Case Study: Hodges Badge Company Converts to Cold-Foil Printing

For over 100 years, Hodges Badge Company has been a family-owned and operated business selling awards, ribbons, and rosettes for every occasion, from dog shows to academic and sporting events to corporate awards. Recently, the company approached Engineered Printing Solutions about making the leap from hot-foil stamping production to cold-foil printing. We designed and built a machine for the company, and they haven’t looked back since.

Rick Hodges, President, Hodges Badge Company

We have written in the past about the advantages of cold-foil printing over hot-foil stamping, but Rick Hodges, president of the company, summarized the benefits in a recent phone call. “With no dies to make, our lead times went from two days to two hours”. In addition, the quality of their designs went up, as the company was able to produce finer lines than they could with hot-stamping, which sometimes produces “bridging” between two lines when excess foil is applied. This is not a problem with cold-foil printing, said Hodges. Hodges also cited the cost-savings of not having to warehouse dies for future use as an additional benefit of going the cold-foil printing route.

Converting from traditional production methods to cutting-edge cold-foil printing is not without its challenges however, warned Hodges. “There is a bit of a learning curve, as digital inkjet printing requires a completely different skillset than traditional tool-and-die manufacturing,” he noted. Hodges credited EPS’ after-sales service and support for getting the badge company up to speed.

And speed is what attracted Hodges to the idea of cold-foil printing in the first place. The speed-to-market advantage of cold-foil printed products over conventionally-produced products means that there are whole new markets that Hodges Badge Company can serve that simply aren’t economically feasible using conventional methods with their tooling costs. Variable-data products and runs-of-one become viable options using cold-foil printing.

Hodges intends to hold on to its first-mover advantage when it comes to cold-foil printing. “None of my competition can match the quality, variety, and speed-to-market of our products,” he said, and he doesn’t foresee that changing any time soon.

Do you need award ribbons, medals, trophies, or other memorabilia? Contact Hodges Badge Company today. And to learn more about cold-foil printing, drop us a line!

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This industrial inkjet printer jets UV-curable adhesive that instantly bonds the cold foil to the substrate.

EPS Announces BottleJet 2.1 Cylindrical Inkjet Printer

New servo motor replaces step motor for increased repeatability and reliability.

Engineered Printing Solutions is pleased to announce a new version of its celebrated BottleJet Cylindrical Inkjet Printer—the BottleJet 2.1. Highlights include an improved lead screw motion motor, which is now servo-electric instead of a “step” motor for increased repeatability and reliability.  Other improvements include an improved bottle fixture, with additional guide rollers that can be installed and removed easily thanks to a quick-release latch.  We’ve also added a second mandrel with a shorter stem to accommodate larger bottles.

The UV sensor will prevent accidental curing of print heads.

Perhaps the single-biggest change over the previous model is the addition of a UV light sensor to prevent accidental damage to the print heads.  If the sensor detects the presence of UV light, the machine cancels the print job and returns to its home position.  In addition, there is a new lamp curtain window, which allows the operator to close off unused sections of the lamp that are not required for the curing process.  In previous designs you had to remove the second lamp when not in use and tape over any sections that were not being used in the remaining lamp.  A new angle-adjustment knob allows speedy adjustments of the curing lamp, where previously it was necessary to loosen a bolt to make adjustments.  This time-saving feature will be much-appreciated by operators.  Finally, the curing lamp can now be adjusted to have a negative angle, which means that the BottleJet can now print cylindrical objects with the print heads moving from the top of the part to the bottom without the need for reverse-tooling.

The BottleJet 2.1 has other upgrades as well.  A new red laser guide on the head carriage enables the operator to easily set the print origin on the part.  An improved method for stirring white inks even when the machine is off reduces startup time.  Even the firmware has been upgraded to power the new features of the BottleJet 2.1.

Want to find out more about the new BottleJet 2.1 cylindrical inkjet printer? Drop us a line!
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Exciting Development in Inkjet: Extended Color Gamut

Studies indicate that 90 percent of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone.

One of the most exciting recent developments at Engineered Printing Solutions has been the expansion of process colors to singlepass machines.  Often called extended gamut machines, the addition of orange, green, and violet allows for the printing of many more colors than CMYK alone, without the use of spot colors.

Why Extended Gamut?

The demand for extended color gamuts largely parallels the adoption of digital part-decoration over traditional analog methods.  Historically, printers using analog methods such as offset, screen, or pad printing have added spot colors to achieve precisely the results their customers demanded.  By contrast, industrial inkjet printers have historically  built up color using just cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.  This simplifies printer design, but by using just these four colors, many colors in the visible spectrum are unachievable.

extended color gamut

The addition of orange, green, and violet greatly extends the color gamut over CMYK alone.

