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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

 Envelope Converting Defined – part 2

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 14, 2018 4:02:50 PM

In my previous post, we took the converting process from the point where the printer prepares the sheets and ships them to the envelope converter. Once the sheets are received, the envelope converting process for custom envelopes actually begins.

The first step is die-cutting the envelope blanks out of the sheet.  The envelope company will use a steel die – resembling a cookie cutter (see picture below). This is also sometimes referred to as a “high die” as the sides are generally around 4 inches high to account for the size of the ream being cut.

Depending on the quantity of the envelopes to be converted, the die-cutting will be either done by hand as the picture shows or in an automated fashion using a programmable hydraulic press (PHP).  The hands-on method allows for a little more accuracy and individual adjustments on cuts which can be improve the results on certain jobs. Once the envelope blanks are cut out of the sheets, they are stacked and ready to be fed into the folding machine.

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Some tips to ensure a problem-free converting experience:

Always ensure that the sheets are printed exactly per the layout/template provided by the envelope converter.  If you don’t get one at the time of the order, ask for it. The converter knows how the job is to be laid out on the sheet for best results. Going by the layout and submitting a proof sheet for prior approval can prevent many of the most common errors.

As I’ve covered in previous posts, there is variation inherent in both the cutting and folding of an envelope. If you are printing an envelope that has color which bleeds to one of the folding edges, you must wrap-around the image by at least 1/8” to ensure no white space shows.   The only way to significantly minimize this variation without the wrap-around is to individually die cut each envelope prior to folding. This is a much more costly process and not feasible on a large order. Plus, because of the folding variation, you’re still not going to get them all perfect.

If your envelope has full ink coverage all around, you must leave a space – called a no-print area – on the side flaps where they meet the back panel and also on the back panel where it meets the flap. This is where the glue is applied to hold the envelope together and seal it. The adhesion property of the glue is significantly lessened when it is applied on top of heavy ink coverage.  The layout provided by the envelope converter should have these areas marked off.

If you’re looking to make a custom envelope that really stands out, consider dealing directly with an envelope converter rather than an envelope printer who doesn’t also make envelopes.  They will give you the expertise you need to ensure your job is a “cut” above. 

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Topics: envelope converter, top quality envelopes, custom envelopes, envelope converting mistakes, envelope converting

Envelope Converting Defined – part 1 

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 1, 2018 2:52:09 PM

The term “converting” in relation to envelopes is sometimes not well-understood. So, here’s a very simple definition: Envelope converting is the process by which sheets of paper are cut, glued and folded into envelopes.  An envelope converter is a company that has the machinery and personnel to do this. An envelope converter is the same thing as an envelope manufacturer. It’s a factory where envelopes are made.  To “convert” means to change. We envelope converters are “changing” paper into envelopes; hence the name.

An envelope conversion starts with sheets or rolls of paper. The paper can be unprinted, covered with ink on both sides or anything in between.  In either case the process is the same with a few modifications depending on the paper and whether or how it is printed.

Let’s take a simple, hypothetical order and go through it step by step to illustrate the process.

ABC Printing” has a customer who wants 5,000, 24# white wove, #10 standard window envelopes with full printing coverage on all sides.  Since the envelope is easily available as a stock item, ABC is wondering if Elite Envelope can simply print on the stock envelope.  This isn’t possible for two reasons: first, envelope presses cannot print full ink coverage on two sides of an envelope. For starters, there would be ink build-up, seam markings, ink rub-off and that’s assuming that the presses could even be set up to do it.  Second, because the customer wants the printing to bleed right to edge of the window all around, it’s impossible to print this without hitting the window occasionally.

This is a perfect example of an envelope job which must be converted. ABC Printing has the capability to print up to a 19 x 25 sheet size. Elite Envelope will supply them with a digital file showing the outline of the unfolded envelopes (called “blanks” in the envelope biz) set up in the proper position for printing. In this case, 4 envelopes can be printed on this sheet.   The diagram which shows how the envelopes must be placed on the sheet for proper conversion is called a layout. The printer must set the job up in the exact manner specified by the layout.

 Envelope blanks for converting-1.jpg

Once the printer sets up his artwork on the layout sheet, he will send a sample sheet to the envelope converter for final approval before printing.  The converter will inspect to make sure that the sheet matches the layout in all respects and, if so, will tell the printer the job is ready to print.

