Abra… the magic of PrintFX

When groundbreaking technology and boundless imagination intersect, printing “magic” can result

Just ask Patrick Sinn, whose company Creative Path is partnering with Konica Minolta to bring  the revolutionary MGI JETvarnish 3DS Twin-Head Inkjet System with iFoil and Artificial Intelligence Scanning to North America.

Normally in this business, companies looking to invest in new equipment are cautious. Traditionally, they wait until the amount of incoming work warrants such a purchase, or when farming out too much work becomes an issue. Not so for 21-year printing industry veteran Patrick Sinn, Owner of Creative Path (Richmond Hill, Ontario). Sinn recently made a rare and bold move. He saw the MGI JETvarnish perform at a tradeshow about a year ago and was awe-struck. Eventually, he decided not only to buy the digital finisher, but to establish an entire new division to open up new markets, showcase its remarkable capabilities to current customers, and attract new clients. He considers its stunning special effects in one press pass as genuine printing “magic” – and the new division’s name, Abra PrintFX, certainly reflects that feeling. His company recently installed this groundbreaking special-effects printer, which is the first to include AIS (Artificial Intelligence Scanning). This technology scans each sheet, then instantly adjusts the spot UV to compensate for any distortion – to ensure precise registration of each and every sheet. The printer is also the first equipped with a Twin-Head Inkjet System that almost doubles the printing speed, and can also accommodate up to 200 microns in raised spot UV thickness.

The Creative Path team celebrates the new installation at the Graphics Canada tradeshow in April.

“Because the MGI finisher is so special, we decided to spin off a division of Creative Path to market solely to graphic designers and advertising agencies. We named that division Abra PrintFX, because the technology itself is so magical,” Sinn said. “With this division, we can really push products to a wider market. With the MGI finisher, we can now do things we couldn’t have done before. We want advertising agencies and graphic designers to come in and see what this remarkable printer can do – and think of ideas that they can bring back to their customers to help them improve their own businesses. We want to partner with them to create that ‘wow factor’ in their marketing materials. Our goal is to promote this machine’s capabilities and put samples of what it can achieve directly into the hands of agencies and designers.”

Creative Path opened in 1995 as a service bureau, mostly providing film separations and colour proofing. The company eventually (and not surprisingly) moved into CTP. But it was around 2000 when it actually bought its first direct-imaging press. “We were one of the first to install the Heidelberg QMDI, where a file is actually ripped right into press, and the plates are imaged inside it,” recalled Sinn. “When it comes to technology, Creative Path has always tried to stay a step ahead. But we also understood that to be able to survive and be successful, you must invest in new technology.”

Creative Path Director Patrick Sinn beside his new MGI JETvarnish 3DS Twin-Head Inkjet System with iFoil and Artificial Intelligence Scanning – a Canadian first – from Konica Minolta Canada.

Today the company has larger offset and digital presses, separate departments for each, and a large-format department. Creative Path also specializes in creative design, marketing campaigns and marketing resource management. From the creation of promotional materials to the handling of all campaign logistics, Creative Path does it all. “Even though the industry has taken a nosedive when it comes to profit margins, equipment costs are getting lower, so more printers are investing in new technology,” Sinn added. “We too must stay on the cutting edge. So, how do we set ourselves apart? Well, everybody today seems to have a colour printer or press, or a UV wide-format printer. But one way that sets us apart, for example, is that we invested in a digital flatbed cutting system that can cut customized shapes. So, when we bid for a job, rather than selling something that’s rectangular, we’re now selling something that’s unique – and we can cut any shape that the client needs in-house, which differentiates us.

Now, with the new purchase of the MGI JETvarnish, it’s basically the same approach. How can we go in and NOT sell what the client is expecting? I know that sounds confusing, but it works. Sell them something better, something unique. If we simply sell them a CMYK printed product, we’re competing with everyone else for thinner and thinner margins. But with unique devices like the MGI, well, that really sets us apart. I feel that selling print and ink on paper is no longer viable. We have to sell solutions and ideas that actually change what a customer is currently buying.”

The iFoil system inside the MGI JETvarnish 3DS.

Background and benefits

In February of 2016, after nearly 20 years of collaboration, Konica Minolta Business Solutions (Canada) inked an exclusive agreement with MGI (USA) to co-market and service the entire line of MGI digital printing and finishing solutions in Canada. One month later, Konica Minolta installed the latest version of MGI’s JETvarnish 3DS Digital Spot UV and Inline iFoil System in Canada at the previously mentioned Print Panther. It was the first installation in Canada. One of the newest and most promising digital finishing breakthroughs in the world, the technology is also one of the most disruptive – especially for printers looking to boost profits, add value to their printed pieces, and separate themselves from their competition.

In April of 2016, Konica Minolta announced an additional 30.5% investment in MGI, which raised its stake in the company to 40.5% and added a full line of MGI’s products for the commercial print, labelling and packaging market. As with any new technology, the list of applications for Konica Minolta’s MGI JETvarnish 3DS and iFoil will grow exponentially as the analogue foil and varnish market converts to digital (less than 5% of the world’s foil and varnish market is currently digital). Basically, the JETvarnish takes advanced finishing to the next level while offering vast new market opportunities. Using MGI’s patented inkjet and hot foil stamping processes, it provides digital spot UV coating in plain 2D and 3D formats, plus embossed and foil textured effects – all in a single pass.

