Unexpected gold is a medal-worthy digital application

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Sep 15, 2011

While Kodak’s event at its European demo centre in La Hulpe, Belgium this week was primarily intended as a launch pad for its latest Versamark drop-on-demand devices and a status update on its flagship Prosper inkjet press and imprinting system line-up, there was another star of the show.

An application developed for its Nexpress toner-based platform that brings the high value of foiling into the digital age.  While not a new application — it has been shown by the firm before — it hasn’t been widely promoted but it stood out – literally.

Accidental sample shows toner over digitally imaged foiling

Kodak has combined the dimensional printing capability of the Nexpress with UK-firm Caslon’s toner based foiling system to enable digital foiling. The twist is that by using the Dimensional Printing capabilities of the Nexpress in combination with a cold foiling process it is possible to produce a foil with depth, more akin to the traditional embossed texture possible with hot foiling.

For a long time foils (and other fancy finishing processes aka value-added enahancements that extend the sensory effects of tactile physical media) have remained out of reach of digital production. With this new take on an ancient process, it is possible to create the effects of die-stamped foil, without the expense of a die. At a stroke the undeniable added impact and value of these finishes is also available with all the advantages of digital — variable data, zero makeready and ultra-short runs.

The foiling process is carried out as a separate step prior to four-colour printing, enabling full-colour to be combined with the foil. The dimensional print (or flat clear toner) is laid down by the Nexpress and the result is then passed through a tabletop foiler, where under relatively low heat and pressure a metallic foil is transferred onto the toner-bearing areas, which also conforms to the texture of any dimensional printing relief. It also looks like it is possible – subject to further tests – to print in process colour onto the foil, as well as the surrounding substrate.

Caslon FT-10 Foiler, the enabler of metallic toner

It may be niche but it will undoubtedly add a huge amount of value and enable some stunning new applications that are a super-additive combination of the power of personalisation with fancy-pants finishing. Immediate low-hanging fruit stand out in the realms of exam certificate, tickets, vouchers and greetings cards. Not forgetting huge potential in another core market for Kodak and the Nexpress: photoproducts. What better way to add old school craft to the burgeoning photobook market than fully variable foil-blocked effects on book jackets and the borders of images?

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