Embellishment is a great way to add impact and novelty to print, capitalising on its tactile nature – and to add margin to a printing business. Michael Walker looks at how various printers are using the digital variety

With so much of life conducted via screen lately, it’s both a relief and a pleasure to look at something else for a change, and beautifully finished and embellished print fits the bill nicely, imparting a sense of quality and novelty that pixel-based alternatives can’t match. Whether it’s a spot-UV printed book jacket, metallic colours on a brochure cover, an exquisite box with fluorescent colours, a foiled business card or wedding invitation, these tangible items have an added allure because they are real, permanent objects that don’t disappear with a swipe or a ‘sleep’ button, so as well as initial impact, they have longevity too.

Various enterprising printers are keen to seize on the opportunity that digital embellishments offer, both to win or generate new work and to add value for their clients and themselves. One such is CDS London co-owner and managing director Barry Page, who with partner David Gibbons, bought the London firm in May 2020. ‘We saw potential in the business, and at that point were expecting Covid to be gone in six months,’ he notes.

A big part of the reason for that potential was in the company’s premises. Based at London’s Royal Victoria Dock, Mr Page says it’s 50 yards from the Excel exhibition and conference centre, close to Canary Wharf and the creative hub around Shoreditch. A long-time Xerox customer, Mr Page has duplicated a toner press setup that the company’s other business, KMP in Bury St Edmunds, has, specifically an Iridesse and a Versant, though the London shop has a Versant 180, while the Suffolk site has a Versant 3100.

‘I loved the terminology – CMYK and beyond – we wanted to be different, ‘ he enthuses. ‘It was an easy decision, the value proposition was there, and it was cost-effective. We’d previously done gold and silver foiling but this would let us take extra processes out and reduce the time such as job takes.’

An attraction of the Iridesse, in addition to its additional colours, was the extended SRA3 sheet size, reaching 1.2m, which allows for the production of over-sized folders which previously would have been litho printed and then finished/ decorated in post-press.

Mr Page says the quality from the Xerox presses is ‘superb’, praising the gold and silver toners. While he admits that it’s not the same thing as ‘real’ foiling, the timescales made possible by the single-pass printing process are key. ‘Clients want it yesterday but when we say we can do it in four hours, their ears prick up,’ he explains. DCS has also installed the recently-released fluorescent pink toner, ‘something else to talk to clients about’.

Despite the plans to tap Excel traffic, DCS is not in the exhibition graphics business, but Mr Page points out that with the Xerox presses able to print on board up to 400gsm, there are possibilities around small run bespoke packaging such as goody boxes that might be given by the venue management to key clients, as well as opportunities around smaller events.

‘We wanted the ability to enter new markets,’ adds Mr Page, though he admits that ‘plans aren’t going as fast as I’d like, because of working from home, but we’re laying down the foundations. We’re beginning to get opportunities.’

Standing out

Duplo’s DuSense allows a combination of tactile high-build spot UV and foiling for creative effect

Embellish and cut

Another London-based company, but one that’s gone firmly with the post-press embellishment option, is Diamond Digital, where a Vivid Matrix Metallic 370 laminator has been in use for foil-over-toner work for more than four years.

‘It’s been a great addition to our arsenal. Clients love that we can not only produce fabulously vivid foil colours and effects to jazz up their designs, at a cut cost, but also can even personalise these foiled areas in super quick turnaround times,’ reports director Gary Norris.

More recently, Diamond has paired the laminator with Vivid’s VeloBlade digital cutter, which has opened up a number of new possibilities, particularly in the packaging arena, making boxes for face masks and gloves as well as display boxes and paper boxes for business cards.

Mr Norris says, ‘It’s helped us to open doors with customers as we have an ‘edge’ over straight litho/digital houses and it simply impresses them. Working mainly for design agencies, it has helped to enable us to realise their vision

competitively whether it be an invite, business card, brochure work or even where some level of security is required. Obviously being in house has also allowed us to increase margin on this style of work. We absolutely love it!’

Matthew Greer, CEO/CTO of Pelham, Alabama-based DMS Color, describes his firm as a technology company that has been an early adopter of digital print for 15 years, which has included developing its own web-to-print asset management system to serve customers in healthcare, finance and retail markets. The business moved into digital embellishment around three years ago, with the purchase of an MGI JetVarnish iFoil machine, which was initially put to work adding anti-counterfeiting measures to tickets via the combination of variable data printing and foiling, plus some high-end poster work.

‘We weren’t doing anything analogue, it was going to be a different type of print. It took a year to 18 months to hit our stride with what the offering needed to be, we did a lot of market validation, and digital print with embellishment is the fastest-growing segment,’ comments Mr Greer.

This led to a fast-growing business in small format short-run packaging, now run under a separate brand, Gold Leaf Packaging, which produces cartons on a fleet of Konica Minolta toner presses and adding spot varnish and foil on the MGI unit. The business has grown so fast – from a

turnover of US $150,000 to expecting to hit over $5 million in 2021 – that a second MGI unit was added in autumn 2020 to keep up with demand. Mr Greer and his partners are keeping an eye on the B2 digital market, likely favouring an HP Indigo for the ability to print white as well as larger sized cartons, and may also invest in a matching B2 format MGI device to go with it.

