by Wesley Belmans
Digital embellishment and the modern print customer
You don’t have to look far to see the emergence of digital embellishments. The advantages and possibilities of this technology have developed at a rapid pace. Today, printing, converting, or finishing equipment suppliers are showcasing digital embellishment solutions that promise to meet the high expectations of the modern print customer. My question is: do they really deliver?
Like digital printing, digital embellishment opened a new range of business opportunities that attracted early adopters. And as these early adopters share their experiences and trigger more printers into exploring what digital embellishments could add to their portfolio, I found these early experiences also raise more questions on how to explore this technology the right way. Rightfully so if I may say so.
As Xeikon adds digital embellishments to its portfolio of digital solution printing solutions, we also closely monitor the embellishments trend, market questions, and user experiences. Our ongoing collaborations with customers, brand owners, suppliers, and colleagues helped us not only understand the opportunities this emerging digital embellishment technology holds, but – even more importantly – the challenges that come with.
Truth time? You won’t unlock the opportunity if it doesn’t solve the challenge you’re facing. And in our experience, these are the top three questions we most often get when it comes to digital embellishment:
1. “Is what I see on my screen what will actually be printed?"
Many printers say that they have existing designs that work for conventional technologies but wonder if they will work for digital embellishments. Let’s face it, a lot of the conventional tools out there limit the design possibilities and more often than not need additional design approaches.
The Xeikon Fusion Embellishment Unit (FEU) however provides the flexibility to adjust, create, or manipulate embellishment designs on the spot. This engine has editing software on board that lets the operator change a wide variety of effects, thickness, text, etc.
This software also enables you to adjust a flaw in the design or process that prevents you from having a good result during setup. It might even improve the result when you compare it to conventional technology. And even better still – you might not even have to do anything at all, not even go back to pre-press. Just wait and see the magic happen.
Customer approval is another significant advantage of the FEU. You can now invite your customer to the machine at the beginning of the process. Whatever results the customer wants to see can be printed in a matter of seconds. This is a massive asset for getting orders in and, once the customer agrees, executing them quickly and getting them done. When time-to-market is of the essence and nobody has any time to waste, I daresay it will become a must-have option in your business offering.
2. "What about the quality and register of digital embellishment?"
Of course, quality and register are the holy grail for embellishments. You can have the best designers, best foil, best product – you name it – but if the quality or register is off, it means nothing except for an unhappy customer.
The success of digital embellishment lies in its ability to live up to, or even exceed, the quality and register of conventional methods. But, in all the event recaps, websites, and brochures you have read about digital embellishments technology, do any talk about actual quality and register? Do they know and provide you with what is needed to make it a success?
My guess is no.
We are proud to say that at Xeikon, we do. We decided that bringing a digital embellishment engine on the market was only an option if we could provide an effective solution.
Our Xeikon FEU is equipped with a Corona unit and flexo priming station to solve any issues with the print result caused by substrate or ink/toner. Coated or uncoated, film or paper, ink or toner – there are no restrictions. Plain and simple.
The FEU also has three buffer stations. These stations mean that you don't have to run meters of material through the machine during the setup process before you can inspect the quality. Instead, you can print one image, stop, rewind through the buffer system, and inspect the result. By giving you a dedicated area to check the result, a process to minimize waste, a single print set up, and of course, the software to tweak the parameters and design to get a good result, the Xeikon FEU provides the tools needed to quickly and easily reach a level of quality that satisfies the customer.
And what about the real elephant in the room? Register…
Conventional printing methods will continue to be used in the future -- think of bigger runs that require flexo speeds but then need embellishment and maybe even variable embellishment. But conventional printing techniques can have distorted print images due to printing plates that produce a stretched or skewed print.
Register issues can happen in both conventional and digital printing methods. However, in the Xeikon FEU, we snuck in a feature that allows you to embellish printed reels from whatever printing technique you might have without worrying about register issues.
Other digital embellishment equipment suppliers provide a print-on-demand solution triggered by a mark. That is as far as the "register" goes.
We take a different approach, offering a fully dedicated camera system that inspects the printed web, notices any type of distortion, and adjusts to assure a high-level register for each and every repetition and single image within that repetition. Regardless of the direction or type of distortion, the print image is always adjusted to the web image.
For example, when printing labels, you have the confidence of knowing that every single label is individually inspected, compared, and adjusted, so you will have a perfect register during the complete run. Always.
3. How do I get started in Digital Embellishments?
The use of digital embellishment will continue to grow, opening many new opportunities. So, even though it might be early, it’s worth considering, researching, and potentially investing in digital embellishments capabilities.
Having said that, we also recognize this investment is a big step. That’s why, in addition to hardware and software, we also offer you the service and support you need to get started.
The process can begin with a discussion with the Xeikon Solution Services team. Our dedicated team of experts can explain what embellishment technology is and its benefits to you and your customer. These conversations help you learn if this technology is a good fit for your organization and how you can use it to expand your business.
If it is a match, the discussions with our team can go deeper, exploring your business and performing benchmarks, TCOP, and ROI calculations. We’ll even throw in business analysis and a hands-on evaluation of your existing designs, substrates, etc., to actively help you get the best results from the engine. You’re not going at this alone.
Adapting to your needs and struggles
In the end, no matter how great this new embellishment technology is or how fascinating it is to see it grow, the success of the technology lies in how well it is adapted to the needs and actual struggles that are out there.
No doubt there will be many questions and “what if’s?” out there, but with the right supplier, you can turn your question marks into exclamation marks!
I’m here if you need a sounding board. And if you’re more of the lurker type, may I invite you to follow the Xeikon Solution Services LinkedIn page? It’s where we (over)share so everyone can get the most out of their digital printing capabilities.