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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Envelope Printing – flat sheet printing and convert

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 25, 2017 1:36:41 PM

While offset and flexographic printing are the two main methods for custom printed envelopes, there is a third way which is very commonly employed; lithographic printing on large, sheet fed and web presses.

 mixing ink for flat sheet envelope printing

These presses are typically employed by printing companies which provide high quality, full color printing on sheets up to 28 x 40 or larger. If a customer has a custom printed envelope that requires full ink coverage on all sides or even very heavy coverage on just one side, then it must be printed on a flat sheet which is then die-cut and converted into an envelope.  (For more specific information on envelope converting, see the previous blog post here.  

There are two main reasons why this approach must be taken.  First, envelope printing presses like the most commonly used Halm Jet presses are not able to print full coverage on all sides of a made envelope.  As my previous post on flexographic printing explains, full coverage can be printed this way in-line but it’s only cost-effective at quantities of at least a few hundred thousand, usually more. 

The second reason is that when jet presses print heavy solids on a made envelope, there are potential problems.   Two of the main ones are seam marks and offsetting.  When a heavy application of ink is applied in this way, the seams usually become visible due to the combination of dense ink and the pressure of the print rollers.  Offsetting occurs when dense concentrations of dark ink are applied to an envelope. As the envelopes come off the press, they come in contact with one another before being scooped up in bundles and put back into a box. The rubbing or scuffing during this process causes the heavy ink solid to rub off onto the envelope next to it leaving a mark.

Offsetting can be mitigated or eliminated by using a UV dryer. This unit applies extra heat to the envelope as it comes off the press which can dry the ink sufficiently to prevent it from rubbing off.  This approach is workable but slows down the process and adds cost to the job.

Printing an envelope on a flat sheet and converting it after the fact eliminates any seam marks or offsetting. It’s also a better way to print full coverage on window envelopes.  Any envelope with a window needs a white border if it’s printed on a Jet press.  Flat sheet printing allows for the window to be cut out of the print solid during the converting process which looks much better.

Envelope printing with flat sheets and then converting is a more expensive way to go but yields excellent results and is very common in high-end direct mail pieces.  One of the disadvantages of this approach from a customer’s standpoint is that it almost always requires dealing with two different companies for the same job.  There are very few companies that have both the printing and envelope equipment necessary to do both components. (Elite Envelope happens to be one of the few companies that can do both under one roof with our combination of web printing and envelope converting).

Topics: envelope converting, envelope printing options, litho envelope printing, custom envelope printing

Custom Envelope Variation – Why?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 4, 2017 10:35:31 AM

Manufacturing an envelope in any size or type; custom envelope, specialty envelope or even a standard envelope involves several distinct processes.  Envelope converting can be a little confusing especially for someone not familiar with how it’s done.

One of the most common concerns from customers of envelope converters is the degree of variation in the product.  By variation, we mean the slight differences in overall size of the envelope, window placement and print placement from what was ordered.

Variation is the result of the three main stages that paper goes through to become an envelope: cutting, folding and gluing and, in some cases, envelope printing.  Another major factor is the nature of the raw material; i.e. paper.

Envelope blanks for converting.jpg

Cutting:  The unfolded piece of paper that becomes an envelope is called a “blank”. Blanks are cut by placing a steel cutting die that resembles a cookie cutter (except much bigger and heavier!) on top of a large ream of paper. The die is then pressed down by the cutting machine until it goes through the entire ream or “lift” of paper.  Paper is a naturally pliable substance.  As the die cuts through the ream, a slight bending or bowing can occur until it reaches the bottom and the paper ream “breaks” at which time it will lay flat.  That slight movement during cutting can cause some of the blanks to vary in size by as much as 1/16” from others.  The hardness or thickness of the paper can be factor as well as the sharpness of the die and the number of sheets in the ream. But ultimately, some variation as a result of die-cutting is unavoidable.

9D6A7832 small file.jpg

Folding:  Once the blanks are cut, they are then loaded into the machine which applies the glue and folds them into a finished envelope. The typical envelope folding machine is between 20 and 30 feet long. The envelope blank will run all the way from one side to the other and then back again through scoring blades, window panel cutters and glue stations.  While envelope folding equipment is engineered for precision, there is a certain amount of movement during the process that is normal and, unfortunately, unavoidable. That movement can account for an additional variation of up to 1/16”.

In our next post, we’ll finish up the reasons for variation and also discuss some strategies customers can take to minimize its effect.

