Print That Hits the Spot

By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst

“It just caught my eye as something different.”

Such was the feeling of Greg Wallace, owner of Waltham, Mass.’s HPGprint, when he was given a demonstration of Duplo’s new DDC-810 Spot UV Coater at last year’s Graph Expo. “It looked like it was a different kind of machine and could add value.”

“Added value” is the biggest driver of unique finishing options today, from digital embellishments like foil stamping to UV coatings, which work to help a printed piece stand out from other printed materials, as well as convey a more “upscale” image. It also allows print service providers to offer high-end print products at more of a premium price than they could get for “generic” commoditized color.

Duplo’s DDC-810 is brand new to the market, and HPGprint is the world’s first installation. The machine uses 600 x 600-dpi inkjet heads to lay down a UV-cured clear, gloss varnish to selected areas of the substrate. It supports a maximum paper size of 14 x 29 inches, and its small footprint doesn’t require large amount of shop floor real estate.

The machine is designed for small to moderate-sized run lengths. Playing around with the device, Wallace found the sweet spot to be in the 250 to 1,000 sheet range, perhaps even higher. “I did 1,000 brochures and 1,500 postcards and it wasn’t even breathing hard while running,” he said. “You probably could stretch it to get up to 5,000, 10,000, depending what it is you’re doing.”

HPGprint, a for-the-trade printer, has always been eager to experiment and stay on the cutting edge of technology. In fact, it was that spirit of experimentation that got the company into printing in the first place. Trained as an industrial engineer at Northeastern University in Boston, Wallace began in the data and software industry just before the “desktop publishing” revolution of the 1980s. “At the time, I was writing software for political and fundraising campaigns,” he said. He embraced the Apple Macintosh early on and launched one of the first Macintosh training facilities in the Boston area. The company, initially named Harvard Pinnacle Group, then moved into desktop publishing training, which led Wallace into printing. “For one project, we had to bring in a black-and-white Konica-Minolta printer,” he said, “and it never left. Then we got a second one, and then a color one.” The focus was still on training, but production work began to grow—and the teacher became the student. “Doing production printing work, we learned how to use all this equipment, as opposed to a lot of the printers who were transitioning from offset,” he said. “A lot of companies have a hard time absorbing the new technologies, but we always played with the new stuff and learned it.”

In 2012, Wallace began his relationship with Xerox and its color presses, a relationship that has only grown in the years since. The Xerox ColorPress1000 is today the company’s workhorse, especially thanks to its Clear Gloss Ink.

As part of the spirit of experimentation—and the company’s relationship with Xerox—two and a half years ago, Wallace field-tested the metallic gold and silver options for the Xerox color presses, and those capabilities soon became integral parts of Wallace’s toolbox. “I’ve always come at printing from the added-value side of things,” he said, “As soon as you do the clear, gold, or silver—or spot UV—it adds value to the product, but it also helps maintain the price that you get for the color printing that’s underneath it.”

As the company shifted more and more to production printing, Wallace changed the company’s name to HPGprint, and recently launched a Digital Print Production Center, sort of a “test lab” designed for trade printers who are looking for new digital print solutions they can in turn offer to their own customers.

Enter Duplo. HPGprint had installed a Duplo 600i Digital Booklet System, which led to a relationship that has culminated—thus far—with the new spot UV coater, which has opened up new applications and opportunities. “One of the major things I did that came out looking fantastic were pocket folders,” he said. “You basically print the outside on 13 x 19 stock, cut it down to 12 x 18, score it in half, and add pockets to the inside.” The spot UV coater then added highlighted logos and other important bits of text to the cover. “It almost looks like embossed text,” said Wallace.

He has also been using the coater on colored Touché Papers, like black, burgundy red, greens, and blues. “All we put on it was the spot UV,” he said. “It makes a beautiful cover for books.” The coater has also proven to be a great addition for more high-end applications such as financial reports. “A combination of the silver and gold off the Xerox with the spot UV on top of it makes for a great application,” he said.

Another application Wallace has been experimenting with is using the spot UV coater to simulate wood grain, like walnut. “I got a picture of wood grain, converted it to grayscale and posterized it, then turned that into a spot UV plate,” he said. “I put [the spot coating] over the color printing to make it look and feel like wood grain.”

As with any new technology, the challenge has been in educating clients not only how to design for and use it effectively, but also that it exists at all.

“About 90 to 99 percent of our work is for the trade and the four or five brokers we work with,” he said. “I give samples to their sales people so they can give them to the end user. The only tricky part is we’re training sales reps from four or five different companies.” But once they understand the possibilities, Wallace said, “stuff starts happening.”

On the creative side, once graphic designers see the possibilities of spot UV, they also take to it enthusiastically. “A designer up the street who does some freelancing for us took to this like you wouldn’t believe,” said Wallace. “She says, ‘Let’s try this, or let’s try that.’ A lot of traditional designers are having a hard time because they don’t understand the process, but I think it’s just a matter of training them.” Wallace also works with the Boston Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and had initially demonstrated the applications for metallic inks and toners. “I showed them the spot UV and they’re pretty excited about that,” he said.

Adding value to printed materials, either using new types of inks and toners, digital embellishments, or spot UV coatings means not only that clients get better responses to their mailings, but printers can command higher prices than a few cents per click for generic color printing. It’s a win for all involved, demonstrating the power of creativity unleashed.

“The interest is there,” said Wallace.

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