Want to Become a Lenticular Printer? ­ Just do it!
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Want to Become a Lenticular Printer? ­ Just do it!

For both sign makers and wide format printers, lenticular can be a valuable differentiator, an additional value-added service and best of all, a profit generator.

By Izzy Bromberg

In previous installments, we covered the basics of lenticular printing, different lenticular effects, and some popular as well as innovative lenticular applications that sign makers may add to their service offerings. For both sign makers and wide format printers, lenticular can be a valuable differentiator, an additional value-added service and best of all, a profit generator.

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  • Until recently, lenticular content creation, as well as production of lenticular projects, was the exclusive domain of only few, dedicated, and very specialized businesses. Dramatic changes have occurred recently in all aspects of lenticular technology. These include the advent of new content creation and production workflow tools, new printing methods, new wide format digital printing solutions, and innovative media for lenticular effects. As a result, it is now easier than ever for sign makers and printers to add lenticular to their existing product portfolios.

    Why become a lenticular printer?
    Sign makers struggle with a variety of challenges on a daily basis: differentiation, customer retention, eroding margins and increasing profit. Adding new lenticular capabilities is a proven method to surmount many of these challenges and achieve positive business objectives.

    Although lenticular creation and production is no longer a secretive trade known only to a handful of specialists, taking advantage of all the new tools that helped “democratize” lenticular still requires some general skills not possessed by every “new-comer” printer.

    Established sign makers or printers entering the world of lenticular production will be able to apply their existing, high quality standards and traditions to lenticular production. This will ensure they can secure the needed differentiation from those who just print, and charge low prices, but do not possess the skills and attributes needed to master a high-end production process.

    Brand owners and advertisers (sign makers’ and wide format printers’ customers) are likewise fighting for the attention of consumers already faced with a jungle of advertising. Consumers are flooded with marketing messages and tend to become indifferent to typical ads. As a result, advertisers increasingly expect their suppliers to acquire and master innovative technologies, to continuously replenish the impact of their signage and POP activities. Lenticular signage and POP items are known to be attractive and highly visible in the retail space. Printers and sign makers that already do lenticular work report that they have not only grown their sales with the new lenticular services, but they have also obtained additional, traditional business from both existing and new customers.

    Any discussion with a sign maker or wide format printer will, sooner than later, migrate to the popular and yet discouraging topic of price erosion. The reality is that end-user prices for product and services have not eroded in the last few years to the same extent as has the cost of a digitally printed square foot. With current prices at hardly 10% of what they used to be only five years ago (and still going down!), and with reasonable print quality becoming a commodity, established sign and wide format printing shops find themselves involved in price wars, trying to win projects against new, small businesses that offer nothing but an adequate, at best, print at an extraordinarily low price. By selling newly acquired lenticular capabilities, one can build new revenue sources and restore more realistic profit margins.

    The combination of higher margins and increased sales volume is an old and tested method to grow the overall profitability of a business.

    Latest news that make lenticular even hotter
    What’s making lenticular an even hotter prospect today? The latest hardware developments are making the production of lenticular easier, faster, and of highest quality. New processes and materials have also considerably reduced the cost of specialty print production.

    The next generation of UV curable ink flatbed presses offer very small drop sizes, resulting in substantially high resolution that is closely comparable to that of photo quality desktop inkjets and high-end printers. Also, an impressive geometric accuracy of drop placement secures highly accurate printing. These features combine to produce very high quality lenticular printing.

    These new presses fit to lenticular printing like a glove. The high print quality and accuracy allow for very deep 3D, as well as extremely precise, accurate and crisp 2D animation effects. HumanEyes has tested the new Océ Arizona 250GT, the FujiFilm Acuity HD 2504 and the JF series flatbed presses from Mimaki presses, and has also qualified and optimized a lenticular workflow for each of them.

    In addition to the excellent lenticular print quality enabled by the resolution of the new flatbed printing systems, this high resolution also allows lenticular producers to take advantage of a new line of relatively thin and therefore, more affordable, lenticular stock. These new lenses, originally designed for litho printing, have also been tested and qualified for digitally printed applications by HumanEyes.

    The quality achievable by the new digital presses generates superb quality on the new lenses. The lower cost of the thinner lenses is further making lenticular more attractive and easier to sell to end users,

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    LensFree, another technology recently introduced by HumanEyes, enables 3D and 2D animation effects with a revolutionary alternative approach. The new LensFree technology supports printing of 3D effects and 2D animation directly onto plain glass or acrylic media, instead of more expensive lenticular materials. LensFree is ideal for backlit applications and is capable of projecting special effects at very long viewing distances.

