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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) 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 ‘Printing’ Category

Custom Printing: Update on PRINTING United Expo

Sunday, October 9th, 2022

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

I was excited to notice recently (in one of the press releases and articles Google Aggregator feeds me every day) that PRINTING United Expo will occur later this month in Las Vegas.

I realize I’m a printing nerd, so I will endeavor to explain what this means for the industry in general and AGFA in particular, and more specifically what it means for graphic designers, production managers, and art directors.

PRINTING United Expo

First of all, after the Covid lockdown, I think it’s encouraging to have any general convention in any industry physically open to the public. It allows the free exchange of ideas again via a more personal, immediate venue than the Internet, particularly since you, or any other potential convention-goers, will be able to also physically see all of the new commercial printing equipment. (Personally, I think it’s great that you can view YouTube videos of any printing and finishing operation, but it does help, immeasurably, to actually see these in person and be able to ask questions.)

So, according to a PRINTING United Expo article entitled “PRINTING United Expo” (at https://10times.com/e1z0-r3sx-0z4z), “PRINTING United Expo is the only all-segment expo in the Western Hemisphere in 2022.” Another PRINTING United Expo article entitled “PRINTING United Las Vegas” (at https://www.tradefairdates.com/PRINTING+United-M1633/Las+Vegas.html) notes that “PRINTING United…presents new ideas, applications, and markets for specialty imagers—whether you’re interested in graphic(s) or garments, digital or screen. See the leading suppliers showcasing the broadest range of specialty printing and imaging technology.”

What this means is that experts in the field, general practitioners of the various print-related disciplines, and current and new equipment will all be in the same place at the same time. People will learn from each other, make connections, and presumably even buy equipment for their print shops.

More importantly, as the first article notes, this is an “all-segment expo.” What that means is that you won’t just learn about the separate, new pieces of equipment, but you will be able to see them operating together. This is unusual, since at other conventions you might see a particular press by itself but not see how it can be connected to appropriate finishing equipment to create an efficient workflow.

Agfa’s Participation in PRINTING United Expo

Agfa is a huge player in this market, and the third article in particular, “Agfa to Demo Latest Inkjet Technology at PRINTING United” (found at www.wideformatonline.com), will give you a comprehensive listing of the innovations you’ll see if you attend the trade show.

First of all, Agfa is focusing on packaging and textile printing, which are especially active venues within the commercial printing field, growing exponentially year over year.

Here are some highlights noted in the article. They address new inkjet equipment, new dye sublimation equipment, robotics being used with the new equipment on the pressroom floor, web-to-print solutions, automated preflight solutions, workflow software (such as Apogee) that control all aspects of the production process on a “meta” level, developments that increase control over (and the accuracy of) tight ink register, and waste reduction.

So in terms of the benefits of Agfa’s new products for suppliers, the new offerings will improve overall print job planning and management, reduce paper and ink consumption, increase accuracy of color and register, and reduce make-ready times. All of this will boost quality and efficiency, allowing print vendors to do more in less time. And their customers will benefit from all of this.

The Specifics

Dye Sub

Based on its description in the article, “Agfa to Demo Latest Inkjet Technology at PRINTING United,” the new product that interests me the most is the Agfa Avinci CX3200. This is a dye sublimation printer. That means you can print on polyester fabric, which is noteworthy for two reasons.

First, digital fabric printing is very hot at the moment. You can print on garments (or fabric that can be cut and sewn into garments). But you can also print on fabric that can be incorporated into interior design work. Everything from wall coverings to bedding. To date the rule of thumb, as I have understood it, has been to use direct inkjet printing for cotton fabric and dye sublimation for commercial printing on polyester (let’s say for a promotional flag). Until recently, the only way to do dye sublimation was to first print the ink on a transfer sheet and then, as a second step, to transfer the image from the transfer sheet to the fabric substrate using high heat and pressure.

In contrast to this approach, which required extra time and equipment (when compared to direct inkjet custom printing), the new breed of dye sublimation printers (such as Agfa’s Avinci CX3200) can print directly on the final polyester substrate. That said, this printer can also print on a transfer sheet, if you want to use the printed product for backlit applications with deep, rich black pigments, or if you need to keep stretch fabrics from moving during the custom printing process.

