspring of the global MGI-Konica Minolta partnership, initially announced in 2014, officially hit the streets. The JETVarnish3Ds and iFOILs digital enhancement system developed by MGI and Konica Minolta, features all the tactile effects and advantages of the original JETVarnish 3D in half the size, 13×19“ vs. the standard 20×42“version. There have also been some enhancements, said Abergel.

“Konica Minolta was very specific about some of the environmental considerations,” he added. “It uses a lot more LED varnish curing than UV, and it has some additional design and engineering capabilities meant for a print shop’s bread and butter jobs, such as adding foil and embossing to business cards and brochures.”

The larger JETVarnish finishing systems take in a wider range of substrates, from offset, flexo, or digital presses and can also deal with packaging material.

“When you have the muscle and power of a company like Konica Minolta promoting digital finishing, it dramatically raises the awareness of digital finishing,” said Abergel. “It also sparks a rejuvenation of print in general.”

One of the key elements of the MGI’s digital finishing solution is its flexibility, said Abergel. “With the JETVarnish series, users have the flexibility to extend from a run of one to 100,000 with the same setup, helping to turnaround short run jobs quickly and also manage costs. “

For high impact finishers such as Sipe Inc., located in Fort Wayne, IN, the addition of the MGI JETVarnish 3D helped bring “something news to our clients,” said Lisa M. Hill, Sipe Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

The JETVarnish 3D, which applies layers of polymer coating to the printed material, delivers a high-gloss finish or textured, embossed feel without the cost of dies. The end result is a dimensional effect.

Sipe’s clients are commercial printers; its Touch Me 3D-UV, the company’s patented process for its MGI-based offering, helps its clients differentiate themselves. “If our customer is looking to produce an end piece with the ‘wow’ factor or even a classically understated piece with something new or different, that points to using Touch Me 3D,” said Hill.

And because the process is digital, it allows Sipe to easily create samples using the 3D effect on the brand’s image or product. “That helps our clients with their print business. It brings value to our clients, increases their margin on the print buy and gives them a value-add for their client.”

Another bonus of having the JETVarnish 3D is it helps sells the company’s other services. “Once clients are using Touch Me 3D, they might as well move into the next machine for die-cutting and finishing, rather than sending it elsewhere,” noted Hill.

With shorter runs and faster delivery deadlines—along with digital printing—digital cutting devices are needed to keep pace with orders and production.

“The last thing you want is for finishing to be the bottleneck in production,’ Bennett said. A continually expanding tool set now allows PSPs to finish basically any materials they can print on, or any applications they develop. This includes a number of knife cutting, creasing, and high speed milling tools, all on the same device.

“We also find that companies that offer digital finishing typically offer a complete portfolio of printing, from commercial print to displays to even some forms of packaging,” added Bennett. “They are often able to cannibalize a wider variety of print jobs from their existing customers. And, it does not give the print buyer the opportunity to consider working with a different, ‘full service’ print provider.”

Esko’s digital finishing solutions—its Kongsberg digital cutting tables and the i-cut vision registration system—allow the print provider to expand its service offerings and provide much more complex product designs.

Flat, rectangular posters are very commonplace retail displays that no longer command considerable consumer attention. Displays with contour cuts that follow the graphic design, or three-dimensional displays, provide much greater visibility on the store’s floor. “More important, these displays are not commodities—projects that can be produced by anyone and which are price competitive. Unique designs help to make the PSP much more valuable to the print buyer. They also require an extended amount of services including, most often, design. They are much more profitable for the PSP,” said Bennett.


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