Expanding from CMYK to CMYKOVG is the most common method of extending the gamut. Typically, in CMYK process there have been gaps or smaller defined areas of the deep green, bright orange or violet shades. Adding these colors to the process results in a broader range of colors available to print via inkjet. Dense reds such as the one used in the Coca-Cola™ logo have also presented challenges with traditional CMYK process.  The addition of orange, green, and violet make that color more achievable without having to increase resolution or ink builds.

The addition of orange, green, and violet significantly expands the possible gamut, allowing more vivid designs and greater possibilities for economic short runs.  The more colors achievable, the more products you can run, and the better you can serve your customers.

As the conversion from analog to digital becomes more widespread, customers are beginning to require higher quality images to convert. Some are requiring colors that are typically difficult with just CMYK. Others are simply looking to duplicate the colors already in place using current offset/analog systems.

What Are the Drawbacks of an Extended Color Gamut?

The print engine itself is the most costly part of most print systems, so additional print heads along with their concomitant costs such as necessary ink management systems will add to the price of a print system.  OEM and contract part decorators will have to make their own ROI calculation based on the size of runs, the number of SKUs to run, and the desired image quality.  Fortunately, our Sales Engineers have helped many customers with just this sort of calculus, and are eager to help you design your next printing solution.

Want to learn more about extended color gamuts? Drop us a line!

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What is “Drop-on-Demand” Printing?

In industrial inkjet printing, there are two basic kinds of printheads: Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) heads and Drop-on-Demand (DOD) heads.  At Engineered Printing Solutions, we specialize in DOD industrial inkjet printing machines.  What is the difference between the two technologies, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?  This post will explore these questions.  But first, a quick explanation of the two differing technologies.

As the name implies, CIJ printheads dispense a continuous stream of ink.  The ink that is not needed for the print job is collected and recirculated back to the reservoir.  With drop-on-demand inkjet printing, the printhead dispenses ink only when needed.  Drop-on-demand technology, when combined with variable drop sizes, permits greyscale printing, creating both photorealistic gradients and also vivid blacks, even on porous surfaces such as corrugated cardboard.

Continuous inkjet printing is an older technology.  The advantages that it provides include high drop velocity, permitting longer throw distances and faster throughput rates.  Additionally, since the nozzle is in continuous use, clogging is not usually a problem.  Drawbacks to CIJ printing include a high degree of wasted ink due to recirculation, and also the need for solvent-based inks in CIJ printheads.

Drop-on-demand inkjet printing, on the other hand, uses only enough ink to create the image, and drop-on-demand print heads can create gradients and greyscale effects at effective resolutions of 1200 dpi and higher.  With the use of fast-curing UV-LED based inks, drop-on-demand inkjet printers can match the throughput rates of CIJ systems at a fraction of the unit cost.  All of our singlepass inkjet printers use drop-on-demand print heads, as do our flatbed industrial inkjet printers.  Drop-on-demand technology is sought after by the Ad Specialty sector because it is what enables the vivid designs that promotional product printing demands.

Want to learn more about Drop-on-Demand industrial inkjet printing technology? Drop us a line!

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BottleJET 2.0, Twice as Fast as Previous Model

Engineered Printing Solutions (EPS), an industry leader in bespoke product-marking solutions, announced the arrival of its latest cylindrical inkjet printer, the BottleJET 2.0.  The BottleJET 2.0 delivers the same high-quality 1200x900dpi at twice the speed. [Ed.– This model has been superseded by the BottleJet 2.1 bottle printer.]

BottleJET Cylindrical Inkjet PrinterAs the accompanying video shows, the new model is more than twice as fast as its predecessor, and like the previous model, the BottleJET 2.0 can accommodate either flat- or taper-walled objects. With synchronized printing and curing operation, a bottle-detection sensor and a collision sensor, the BottleJET 2.0 can be set up for either manual or automatic operation.  The BottleJET 2.0 will print diameters of 40mm to 140 mm with an image length up to 220mm width.  In addition, the BottleJET can be loaded with jettable varnish or primer for better adhesion to glass and metal. It’s fast, flexible and affordable.

Engineered Printing Solutions was founded in 1985 as Pad Print Machinery of Vermont.  As the company expanded its product offering to include digital inkjet, it changed its name to reflect this new reality.  Today, EPS offers a full range of both pad print and industrial inkjet custom automation solutions for every manufacturing sector. Please call (800) 272-7764 for details on the new BottleJet 2.0.

