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Special Report

InsideFinishing's 10th Anniversary Celebration - A Snapshot View

by Kym Conis

November-December, 2005
It’s hard to believe that InsideFinishing magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the trade finishing industry. As the only U.S. publication today dedicated solely to this specialized segment of the graphics world, InsideFinishing has remained steadfast in its quest to provide a valuable source of information and reference materials to its readers. From up-to-date coverage on products, technologies, and trends to management tips and business issues, InsideFinishing strives to capture the pulse of the industry by highlighting the very people, events, and achievements that define the industry’s diverse personality.

In commemoration of the magazine’s 10th anniversary, the following article is a snapshot view of the industry as reported through the ‘eyes’ of InsideFinishing. With volumes of published material from which to choose, we’ve focused on some of the highlights covered during the magazine’s first ten years in publication that have had some of the greatest impact on the finishing industry.

The Starting Point
Originally initiated by the Foil Stamping and Embossing ­Association (FSEA) in 1992, the industry publication started out as a four-page newsletter. However, the demands of a thriving economy and an industry hungry for information to fuel its growth soon dictated the newsletter’s expansion. ­InsideFinishing burst onto the finishing scene in 1995 as a full-fledged 22-page quarterly publication, printed primarily in black and white. “We wanted to come up with a name that would encompass all of the finishing techniques and ­develop a strategy to cover other finishing processes such as diecutting, folding-gluing, UV coating, film laminating, litho laminating, as well as foil stamping and embossing,” recalls Jeff Peterson, InsideFinishing’s editor in chief and the executive director of the FSEA since 2001. “This has helped us have a broader reach and grow the publication over the last 10 years. We now have advertisers in all of the these segments of the industry.” ­InsideFinishing is now over 50 pages in every issue with over 40 advertisers – triple the size of the first edition in 1995.

The very first edition of InsideFinishing (February/March 1995) included a special report on the collectable milk cap craze known as POGs™, which brought an increase in both foil stamping and diecutting to many finishers around the country in the mid 90s. It is interesting to note that many of the magazine’s first advertisers who jumped onboard with their support continue to advertise in the publication today, including the Bobst Group (who has occupied the inside front cover on every issue of the magazine since its inception), Brandtjen & Kluge, Owosso Graphic Arts, Crown Roll Leaf, ITW Foilmark, and Astor Universal (now API Foils).

In the next four years, the publication continued to grow in size (more than double) and in quality (more creative designs began to adorn the front cover, utilizing a variety of finishing processes from hot stamping and 3-D holography to UV coating and film laminating). InsideFinishing also was quick to diversify with the incorporation of a number of standard feature articles, including the Finishers Feature (Rocky Mountain Embossing was the first to be showcased in the May/June 1996 issue), Management Trends, Technology Focus, Association News, and Success Stories (Lehigh Press was the first to be featured in the Feb/Mar 1998 issue with a foil stamped and overprinted book jacket for Reader’s Digest entitled “Through Indian Eyes”). A yearly ­rotary hot stamping supplement also was added to the publication’s diverse mix in 1999. Today, ­InsideFinishing (with a readership base of over 6,000) continues to capture the pulse of the finishing industry with great pride and commitment.

A Driving Force
1995 was a banner year for the FSEA. Not only was the ­Association’s publication launched but also, the first annual FSEA convention entitled “Reflecting Creative Impressions” was held in Chicago. Nearly 200 graphic finishing professionals gathered for the three-day conference – an event that has traveled to other U.S. destinations over the past 10 years, including Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami Beach, New Orleans and next year in San Antonio. Additionally at the convention, and in conjunction with Graph Expo ’95, the Pantone® Foil Color Selector program was launched to help standardize the selection of hot stamping foil colors and increase the visibility of foil throughout the graphic arts industry. Although the project lacked the national backing to truly become a success, it marked the first major attempt by the FSEA and many of its members to reach those who specify the foil on projects – the designers.

