By Melissa Donovan
An advertising agency turned contract printer? Thanks to direct-to-object printing capabilities, this statement has never been more true. Digital printing directly to substrates, specifically UV ink, enables companies from different backgrounds to utilize the technology. Most of the printers available today offer ease of use and a quick return on investment, features anyone can get behind.
Above: All-Ways works with LogoJET UV2400 and UVx40R printers to decorate everything from keychains and packaging to drinkware.
Thoughts to Action
All-Ways Advertising celebrates over 50 years in business, starting in 1969 as a home delivery service providing advertising circulars and samples. Today, it is 1 headquartered in Bloomfield, NJ with warehouse, fulfillment, and print options in Hillside, NJ.
It is an industry leader in the promotional products marketplace, specializing in business-to-business (B2B) gifts, business-to-consumer products, awards and recognition, and turnkey fulfillment solutions. Its All-Ways Impress division focuses on decorated solutions using digital printing, laser engraving, and sublimation. A total of 40 employees work for the two business entities.
In 2009, All-Ways acquired a print shop with laser and mechanical engraving equipment capabilities, serving customers in the awards and recognition space. After the purchase, Andrew Lieberman, VP, All-Ways Impress, kept up to date on the latest technology advancements by attending industry trade shows in the promotional print space. In 2015 Lieberman was at a trade show and noticed a section devoted to digital printers. The event got him thinking how beneficial it would be to utilize digital printers in the business.
Not acting on the thought until a few years later, he purchased his first digital printing device in 2016. Goal-wise Lieberman looked for a printer that was easy to use from an operations perspective. Another aspiration was that the printer be able to handle flat items—like nameplates—and print in full color. Lieberman hoped to distance the company from mechanical engraving, which he says is limited in color and font. Since he was in the awards and recognition space, there was not as much need for a direct-to-object printer equipped with a lot of depth for bulkier objects.
The final choice was the LogoJET UV2400 UV-curable printer. It features an imprint area of 12x24x5 inches. An automatic height sensor detects and positions the flatbed so objects are at an optimum distance from the printhead.
One client of All-Ways is a local high school that runs a nationally recognized track and field event every year. Prior to owning the LogoJET UV2400, All-Ways mechanically engraved the back of awards medals with the year and event. A couple of hundred units took hours to produce. Once the LogoJET UV2400 was implemented, each medal was printed with black ink, taking minutes for the entire run instead of hours.
Upgrading to New Technology
The original LogoJET UV2400 was and still is a workhorse for the shop. However, about two years into its tenure, it wasn’t able to keep up with the volume of orders. In response, Lieberman elected to purchase a LogoJET UVx40R in 2018. Part of the desire to invest in the LogoJET UVx40R was its 18×18-inch print area, making it easier to accommodate larger items, thus broadening All-Ways’ application offerings. The printer was so well received, a second was purchased in 2019.
LogoJET’s UVx40R is the first in the R-Series UV direct-to-substrate printer portfolio. This design combines industrial-strength components with three high-performance, extended-wear Ricoh printheads. UV-curable inks and a powerful UV LED lamp produce vibrant, full-color and textured imprints that cure immediately on a variety of substrates including plastic, metal, wood, glass, stone, and textiles. A newly configured ink system contains six customizable channels.
All-Ways runs LogoJET’s H2GH UV ink on the LogoJET UVx40R printers. They are set up to operate with two channels of white and CMYK, no adhesion primer or gloss are run inline. If any surfaces require an adhesion promoter, it is applied straight out the can and treated prior to running through the printer. According to Lieberman, the ink features great durability and requires no extra protection.
If there are challenges related to using the LogoJET printers and UV ink, Lieberman says they are environmental related. Located in the Northeast, All-Ways contends with temperature changes and the subsequent effects. For example, in the Winter, the heat in the building can make everything very dry, which presents static issues and makes working with the inks difficult. However, the operations team has its fair share of tricks to combat this.
All-Ways prints to just about any material including metal and plastic sheets for awards; glass, wood, and crystal; stone coasters; golf balls; USB thumb drives; and toothbrush handles. Many items require jigs to run through the printers and the print manager on site is “a whiz” at creating unique holders for every product that comes into the shop, according to Lieberman.
“There is a lot of trial and error in jig configuration, but my print manager is really good at making the jigs himself,” he adds.
Digital Print Benefits
Customers of All-Ways are on board with direct digital printing eclipsing mechanical engraving, so on board that they don’t even notice. According to Lieberman, most work on the digital printers is completed for new customers and not those who utilized mechanical engraving in the past.
Sometimes, customers come to All-Ways thinking about having their product engraved, but then the sales team illustrates the difference between laser engraving versus full-color digital print, perhaps comparing an engraved versus a full-color logo. This visual upsell is usually successful depending on the customer.
The LogoJET printers save All-Ways’ customers money. For example, the act of printing directly to the award or object, versus printing on photo paper and adhering manually. The added steps would once have hiked up the price of the final product.
Another customer of All-Ways is an electric toothbrush manufacturer. All-Ways prints orthodontist and dentist practice contact information onto the handles of certain versions of this toothbrush using the LogoJET devices. A typical order is between 25 to 125 pieces, anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 handles are printed per month. 24 handles are placed on a jig and printed in ten minutes, at six runs an hour.
Once printed, the handles are packaged and labeled in All-Ways’ 30,000 square foot fulfillment center located behind the print shop. This provides a one-stop shop, end to end. In the case of the electric toothbrushes, these are shipped off to a dentist or orthodontist office straight from the warehouse.
The capabilities afforded by the LogoJET printers help All-Ways stand out. In the promotional product space, Lieberman claims none of his competitors have comparable equipment or the print operation.
When looking at UV printing companies similar to All-Ways, the difference is, “I welcome and built my business on contract printing. I don’t have to sell the product, I am comfortable doing high-volume print,” notes Lieberman.
2020 into 2021
The last year or so has been interesting for all businesses, and All-Ways is no exception. At the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, All-Ways started making pieces for face shields using its laser engraver—a model from Universal Laser Systems, Inc.—and then personalizing the pieces with its UV printers.
While this face shield work was going on, most of its contract work dropped off, but certain clients had business needs that weren’t effected by the pandemic and this kept All-Ways in action. For example, it handles personalization for the Webby awards, whose award season occurred despite COVID-19. All-Ways received files, printed the plates with winner info, applied the plates to the awards, and shipped them directly to the winners.
2021 is off to a good start, with most of the contract work that disappeared in 2020 returning. Lieberman says he hopes to expand the business into the direct-to-consumer market, but foresees remaining B2B for most of 2021.
The purchase of the LogoJET direct-to-object printers helped All-Ways grow its business and save its customers money by cutting down on production time. The use of digital printing in full-color upped the ante when it came to what can and should be added to promotional pieces or awards and recognition-type items. As business stabilizes, the company hopes to commit to another LogoJET printer to combat increasing workloads. IPM
Apr2021, Industrial Print Magazine