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Skip the Label: Direct-to-Object Inkjet Takes Off

written by Debbie Thorp, Business Development Director – Global Inkjet Systems Ltd.  for Screen Print Magazine


The digital revolution has its sights on a new challenge, and decorating three-dimensional objects offers no shortage of puzzles or possibilities.

Product decoration using inkjet technology isn’t new – systems have in fact been on the market for many years. But recent developments have made decorating three-dimensional objects (not to be confused with 3D inkjet or additive manufacturing) one of the most talked-about segments in the industry.

Sales of small-format flatbed printers designed for decorating promotional items are increasing; more vendors are entering the market and the systems feature new capabilities. Also, we’ve seen significant developments in the mid- to high-end range of production printers. Systems that were demonstrated at tradeshows a few years ago are now proving themselves in real production environments.

Market Drivers
Personalization and engagement are buzzwords that have been permeating marketing campaigns and social media in recent years with companies vying for “likes” on Facebook and developing ever more innovative ways of enticing us to buy their products. Numerous fast-moving consumer goods companies are now using digital printing technologies to add value to their brands and increase the “user experience.” What arguably started with Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign has exploded into personalized Nutella jars, Heinz soups, My Heineken bottles, and even customized dog food with Purina’s Just Right range – and there are many, many more examples.

The benefits and drivers for using digital printing technologies are well-known, including cost-effective short runs; just-in-time production; design freedom; no screens, clichés, pads, or time-consuming setup costs; and variable-data capability offering the potential for every product to be different. Then there are the particular advantages that inkjet technology brings as a noncontact technology that can print onto different product shapes – not only flat objects, but also tubes, conical shapes, and even tubs. Inkjet can also print onto structured surfaces, creating unusual visual and haptic effects, enabling decoration in areas not possible with labels. In short, inkjet can potentially operate in the same space as screen, dry offset, and pad printing – and yet offer the additional high-value benefits of a digital print technology.

Printing onto spheres, cylinders, and uneven surfaces is a challenge inkjet developers have happily embraced, offering direct print alternatives in applications where pad printing or labels would have been used in the past. Courtesy of Roland DGA.

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Transformative Projects

Companies speak of guiding principles, vision statements and of strategic objectives. Companies proudly track significant achievements on timelines as a memorial to their evolution. I think it is important to have this perspective as Carl Sagan once said “You have to know the past to understand the present.”

Since our founding in 1985 we have important events we keep track of, most are facility expansion benchmarks required to keep pace with a continuous increase in projects moving through our shop floor. One of those transformative projects found its way back to the floor recently.

For some it seemed a bit out of place. Older technology, tattered graphics, comments like “it just looks used”. For others it marked an important point in our trajectory as an organization, a turning point that has led us down a pretty incredible path. It was here on our floor again because the client wanted to update it with the latest technology installed on the new printer recently put into production.

This was the first industrial inkjet printer we designed and built in 2009 to bring the customer into the digital manufacturing revolution.  This engineered solution was built to solve two important problems, first to cut labor cost and secondly to cut product loss….Could we design a first of its kind machine, completely unique in their industry in a way that made financial sense?

This new digital machine had to replace six separate rotary table pad printing cells that required nine full time operators running in three shifts a day, seven days a week. There was a perceived need to eliminate inefficiency of changing out inks and clichés after each 144 print count, every day. Production had flat-lined and the product margins were being squeezed by an increase in overtime pay. The project proved difficult but those challenges the team encountered changed our company and the functional teams approach and ultimately our companies’ philosophy. Our (long term) partner broke through their comfort zone and took a risk on an unproven design.

After successful factory acceptance testing the machine was put into production on the facility floor. As the initial weeks went by there was a enthusiasm from the shift staff about the level of production they were achieving. Each day they noticed output improvements and were eventually able to eliminate the weekend shifts. Worker morale improved because the difficult change-out process had been eliminated. The machine software was integrated seamlessly into the internal SAP system helping streamline the ordering process.

A year later a second printer was installed at another site. Finally a third system was ordered in 2014. Each machine took advantage of design improvement and new technologies. LED cure inks became available, resulting in a reduction of energy consumption while eliminating the need for elaborate cooling systems. There was a new smaller more efficient flow through ink management system with better control of ink viscosity

The original printer will be productive on a manufacturing floor again soon.

The machine is not viewed as an eyesore now.  It is viewed as a part of the proud legacy that shaped the direction of our company well into the future. The original project ushered in a new direction for EPS. This project was the catalyst behind the words ‘engineered’ and ‘solutions’ in our company name.

A vision is not where you are now.  A vision is where you want to be in the future. Our partner for this project had a vision and was willing to take a risk that led to completely project cost recovery in three months by reducing the number of operators, overtime and nearly all product waste.