by Melissa Donovan
The ability to print to anything is credited to advancements in printhead technology, hardware configurations, software solutions, and ink sets. A fun segment to peek into is toys and games, whether for a hobbyist, children, or promotional products.
VIECO Inc. owns PromotionChoice.com out of San Diego, CA. In business since 1999, the company began with two employees and today staffs 15 out of 2,500 square feet of space to offer its customers decoration of promotional products as well as custom printing. Main categories include apparel and bags, drinkware, trade show supplies, party supplies and toys, and office and school items. It ships to all 50 states in the U.S.
New to digital print, the company learned about the technology just over three years ago. Jit Teo, business operations specialist, VIECO Inc., says he was “fascinated by its wide range of applications, flexibility, and the time savings with the setup process.”
Around the time Teo learned about digital, he also decided to bring PromotionChoice.com’s printing capabilities in house. Starting “right off the bat” with mostly just digital printers, Teo was immediately impressed with how clean the technology was compared to more traditional promotional decoration like pad and screen printing.
“Digital printing is a lot friendlier in our warehouse environment, so we hope to one day replace traditional printing methods with digital printers, especially if the technology continues to improve,” states Teo.
Setup time between jobs is also quick, something that is ideal for a business like PromotionChoice.com, which consistently flips between printing small plastic balls to pens and anything in between.
After researching devices online and speaking with varying manufacturers, the company purchased a LogoJET UV printer. UV ink was preferred because it dries while printing, which minimizes if not eliminates dry time between jobs.
“UV ink is fast drying, versatile, and it’s what the printer was designed to use. We also use flexible UV inks because we sometimes print on substrates that are soft and malleable such as stress balls,” shares Teo.
Teo admits there was a learning curve after the printer was installed and it still occurs when faced with an object previously not printed on before. “For example, when we decided to print on footballs this year, there was a learning process on how to achieve decent prints on this product, and how to minimize product wastage with defective prints. Once we figure out what we can and cannot do on such products, the whole process becomes smoother and easier,” he explains.
The Good and The Bad
Digitally printing to pre-manufactured objects presents unique challenges.
For Teo, it is the high initial investment, however, he believes this will change. “The initial investment is far higher than traditional printers like pad and screen printers. When it does become more widespread over the years, we expect the costs of these printers to become less prohibitive than they are currently.”
Two obvious advantages of digital printing are what Teo believes is changing the field of decoration as a whole. The first, is that digital offers CMYK full-color print capability. “Traditional methods of printing can do CMYK printing as well, but you do have to be careful with the registration and setup process to ensure accurate prints. Digital printers take that guesswork out of the setup process when it comes to multi- and full-color prints.”
The second benefit is the ease of cleaning after the printing process is completed. Unlike pad or screen printing, there are no consumables to clean. But that doesn’t mean the printer shouldn’t undergo continual maintenance and upkeep. Teo stresses the importance of daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance that must be completed. Not doing this results in ruined parts and costly repairs.
Teo walks us through a typical decoration job for PromotionChoice.com.
First the LogoJET printer undergoes daily cleaning and diagnostic tests, all while the logo or graphic being printed is loaded onto the computer. All of the substrates or objects planned to receive the graphic are then laid out on pre-designed print trays.
During the printing process, output results are checked. “Not all the products are manufactured perfectly—there maybe some that are shorter—sometimes by up to a quarter of an inch. These tend to print poorly, and must either be cleaned off, or tossed and re-printed,” explains Teo.
Once inspected, approved products are transferred to the packaging and the shipping process can begin.
Depending on the print settings, product to be printed, and the imprint area, print time ranges. With the example of 40 footballs with an imprint area of 1.25 inches in height by two inches in width, utilizing print settings that result in a clear, visible logo, Teo says it would probably take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to print all 40 footballs.
Making it Possible
Pre-manufactured promotional objects seen handed out at trade shows, sold at craft fairs, and presented at citywide events remain popular. Every corporation, organization, and educational establishment wants to offer merchandise that is branded with their logo or catchphrase. Digital printing presents numerous advantages in this field.
Feb2024, Digital Output