Because there is waste involved in the envelope converting process, ABC has been advised to include a certain amount of extra sheets. The smaller the order, the higher the percentage of extra sheets is required.  Also, jobs that have windows or that are on glossy paper will require higher amounts of waste sheets.   In addition to the regular printing sheets, they will also supply what are called “spotter sheets” which are regular press sheets with dots added in the 4 main corners of the envelope. The cutter will place the die exactly on the spots on the sheet to ensure a consistent and accurate cut.   

The printer will print the job and stack the sheets on a pallet making sure that the edges are jogged so that the sheets line up perfectly on top of one another. This is an important step taken to ensure uniformity in the cutting process. The printer will take care to pack the sheets on the pallet and strap them tightly so they don’t move in transit.

At this point, the envelope converter takes over. We’ll continue in the next blog post.  In the meantime, if you’d like more information on envelope converting, custom envelope manufacturing or envelope printing for that matter, just go to www.eliteenvelope.com .

Topics: envelope converter, envelope converting basics, envelope converting mistakes, envelope converting

Custom Envelopes and "Overs"

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 16, 2017 10:29:58 AM

One of the most persistent questions posed by customers ordering specialty envelopes is, “why am I being billed for more (or fewer) envelopes than I ordered?”  Ah yes, the dreaded “over/under” question!

Annoyed designer gesturing in front of her laptop in her office.jpeg 

On custom envelope jobs, most envelope converters and printers will mention the possibility of more or fewer pieces being produced on the customer’s order.  Many customers tend not to pay attention to this; especially ones who are new or not familiar with the process.  Then, when the job or invoice is received, the howling begins.  It’s understandable for sure.

Despite what might seem to be a brazen attempt to increase the order under a dubious pretext, there is a very sensible reason why envelope converters maintain this policy. That reason is centered on the waste involved in the process. 

Let’s say a customer is ordering 5,000 special double window envelopes on a special stock.  There are two main processes in the manufacturing of envelopes. One is die-cutting of the paper (and maybe one of the windows) and the second is the actual folding and gluing of the paper to create the envelope. 

Setting up the paper to be cut involves placing a die in just the right position. Whether it’s done manually or automatically, it takes some trial and error before the cuts come out just right.  Until that point there are numerous sheets that are cut and discarded.  Then, once the paper is cut, setting up the folding machine and getting the specs exact also requires a lot of “make ready” paper.  Lastly, once the machine is running, constant fine adjustments must be made to keep the job running properly.  This can involve numerous stops and restarts which waste more paper.

In order to have enough paper to allow for possible contingencies, a company must order a significantly higher amount which adds cost to the job.  Being able to bill for a reasonable amount of “overs” allows a company to cover these added costs while providing extra envelopes that a customer will more than likely be able to use.  The alternative is for a customer to specify at the quoting stage that they do not want an overage on their order. What most companies will do in this case is simply include their extra costs into the price.  Under this scenario, the customer will pay the same overall cost for his job but without the benefit of more envelopes.  

“Unders” or receiving a quantity less than the amount ordered is also a possibility. It is less common however as getting less is generally a bigger problem to customers than getting more so companies will try to buy more than enough paper to ensure that the count is met.

What is a “reasonable” amount of overs or unders?  In the envelope world, generally the figure is up to 30% on minimum quantities and then the percentage declines as the quantity of the order goes up.  The higher percentage of overs would apply to more expensive specialty envelopes like custom Tyvek envelopes, bubble mailers and poly mailers.

Topics: overs/unders, envelope converter, envelope converting, specialty envelopes, custom envelopes, tyvek envelopes, bubble envelopes, poly mailers

Top Five Envelope Custom Envelope Converting Tips

Posted by Jerry Velona on Feb 27, 2017 11:12:35 AM

Envelope converting can be a confusing and somewhat daunting experience for someone not familiar with the process.  For printed envelopes, the term simply means printing on a flat sheet and having the sheets die cut and then folded and glued into envelopes.  The term also applies if you’re just cutting the paper with no printing. You are “converting” sheets of paper into envelopes:  pretty basic stuff.  Once you’ve gone through the process for the first time; it becomes much clearer and easier to understand.