Topics: specialty envelopes, envelope converting, Envelope variation, custom envelopes

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: bubble envelopes, tyvek envelopes, specialty envelopes, envelope converting, custom envelopes, overs/unders, envelope converter, 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 printing, specialty envelopes, envelope converting, custom envelopes, envelope converter

Elite Envelope Bids Adieu to Sweet Lou

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 29, 2016 10:14:27 AM

One of the persistent clichés in modern life revolves around the idea of family in other contexts. We’re always trying to describe some group we are part of as “just like family”.  It gets creepy when politicians exhort us to think about society in this way. We need a competent executive to run the country, not a National Daddy (or Mommy!).   Businesses love to use this trope in advertising: “from our family to yours”, etc.  Let’s just stipulate that your family is your family and leave it at that.

That said, at Elite Envelope & Graphics, my partner Dave Theriault and I have always said that we like a family atmosphere at the company. What that means to us among other things is we consider the family obligations of our employees to be at least equally important as their work duties. We’ve also maintained a company size of around 30 employees which allows us to be in daily contact with everyone as well as maintain an open door policy for anyone who has something they need to talk about.

We also have actual family members working together at Elite.  The Gorman brothers, Chris and Steve have been with us almost since we started the company in late 2003.  And then there’s the three generations of paper cutters; Luis Sousa who recently retired, his son-in-law John Verissimo who also serves as a plant manager and John’s son and Luis’ grandson Cameron Verissimo who joined us a couple of years ago and now is one of our best cutters.  Luis recently decided to hang it up after over forty years of cutting paper for various envelope companies including the past twelve years or so at Elite.  We recently threw him a retirement party at his favorite Portuguese restaurant Sagre’ in his hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts.

Luis has an interesting story. He was born in the Azores, the beautiful islands off the coast of Portugal. Luis was one of six children, 3 boys and 3 girls.  His father was a bus driver and his mother a homemaker.  Eventually Luis’ family moved to Brazil where he met his wife Maria. He and Maria had three children and moved to the US in September of 1972, following his parents who had done the same a few years earlier.

At that time, Sousa’s brother Manny was working as a paper cutter at the now defunct Boston Envelope Company in Canton, MA.  Manny set up an interview for Luis who was eventually hired and trained for the same job to work alongside his brother.  Sousa worked at Boston Envelope for many years before moving to Northeastern Envelope in Braintree, Sheppard Envelope in Auburn and eventually to Elite Envelope & Graphics in Randolph.  In 2015 Luis’ beloved wife Maria passed away. Shortly thereafter, he decided it was finally time to retire.

Louie_Cutting_small_file.jpg

Cutting paper is a physically demanding job. You’re on your feet all day lifting large and heavy reams of paper onto a cutting bed.  The paper is cut with a large steel die that resembles a cookie cutter.  The die is placed very carefully on top of the paper.  When it’s in just the right position, the cutting bed slides under a metal press which pushes the die through the ream of paper. This creates the individual “blanks” which are then taken to another machine where they are folded and glued to make the envelopes we all use.

It’s a job that can wear down much younger men. But remarkably Sousa was able to keep cutting paper well into his 70’s. His longtime friend and co-worker Al Berardinelli remarked, “Unlike the rest of us, Luis never seemed to age!”  Sousa attributes this to the fact that he enjoyed his work very much. For the past 12 years, he would rise early in the morning and go to his favorite local bakery where he’d get a Portuguese pastry and a cup of coffee before driving about 40 minutes to Randolph to arrive at 7 AM.  In the envelope and printing industries, it’s typical for the production day to start early in the morning.  That never seemed to bother Louis Sousa.     

Sousa’s sense of humor and impish grin were a constant feature on the job. He could also be a bit of a practical joker by his own account: “Years ago my son and I were working side by side on the production floor. I decided to tie a trip wire from my machine to his and every time he would try to operate his machine, I would pull the wire and it would shut off.  He was so aggravated until he realized what I was doing!” he said with a smile.

My partner Dave Theriault spoke about Luis’ value to the company. “We were thrilled to have Luis join us shortly after we started Elite in 2003. We sought him out specifically. He was our first and only cutter for a long time.” Dave went on to rave about Sousa’s skill at his craft.  “Luis is probably the most skilled cutter I’ve ever seen. His many years of experience and the pride he took in his work each day made him a key member of our staff. He solved many a problem for me.”   When Luis wanted to scale back his hours a bit, we gladly accommodated him.  Dave said, “Just having Luis around to answer questions and tackle some of the more challenging jobs was a big help. Plus he’s just a great guy to have on your team. He’s always upbeat and works hard and very productively every day. We miss him!”