One of the greatest undertakings achieved in the 1990s by the FSEA was the live production of A Different Breed: The Designer’s Guide to Foil Stamping and ­Embossing on the show floor at Print 97 in Chicago. Under the helm of past Executive Director Mary Fuller and Project Chairman Patrick Derickson, then with Rocky Mountain Embossing, numerous FSEA members (including Brandtjen & Kluge, who donated the services of its advertising agency for the copywriting, design, and layout of the book) joined together to make the project a reality. Not only was it the first time a project of this magnitude was produced live on a trade show floor, but it also marked the Association’s most aggressive campaign to date to reach and educate the design (and print) communities on the many facets of foil stamping, embossing, and holography. So successful, a 2nd edition of the Guide was produced in 2004 including information on creating digital artwork for dies – a growing trend.

The Pulse of the Industry
In the mid to late 90s and into the new millennium, a healthy economy fostered increased usage of value-added processes across a variety of markets and as usage increased, technology soared. As reported in the first edition of InsideFinishing (Feb/Mar. 1995), the milk cap POG™ craze swept the nation, with some companies quoting as many as 5 million milk caps per week! The packaging industry started to utilize foil and other finishing processes in areas never before considered viable options. General Mills took the lead in developing food-packaging designs that incorporated hot stamping foil and other specialty techniques, such as a special edition Trix cereal box that was decorated with a multi-colored metallic foil developed by Crown Roll Leaf. Other markets sporting value-added processes included toothpaste, paint cans, CD-Rom packaging, and even dog food packaging.

Overprinting of refractive engravings became quite the buzzword in the mid 90s and everything from packaging to trading cards wanted ‘in’ on the hype. In the trading card industry, interactive cards that involved the consumer dominated the market. Cards that contained an actual piece of a football player’s worn jersey, dirt from a playing field, pieces of balls, etc. were the hot ticket, as well as diecut and laser cut cards. And, of course, an array of foil stamping and embossing techniques adorned trading cards of all types.

Towards the end of the century, refractive engravings took off with custom, double-etched, standard pattern refractive. Other die and foil advancements over the 10-year span included the Die Co-Ordinator from Insight Graphic Systems and Sterling Toggle; UniLock-Up System from Universal Engraving Inc.; the Gerber Profile™ die tool production system; CNC engravings; curved cylinder engravings for the Steuer Foil-Jet; and magnetic chases for use with steel-backed engravings. New technologies in foil products included laser-compatible foils; higher-speed foils; cold foil applications; overprintable foils; shimless holographic foils; and clear holographic foils.

A brief overview of new technologies in foil stamping/diecutting finishing equipment introduced over the past ten years includes a new EHF series of foil stamping presses and safety upgrade packages from Brandtjen & Kluge; foil advance units for the conversion of diecutters from Eagle Systems; the introduction of a smaller sheet size SP 76-BM foil stamping press from Bobst Group; the Twin Tower NSF foil press series from THERM-O-TYPE; Tademdrive™ technology with the one pass system from Iijima North America/DGM; the 40” Foil Commander from Gietz/IMI; the Crest AutoClam from Weidhaas Group; the Brausse Strip N Pak unit; and a new sheet-fed rotary technology from Steuer called the Foil-Jet system (now part of the Bobst Group line of products).

The rotary hot stamping market reported the largest area of growth for foil stamping at end of 1998. Foil-saving technology such as the FOILSAVER™ from Total Register; rotary hot stamping machinery from companies like I.kela Company; and faster running rotary foils from many of the hot stamping foil manufacturers created in-roads for the application that were never before possible. Today, in-line finishing processes, in addition to foil stamping and embossing, are on the rise. Through the innovations of the technologies listed above and faster running foils, many label and small carton jobs now can be printed, coated, foil stamped, diecut, and scored all in-line at high speeds. Other trends today include the continued use of clear, pressure-sensitive labels; overprinting in place of simple gold and silver foil stamping; and the use of digital printing combined with foil in rotary applications.

