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Viewpoint – Marco Carlini

Converting Today talks to Marco Carlini, sales & technical area manager at offset sector specialist Trelleborg Printing Solutions, who gives his thoughts the benefits of value added printing compared to product rationalisation and standardisation in printing blanket technology

PrintCity defines ‘value added print’ as something that is not only visibly different to standard printing, but is recognised by consumers, advertisers and brand-owners, and capable of attracting higher revenues and/or adding to differentiation. Quite simply, value added printing increases differentiation through the combination of a number of unique elements.

For example, the design’s message and graphic elements can be enhanced through the selection of a corresponding substrate
quality, and then extended with an almost endless combination of inks, special effects or metallic pigments, foiling, holograms, coatings, finishing and personalisation.

According to a study conducted by Brand Sense, on average product loyalty increases from 28% when only one sense is addressed,
43% two or three senses, and 58% if it touches four or five. So unsurprisingly, the more senses a brand touches, the more likely the customer will make a purchase.

Key ingredient
An element of the process that is often overlooked is printing blankets; they provide the essential link between the image on the plate and the substrate, and are a vital component in the print process, impacting on everything from print quality, cost, wastage, efficiency and even carbon footprint.

Considerable resource goes into developing blankets for different print processes and can mean the difference between a good return
on investment or working at a loss.

While the current economic climate could tempt some manufacturers into following the path of product rationalisation andstandardisation, leading manufacturers are beginning to recognise the importance of continuing investment into research and
development. In this way, they can ensure that they have dedicated printing solutions available for each application and market
segment that they serve.

Design frontier
UV printing is becoming increasingly popular, as it offers added value business opportunities for printers in packaging. The versatility of UV is a major benefit in reproducing new graphical designs; especially for new surface coatings and print wear resistance for packaging. As well as production efficiency through rapid curing, when compared to printing with conventional inks, the attraction of UV printing and coating is the wide range of printing on a very comprehensive selection of substrates.

To achieve both quality and productivity, the right combination of equipment and materials must be used to optimise the UV process. This is where printing blankets play their part, as the chemical composition of the top surface of the blanket has a vital part to play in successfully meeting the demand for printing using UV processes.

The main consideration is that all consumables used in the UV process must be compatible; there is a wide variety of UV ink and coating systems, and these can often be used in combination with conventional and hybrid inks. Sometimes the same press is
used for both conventional and UV operations, requiring particular consideration for consumables and maintenance.

Poorly specified blankets dry out rapidly, leading to deterioration in surface coating. UV blankets should have a specialised non-polar ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) surface coating, which resists the chemicals and ensures a long working life. EPDM must be washed by solvents of opposite polarity to maintain integrity, and prevent effects like swelling.

Hybrid, or non-classic, UV inks are often popular because of their versatility. They can easily be used as an occasional alternate on
the same press as conventional inks. However, hybrid inks have a variable composition and their compatibility should be tested before production.

Leading manufacturers have developed high performance blankets – such as Trelleborg’s Rollin UV-E 17 – purposely created for printers that require exceptional resistance to UV inks and washes. Featuring the latest EPDM blended rubber technology, these blankets offer superior print quality and smash resistance due to their multi-ply fabric carcass with a compressible layer.

Beneficial relationship
Printing blankets clearly have an important role in the quality and efficiency of printing. The characteristics of the blanket composition, compressibility and surface characteristics directly affect the print process. However, by specifying the right blanket for the print requirements, the highest quality results with reduced operating costs can easily be achieved.

So, with the quality and performance requirements requested by end-users continually evolving, and a fry cry from what they were a decade ago, the need for manufacturers to offer specific products to meet specific blanket applications and processes has never been greater.

Value added print’ is as much about manufacturers working closely with their customers, understanding their wants and needs, and developing dedicated highperformance, quality products to suit varying printing requirements.

The author’s views expressed on this page may not be shared by this publication.