Louie_Sousa_2016_retirement_lunch.jpg

Despite missing his many friends and long-time colleagues at Elite Envelope, Luis says he is enjoying his retirement.  In addition to his 3 children he now has 6 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. A proud family man, he enjoys spending time with all of them as much as he can.  Sousa still enjoys his trips to the local bakery for coffee except now he can do it at a more leisurely pace and include spending time with his friends catching up on the local happenings.  Ever the jokester, Sousa says he’s teaching his great-granddaughter how to keep herself amused at restaurants by flicking sugar packets with her spoon. Some things never change!  And the family tradition continues at Elite Envelope & Graphics.

 

Topics: envelopes, envelope converting, paper cutting

Envelopes and Print in the Digital Age

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 6, 2015 11:19:00 AM

I just happened to catch the last part of the Nightly News last night; something I used to do with some frequency along with many others.  The final segment was about the resurgence of music on cassette tape and it brought a smile.  It featured a company that has now virtually cornered the market on cassette reproduction through buying a lot of the equipment that became available cheap when other companies bailed thinking it was a dying industry.  Phrases like “cassette culture” were bandied about mostly in relation to “hipsters” who wanted to hear their music on tape as a reaction to the ubiquity of streaming and other forms of virtual consumption. The current sales numbers mentioned seemed substantial but I have no idea how they compared to what cassette sales were not that long ago. My hunch is that this was one of those news segments looking for a hook on which to hang a pre-scripted narrative.  Portable cassettes were an advance from the more cumbersome reel to reel and the often malfunctioning 8 track formats.  In retrospect they seem to be more of a transition product between the classic vinyl record and the compact disc.  Their only legacy is the phrase “mix tape” which is now used in other contexts.  I can’t see them ever becoming more than a trendy niche. 

As I write this I happen to be listening to one of my favorite terrestrial radio stations, WFUV out of Fordham University in NY.  Seeing as how I’m based in the Boston area, I’m listening on my computer. FUV is a public station and so must subject us to periodic on-air fundraising. In selling themselves, they regularly mention how superior good radio is to the streaming services where you hear only what you want. I’m a big fan of radio so I’m already sold on that pitch.  But there’s a reason why streaming has become the music delivery vehicle of choice to a significant portion of the listening public.

Envelopes and Mail in the digital age

If you’ve stuck around this far, you’re probably wondering when this preamble (and I do mean amble…) will crystallize into, oh like…a point maybe?  Well, here goes:  In the marketplace, envelopes and print are in a similar position to radio and to a lesser extent, the cassette tape. We are in a period of great upheaval and transition.  Financial institutions are pressing to convert customers to the digital delivery of statements, proxies and other forms which were traditionally mailed.  When I told my thirty-something offspring that I still paid bills with checks in the mail, they reacted as if I went to the backyard to pump my water. The ubiquity of smart phones and apps for nearly everything is becoming the new norm. The Post Office continues its slow-motion implosion by using the necessary budget cuts to worsen service at the very time when envelope manufacturers and printing companies need faster delivery in order to compete.

Direct mail is still a very viable method for companies to market their products.  But it’s now just one option among many and a more expensive one at that.  Studies show the ROI justifies the cost but that can be a tough sell at the conference table when expenditures are being monitored carefully.

But like the public radio pitch, there is value in what we do.  Nothing on a computer screen makes an impression like a printed piece.  Colleges understand this when they send out letters (my 16 year-old daughter is getting several of them a week from prospective suitors) and beautifully printed, full-color catalogs. 

We need to use the wonderful world of technology to make us more productive so we can establish our niche and remain viable within a reasonable cost structure.  I’ve just finished producing a video which will be a “virtual tour” of our facility.  I’m certainly not the first one in the envelope industry to do this but it makes sense as a way to reach a broader potential audience and market for our products. I’ll be following that up with a series of shorter instructional videos about envelope converting, web printing and envelope printing in general. This will allow younger buyers who may not have the knowledge base and experience that print buyers had in the past to better understand what’s possible and what might make sense for them.

E mail marketing, that bane of the direct mail world, should be used as fast way to stay in touch, make short announcements and follow up on printed pieces that have been sent to establish connections. Of course social media is the new darling in marketing circles. I’m not convinced that it’s worth the investment of time at least in the world of envelope converting and commercial printing. There may be some small printers who want to establish a very personal connection to their customers.  But for the most part, having a high profile on search engines is going to get you more orders than a like on Facebook or someone pinning a picture of something they bought from you on Pinterest.

