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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Archive for the ‘Box Printing’ Category

Large Format Printing: Faux Beer Cans on a Standee

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

My fiancee and I installed a standee this week for the movie That’s My Boy. It came with three or four beer cans.

A few years ago, while installing another standee, I thought I had seen everything when I opened the heavy standee box only to see a bag marked “bricks.” (They had been ballast for a Lazy-Susan type of rotating display stand.) But the beer cans really took the cake.

Interestingly enough, assembly instructions for the beer cans appeared in the four-page instruction manual. The text showed exactly how to twist them so they would look like the remains of a fraternity party. To keep them in place, each can had two strips of double-sided tape. The instructional print book showed exactly where to place them on the “lawn” portion of the standee.

How Is This Relevant to Custom Printing?

You might ask how this relates to commercial printing. I see two very direct connections.

First, if you looked closely, you could see that the faux beer cans were not metal. They were cardboard canisters with applique’s of a nondescript beer. Someone had printed and assembled cylinders, each with a top and bottom image and another image wrapped around and glued to the sides. The custom printing vendors had done a lot of work.

Why cardboard and not metal? I haven’t a clue, but here are some thoughts:

  1. Liability: If broken or torn apart, an aluminum beer can could have a jagged edge that might cause an accident. The movie studios, standee designers, and movie theaters increasingly attempt to avoid accidents to those who interact with standees, particularly as more physical materials are used in standees and as standees become more interactive.
  2. Sensitivity in Marketing: Perhaps the designer of this large format printing piece wanted to avoid promoting a particular beer (again for liability issues regarding product placement). Perhaps the studio wanted to avoid explicitly promoting beer to minors who might see the standee (after all, a cardboard beer can with a nondescript label glued to its surface can give the impression of a beer can without identifying a particular beer or any beer at all).
  3. Cost: Creating a fake beer can out of cardboard allowed the designers at the movie studio to avoid the need to have aluminum beer cans mocked up. Perhaps the cost to create simulated aluminum cans exceeded the (considerable, I would assume) cost to mock up a cardboard tube, print the beer can label in four colors on 80# or 100# enamel printing paper, and then, using hot-melt glue, affix the appliques onto the sides, top, and bottom of three cans per standee (multiplied by the majority of movie theaters in the country, presumably).

What About Your Large Format Printing Work?

What can we learn from this? First, consider multiple custom printing options and a variety of materials for your large format printing work. Cost is one factor. The number of copies you will need to produce as well as the accessibility of the particular materials are two more considerations. Talk with your commercial printing suppliers early. In fact, the more outlandish the project, the earlier you should start making physical mock-ups of the large format printing piece, and the sooner you should involve the printing suppliers.

Also Consider Shipping Logistics

When you create something as easily crushed as three beer cans, you need to consider shipping logistics. The standee company inserted all three cans in an additional carton within the main carton that contained the standee. Not to have done so might have compromised a lot of work and wasted a lot of money. So don’t just design a large format printing piece. Also think about how you will get it to it’s destination for assembly.

The Immersive Experience

As an aside, I want you to know how real these looked. The manager of the movie theater came into the room we were using to assemble the standee, and looked disgusted when he pointed at the beer cans and asked, “What are those?” Apparently he had thought we were drinking on the job.

Large format printing, as reflected in movie standees, is moving away from cardboard-only assemblages toward real-world objects. Over the last month I have assembled one standee with a metal street sign pole affixed to a base covered in simulated grass. I have also assembled two photo opportunity standees with fabric-covered chairs.

Anything that looks real captures the interest of the movie-goers and draws them into the fictional world of the movie (and the movie standee). I think it’s powerful marketing. I also think it is fascinating that this is happening at the same time as computer technology is embracing both virtual reality and augmented reality.

There is room for custom printing, it seems. However, to make offset and digital printing viable alternatives to entirely electronic media, it helps to accentuate the tactile qualities of print. After all, you cant touch anything on a computer screen.

Custom Printing: Nanography, a Breakthrough Printing Process

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

I recently have been reading about a breakthrough custom printing process that will be unveiled in a few days at Drupa 2012, known as the “worlds largest trade fair for the printing and media industry.”

The process is called Nanography™, and it has sparked considerable interest and enthusiasm since its creator, Benny Landa, also launched the Indigo digital press back in 1993.

Why It’s So Special

Nanography will target the commercial printing, packaging, and publishing markets with its technology, which combines the varaible data management of digital custom printing with the quality and speed of offset printing, for a significantly lower cost per page than prior options could provide.

Here’s What It Involves

The Landa NanoInk™ used in Nanography contains exceptionally small particles of pigment tens of nanometers in size. (To put this in perspective, a human hair is approximately 100,000 nanometers wide.) Because these NanoInk particles absorb light so well, they provide image quality not seen before in digital or offset custom printing. The Nanographic process provides crisp, exceptionally uniform halftone dots, a high-gloss sheen, and an unmatched CMYK color gamut.

But There’s More

Durability: The process yields an extremely durable and abrasion resistant ink surface.

Varied Printing Substrates: Unlike many other digital commercial printing processes, Nanography allows for printing on coated and uncoated press sheets, recycled carton stock, newsprint, and plastic packaging film. Pretreating the substrate with a special coating is unnecessary, and no post-printing drying process is needed.

Cost-Savings: The thickness of the ink film (approximately 500 nanometers) is about half the thickness of a comparable film of offset ink. This significantly reduces the cost of ink for a job. Combined with the elimination of paper pre-treating costs and post-drying costs, the ink savings will add up to a dramatically reduced cost per page.