Key highlights include:

  • Digital spot UV coating which is 100% variable-data capable, including barcode reader options enabling custom spot varnished prints with unique graphics, text and numeric data
  • Integrated UV curing that dries sheets instantly through a conveyor belt – without ozone or required solvents.
  • Variable data allows for runs from one to thousands of sheets
  • Inline digital hot foil and embossing functions with the varnish application process that can handle substrates and sheets up to 36.4 × 102 cm from 135 to 450 gsm
  • Precise piezo (drop-on-demand) printheads that allow for lines as small as 0.3 mm
  • Fast start-up without plates, screens or waste running up to 2,298 A3 pages per hour (printing at 15 microns)
  • Patented Artificial Intelligence (AI) digital registration system from MGI for unparalleled accuracy
From left are Chris Dewart, President & CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions (Canada), Patrick Sinn, Director of Creative Path, Paul McCarthy, Director of Production Print at Konica Minolta Business Solutions (Canada), and Kelly Lawson, Account Manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions (Canada).

Moving forward: The path for Creative Path

As mentioned earlier, Abra PrintFX is the aptly-named new division of Creative Path. Its goal is to bring MGI’s groundbreaking printing effects and technology to creative agencies, graphic design firms and printers, helping them offer these special effects to their own customers. “We’ll be utilizing all the capabilities of the MGI JETvarnish to help our clients customize any special effects. That will, in turn, help them sell to their own customers. We want to make every printed project unique from the other. Working with creative people will really push our imaginations to the next level, as our staff put the love, passion and ‘magic’ back into printed materials.”

Creative Path’s new MGI JETvarnish is compact enough to allow agency personnel and graphic designers to come in and use the showroom-style facility as a spacious studio, where they can develop actual samples and prototypes of their clients’ work for their own presentations.

Today, Creative Path is a large and very successful commercial printer with 20 full-time employees. The majority of its clients are national accounts with multiple locations, but it does service some local companies. “Commercial printing has been around a long time and we’ve been doing very well in building good relationships with our clients,” Sinn added. “But we are looking for something that can really take us to the next level. What we really want to do is set us apart from other printers. I’ve been saying for quite a few years now, that I stopped selling print ten years ago. In fact, printing for me is only one small part of an entire marketing campaign. We’re actually a marketing services provider here to solve customer problems. We’re here to take the ideas that clients have and make them much more exciting and more attention grabbing. This remarkable device helps us do just that. At Abra PrintFX, our next step is to promote this new technology to prospective clients, helping them understand the benefits of moving ahead with print that sets them apart from the rest, I believe our future is very bright. With proper marketing, we expect to see a spike in revenue from our investment in MGI JETvarnish and iFoil technology.

Dashboard for the MGI JETvarnish 3DS Twin-Head Inkjet System.

Why the Konica Minolta MGI?

Today’s printers have to deal with shorter runs, more customization, faster time to market, shrinking margins, and the lingering challenge of commodity-based, cutthroat pricing. From a marketing standpoint, we face the greatest challenge – adding value to their printed pieces. Creative Path’s MGI JETvarnish will mean that spectacular, value-added digital finishing effects can now be done totally in-house. There’s no need to outsource or buy additional equipment. Workflow is smoother and downtime is reduced because the special effects can be printed in one press pass. They include spot UV and embossing from 21 microns (2D) to 200 microns (3D) in thickness, as well as application of multi-coloured foil (up to two rolls loaded simultaneously on the same holder). The technology can even accommodate variable-data printing of hot foil and/or spot UV coating that can be applied on the text, on the image, or on both, in runs from one to thousands of sheets. This should open up new markets that were previously unattainable. Now, Creative Path can produce visually stunning pieces quickly with short-run customization not previously possible via traditional methods. The goal is to maximize one-to-one marketing and branding impact, while adding enormous value for its customers and lowering production costs.

“In the printing industry, it’s very hard to be a pioneer, to find innovation – because everything is just ink on paper or toner on paper,” Sinn said. “However, the MGI really takes print finishing to the next level. Of course, it’s not like spot UV hasn’t been around before – but the MGI technology has made it so much easier, especially for our press operators. We just completed our training, and the equipment’s operation and maintenance, with the help of Konica Minolta, has been a breeze. It’s such a huge benefit for us to make unique, customizable printed materials for our customers.” Sinn also emphasized the importance of after-sale service and technical support, being a Konica Minolta customer for over 15 years. “We’ve had this machine for about two months. It was installed and operational within a couple of weeks. We’re all learning the new technology together, and the Konica Minolta tech support team has been amazing.

For more information please visit: www.abraprintfx.com or call (905) 709-9609.

For more information about Konica Minolta Canada and its print product portfolio, please visit www.konicaminolta.ca or call 1-866-890-6600

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.