Weber Druck+Display provides lenticular and more with UV Rapida

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Weber Druck+Display in Weyhe near Bremen has been producing advertising and POS materials for over 50 years. Originally a silk-screen business, the family-run company was expanded to incorporate full-colour offset printing in the 1970s. With 55 employees, Weber Druck is already one of the larger players in the branch. Given the long-established focus on non-absorbent materials, UV equipment is effectively the company standard. Since autumn 2008, Weber Druck+Display has been printing on a medium-format Rapida 105, the predecessor generation to today's high-tech Rapida 106 press series.

Weber Druck has evolved as a specialist for plastic substrates which place particular demands on the printing technology, for example polypropylene, polystyrene and rigid PVC in all thicknesses and with the most varied surface properties. The run lengths range from less than 100 (e.g. for special backlight posters) up to 6 million individual cards in the case of lenticular inserts for high-circulation magazines. The average, as for many commercial printers, is a run length between 1,000 and 2,000 sheets. "Our out-of-the-ordinary lenticular products are especially exciting," says managing director Hans-Peter Weber. Simple flips are probably the most frequently requested effect, though 3D images, animations and morphing effects are without doubt the more interesting options. Weber Druck+Display is today one of the largest lenticular printers in Germany. 

Full service for lenticular print
Even though most products make use of the full print area of 74 x 105 cm, the thinner lenticular films are often only printed in smaller formats – firstly to minimise the sheet distortion during printing, but at the same time also because many lenticular products are smaller anyway. For lenticular prints in A1 format, on the other hand, foils with a thickness of 0.7 or 0.8 mm are used. As the starting point for the various effects, such as flip images, morphing or animations, the customer supplies a basic design for the product. For a 3D image, for example, this means a Photoshop file in which the individual elements of the final image are saved as separate layers. The further process steps, from checking of the usability of the data (fine screens demand high-resolution image files), via layout and rendering, through to interlacing and slicing of the images for the individual lens width, are taken care of by the prepress department at Weber Druck+Display. 

Lenticular products represent just one segment in plastics printing. Others are backlight prints for cigarette vending machines or ice cream advertising, complete POS displays, plastic inserts for such displays, floor stickers, promotional packaging, ceiling hangers, and many more besides. Printed films with an electrostatic charge are used in guerrilla marketing or for decoration purposes. They adhere to the most varied surfaces and can be removed without the risk of damage. The production of backlight prints for cigarette vending machines is also very complex: There are only a few manufacturers of such vending machines, but nevertheless no standards. Consequently, the prints for each order must be printed in many different formats.

New generation enters the printshop
With a six-colour Rapida 105 coater press in a configuration with UV, heavy board and plastics packages, Weber Druck+Display has taken a quantum leap forward in terms of printing equipment. This new press, after all, is incomparably faster and more flexible than its 10-year-old forerunner. The four scale colours are usually printed in units 2 to 5, leaving units 1 and 6 free for spot colours or opaque white to be applied either before or after the main image. Even jobs in the sequence opaque white, scale colours, inline perforation in the sixth unit and subsequent coating of the perforated sheet have already been handled. In addition to all-over coatings, drip-off effects and in particular UV effect finishes are possible. Practically all products are coated, with just a few exceptions.
Production manager Heiko Kirst appreciates especially the quiet running and production stability of his new Rapida. The possibility to simply disengage unused inking units from the rest of press has also proved a boon against the background of frequent job changes. The possibility to do away with ink duct foils is mentioned as another clear plus. On the earlier press, these foils were sometimes worn through with certain UV inks. 

Particularly strong with thicker materials
The Rapida 105 is able to play out its full potential when processing thicker substrates. "We have already printed advertising displays on 1 mm polystyrene for a coffee roaster," explains Achim Weber, who is responsible for prepress and marketing. "Even very rigid materials run perfectly on the Rapida." The specialists in the company are equally enthusiastic about the colour measurement and control system DensiTronic professional. Density and spectral control is seen as the future of quality monitoring. Hans-Peter Weber: "Thanks to the reporting functions, both sides, i.e. those who are buying and those who are producing, can feel confident about their quality." For short runs, the first and last good sheets are documented and saved. If the run is longer, further checks are made at regular intervals during the production, so as to guarantee gapless documentation. At the same time, the direct use of prepress data greatly simplifies press presetting. "Even the printers who were rather sceptical about the quality monitoring at the beginning cannot imagine being without it today," says Heiko Kirst. It is true that there are very few real repeat jobs, but the facility to save press settings for standard materials speeds up the preparation of new print jobs considerably. DensiTronic professional has become an important component of the in-house quality management system, which is based on the general requirements of ISO 9000.

PSO certification for plastics printing
At the beginning of February 2010, production was certified to PSO/ISO 12647-2: First printing on 135 g/m2 art paper like almost every other print company, but then also on rigid PVC. Weber Druck+Display is thus the first company which can boast certification to PSO specifically for production on plastic substrates (on the basis of PSO paper classes I+II) with a 200 lpi screen. Production manager Heiko Kirst was glad that he had been able to work with Print Process Control from IPM long before the actual certification: "The adjustments we had to make were marginal. It only needed a new set of plates for the production on paper, while the printing on PVC all went to plan after just two corrections." Having checked the print characteristics with the IPM software, the company no longer had to start from scratch for the certification process.

The blue-and-white Rapida is naturally not the only press in the company. It stands alongside several silk-screen machines, and many products also combine both offset and screen printing. The postpress department is fully equipped for die-cutting, laminating, creasing, scoring and trimming. Weber Druck+Display often delivers its products directly to outlets or even the consumers. In some cases, that could add up to a mailing with several thousand addresses. And there are even orders (for example POS displays) where the service offered extends beyond printing to include also filling with the customer's products or the incorporation of additional components such as electronic modules. Other products, e.g. postcard inserts, are passed on to partner companies to be inserted into magazines or the like. 

A separate sample workshop translates customer ideas into industrially feasible products. With the aid of CAD systems, specimens are produced to assist the customer in his decision-making. A large majority of the products printed at Weber Druck+Display have been tailored to the individual needs of the customer in question and thus demand quite intensive advance consultation and advice.