By Melissa Donovan
There is always a need for graphic overlays, as they are typically found on devices requiring a control panel. Traditional printing methods are costly when it comes to variable runs of graphic overlays with increased SKUs. However, screenprinting offers a level of required durability in addition to a high-quality visual, which is an important element to any brand.
Digitally printing graphic overlays is a huge opportunity for manufacturers, whether in plants or outsourced label producers. Variable runs are much more cost effective, as are prototypes and runs of one. Tools and die costs are also removed as these functions are simply not required when digitally printing. Lastly, many digital printers offer clear coating in ink channels, which mimic embossing and create raised buttons or textures commonly found on graphic overlays.
Above: This design, from Yorba Linda, CA-based Becker’s Fabrication, has a very fine gradation in the yellow along with a high color count. The company’s Roland VersaUV LEC makes the production of this piece efficient.
Creating an Impact
Based in Yorba Linda, CA, Becker’s Fabrication, Inc. celebrates over 30 years in business. It began in Carlsbad, CA in the 1980s with the goal of supplying shaft band labels for the golf industry using hot stamp machines and a small lithography press. Dan Becker started the company out of a 3,500 square foot building.
Today it offers digital, flexographic, hot stamp, and silkscreen printing processes. Custom labels, overlays, and membrane switches are created for pool manufacturers, medical suppliers, and industrial production companies in addition to continuing to support the golf industry. A staff of 25 employees works out of a 14,000 square feet shop.
Familiar with digital printing, the company incorporated the technology into its business in 1991. According to David Beilfuss, GM, Becker’s Fabrication, as a customer-driven business it looked for printing technologies that could accurately portray spot colors and other shading and graphic effects on materials like lexan or polyester.
“We have the challenge of printing 100 percent of our products on synthetic substrates like vinyl, polycarbonates, and polyester. As digital printing technology became more commonly used for printing on paper and other substrates, customers began searching for options. It quickly became apparent that we either needed to accommodate these requests, or risk losing business to competitors who were adopting newer digital printing technologies,” explains Beilfuss.
With the first digital printer it adopted in 1991, the team was able to print on smaller parts, but they soon realized they needed a printer that could output on wider and longer parts as well. Becker’s Fabrication decided to add a VersaUV LEC series 30-inch printer/cutter from Roland DGA Corporation. It is used for production parts as well as prototyping or membrane switches, overlays, and any sort of durable label.
The VersaUV LEC runs with Roland ECO-UV ink, which is fast curing and allows for printing and cutting in the same day. “Our Roland’s specially formulated UV inks and UV LED lamps allow for exceptionally fast curing times. We can print a part, add adhesive, and then cut the final product within hours. Not providing cure time can negatively affect the ultimate bond between the ink and substrate. With the Roland, curing time is virtually instantaneous,” shares Beilfuss.
Becker’s Fabrication runs CMYK and white in the printer on a regular basis. The white inks create opacity on clear film for certain applications, allowing the company to branch out into new directions. For example, it has used the VersaUV LEC to print customized iced tea and coffee urn wraps.
In addition to the Roland, the company’s digital printing equipment lineup includes an Afinia Label DLP-2000 mini digital label press and an HP, Inc. Indigo 5600. For finishing, it employs an Esko Kongsberg digital knife cutter and a 60-inch wide Advanced Greig Laminators, Inc. laminator.
Straight to Overlays
Graphic overlays like control panels and membrane switches are ideal for digitally printing. “The control panels and graphics are the visual interface between our customers’ products and the end customer. This puts the responsibility on the printer to create the perceived value that pleasing and intuitive controls can provide,” explains Beilfuss.
Becker’s Fabrication takes that responsibility seriously. With the Roland VersaUV LEC it is able to not only provide high-quality graphics, but quick time to market. “One of the major advantages of the Roland is the exceptionally fast screen-to-substrate time frame it allows. We can print within minutes, and the larger format enables us to maximize both material use and efficiency. The rapid UV curing makes production much quicker, allowing us to get the end products to our customer that much faster,” adds Beilfuss.
This is compared to screenprinting, where a film must be output and developed, then a screen shot, and each color printed one at a time—all multiple days of work.
The company still produces graphic overlays using either screen or digital print. Beilfuss says many considerations are taken into account when deciding between the two processes. The job is generally run on digital if it requires complex pictures or shading, the customer needs the finished part in a day or two, dynamic information like barcodes or database merging is required, the job involves more than four colors, or the size is too large for screen presses to handle.
Conversely, a project might be run on the screenprinters if the graphics allow for the use of spot colors or it involves higher quantities—or large total printing when viewed as total square inches.
The Digital Demand
Digital printing graphic overlays is a must for Becker’s Fabrication. “While screenprinting is still an efficient process, it’s now possible for us to use digital presses exclusively to supply the markets we serve. Digital printing is now a necessity for the industrial printing market,” concludes Beilfuss. The technology offers quick turnaround, variability if needed, and cost-effective short runs.
Mar2018, Industrial Print Magazine