With no particular ballyhoo, foiling has become a lot easier in the past year or two. Standard thermal laminators have been modified to apply hot foils.
When used in combination with digital dry toner or liquid toner presses, you can get spot and pattern foil with matt or gloss effects with a huge choice of finishes, with minimal equipment investment and no need to buy metal stamping dies.
One of the first manufacturers to develop spot effects films to run in laminators has been GMP, a Korean manufacturer with a UK distributor in Banbury. It calls the product and its effect ‘Sleeking’ and says it works with output from pretty well any dry toner printer, plus HP Indigo liquid toner presses. Sleeking is available with the GMP Exceltopic-380 and Q-Topic laminators, with entry prices of about £6,000 and £9,250 respectively.
The first UK user was Eazyprint.co.uk in Corby, in June 2015. Its system was supplied by GMP’s distributor Gardiner Graphics Supplies, which installed the machine and also supplies the foils and laminates.
The adoption of the Sleeking process has allowed the company to offer new products with high visual impact, says production manager Daniel Prétòt. “We can now foil, spot gloss and holographic gloss, giving us the ability to really wow our customers and their customers,” he says. “We have found that corporate presentation packs, show and function invites and programmes and targeted marketing pieces seem to be where we are getting most interest for this type of finishing.”
Eazyprint.co.uk is an all-digital printer that focuses on high-quality, short-run work. It’s a family-run firm with a mix of small- and large-format printers and specialises in books and marketing pieces with specialist high-end finishing requirements.
It sells nationwide, although most of its regular clientele is in the surrounding counties of Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Cambridgeshire. “The customer base includes some large corporate clients, such as Reed Elsevier Group, Lexis Nexis, Igloo Books, Bonier Publishing, RS Components, Avon Cosmetics and Speedo, to mention a few,” says Prétòt. There are also smaller B2B customers and a small proportion of consumer customers via the website.
Although the company name incorporates its website’s URL, Prétòt says that most work still comes in through more traditional channels. “We have one sales person, but actually a lot of our work comes in through referrals,” he says.
Production equipment includes two Konica Minolta bizhub Pro C1060 and one C5501 SRA3 digital presses, plus HP large format inkjets (two aqueous DesignJets and a 60 inch Latex model0. “We also have large- and small-format lamination, cutting, creasing, and folding,” says Prétòt. Binding options include saddle-stitching, wire binding, perfect binding, case binding and loop-stitch binding. Ring binders are also made.
For Sleeking, the company has a GMP Q-Topic 380 laminator, fitted as standard with an unwinder-rewinder to feed foil. It also has a GMP SurelamPro 500 for standard lamination work up to 500mm widths, and is testing a larger Protopic 520.
“We have often been asked for foiling and found it problematic with both short runs and digital print due to registration issues,” says Prétòt. The company already had a GMP laminator and bought consumables from the company, he says. “As such I have built up a really good relationship with them and one day they mentioned that there were some new solutions GMP were going to be offering. We said we were interested and secured delivery of the first Q-Topic in the UK. Since then we have worked very closely with GMP to perfect the solution.”
Sleeking is GMP’s name for an adaptation of the long-established process where hot foil can be made to transfer to toner printed by a digital press or even an old analogue photocopier. In GMP’s case a special ‘digital’ foil is used, rather than standard foil.
The secret is applying a controlled heat: the toner (especially if it’s a black solid) is heated to beyond the activation point of the adhesive on the hot foil. The base substrate doesn’t heat up as much, so doesn’t activate the adhesive. As the foil-carrying film is peeled away, the foil sticks to the toner but not the paper or other substrate.
The process has been available with purpose-built machines for a couple of decades. The attraction of Sleeking is that it uses a more or less standard, very affordable laminator, which can also be used for conventional lamination work. This isn’t quite unique – UK based laminator makers Autobond and Vivid also offer foiling attachments for thermal laminators. Probably other makes could have similar modifications.
Sleeking, or indeed any other foil-on-toner process, won’t give you the embossed texture of a traditional metal die, but that seems a small price to pay for the immediacy of the lamination method.
There are three main stages to creating a Sleeked print run: artwork, printing and laminating. The artwork stage mainly involves creating a separate colour layer for the area that is to be foiled (or multiple layers for more than one effect).
If you want to foil over pre-printed litho sheets, you run them through the digital press. The foil will only stick to the digital toner. If you are printing all elements digitally, then you can print the foil images first, run them through the Sleeking laminator, then print the rest of the job on top. Leaving holes in the top image lets the foil show through, but it’s also possible to print images over the foil.
Alternatively you can print the job first with any process, then laminate GMP’s special toner-receptive silk touch film over the whole sheet. Then you run the laminated sheets through the toner press to add the foil image, and back through the Sleeking laminator to apply the foil. There are other variations for Sleeking but those are the main ones.
Sleeking is available with the GMP Exceltopic -80 and Q-Topic 380 laminators, with entry prices of about £6,000 and £9,250 respectively.
“The install and training was all done in a day, but having the first machine in the UK meant there was very little experience or anything to reference at the time and so we had to spend several months working on finding the right papers and perfecting the techniques and processes,” says Prétòt.
“Pre-press is also a very big part of the process and not all artwork is suitable, so we have had do work with customers and make suggestions to achieve results. Luckily we have a very good team in our studio who have got to grips with how to set the artwork for the different finishes.”
So, does it do what it says on the box? “Yes, is the answer,” says Prétòt. “Don’t get me wrong, we have had issues and problems to solve along the way but it has opened up a whole new area of the business for us, as it’s adding value to the work we already do.
“Anyone looking to invest needs to accept that they will need to do some testing and that it won’t always do exactly what you want, so you also need to be prepared to find ways around a problem and other solutions or options. Oh, and you need patience!”
“The best thing is when you see the finished product and you and the rest of the team are like, ‘wow, that looks amazing’,” Prétòt enthuses.
“Knowing you have produced a really classy high-quality piece of print is very rewarding and the best part is seeing and hearing the customer’s reaction. The worst thing is when it does not quite work out as intended and then it’s back to the drawing board to find a solution. This can be frustrating but we always manage get there in the end.
“If I could get it to do something it doesn’t that would be to spot clear gloss on a white area, it will not do this as there is not toner to adhere too!
“We would definitely install this again and are looking at adding another machine in the very near future. We would definitely recommend the GMP range of products.”
Max sheet size 380x500mm (1,200mm option)
Min sheet size 180x210mm
Media weight range 12-350gsm
Max speed 10m/min
Laminating media Polynex (20-43mic), Perfex (25mic), Nylonex (27-44mic), Micronex gloss, matt, hologram single-side (6-10mic)
Sleeking foils Gloss, matt, hologram, metallic
Max operating temperature 150˚C
Price From £9,250
Contact GMP UK 01295 641417 www.gmpuk.co.uk