Alliance Machinery’s Bradley Bate and US principal, Mike King of Eagle Systems, recently visited converters around the country to discuss the benefits of cold foiling.

Cold is the one-pass differentiator Mike King, president of US-based Eagle Systems, and his South African representative, Bradley Bate of Alliance Machinery, recently spent a week introducing the benefits of cold foiling to local packaging converters. PPM caught up with the duo to find out more about this fast-growing process, its benefits and potential for uptake.

Ed: What is cold foiling?

Mike King (MK): During the cold foiling process high-sheen foils are applied to normal sheets of paper and board inline, using a conventional or UV offset printing press.

Ed: Does it replace hot foiling?

MK: Yes and no. My background is in hot foiling. I started building hot stampers with my father more than 40 years ago and still do so, when required. However, my focus has switched to cold foiling over the past 11 years as it offers many benefits.

Ed: What kind of benefits?

MK: Foiling and printing are completed in a single pass, saving time and money. Because foiling blocks aren’t required, power consumption is cut, while equipment use and number of operators are also reduced. A job that traditionally could add eight hours to the process, now only adds 20 minutes.

Ed: What other benefits can converters expect?

MK: To meet demand for special effects, customers increasingly have to print on foil-laminated boards. This requires UV inks and dryers, adding cost and complexity to the process.

Bradley Bate (BB): With cold foiling, foil can be applied and overprinted to achieve any number of special effects in any foil colour. Foil artwork can also be reversed out and vignettes incorporated into the design, enabling a metallic four-colour image to be produced. An additional benefit of cold foiling is that the opacity of the sheet isn’t compromised when compared to overprinting opaque white on to solid foiled board and having to run it twice to come close to white.

Ed: You mention coloured foils, do customers have to stock different coloured foils?

MK: Very good question. In fact, another huge benefit of cold foiling is that most customers only need to use silver foil and overprint to achieve whichever colour they want. They can, for example, use yellow to achieve gold or a special metallic Pantone to create custom colours or gold – but at a very low percentage.

BB: This actually gives offset printers a big advantage, even over gravure and flexo printers, because they don’t need to use expensive metallic inks.

Ed: Is it true that cold foil costs more than hot foiling?

MK: Today, the foils are more freely available and costs are similar. Cold foiling does, however, have higher consumption rates if it’s fed in a full reel. Our systems are designed to feed up to eight narrow reels, allowing customers to select the foil width required according to the area of foiling. This can reduce foil consumption substantially.

BB: An added benefit is that there is no longer a need for outsourced foiling blocs that as well as the printers being able to offer the brand owner added value to their entire range of products at a fraction of the cost, this is a game changer.

Ed: So how does the process work?

MK: Basically we need two print units. We print an adhesive on unit one and use unit two to apply foil to the areas where the adhesive is applied.

Ed: Is it a special adhesive? And how is it applied?

MK: It’s more of a sticky offset ink, applied via a conventional plate and blanket. You can think of it as the equivalent of printing glue on to the sheet.

Ed: What about changing the units back to print mode?

MK: This only requires a conventional wash-up of the adhesive in unit one and a blanket change in unit two.

Ed: Does the cold foil process slow the press down?

MK: No, not with our equipment. In addition, we train our customers to run at full press speeds.

Ed: How many printing units does a press need to add cold foiling?

MK: Most installations we do are on six-colour machines, where customers print CMYK and use the other two units for cold foiling applications.

Ed: What if printers get jobs requiring more colours or an over-varnish and only have six colours?

BB: Technically, the sheets can be passed through the press twice. Although this is ok for the odd job, it’s not ideal because the real benefits are realised with a single-pass operation.

Ed: Why has cold foiling taken so long to make serious inroads in the sheet-fed offset market?

MK: We were in the risk-taker phase for a few years, when some people had bad experiences. However, developments in foils, adhesives and blankets have helped the process to mature. And, cold foiling is currently widely accepted and becoming increasingly common.

Ed: Are South African printers ready for cold foiling?

MK: Based on what I’ve seen during my week-long visits to converters, I can emphatically say yes. The opportunities for packaging printers to differentiate themselves, simplify their processes and increase profits are very obvious. I predict cold foil will be here sooner rather than later. The beauty in the South African market is that printers can start immediately because this is tested and proven technology.

BB: Cold foiling is already commonly used in South Africa by the label industry on narrow-web label presses. After many interactions during this visit, we’ve established that South Africa is experiencing similar trends to the rest of the world and cold foiling clearly has something to offer.

Ed: Which sectors are currently utilising cold foiling and which do you anticipate will be doing so in future?

MK: The biggest growth has been in packaging where brand owners need differentiation – for instance, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and confectionery products. We’re also seeing a growing demand for cold foiling for food packaging; and the tobacco and label industries also show good potential. Additionally, interest is picking up from publication and catalogue publishers since this process doesn’t leave an impression in the paper, allowing for perfect printing on both sides.

Ed: What is the global install base for Eagle’s cold foiling systems? Can they be installed on any press type?

MK: We’ve installed 54 and are proud of the fact that several customers are repeat buyers, demonstrating that our solution really works. Our systems can be retrofitted to most leading presses. We work closely with OEMs such as KBA, Manroland, Komori and Heidelberg.

Ed: Why do you think Eagle has been so successful?

MK: Firstly, foiling is my life – I’ve grown up with it and the company is 100% focused on this process, making it possible to specialise and be the best we can be. Secondly, we guide customers through the process from start to finish. We also certify customers through our knowledge transfer, allowing them to reach the highest skills level within the shortest possible time.