A Look Inside the Industry
Over the years, InsideFinishing has taken great pride in featuring the people and events inside the industry that have contributed to its unique personality. In 2004, the FSEA honored Glenn Hutchison of Universal Engraving, Inc., with the first-ever FSEA Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication, long-term commitment, and numerous contributions to the foil stamping and embossing industry; Henry Brandtjen, Jr., Brandtjen & Kluge, was honored in 2005. InsideFinishing also paid tribute to some of the pioneers in the industry who had passed away throughout the last decade, including Jerry Lucas, CEO of Foil Graphics; Dan Phillips, Sr., Vice President of Superior Graphic Finishing; Chuck Schroeder, long-time associate with Bobst Group Inc.; Edward Synan, VP of Sales and owner of Adolph Bauer, Inc., John Bennitt, CEO and President of Fine Arts Engraving; and Bob Waitt of Crown Roll Leaf. To these individuals, as well as to all others in the finishing industry, we salute you.

As always, landmark events and industry news were highlighted in every issue of the magazine, including business anniversaries, new educational programs, web site launches (a growing trend in the late 1990s), expansions, new employees, installations, and mergers and acquisitions. Particularly in the area of foil manufacturers, the industry has seen a myriad of consolidations and liquidations over the past ten years. Up until 1995, nearly 20 different foil companies supplied the industry, both in the U.S. and abroad. That segment of the industry has undergone significant consolidation (primarily through acquisitions), with only a few new entries into the market of late. Today, nearly half the number of foil manufacturers and suppliers exist that were prominent just a decade ago.

Trade show activity, both in the areas of exhibiting and attendance, has seen peaks and valleys over the past ten years, which bears a direct correlation to the number of shows that have dropped from the industry. Hosting individual open houses has been a growing trend over the past few years; yet indications of a recovering economy can be seen in recent additions to the trade show scene, including the FSEA’s recent venture in partnering with the IADD to host the 2005 IADD/FSEA Odyssey.

In the aftermath of 9/11, examples of courage and strength could be found around every corner, and the finishing industry was no exception. The Aug/Sept 2002 issue of InsideFinishing paid tribute to America in a salute to those companies in the finishing industry that, through their work, went the extra mile to demonstrate a sense of pride and patriotism. Numerous patriotic themes surfaced on all types of work from all areas of the country, including the US Landmark Series of pieces by D.E. Baugh (‘Lady Liberty’, ‘Mt. Rushmore’, and ‘Iwo Jima), the “Soaring Eagle” patriotic calendar from Diamond Packaging, and many others. Additionally, the Feb/Mar 2005 issue of InsideFinishing published a letter written by Claude Schmid (Schmid Corporation) who was stationed in Iraq, which thanked FSEA members for their support of him and of his fellow soldiers.

Emerging from a Struggling Economy
How has the market changed? As reported by FSEA Executive Director Jeff Peterson in 2004, “Competition has changed the foil stamping and entire finishing market the most. Due to the existence of fewer printing jobs and smaller runs, competition is at an all time high, which has driven down prices and created very small profit margins on most jobs.” In addition, more commercial printers have stepped into the finishing arena – a growing trend that has seemed to affect the medium-sized trade finisher the most. Peterson further explained, “Machinery prices have dropped and as turnarounds continue to decrease, keeping jobs in-house may be seen as a competitive edge.”

Diversification into other finishing processes such a UV coating, film laminating, POP work, and binding (all natural fits with the finishing industry) over the last few years has been one way in which trade finishers have become more proactive in securing their future. Other key trends include going direct to the end user and becoming more discriminating about the type and quality of customer with which one works.

Sean Hurley, FSEA President and VP of Sales at MCD sums up the ten-year overview: “Today, many of us find ourselves doing more with less. The graphic arts industry is rapidly changing. We must embrace this change and adapt as we remain healthy in this environment. We are working with a well-established, mature industry. We use enhancement techniques that have been around for decades. We cannot allow ourselves to be satisfied with our current status quo. We need to continue to move forward, keeping our pipeline full of new, innovative, and creative ideas.” As John Tinnon, industry leader over the past decade and president/owner of Graphic Converting Inc. during that time, once stated, “We are limited only by our own fears and reservations.”

Although these words were spoken nearly five years ago, they remain no less poignant and true today. As we take a look back at the many changes that have impacted the foil stamping and embossing industry, InsideFinishing will continue to inform its readers of the events, technologies, and people that will shape the personality of the industry throughout the next decade and beyond.