Opportunity Knocks: The Power of Print Embellishments

The power of embellishments to engage the consumer changes the conversation on the viability of print in the 21st century. Particularly when those embellishments are applied digitally.

Joann Whitcher
September 10, 2018
MGI JETvarnish 3D Web
MGI JETvarnish 3D Web

The power of embellishments to engage the consumer changes the conversation on the viability of print in the 21st century. Particularly when those embellishments are applied digitally.

Keypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends’ reports from its analysis that digital print enhancements can result in a rapid return on investment, with print service providers able to realize margins that range from 50% to 400% percent.

For the PSP’s customer, the news is equally good. A 2016 study commissioned by the Foil & Specialty Effects Association demonstrated the high impact of visibility enhancements on shelf presence:

  • Enhanced products were identified 45% quicker by shoppers
  • Enhanced products held attention 18% longer than print-only products
  • Average time to identify two seconds.

Digital print finishing combines the benefits of digital printing with eye-catching, high touch finishing. Gone are dies, screens, or the need for re-tooling, cutting production and labor costs. Whether printing 1 or 10,000, the process delivers the ability to change graphics or text on the fly, to personalize and customize the printed piece, and to deliver quick turnaround.

Digital finishing dovetails well with trends impacting the consumer landscape at large. In this age of the selfie, brands can provide their customers with unique printed material or packaging, and also satisfy the craving for engagement that is more experiential than a traditional printed piece.

With digital print finishing, PSPs and converters can create as many different versions as they would like to show their customers, options that the customer may have not considered, ultimately helping to strengthen and elevate the printer-customer relationship, says Jack Noonan, marketing coordinator, MGI USA.

More options

The options for print providers and trade finishers looking to add digital finishing to their core services continue to expand.

Newest to the block, Xerox launched the Iridesse this past spring, following two years of R&D and beta testing. Iridesse offers the ability to incorporate digital finishing in a single pass, a game-changer in its own right. Sales are exceeding expectations. “We knew the product was going to do well, but it is much better than we anticipated,” says Ragini Mehta, VP and general manager, Cut Sheet Business, Xerox. “We know that the Iridesse does something very unique in the marketplace, adding embellishments in single pass.”

MGI launched the first JETVarnish, a digital 2D spot UV solution, in 2008, creating in effect the digital finishing category. It added to its offerings with the JETVarnish digital 3D and JETvarnish 3D + iFOIL embellishment solutions. Digital enhancement presses include the JETvarnish 3D Evolution B1+ JetVarnish 3D web roll-fed; the Meteor Unlimited Colors Series integrated digital print & foiling press; and its latest release, the JETvarnish 3D web flexible packaging & label enhancement press.  Each JETvarnish 3D system possesses an intelligent registration system, the AIS SmartScanner, to treat each printed piece as a separate unique job to ensure design quality and accuracy.

Scodix announced its first entry into the field in 2010, with the Scodix 1200 digital embossing press, accommodating medium-length and long runs as well as handling variable data embossing. “We now offer a wide range of platforms and applications, starting at the entry level with the Scodix S75, through the Scodix Ultra2Pro to the Scodix E106 and covering a variety of applications,” explains Lynn Kolevsohn, Scodix marketing director. For special effects, Scodix offers a total of nine different applications, from metallics, foil, Sense, to glitter, crystals, and holographic, all on one system. Its latest offering, the Scodix Ultra2 Pro with Foil, a multi-material system, enables commercial PSPs and folding-carton converters to produce enhancements for a range of applications.

Opportunity calls

For print providers, there is a massive opportunity for digital print enhancement within promotional printing applications. Digital print finishing is a large emerging market opportunity, with only a very small piece of the print enhancement market converted to digital methods.

Around 30% of color pages receive some sort of special effects enhancement, while only 0.5% of those are being enhanced with a digital process. Or to put it another way: there are 1.9 trillion pages enhanced using traditional, analog methods, compared to 9 billion pages digitally.

“Digital special effects that MGI’s JETvarnish creates deliver a more meaningful and more impactful print experience for print users,” says Noonan. “While flat CMYK images can be very beautiful, they don’t have the texture or raised dimensionality and won’t have memorable transfer of information to the consumer/shopper.

Standalone digital print enhancement technology can embellish output from traditional offset/flexo and digital production processes. Offset printers will particularly appreciate the ability to handle these value-added special effects in shorter runs and with quick turnaround.

Labelexpo Americas in Chicago will serve as the official commercial release of the JETvarnish 3D web digital enhancement press. Representatives from MGI and partner Konica Minolta will be at the show.

