Pat McGrew, McGrewGroup Inc.
Enhancing print with foil, varnish and added-on spot colors is not new. They are a common part of offset-produced commercial print, adding texture, shine, white ink, and differentiation to marketing collateral, posters, and even packaging. Research1 from InfoTrends shows that 30% of the pages produced using offset print are enhanced using one of the many available print enhancement technologies. Enhancing 1.8 trillion color pages each year sounds like a big deal, but when you consider total digitally printed pages, less than 3% are enhanced. And, most of those enhanced digital pages are produced on toner devices.
Most of the companies selling toner (dry and liquid) devices have a path to print enhancement with 5th color stations and other in-line methods. Many of the traditional foiling and other analog post-print enhancement methods are likely to work with toner. Companies like Scodix, Konica Minolta/MGI, Duplo and Steinmann, as well as ebeam Technologies, offer digital solutions for adding spot varnish and a wide array of other enhancements to print. The market is still growing, and the options keep getting stronger, which open the door to a new question. Can inkjet-printed work be enhanced with one of these techniques, especially now that inkjet print quality is capturing more commercial work? The answer is an enthusiastic… perhaps!
Enhancing Inkjet Pages
It is always prudent to test before committing, but it is very likely that many of your favorite analog enhancements will work for inkjet-produced work. Each of the devices and processes is different, which is why testing is prudent. The digital enhancement solutions may work as well.
The one I have personal experience with is Scodix. Seven years into their market introduction, Scodix is known for their ability to enhance with foil, metallics, and a host of other effects. While supporting both offset and digital, Scodix is well known for supporting HP Indigo production. Scodix-enhanced pieces, are often spectacular, taking advantage of gloss, foil, spot varnish, and raised texture that adds a 3D effect. Their Braille solution is suitable for 135 gsm stocks and heavier.
Quite a few trade shows ago I asked the question, can Scodix work with inkjet? Is there any reason it wouldn’t? It led to a series of conversations and tests using the HP T-series inkjet press to create the base. The results were everything we hoped they would be. Delightful print that provided a differentiated look and feel, ideal for short-run, high-value print.
Will it work with any inkjet? The answer there is always to test. Whether you talk to Scodix or MGI or other enhancement providers in the space, you will always want to test the interaction of the paper, ink and enhancement technology to ensure that the results meet your needs. Will they be robust enough for your applications? Will they score and fold for the finishing you require? Is the desired paperweight a match for the needs of the enhancing process?
The other factor is cost. Enhancing any print is not a trivial process, and there is cost in time and money to add print enhancement to the final production process. It’s important to look at those costs and be sure that they are accounted for when building the final quote for the work. The remarkable thing about enhanced print, however, is that it is very sellable. The InfoTrends report included interviews with more than 100 print customers who told researchers that they would pay anywhere from 24% to 89% more for enhanced print and that they believed that their customers were interested in the differentiation that print enhancement brings.
And, don’t forget the book the cost of time into your job planning. You will be adding time to the overall production. Whether you do the work in-house or you send it to a partner, remember to allow time and then add a bit more just to be safe.
If you are a current provider of inkjet printing services, and you serve the commercial markets where your ability to offer differentiation can put you at the head of the line in a very competitive market, it might be worth investigating the options for adding enhancement to your print. Whether you go for a Scodix, MGI or other digital device, or you look for a partner who can provide analog enhancement, you may find that the ability to comfortably produce enhanced print changes your available margin.
Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have questions? Ping me on LinkedIn or drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. InfoTrends Beyond CYMK: The Use of Special Effects in Digital Printing