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Technology Focus

New Processes Provide Decorative Choices

by Jeff Peterson

February-March, 2009
As we move well into the first decade of the 21st century, a great deal has changed in how the printed sheet can be enhanced and protected through specialty decorating processes. The emergence of new decorating processes, coupled with innovative application processes, has prompted the move by the Foil Stamping & Embossing Association to change its name to the Foil & Specialty Effects Association (see Director's Letter on page 5). Technological advancements in the cold foil process, new UV processes such as Cast and Cure, and specialty laser cutting technology are just part of what is now available to create spectacular designs that can stand on their own or enhance printed material such as cartons, greeting cards, invitations, folders, and much more.

Sheet-Fed Cold Foil Technology
Although cold foil is not brand new to the marketplace, the technology to apply it has become more reliable in the past few years and has become very popular in the narrow-web flexographic market for many label applications. Where it has seen more recent growth has been with the application of cold foil in-line with large format sheet-fed presses. This technology utilizes a tacky adhesive that is applied in the first printing head of a sheet-fed printer. The foil is nipped to the adhesive and the foil carrier is stripped away, thereby applying the foil only where the clear adhesive is laid down. Press manufacturers are offering this technology on new presses and there are retrofit units on the market for existing presses.

Although the trade foil stamper may look at this process as a competitive one to conventional foil stamping, it has much more effect on metalized board or paper that is overprinted. The cost of applying the cold foil to a standard carton stock and then overprinting the foil can be more cost effective than using metalized board for many applications. For applications where foil is utilized in just certain areas of the sheet or carton, even if overprinting is involved, traditional methods of hot stamping the foil and then overprinting is more cost effective. Foil usage with the cold foil process is one-to-one with the substrate. So, the foil pull must run the same length as the sheet and is not indexed as with conventional hot foil units. In addition, applying cold foil in-line on a sheet-fed press is best suited for coated stocks and does not perform as well on dry, porous stocks. Lastly, it must be pointed out that the cold foil technology does not provide the overall brilliance that can be achieved with applying foil through traditional hot stamping methods. So, there are limitations that will continue to keep traditional foil stamping a viable option for all types of applications.

Foil Fusing Technology
It is well known that special foils can be fused to toner image areas that have been imprinted with a laser printer. Using traditional foil fusing equipment with heated rollers, foil fusing is useful for proofs and small quantity orders but is not suitable for applying foil in production applications. Therm-O-Type has introduced a new foil fusing technology called High Speed Foil Fusing (HSFF) that increases the utility of the foil fusing process. The HSFF process solves speed, paper surface finish, and foil waste limitations associated with traditional foil fusing. With the new technology installed on a Therm-O-Type NSF press, foil can be fused to paper without the use of traditional dies at speeds up to 4,000 impressions per hour. HSFF can be used to apply not only metallics but also, pigment and holographic pattern foils. Special makeready and foils are required for the HSFF process. Foil presses can switch easily from flat foil stamping and foil embossing with traditional dies to the HSFF process in just a few minutes. High Speed Foil Fusing can be an excellent alternative for adding foil to graduation name cards, announcements, invitations, business cards, and greeting card personalization.

Coating and Laminating Effects
UV coatings, both spot and flood, have been a popular choice for adding a protective shine to all types of printed materials. Recently, extensions to standard UV have surfaced, providing even more choices to enhance the printed sheet. One of these newer technologies is a patent-pending process called Cast and Cure, offered by Breit Technologies. This technology creates diffractive surfaces to produce high-gloss, matte, and holographic finishes with the use of UV coatings and a specialty film, and can be utilized on both sheet-fed and web-fed applications.

The Cast and Cure process utilizes a specialty film that has a micro-embossed holographic pattern. Once the UV coating is applied, the film lays over the top of the sheet before the coating is cured. Then the sheet with the film still applied runs through the UV dryer and is cured. The film is stripped away, leaving the holographic effect on the sheet. Because there is no actual transfer of a foil or material onto the substrate, the film can be reused several times before new film is needed. Given the fact that no actual film or laminate is left on the sheet and the UV coating process does not omit any VOCs, Cast and Cure is marketed as an environmentally friendly decorating process. (Cast and Cure will be part of a full presentation at the IADD·FSEA Odyssey – see more details on page 11.)

Another growing trend with the UV coating process is the addition of glitter into the UV as it is applied. Glitter is not a new process and has been used for many years on greeting cards and invitations, but had always been limited because the conventional process of applying glitter leaves a residue not suitable for many applications. When combining the glitter within the UV coating, the glitter is cured with the coating, sealing it in and eliminating any residue. Because the glitter is secured within the coating, it opens up additional opportunities to apply glitter on applications such as folding cartons and book covers.

Laminating films have seen many changes over the past few years as well. Films are no longer relegated solely to clear films used for protecting printed materials. Laminating films are now available in many metallic and holographic patterns that can be overprinted or foil stamped. Clear iridescent films also are available, providing a unique appearance when tilted from side to side. They are completely translucent, allowing graphics and text to show through and still provide a unique pattern with the film. Laminating films are an excellent choice when wanting to combine protection with a colorful enhancement. Depending on the application, the ability to provide rigidity to a printed piece in different thicknesses is one of the big advantages that laminating films offer over other decorating processes.

Laser Cutting
Although laser cutting is not a new technology, it has continued to be a growing decorating process that can provide extremely intricate cutout shapes and graphics. The technology has grown and costs have decreased, making laser cutting a more feasible option for greeting cards, stationery, packaging applications, and promotional mailings. Laser cutting is not a preferred process or competing process to standard diecutting. If a shape or printed sheet can be diecut conventionally, that is still the best option from a cost standpoint. Laser cutting is an excellent choice to provide extremely detailed cuts for decorative purposes only. It is most cost effective for small- to medium-sized runs. The running speed for a laser cutting job can run from 200 to 2,000 sheets per hour, depending on the job requirements.

Currently, most laser cutting is done by specific companies specializing in the process that work closely with print finishers or packaging houses. However, as the cost of the machinery and technology decreases, adding laser cutting services through print finishers will begin to become a more viable option in the future.

Today, a multitude of effects and processes are available as enhancements to printing or as stand-alone decorative processes. Foil stamping and embossing continue to be wonderful additions to all types of printed products, as well as striking decorative methods on their own. Foil stamping and embossing will continue to be the focal point of the Foil & Specialty Effects Association (FSEA) and its members. However, there are now other alternatives for print finishiners to explore and offer to customers – whether providing it themselves or working together with partners to provide the finished product. The key in today’s market and particularly in the current economic times is to offer a variety of services, including new innovative solutions for the customer.

Sheet-Fed Cold Foil Technology Diversified Graphic Machinery, (732) 933-4865, www.dgmna.com

Graphic Art System, Inc., (732) 226-2111, www.graphicartsystem.com

Heidelberg USA, (800) 472-9655, www.us.heidelberg.com

Foil Fusing Technology
Therm-O-Type Corporation, (800) 237-9630, www.thermotype.com

Coating and Laminating Effects
Breit Technologies (Cast and Cure), (913) 492-8081, www.breit-tech.com

Infinity Foils, Inc., a UEI Group Company (UV Glitter), (877) 932-3645, www.infinityfoils.com

Protect-all (Laminating Films), (888) HEAT-LAM, www.protect-all.com

Laser Cutting
Laser Excel, (800) 285-6544, www.laserexcel.com