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Archive for the ‘Foiling’ Category

Custom Printing: New Foiling Machine for Precise Imprints

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

A friend and colleague recently sent me a press release from Roland DGA describing new laser foiling equipment. The article, entitled “Roland DGA Launches the World’s First Laser Foil Decorator – the DGSHAPE LD-80,” published on 3/23/18 in various online publications, describes the machine, which uses metallic and holographic foils to imprint small items including pens, cell-phone covers, cosmetic cases, and even paper (such as corporate letterhead) with logos, text, and graphics.

Roland DGA notes that this foil press is ideal for short runs. In addition, due to its focused laser it can not only decorate products with much smaller legible type and graphic detail than prior technologies, but it can also avoid potentially melting plastics, a problem that occurred with prior hotter lasers. This makes it ideal for polycarbonates, ABS, and acrylic.

The press release, “Roland DGA Launches the World’s First Laser Foil Decorator – the DGSHAPE LD-80,” goes on to note that available materials include gold and silver (as well as other) metallic foils and holographic foils, which can be used to produce striking, detailed, and precise effects.

The software that runs the DGSHAPE LD-80 provides a broad range of fonts, adjustable font sizes, and the capability to incorporate vector art (such as logos) into the product decoration.

Since the machine has a small footprint and since it runs on standard electrical current, it can fit easily to an existing commercial printing workflow, and it can even be transported to an event site for immediate personalization of promotional items.

Furthermore, the press release describes the safety features of the DGSHAPE LD-80, which has been specifically designed in such a manner that no laser light is visible during operation, and laser foiling will stop immediately if the covering hood is opened.

Why This Is Important

This is not just another press release. It reflects certain trends within digital commercial printing and finishing:

  1. For a long time the focus was entirely on digital custom printing, starting with laser printers (electrophotography) and then inkjet presses. These improved significantly over the years, but there was little attention given to finishing operations (such as trimming and folding equipment). Now I’m beginning to see more of a focus on incorporating the digital printing workflow into the rest of the pressroom by addressing finishing capabilities (which also include hot foil technology, such as the DGSHAPE LD-80).
  2. Prior to laser foiling, custom-made steel dies were used to cut foil and apply it with heat (to book covers or other objects). The dies were expensive and time consuming to create. Laser cutting and laser foiling (in this case) sidestep the need to make these metal dies, thus saving money and time.
  3. In the past, commercial printing on pens and cosmetic cases would have been done with custom screen printing technology (and, perhaps, pad printing technology). Based on the consistency of the ink used, and my understanding of these processes, this would not have allowed for the kind of precision (the small type, for instance) made available by this new DGSHAPE LD-80. In addition, the kind of holographic and metallicized foils the press release describes would most probably not have been options for either custom screen printing or pad printing. Now, vendors can personalize items with small type and detailed line work.
  4. “Swag” sells a brand. Little trinkets like pens emblazoned with a company’s logo are the gift that keeps on giving. Every time a prospective customer picks up the pen on his or her desk to write a note, the name of the company is right there. It’s an advertisement that she or he sees again and again, reinforcing the brand message.
  5. Based on photos I’ve seen of the DGSHAPE, this foiling machine looks a bit like a 3D printer, and based on the kinds of items it decorates (also based on the photos), the technology seems to be akin to “direct to shape” custom printing. This is important because it allows users to place an image on an irregular surface (a cylinder, in the case of the pen and the cosmetics case in the website photos). In prior generations of digital technology (digital printing, for instance), printing on an irregular surface often entailed first printing a flat label and then affixing this to the irregular surface. Printing (or in this case foiling) directly on a curved surface is a step forward. It simplifies the decorating process, reducing the number of operations needed. In the case of the DGSHAPE LD-80, it does this while improving the detail in imaging.
  6. Based on my online research, the DGSHAPE Corporation is a spin-off of the Roland DG Corporation. Based on the logo, logo colors, and the name, there seems to be a direct connection to the Manroland AG company that manufactures sheetfed and web-fed offset presses, as well as newspaper presses. (In fact, I just found another website linking the two logos and company names.) Therefore, DGSHAPE has a company history of manufacturing durable printing and finishing equipment. It is not a newcomer to the commercial printing world. Therefore, I would expect an exceptional build quality in the equipment as well as an ability to integrate this foiling machinery into existing commercial printing workflows.
  7. At the moment, there seem to be two major kinds of foil decorating equipment in existence. I have read about the original “hot foil stamping” process done with steel dies. (The new DGSHAPE laser-based option that cuts and affixes foil to a substrate appears to be a digital version of this approach.) I have also read about “cold foiling” equipment that applies foil to precisely placed adhesive (and then tears away unused foiling film). But beyond hot and cold foiling technology, I have also read about equipment that builds up layers of synthetic foiling material. (Scodix decorating equipment would fit in this category.) Scodix seems more akin to 3D custom printing (also known as additive manufacturing), in which polymer materials are built up in layers. However, in contrast to Scodix, the DGSHAPE process seems more akin to actual hot foil stamping applied to book covers and similar products. It just seems to be laser-based (digital) and appropriate for a wider range of substrates (paper, plastic pens, plastic cosmetic items, etc.).

I think all of this bodes well for the future of digital finishing in general, and digital foiling in particular.

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