Maybe you’re thinking about designing a custom envelope for a customer. Or maybe you’re an envelope printer and your customer is asking about a specialty envelope.  Here are a few things to keep in mind for your first converting job:

  1. Deal directly with an actual converter – Many companies that sell envelopes and have the word “envelope” in their name are not converters. It’s best to ask first before sending over an order.  You’ll be better served by those more experienced in the process and doing the job in-house.
  2. Preparation is the key to good results - A good converter should provide you with a specific list of instructions before you begin. Most important is a layout of the printed sheet showing where the envelopes should be placed. They will help you through the process.
  3. Not all design ideas are created equal - If the envelope is printed with a solid that bleeds to an edge, the image must wrap-around to the back by at least one-eighth of an inch in order to account for the normal variation inherent in the process. For window envelopes you can bleed the copy right to the edge of the window when converting. This is not possible with regular envelope printing on a pre-made envelope
  4. Understand what is possible in the process – speaking of variation, this is something that many designers don’t take into account when creating their envelope. Cutting paper in large reams and folding and gluing involves some variation – generally one-sixteenth of an inch in either direction.  This needs to be understood in order to have a satisfactory result and a realistic idea of what to expect.  Something that looks great in a direct mail marketer’s imagination doesn’t always translate to the finished product.
  5. Why convert? – If you want an envelope that features a large amount of ink coverage, generally with bleeds on most or all sides, the best way to proceed would be to print on flat sheets and convert. Anything short of that might be able to be printed on a jet press using pre-made or stock envelopes at a much lower cost. A converter and printer will be able to advise you on the best way to go on your specialty envelopes based on a simple inspection of your artwork.

 Envelope types.jpg

Custom printed envelopes can enhance your image and cause a potential buyer to be curious enough to at least open it up.  Choosing the right envelope company; one which does the envelope converting, printing and manufacturing under the same roof and can make the process easy to understand, is a good place to start.

Topics: envelope converting, envelope converter, custom envelopes, specialty envelopes, envelope printing

Elite Envelope & Graphics – The Movie!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 2, 2015 9:32:00 AM

We released our first video a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a “virtual tour” - a look at our plant, equipment, staff and production capabilities and it clocks in at a neat seven minutes and twenty-three seconds.   It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for years and finally got around to.  The impetus was a talented young director, Sara Robin with whom I worked on a music video in my other professional life.  Sara and I are a good team and we came up with a concept which she executed extremely well along with her crew, Kellen Ryan and Yahna Harris.  All of them either attend or are graduates of the Boston University Graduate School of Film.

Making of Elite Envelope & Graphics video

Elite is certainly not the first company of its kind to use video for promotional purposes.  Video is now required to sell or promote pretty much anything. It’s a vital part of the “quality content” which marketers insist upon in order to give a company the best chance to penetrate the public consciousness with its brand.  Like it or not, we live in a visual world. Ironically, the public’s insatiable demand for video content is one of the things that has contributed to shrinking the print and envelope markets.  So, an envelope converter and cold web printer producing a promotional video might seem to some as “sleeping with the enemy”.

One of the recurring themes of this blog is the need for those of us in print, envelopes and direct mail to enthusiastically embrace the digital world.  I find that some in our industry seem to harbor a grudge against the technology they see as being responsible for the smaller and more competitive market.  They seem to relish being late adopters, almost as a badge of honor and resistance to trends they see as working to their disadvantage.  While I sympathize with the sentiment, I don’t see the sense in it.  The internet has made people less dependent on the mail. But while I yield to no one in my belief that print on paper can often deliver a message with greater impact than moving images on a screen, we need to acknowledge that there’s more than one way to do things. We also need to acknowledge that one of the reasons  digital messages have become so popular is they are convenient and inexpensive.  They allow us to do more in less time.

Not much more than twenty years ago, most of us in print sales were using pagers (or “beepers” as we called them) to receive notices from the office that someone had called us.  The next step was to find a payphone, pull over and park, grab a bunch of coins and make the return call.   Anyone want to make the argument that a cell phone is not superior to that scenario?  So, you have to take the good with the bad. But the neat trick is to use the “bad” to make us more productive.  In other words, you can bemoan the fact that “everyone” would rather see a video rather than read a message on paper or you can use a video to promote the message that reading on paper can be pretty cool and quite effective in selling your products and services.

Those of us in the print, envelope, paper and mail businesses are now in the position of swimming against the tide.  This sea-change (sorry!) is a relatively recent development and has happened quickly – mostly in the past two decades.  Whereas in the past our main job was to compete in the market, we now must sell the value of what we do as well as increase our share of a smaller market.  We also have to deal with the widely-held belief that printing on paper is somehow bad for the environment; a bogus claim that is easily countered but not without additional effort.

In order to ensure the viability of our business, we have to make our case as broadly as possible. Using online video as well as the many other technical marvels of our age will help us do that.  The timeless messages that are delivered in print are worth communicating in any fashion.

Topics: elite envelope, printing and envelopes, direct mail printing, envelope converter, cold web printer

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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