So now you have more options.

Flatbed Inkjet

The next Agfa product I want to highlight is Agfa’s Inca Oncet X3 inkjet printer. Agfa bought Inca Digital Printers, and it has improved this Inca product in the following ways:

  1. The Inca Onset X3 HS is faster. It can now print 15,600 square feet per hour (“Agfa to Demo Latest Inkjet Technology at PRINTING United”).
  2. The Inca Onset X3 is more reliable, with “a virtual lack of downtime” (“Agfa to Demo Latest Inkjet Technology at PRINTING United”) and the ability to run 24/7.
  3. The Inca Onset X3 can be prepped and ready to go faster. According to “Agfa to Demo Latest Inkjet Technology at PRINTING United,” it takes only 30 seconds to set up a job.
  4. The flatbed Inca Onset X3 press incorporates robotics into the production process.
  5. The number of acceptable substrates have increased, including corrugated board (a good omen since packaging is such a high-growth venue in the commercial printing industry).

Again, all of this points to improved efficiency and quality and therefore increased revenue for suppliers.

Roll-to-Roll Printing

The third and final product I want to highlight is the Jeti Tauro H3300 UHS LED.

This is a roll-to-roll printer that can accept up to 1,500 lb. paper rolls for “unattended automated double-sided roll printing” (“Agfa to Demo Latest Inkjet Technology at PRINTING United”). The Jeti Tauro uses an “integrated camera system [that] reads QR codes, generated by the user interface of the printer, to identify the exact location of the image and adjust the print position at the start of every job, ensuring front-to-back accuracy of +/-3mm over 300 feet” (“Agfa to Demo Latest Inkjet Technology at PRINTING United”).

What this means is that the precision of the equipment has improved to the extent that ink placement can be controlled precisely (presumably coming very close to or matching the precision of offset printing), and this can be done without operator intervention. The Jeti Tauro camera system keeps everything right (this is presumably analogous to the closed-feedback-loop, electric-eye mechanisms that automatically ensure the precision of offset presses). And automation drives up throughput without sacrificing quality.

The Takeaway

If you are a designer, you may be asking yourself how this will affect you. This is my answer. If Agfa is developing and improving dye sublimation and inkjet printing to support the packaging and fabric commercial printing industries, these are the venues that will demand your design skills.

If you’re a production manager or art director, the same holds true for you.

And if you’re a printer, Agfa is helping you chart a course for the expansion of your business and an increase in your profits.

Custom Printing: How Is Paper Money Printed?

Sunday, September 18th, 2022

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

While it’s still considered legal tender, open your wallet and look closely at some of the paper money, the bills, of various denominations. How are they printed, where are they printed, and by whom are they printed?

Where And By Whom?

The easiest answers are where and by whom. All paper bills are printed by the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which has one plant in Washington, DC, and one plant in Fort Worth, Texas. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing also designs all the various denominations and checks all the printed bills for accuracy before trimming and wrapping them.

But How Are They Printed?

Let’s start with the paper substrate. Currency paper is composed of 75 percent cotton fibers and 25 percent linen fibers. After all, bills have to tolerate heavy use over a long period of time, and this stock is very durable. It is also highly controlled and tracked (each and every sheet) to prevent theft by counterfeiters. In addition, the paper is laced with various colored threads, called “security threads” (some of which glow under UV light) to distinguish the stock from non-currency paper, again to minimize counterfeiting.

Now, the inks. For the graphics (text, numerals, and image on the back, and portrait, text, serial numbers, and such, on the front), custom printing inks include green for the back (primarily, although I see a little yellow as well on my $20), as well as black, green, metallic, and color-shifting ink (which changes color depending on the viewing angle) for the front of the bills. These are proprietary inks developed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

In addition to being used for the numerals, text, and portraits, the inks are used for various security features such as micro printing, and the paper contains watermarks of various kinds (portrait and numeric). There’s even a 3D strip woven into the new $100 bills to prevent counterfeiting.

