A rapid rise in prototyping productivity and quality thanks to Roland DG

International Greetings   |   Hengoed

Since International Greetings adopted a Roland DG VersaUV LEC-540 printer/cutter for prototyping its creative greetings products, its designers spend up to 40 per cent more time doing what they do best: designing innovative products for clients.

The VersaUV LEC-540, a 54-inch wide, CMYK, white-ink and clear gloss enabled UV-inkjet integrated printer/cutter has transformed the £70m turnover company's workflow beyond recognition. Instead of creating proofs and prototypes through a series of long and slow processes such as thermal transfer and foil blocking - until recently the industry standard - the company now prints its prototypes onto the very media the final versions will be printed on. This gives clients a proof that is almost an exact match for the final product in look and feel and dramatically reduces the time taken to create these prototypes.

"The new machine's been a real godsend and has opened up a massive range of opportunities by really pushing our business forward," said Dion Hester, Designer, International Greetings. "As our products had to be manually created before, our design studio had restrictions on what could be developed, due to the time and resources we had to commit to building each new concept. However, with the ability to now print CMYK plus white ink, emboss, crease and contour cut all from the one device, we can quickly mock-up items that are almost an like the real thing – this is a real treat for our design studio and most importantly the result is clients who are very happy with a highly creative, quality prototype."

When exploring the market for a new prototyping solution it was the gloss and white applications combined with Roland DG's integrated print and cut technology that first caught International Greetings' eye. With white and gloss, the VersaUV LEC-540 can create remarkably rich colors and effects such as matte and high-gloss finishes in a choice of textures and patterns, including the ability to simulate UV varnish and embossing. Foil is something International Greetings uses often and Roland DG's UV printing technology allows the VersaUV LEC-540 to print directly onto these types of media, while blocking out sections of the design and using the gloss to bring in satin effects where needed.

"White ink and embossing effects are functions we use often and this is constantly growing as our designers experiment with ever more creative designs and applications. This machine has in many ways released our designers' imaginations from the constraints of time and budget that were associated with manual prototyping," said Dion.

Dion often undertakes his own projects in-house to showcase the machine's capabilities to the rest of the team in order to fuel the atmosphere.

The VersaUV LEC-540's compact design and small footprint meant it could be installed right next door to International Greetings' design studio and because there was no need for additional ventilation in their work area there was no disruption or extra costs to the installation.

"The install and the continued running of the machine has all been painless. We were up and running from day one and producing client work with it by the end of the first week," he said.

On getting to grips with the machine, the company entered Roland DG's worldwide creative awards competition with its innovative work producing Christmas crackers, earning an honorable mention from the judges. The case study involved printing 12 crackers as a presentation leaving gift for one of the company's board members, printed on Mirri Silver Board using the VersaUV LEC-540 and EFI Fiery XF RIP software.

The printing process for this provided a real test for the Roland DG printer/cutter, which it passed with flying colors. In all, a total of five passes were undertaken: firstly a white layer of ink under certain parts of the design, followed by a CMYK pass, one pass of matte varnish and two differing levels of gloss varnish to create a varied emboss effect.

With the crackers, and in a lot of International Greetings' subsequent work, the VersaUV LEC-540's color management capabilities came to the fore. Previously the company used foils and thermal transfers produced on different substrates on different devices, which led to inconsistency of color on prototypes. Now, with a single device for all their prototyping work, they have greater control over color and clients continually remark on the improved quality of proofs they are now provided with.

Dion has also been impressed with the Roland DG's reliability but for added piece of mind the company opted for aRolandCare service and support package. He said: "When called upon, we have received impeccable service with ourRolandCare warranty. I've been in the industry a long time and it is comparably the best service I've ever had. When they say they'll phone back, they actually do, and whenever the engineer needs to visit you can be fairly sure you'll pick up a new trick or two."

Dion and International Greetings would not hesitate to recommend the VersaUV LEC-540 to other creative agencies and, just one year on, is considering installing another to relieve the pressure on the massively over-subscribed printer.