    Getting ready
    Now that we know what lenticular is, why it’s so effective, what can be done using it, and why adopting lenticular is the right choice for a market leader in sign making and wide format printing; how do you get started?

    The easy answer would be: get software, buy some lenses, and happily sell lenticular projects. Well, this is the easy answer, but certainly not the right way to go. Despite the fact that by now, you are well into the latest of several lenticular articles in SignIndustry.com, and you have educated yourself about this new fascinating opportunity, our first advice to you is this: please learn more, to better understand how you can adopt this technology to best address your and your customers’ needs; and yield the expected business results. To fine-tune your new lenticular business to your capabilities as well as address the real needs of your existing and potential customers, pay attention to the following items:

    • Internal:
      • What is the printing platform you intend to use for the printing of lenticular effects (photographic printer, flatbed)?
      • Do you have the needed finishing infrastructure (laminating, cutting)?
      • Who among your staff is ready to champion this new high-end application?
      • Will you also offer your customers lenticular content creation services?
      • Who on your sales team can educate the market and drive demand for this new product offering?
      • With which existing applications can you combine the new lenticular business (POP displays, signage, in-store decoration, transportation advertising etc.)?
    • External:
      • Which of your existing customers will benefit from buying lenticular items from you?
      • Who are the potential customers you always wanted that will be happy to hear about lenticular applications?
      • How can you convey the message and educate your market in respect to your coming lenticular abilities?

    If you have answers for at least part of the questions and you have an idea where to get an answer to other questions, then you are ready to start building up your lenticular capability.

    Getting started
    Regardless of whether you are using a photographic printer (such as Lambda or Lightjet), or a flatbed press for printing, you already have what it takes to print digital wide format lenticular applications. Unless you are using a flatbed press capable of printing directly to the other side of a lens, you will also need a cold lamination solution to apply the project, printed on good quality paper, to the backside of the lens to create the desired effect.

    What you need next is the know-how and tools to start your lenticular production. A path that only works for the short term is one where your best pre-press or design develops a proprietary workflow and tools that will work best for your business (as no specialist will share this knowledge with your team). Those who choose this route typically utilize additional scripts for Adobe Photoshop. The result is very limited effects with low predictability in respect to the expected result.

    A better way to do this is to outsource your lenticular file preparation to a lenticular specialist. This will save you a lot of time and headaches, a lot of trial and error and much frustration. On the other hand, this will be costly, lead time for each project could be lengthy, and you will not have control over a very important part of your business.

    There is, however, a sure-fire way to gain full control over your lenticular production in a very short time and without having to invent anything: buy lenticular software. Also, be sure to purchase adequate on-site training to make sure your team understands not only how to operate the software, but also how to apply tips and tricks that make using the software more efficient and fun. Onsite training will also help your team fine-tune the lenticular workflow to your specific equipment, optimize your production, get the best quality and waste less time and substrates.

    Once you gain control over the lenticular workflow, you need to understand what your projects’ requirements will be and be sure to get the right lenses for your projects. There are different lenses that fit different jobs, depending on the print resolution, type of effect (3D or 2D animation) and the required viewing distance. You can learn more about how to choose a lens at: www.humaneyes.com/tech-support/resources/#2 .

    A tool you might find helpful is HumanEyes Creative3D software, offered to designers and ad agencies at an affordable price. This software suite is unique in the world of lenticular production, being the only tool provided to mainstream creative professionals that gives them control of the entire process of lenticular content creation. Files created using the Creative3D software are then sent to a printer for production. Printers who use the HumanEyes technology report this as a powerful tool for demand building as well as for retaining customers.

    Building demand for lenticular
    One of the biggest questions you are probably asking is whether there is any demand for lenticular. Odds are you may not have experienced any demand to date. This does not mean there is no demand out there! The demand is there, but it hasn’t reached you yet. The reason is analogous to the fact that you probably also do not often get requests to print on t-shirts. This is because your customers know you do not do t-shirts and won’t ask you for them.

    To make sure the latent demand for lenticular projects comes your way, you need to educate your existing and potential customers to know that you can do it, that you do it well and they can benefit from it. To do that you will have to make sure your sales people can persuasively pitch lenticular. You will have to produce some initial samples to show your market what you can do for them.

    There are diverse resources available to help you on your road to successful lenticular sales. At www.humaneyes.com/tech-support/download-tutorials/ you can find different materials about lenticular production and a sales kit targeted at sign makers’ and printers’ sales teams to help them promote this technology to their market. Also visit: www.lenstar.org for more useful information.

    The potential to profit with lenticular is there, and we invite you to learn more and take advantage of it!

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