Now for the commercial printing technology. I had initially expected the bills to have been printed via gravure technology (a direct-printing technology using etched custom printing cylinders with little wells to collect and transfer the ink). Why? Because it’s supremely economical for exceptionally long press runs.

So I was surprised to discover in my research that gravure is not used. Instead the bills of all denominations are printed via both offset lithography and dry intaglio custom printing.

The offset printing component is done first, with the background green color being applied to both the back and the front of the bills, with 72 hours’ of drying time in each case before the following step.

Each printed sheet contains 32 notes, side by side, before they are cut down into individual bills. But this was not always the case. Initially the bills were larger, and were printed eight-up (eight rather than 32 bills on a press sheet). Changing the ink formulation over the years (plus changing the chemistry to eliminate water from the mix) allowed for faster drying and the inclusion of more bills on each press sheet.

After the offset printing step (which prints from metal plates first onto rubber press blankets and from these press blankets onto the custom printing paper), the next step is the dry intaglio printing (the engraving).

Intaglio plates have recessed image areas. (This is in contrast to offset plates, on which image areas and non-image areas are on the same flat plate. This process works due to the inability of ink and water to mix. Image areas are treated to attract ink and repel water; non-image areas are treated to repel ink and attract water.)

The intaglio printing process is used specifically for the fine detail work on both sides of the currency. This includes the portraits, some of the numerals, scrollwork, etc. First the plates are inked up, allowing ink to seep into the recesses of the etched plates (artwork is designed separately and then etched into the plates with sharp tools and acids in a process called “siderography”). Then the ink is wiped off the surface of the plates (although ink that has seeped into the recesses of the plates stays in these etched image areas). Finally, the intense pressure of the intaglio rotary press actually forces the paper into the etched areas, making the paper absorb ink and also rise up slightly above the otherwise flat surface of the custom printing stock.

The dry intaglio process prints the backs of the press sheets first and then the fronts. Each side is allowed to dry for 72 hours. Again, the benefit of this process is that it yields very delicate lines with precise detail (i.e., more so than the initial offset printing work). The benefit of the “dry” part of the dry intaglio printing is that the custom printing paper does not expand and contract as it would when wet (or when drying), so there can be more precision in the positioning of the text and images (and more currency bills printed on each press sheet).

To quote from “How Paper Money Is Made,” by www.Littletoncoin.com, “All US paper money features green ink on the backs, while the faces use black ink, color-shifting ink in the lower right corner of $10-$100 notes, and metallic ink for the freedom icons on $10, $20, and $50 bills. The ‘bell in the inkwell’ freedom icon on $100 notes uses color-shifting ink.”

Inspection

Then after all printing (both sides) and adequate drying time comes inspection, using the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Upgraded Offline Currency Inspection System (UOCIS). This equipment “integrates computers, cameras, and sophisticated software to thoroughly analyze and evaluate untrimmed printed sheets” (“How Paper Money Is Made,” by www.Littletoncoin.com). In 3/10 of a second the software accepts or rejects the sheets based on ink density and color register. Then it trims the 32-up sheets into two 16-up sheets.

Additional Printing

“COPE-Pak adds the two serial numbers, black Federal Reserve seal, green Treasury seal, and Federal Reserve identification numbers” (“How Paper Money Is Made,” by www.Littletoncoin.com). During this process, the COPE Vision Inspection System (CVIS) checks the sheets for accuracy and either passes them or rejects them, replacing the rejected sheets “with a ‘star sheet.’ Serial numbers of notes on star sheets are identical to the notes they replaced, except that the star appears after the serial number in place of the suffix number” (“How Paper Money Is Made,” by www.Littletoncoin.com).

Trimming and Packaging

Finally the 16-note sheets are cut down into individual bills using guillotine cutters. These individual bills are shrink wrapped in stacks of 4,000 notes and then transferred to the Federal Reserve.

