Is Digital Print Enhancement the Next Big Thing?

Posted on by Dave Erlandson | No Comments »

Since being introduced in the market, innovations in color digital printing have aimed at transferring pages from offset. As digital set its sights on the offset market, the first areas of focus were image quality, speed, and costs. Once digital printing image quality was acceptable and productivity reasonable, the focus continued to expand to other offset capabilities: additional colors, workflow, and finishing. With each area of advancement digital printing was acquiring more and more of the capabilities found in offset production. One of the areas that is now receiving considerable attention from manufacturers is the area of enhanced output, which includes spot varnish, foil, raised printing, and other special effects like glitter or cast and cure.   In the digital printing arena, the first capabilities were introduced by NexPress several years ago, with raised printing and the ability to do spot coating. Since then they and others manufacturers  have added 5th colors (white, metallics, neon, IR) and more clear coat options, all in an effort to provide differentiation and higher margins for the early adopters. Over the last few years adoption of specialty enhancements was low. While customers loved the enhanced output, for the most part they were unwilling to pay for it.

However there are strong signs the market for digital enhancement is starting to shift. At Graph Expo two companies were showing their latest offerings in the space: MGI and Scodix.   Both of these companies offer machines that take regular printed output and enhance it with coatings, raised printing, foil, and other special effects.  There are two key proof points. Konica Minolta recently raised its stake in MGI and now owns about 40%.  And Scodix personnel were still riding high from drupa where they said they sold about 140 machines.  Just what are these two companies offering?

MGI has a number of product options, but here are three of the most interesting:

  • Jet Varnish 3D is an inkjet spot UV coater with raised 3D effects. The coater handles sheets sizes of up to 20”x42” from a digital or offset press and then uses inkjet technology to create spot UV coatings or raised 3D effects.  It can handle substrates up to 600 gsm and runs at up to 1700 B2 sheets per hour. This product uses the MGI AIS (Artificial Intelligence SmartScanner) to ensure the printed sheets fed into the MGI units are perfectly registered prior to enhancement
  • iFoil is a digital embossing and hot foil stamping solution that can be installed in-line with the Jet Varnish 3D or in-line with a MGI METEOR digital press.  The iFoil enables embossing and debossing, multiple colored foils applied in one pass (up to 3 colors) and foil on foil.
  • Jet Varnish 3DW is the web version of the cutsheet product. It can handle web widths from 3.93” to 16.53” and runs up to 137 fpm in 2D mode and up to 65 fpm in 3D mode. In addition to spot UV coating, embossing and foil the system comes with a full rotary flexo UV station for full or sleeve printing (used to apply a primer coat prior to finishing).

Three key Scodix products include

  • Scodix S Series applies a transparent UV polymer as a fifth separation up 250 microns in thickness onto printed sheets (up to B2 size). The result is what they call Scodix SENSE™.
  • Scodix Ultra Pro™ with Scodix Foil. The press takes input sheets in up to B2 size and with the inline foil unit can output any of Scodix’s 9 “applications” at the rate of 1250 B2 sheets per hour.

scodix applications

 

  • Scodix E106 Enhancement Press – is a B1 size press designed for the packaging industry, primarily the folding carton market. It runs at 4,000 sheets per hour.  It has the foil unit built in and can produce all 9 of the Scodix applications.

These companies are bringing solutions with stunning output to be used on a wide range of printing applications including folding cartons, labels, marketing collateral, business cards, greeting cards, wedding invitations, book covers, magazine covers, gift boxes, and direct mail.

mgi

One additional proof point about this capability. Vistaprint, a Scodix customer is running a series  of commercials on television touting enhanced print for business cards. The commercial I saw last night has a scenario were a photographer needed business cards and he chose a photo of himself holding his camera. The image of the lens of the camera had a thick UV coating applied to it to make it look like glass. It looked great. The price was $29.99 for 250. A standard order for 250 on their website is priced at $8.99 so the up charge is substantial.  It seems like many industries have taken commodity products and turned them into high margin products e.g. bottled water or Starbucks coffee.  Can print enhancement be the next one?

scodix enhancement

Write a comment