What the heck is variable, personalized, specialty printing?

Posted on by Greg Cholmondeley | No Comments »

by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, Caslon & Company


Eric ThibodeauI had a fascinating conversation yesterday with Eric Thibodeau, Worldwide Variable Print Business Manager for Xerox. We had a wide-ranging discussion about what variable data printing means today, how it relates to personalization, and the kinds of innovative opportunities it can create when used with specialty imaging.

We began by discussing how variable data printing really encompasses a wide range of uses from transactional printing of bills and statements, to event tickets, to customized brochures, to personalized direct marketing. These applications can range from simple to unbelievably complex and, even though they use the same underlying technologies, are delivered by varying types of companies like service bureaus and commercial printers.

The discussion went the same way when we got to personalization. Where do you draw the line? Is simply overprinting an address personalization? Is sticking someone’s first name in some text personalization? How about simply sending the most relevant of seven versions of a marketing piece to someone? Does it need to have large chunks of custom content and tailored offers? The answer is all of the above and more, but to be useful, there needs to be a focus.

The direction this day’s conversation took was about using variable data alongside specialty imaging to add value and security to documents. It’s something that most printers probably don’t really know much about and there are some intriguing business possibilities using it. The part that I have trouble getting my head around is that the variable data specialty printing techniques he described could all be done with normal, toner-based presses. They might require some special fonts or that media meet some specific characteristics, but other than that, you can do some pretty cool stuff right out of the box.

  • He talked about adding variable data Microtext which is only readable with a loupe.
  • Adding correlation marks onto tickets and invitations containing personal data which can only be seen using a screened overlay
  • He went through something called GlossMark which is only visible when a page is viewed at an angle. This can help ensure that documents are originals and not copies, and if the information contains variable data, it further enhances security.
  • And he talked about FluorescentMark and InfraRed text which are printed text only visible using black lights or infrared cameras.

This is pretty interesting stuff, but the really cool part is that you don’t need to use fluorescent or infrared inks or toners. This means printers have the ability to add high-value personalized, secure, specialty imaging features without adding cost. That translates into higher margins.

Eric is going to go deeper into these ideas at his free PODi Institute Webinar next Wednesday, October 26th at 2:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. He’s promised to share some real user application examples, and even have one of their customers, Skipnes Kommunikasjon, a Norwegian commercial printer talk about how they’re using the technology right now. It should be good. Register for it today.

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