“It’s the first roll-to-roll digital enhancement press in the world,” says Noonan. “It was shown first at drupa 16, and has been at select customer sites since, but Labelexpo serves as the launch site. It can produce both 2D and 3D embossed spot coating over offset, digital, or flexo output.”

The label and flexible output is “the hottest and fasted growing segment of the graphic arts industry, because of demographics,” he observes. Citing the phenomenon of the Coca-Cola cans personalized with names, millennial and Generation Z-ers are big on buying brand items personalized and then posting their find on social media. “It’s a good example of the power of digital finishing to connect with end users and their customers in a big way,” adds Noonan.

“We’re in a highly competitive industry, where staying competitive is not always enough,” says Kolevsohn. “Print needs to provide additional sense, feel, touch that cannot be achieved with CMYK only. At Scodix we provide a full set of tools and applications that can suit any job and task in order to make it really special. Our customers are adding Scodix foil to business cards, adding Scodix Sense and touch to other commercial applications, and through this they provide the unique qualities their customers demand.”

The Scodix Ultra2 Pro with Foil was recently installed at Graphic Village LLC, a 90-year-old independent print marketing company in Cincinnati. It is looking to promote its new offerings by adding Scodix effects to clients’ completed work and then showing those clients what is possible with the creative and campaigns they are already producing. COO Danny Bailey cited Graphic Village’s ability to show its customers the power of one-to-one marketing.

The development of the Iridesse was generated by Xerox’s read on the press embellishment market – its iGen5 and color presses both have ability to do 5 stations – and listening to customers’ talk about the single pass factor.

A huge selling point, Mehta says, is the productivity of the Iridesse, which outputs at the press’ rated speed of 120 fpm, whether it is imaging 4,5,6 colors in standard CMYK or metallics or spot colors are added, in single media or mixed media. Since it dries in a single pass, customers don’t have to worry about registration. Still relatively new to the market, “customers are playing around with it, which is what we wanted them to do,” notes Mehta. “They are teaching us some of the new applications. One of our customers is running an underlay metallic coating with a CMYK coating overlay and then a clear overlay on top, to add the dimensionality aspect.”

Bill Conlin, president of PA-based digital print shop Conlin’s, purchased the Iridesse in June and had it up and running two weeks later. “Our customers always want something new and better, and we were looking for opportunities to enhance our production in the digital environment,” says Conlin. “It lets us offer a game-changing product that no one else has, or that they are trying to produce on little machines that aren’t production machines.”

The 30-year-old shop, with customers in healthcare and pharma, real estate, software, and engineering, is looking to provide its corporate customers with something out of the ordinary to capture their customers’ attention. “There are a lot of ways you can use it,” notes Conlin. “It doesn’t always have to be razzle dazzle; it can also be something that adds just a bit more to CMYK.” To help promote the Iridesse’s capabilities, Conlin’s is taking customer files and enhancing them, and then presenting it to their customers.

The popular choice

Scodix Foil is a popular choice among its customers, notes Kohveson. “The Scodix Foil application is designed for short- to medium-runs, particularly where print providers are outsourcing or working through lengthy and costly makeready processes,” she says. “Scodix Foil delivers what customers demand – digitally creating a brilliant foil effect in-house with no waste or mess. The application deploys a range of hot and cold industry-standard foil films coupled with a variety of substrates, including offset, digital, plastics, laminated/non-laminated, and coated/uncoated to deliver high-quality business and greeting cards, folders, book covers, brochures, labels, packaging and more.”

A key trend that we are seeing at most advanced printers is variable data embossed foil, reveals Noonan.

Minnesota, MN-based Embossing Plus used its JETvarnish 3D Evo to produce serialized “limited collector editions” of prized album covers for vinyl music records and create deluxe, customized folders for Minnesota Vikings Stadium Suites. A new business growth area for Embossing Plus is managing complex mail and packaging projects for a range of clients, including brands, agencies, in-plants, converters, and traditional commercial printing firms, leveraging the system’s ability to personalize names on mail pieces with variable data and customize boxes and labels with embossed foil designs.

To generate serious ROI, PSPs only need low utilization rates (30% or less) with in-line or off-line systems, reports Noonan. But to get the most from the system, output needs to be properly promoted and priced; the key factor to achieving higher margins is effectively upselling the print enhancement. This isn’t a commodity sell, Noonan asserts; leverage your digital finish system to compete on unique applications to sell at higher margins.