Eco-Friendly Process: Less ink benefits the environment. Moreover, the water-based process is also more eco-friendly and energy efficient than prior technologies, due to the combined benefit of reduced consumables and increased printing speed. Also, the Nanographic press is much smaller than other digital presses and tiny compared to offset presses.

Nanographic Presses

Landa Nanographic Printing presses are not just small and fast. They also are varied in their configuration. These commercial printing presses can be used with up to eight ink colors and can produce either 600 dpi or 1200 dpi print output.

The presses also come in both web and perfecting sheetfed versions, so in either case the presses can print both sides of the printing sheet simultaneously. And they’re fast: The sheetfed presses run at 11,000 sheets per hour, while the web presses run at up to 200 meters per minute (over 650 feet per minute).

What Kind of Custom Printing Work Will Reap the Benefits?

Due to the variety of press configurations (i.e., both sheetfed and web), Nanography should make inroads into all areas of custom printing, particularly general commercial work, books and magazines, direct mail work, carton printing, flexible packaging, and labels.

Due to the color fidelity, Nanography should even be appropriate for such aesthetically demanding work as food and cosmetics marketing.

Why Nanography Is Important

  1. One of the reasons electronic and social media have taken a foothold is price. It costs almost nothing to reproduce and distribute an electronic book relative to the cost of a print book. A new process, such as Nanography, that increases printing efficiency and quality while reducing costs holds great promise.
  2. A second reason e-books have taken a foothold is their speed to market. Nanographic presses can compete better with digital media because these custom printing presses are fast.
  3. Since Nanography is a digital, inkjet process, Nanographic presses can produce infinitely variable print pages, allowing for mass customization of printed products.

Why I Believe What I’ve Been Reading About Nanography

The short answer is the Indigo. I have found no better digital press. As a printing broker, I send more and more of my clients’ jobs to commercial printing vendors with Indigo equipment. Without question, Indigo rivals the color fidelity of offset. And if Benny Landa created the Indigo, I can’t wait to see how Nanography will change the custom printing industry.

Custom Printing: Digital Diecutting Transforms Product Packaging Workflow

Monday, December 12th, 2011

For decades, diecutting has been a labor-intensive, materials-intensive, time-intensive, post-press finishing process. Commercial printers have had to wait for outside vendors to create the cutting dies and then set up and operate a letterpress or diecutting press to accomplish the cutting work. Even the die-makers have had to store raw materials–wood, metal, and rubber–in warehouses along with the finished dies themselves, which are kept for future work. So the die-makers must absorb the extra storage expense, insurance expense, and other costs of holding inventory.

But this is changing. A new company founded by two former HP Indigo employees has brought the diecutting process into the digital age.

First of All, What Is Die-Cutting?

Unlike a beautiful custom printing job, a good die-cutting job is meant to be invisible, or to at least not draw attention to itself. If you see the results, something went wrong.

But you actually do see the results every day. A pocket folder has to be diecut after the commercial printer has printed the press sheet. And every product package in the grocery store, department store, and drug store also has to be diecut after the custom printing work is complete.

Diecutting is the finishing process (i.e, a process following the custom printing run) in which unused portions of a press sheet are chopped away and discarded. It is part of what is called “conversion,” turning a flat press sheet into a box.

For instance, a carton containing four sticks of butter was once a flat press sheet comprising numerous flat carton images printed side by side by a commercial printer. On a letterpress, metal diecutting rules inset into sheets of wood chop the press sheets into flat but unassembled boxes in much the same way as a cookie cutter chops dough into cookies. These flat boxes can then be folded, glued, and assembled into finished product packaging (i.e., converted).

The Packaging Market Is Huge But Segmented.

Product packaging is a huge market. Almost everything you see in all the stores you frequent requires product packaging of some sort, usually including some sort of diecut paper or board. The custom printing on this packaging involves branding and other marketing design work that will hopefully turn shoppers into buyers. So in the simplest sense, packaging influences buying, and packaging is therefore a large and lucrative market.

But the market is also segmented. More and more, marketers focus their product design on smaller segments of the buying populace. That means more custom printing runs (and diecut finishing runs) but also smaller press runs and diecut runs. This is problematic, because making the dies in the traditional way involves time, preparing the letterpresses to actually do the diecutting involves time, and doing the diecutting itself involves time. It’s a labor-intensive, time-intensive, and materials-intensive process.

But What If You Could Cut the Paper with a Laser?

“Direct-to-Pack” is a term coined to describe laser-based cutting. Lasers score and cut the press sheets that are then converted into product packaging, pocket folders, or any other formerly diecut product.

Two former HP Indigo employees have founded a company called Highcon and created a digital scoring and cutting machine that takes digital data from a design workstation to draw a digital dieline (pattern of cuts to be made on the press sheet) on a rotating drum. The image on the drum drives a laser that cuts away the unused portions of the press sheet to prepare the blanks that can then be glued and assembled into cartons—all without dies.

Digital diecutting is a potentially huge development, since it does not require the inventory of wood, metal, and rubber of which dies traditionally have been made. It also emits less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and uses no tree wood (important considerations in light of increased governmental regulation). The process requires fewer operators, minimal makeready (minutes rather than hours), and no storage of dies. Therefore, short runs are possible (even one prototype).

And this makes good business sense, since product packaging can be be ready for market faster, and since printing companies can produce more varieties of packaging for less money to target more markets in a more focused manner.

The new machine is called The Euclid. It can economically score and/or cut anywhere from one item to 10,000 items.


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