As well as the packaging business, DMS Color plans to move into the high-end greetings card market, with plans to launch an e-commerce site this summer. Embellishment will be a key part of the offering here too.

Standing out

CPI is adding digital spot UV to books at one of its French sites

Spot the UV

Surrey-based Proper Goose is into digital embellishment in a big way. Selling one-off products via channels such as Not On The High Street, the company prints a variety of personalised gift items, from playing cards to tins, mats and bottles and is keen to stand out any way it can. ‘We asked ourselves how many bits of technique can we use to differentiate ourselves,’ explains director Luke Gosling, who goes on to list spot UV, conventional hot foil, Vivid foilover-toner and Trotec laser cutting as examples, as well as a Duplo 646 multi-finisher and rotary die-cutter.

For spot UV, had been using a Mimaki flatbed printer to build layers of clear ink to form raised tactile effects on hard surfaces, but it was a time consuming multipass process. To speed things up, the company has just invested in a Duplo DuSense digital UV spot coater, which it will use in conjunction with its Ricoh Pro C72000 sheet-fed toner press with fluorescent toners, ‘so we can do all the tricks’, as Mr Gosling puts it. The DuSense machine was bought because it will enable the tactile effects to be produced much more quickly and may allow Proper Goose to offer a trade service in its area; Mr Gosling adds that the foil-over-clear option that the machine also supports will also be investigated in due course.

A DuSense user that’s had their unit for longer but is also using it to create raised effects faster than they could on a wide-format flatbed printer is Service Graphics, which produces work mainly for London based advertising agencies needing novel pitch materials or other creative print across a wide range of materials and product types, including boxes and presentation cases as well as giant props and staging and lenticular prints.

The DuSense was originally installed at Kingswood iOptus but has been moved to the Service Graphics location, where general manager Andy Davis, says ‘It’s early days but we have already seen the benefits in speed and quality with the DuSense. We were producing similar effects on our large format direct-to-media swissQprint Nyala press, but it’s quicker and more cost effective via the DuSense. There are many options in the market but for quality and price the DuSense was the stand-out choice.’

He adds, ‘I am always looking at new ways to innovate printing and techniques so always looking at what’s out there. It’s not just about speed and volume it’s about creativity and difference.’

Digital spot UV is also in use at CPI’s Bussière site, its largest digital printing plant in France, where Autobond’s Mini 53 inline inkjet device is being used with its Quantum print lines, which are based on HP PageWide inkjet web presses. The Autobond spot UV is being used in conjunction with thermal lamination to embellish book covers. It was installed in 2018 to replace conventional spot-UV varnishing equipment and reduced set-up times by a factor of 10.

‘The Autobond can be set up in under 15 minutes, is very reliable with minimal maintenance and downtime, and can process any number of sheets, from one to thousands. It also has the great benefit of providing in-line lamination, saving considerable time by combining processes, key to meeting today’s increasingly tight production lead times,’ says general manager Pascal Choloux.

‘It was quick and easy to train operators with the inkjet technology, as they were used to working in a digital press environment. After more than 3 million sheets processed since installation, customers and operators are very satisfied.’

Standing out

Diamond Digital has opened doors with the combination of foiling and digital cutting with Vivid equipment

Fancy foiling

Leicester-based Melody Studio was founded in 2012 by packaging designer Bhavin Supeda. The business offers a range of print-related services that include personalised gifts, sold via an Etsy shop as well as directly, business and wedding stationery and a range of commercial and wideformat print. As well as offering laser cutting, sublimation printing, 3D spot UV and die-cutting, Melody Studio uses digital foiling with Caslon machines, particularly on wedding stationery and labels, in conjunction with an Intec A3 press.

Mr Supeda got to know Caslon during his packaging design days and subsequent visits to trade shows and has had two foil-over-toner machines, a FoilTech FT10 and more recently an FT12, bought in December 2019, as well as a creaser which he reports is still working perfectly after 13 years. He says, ‘The foil quality is amazing. Also, the Caslon team is very helpful for aftersales and advice. We’re currently very happy with the machine and [it is] perfect for our needs.’

Packaging and PoS are very much the focus at Hull’s Oriel Press, which describes itself as primarily a UV-litho trade printer, producing high-end work for big cosmetics, spirits and food brands on folding boxboard and more specialist substrates such as foil board and plastics. The company bought a Scodix Ultra Pro + Foil embellishment press on its launch at drupa 2016 (now handled in the UK by Friedheim International) in order to enhance its print decoration offering to its clients.

‘We were amazed seeing foil and high-build spot UV varnish printed digitally,’ recalls managing director Richard Simms, who confirms that the embellishment press has also been instrumental in winning new clients: ‘It definitely opens doors for us, as we have something different to offer.’

Some teething problems were encountered with embellishing onto the less widely-encountered substrates used at Oriel, but some in-house customisation overcame these. ‘Now it can print foil board and clear plastic. We are very proud of the fact that we are (probably) the only printers who can do this,’ says Mr Simms. He adds that there are presently no plans to add further equipment of this type but to ‘knuckle down and keep growing the business out of this pandemic’ – good advice for anyone perhaps, but it’s clear that the creative application of embellishment is a powerful tool for doing just that.