The Takeaway

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Printing money is an education in itself regarding the use of multiple commercial printing techniques on a single job, with the best technology used for each element of the overall process.
  2. Using color-shifting ink, special strips, watermarks, etc., the Bureau of Engraving and Printing minimizes the chance of counterfeiting. These are extraordinarily sophisticated devices. Keep in mind that printing paper money is actually an example of “functional” or “industrial” commercial printing, since the goal is utilitarian rather than informative or promotional. The overall design has to work. That is, it must carry financial value (intrinsically, in each note) while making it hard if not impossible for others to duplicate. To these ends, currency designers employ special inks and special papers (that have to be tightly tracked) with watermarks, security threads, and interwoven strips.
  3. Moreover, since it is an example of functional commercial printing, the process of printing paper money needs to ensure the durability of these notes as they change hands (i.e., accounting for bodily oils from the hands, folding the bills, and the bills’ rubbing against other items in wallets). So the length of time the bills can be used is a testament to the durability of the 75 percent cotton/25 percent linen mix of the currency paper fibers.

Choosing the Right Magazine Printer: 6 Tips for Success

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

Do you have magazine printing queries on your mind? It’s good to have questions – after all it’s an innovative process. You might be having questions regarding the cost, benefits, and whether magazine printing services create value. (more…)

All that You Should Know About Printing

Friday, July 29th, 2022

Printing is the process of reproducing words and images on a material such as paper, card, fabric, plastic, etc. anything can be printed, from a priceless painting to hundreds of copies of a book. When printing technology was invented, it became possible for books to be reproduced in bulk instead of being copied out one at a time. Although all kinds of printed materials are found online, printing has not lost its importance. You can find printed items all around you, from your t-shirt to the posters on the wall. (more…)

Relevance of Newsletter Prints Today

Friday, July 29th, 2022

Newsletter printing is one of the major areas for printing companies. These newsletters are essential for content marketing, so only the most skilled print businesses should be entrusted with such printing newsletters. Each client has specific needs for newsletters that support diverse online marketing strategies. Even today, many customers like getting newsletters, which are frequently sent to a company’s internal staff. Online searches to identify such print businesses that publish newsletters are necessary for most B2B customers. (more…)

What are the Benefits of Choosing an Online Commercial Printing Company For Your Business?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

Without the assistance of a provider of commercial printing services, every marketing campaign you can imagine is lacking. This is due to the fact that, despite the abundance of online marketing possibilities, personalized prints are still the most effective way to advertise goods and services. (more…)

Get the Best Custom Prints from a Top Printing Company

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

Online printing services make it simple for anybody to order any form of printed goods, from business cards and wedding invitations to personal pocket photos and canvas wall art. The best printing company allows people to give print commands from the comfort of their phones or laptops. Almost all suppliers supply pre-made templates with creative text, pictures, and layout combinations. Most also provide consumers the choice to collaborate with qualified designers to produce a polished final product. (more…)

How to Choose the Best Online Printing Services

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

With the rise of digital marketing and social media, getting your business message out to the world is easier than ever before. However, that doesn’t mean getting your content out there has become any easier. Today’s consumers are more discerning than ever, so you need a plan that caters to their interests and stands out from the crowd. Luckily, today’s online publishing tools make it incredibly easy for anyone with an internet connection and a computer to create professional-looking content and publish it wherever they want with little expense or technical know-how. Today, there are almost as many different types of online printing services as there are people who need them—and they each have their features and pricing models. However, most of these services have similar capabilities, and one of them might be just right for you.  (more…)

How to Pick the Best Online Printing Company For Your Business?

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

Consider this. Have you ever needed to print anything but didn’t have access to a printer in your office? Printing is anyway a time consuming job and if you have regular printing requirements the best way to deal with a situation is go for the best printing service!

Now the question is, how do you know which one is the best out of so many printing companies out there? Well, we have a crisp answer to that! Here are a few tips for you to know that will help you decide which is the best online printing company for you to choose! So, what are you waiting for? Let’s start reading! (more…)

Contact the Best Company for Any Printing Requirement

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Any Printing Requirement

For businesses all across the world, online printing is straightforward and cost-effective. It is simple to receive rates for a range of printing tasks with a single mouse click. Healthcare is one of the industries that has benefited from the services of the best printing company, with 3D printing being useful for medical studies. It was challenging to consider the value of this privilege 15 years ago, but not anymore. (more…)

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