Integrating White Ink: Visual Marking System
A crossbow proving ground.
Printing with white ink is now such an integral component of the digital print services that Visual Marking Systems (VMS) in Twinsburg, Ohio, provides its clients, it will be one of the guiding considerations in all of the company’s future investments in digital.
“At this point I wouldn’t consider a digital printer without white-ink capability,” says Dolf Kahle, president of the 50-year-old firm. “We’re using white every day, probably more than any other color ink.”
VMS designs and prints branding solutions for OEM manufacturers, P-O-P displays, fleet graphics, and signage for public transportation. Its digital printer lineup includes five models with white-ink capability: an Inca Spyder 320+, Fujifilm Acuity Advance and Acuity HS X2, as well as a couple of narrow-format devices, the HP Indigo 5500 and its first white-ink printer, the Indigo S2000.
Its initial experiment with digital white ink wasn’t as a large-format solution, but to print single items in quantity. “A large segment of our business is in OEM decal, nameplate, or overlays with a large portion of those sub-surface-printed on a clear polycarbonate stock,” explains Ron Gizzo, director of R&D. “Graphics were becoming more detailed and requirements for short runs and shorter lead times were becoming common practice. This made printing white and orange ink a necessity for us.” He says the Indigo S2000’s “one-shot technology” streamlined production and proved the advantages of printing with white.
Then, by adding an Inca Spyder flatbed, the company added the ability to print with white on a broader range of materials.
“This allowed us to get into the direct printing market, and we began printing out products for our clients, laying down white, and then printing on top of that,” Gizzo says.
One customer, Horton Manufacturing, asked about the feasibility of printing directly to flexible polycarbonate crossbow limbs. Since the 2 x 8-inch limbs are supplied black, the job required laying down a layer of white on a 2 x 5-inch area before the Horton camo pattern and graphics could be printed on top of that. The Spyder’s 5 x 8-foot bed was loaded with 144 limbs for each run.
That job served as proving ground for the Inca Spyder, as well as the Fujifilm Sericol flexible white ink VMS now uses exclusively. And VMS continues to print those crossbow limbs.
“That experience made us look at what else we could do with white ink,” recalls Gizzo.
One recent project involved production of a P-O-P display for a manufacturer of wood fencing products. That client wanted to use 6-mm black expanded PVC for these heat-bent displays. Without the digital white option, VMS would have had to print smaller, display-sized sheets one-up white, then overprint with 4-color process on an analog press. Digital white, however, allowed for the direct-printing of several displays on each 4 x 8-sheet on the flatbed press, boosting efficiency and turnaround.
The company continues to find new applications for direct printing with white. For instance, VMS now prints a line of colorful, custom light switchplates for another client. As many as 250 of the switchplates are loaded onto the Spyder, then printed with white before the more distinct color graphics are applied.
“White opened up the possibilities for a lot of short run work that is really unique,” reports Gizzo. “Whatever the color of the material, you can lay it down, print a layer of white then print whatever you want on top of that.”
VISUAL MARKING SYSTEMS
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