So this is not another lament about the demise of printing.  Reports of that have been greatly exaggerated in my opinion.  The next ten years can be a time of growth as we adjust to the new realities of the market and customer demands. Using technology to our advantage to win new customers and increase market share must be a big part of that effort. There’s still a lot of life in radio and envelopes and printing.  Maybe I’ll make a mix tape of our greatest hits?..Naaah!

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelope manufacturing, envelope converting, web printing

Envelopes and Web Printing – Best Friends Forever! 

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 14, 2015 2:59:00 PM

If there were ever a title that required a smiley-face (or emoticon or emoji or whatever they’re called at the moment) I suppose it’s this one.  Yes, it’s time for the Elite Envelope and Graphics blog to dip its toe into social media-speak and the culture in general.  Just be glad that I didn’t go all middle school and use BFF: one of the many things for which you can be grateful this beautiful, late summer morning in America.

Can there be any doubt of the pervasiveness of social media in 2015? On a personal level, it’s been great when it knows its place; not always an easy place to find in the midst of the non-stop lives that many of us live.  We can keep up with our friends (maybe could do without all the updates about the latest meals), reconnect with people from our past who probably would have been forgotten, become aware of what’s new and perhaps exciting in our area and the world beyond.  All these things can be a welcome addition and diversion from the daily grind.

Business has latched onto this in a big way. No marketing conference can get away with not having at least one or more sessions on how to use social media to increase sales and brand loyalty.  Social media has reinforced and amplified the already well-established trend toward informality in business which in many cases has gone from Casual Friday to Casual Everyday without a lot of notice.  When you’re “liking” the new dress of some distant acquaintance on the same day that you’re “liking” the landscaping company you just hired, the distinction between personal and commercial is blurred beyond distinction.

Is that good for business in general? It certainly is for some businesses.  I suppose that companies generally will reflect the broad changes in society for better or worse. The general descent into explicit content and crude language on radio and television; two areas which in the relatively recent past you didn’t see that much are a fact of life.  Will businesses start to embrace this as a way of connecting to customers?  I think not for a variety of reasons but it will bear watching. Sometimes these things are driven by someone doing something considered outrageous and getting rewarded for it. Everyone then follows along as a way to compete or from a lack of imagination.  Howard Stern might be an example of this phenomenon. 

Perhaps it’s a stretch to suggest that social media business marketing is the beginning of the descent to the lowest common denominator; where how you speak and act in private is transferred to your commercial transactions with no distinction between the two.  If this does happen, I believe it will be driven by businesses which have a small, targeted market that would accept or perhaps even embrace that approach. 

Thankfully social media marketing is not that big of a deal in the printed and converted envelope and web printing world.  I say thankfully because it would be one more thing for me to do and frankly I much prefer one on one communication with customers. I think it’s more effective and in the world of social media can be a welcome relief from the need to post and promote incessantly to get noticed.  I think after I write this I’m going call someone I haven’t spoken to in a while just to say hi. They may be shocked!  Or they may think of me the next time they need a custom envelope or a printed direct mail piece. That’s worth one of these

 smiley face emoji

Topics: elite envelope, envelope printing, envelope converting, direct mail printing, web printing

The Timeless Appeal of Print and Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 30, 2015 12:26:00 PM

Elite Envelope blog

I have a sixteen year old daughter who, like most kids her age is joined at the hip with her smart phone. She spends way too many hours on that and her tablet sampling the occasionally rich, varied and often stupid content on the net and social media not to mention the constant texting, Snap-Chatting, posting pictures (yikes!), etc. 

It wasn’t that long ago she had a list of TV shows that she recorded and watched on a regular basis. Now, she doesn’t even do that. It’s all internet content.

However, the other day a letter came in the mail addressed to her and she immediately picked it up and opened it.  It was just a renewal slip for her subscription to Teen Vogue which she promptly discarded as she’s no longer interested in that either. But the point is, she was curious to see what was inside.

Now someone born at the turn of the century who’s been marinating in the digital world for much of her sentient existence is perhaps not the best example of a target for direct mail.

Then again, I think she represents the perfect target for direct mail.

According to the DMA 2014 Statistical Fact Book a far greater percentage of 18-21 year olds opened mail immediately in 2012 than they did in 1987 (62.8% versus 46.9%).   This makes perfect sense to me as receiving a letter in the mail in 2012 is really a novelty and a surprise compared to 1987 when it was routine.  I’ve pointed this out before but how many people complain these days about “junk mail”?  Very few. There are far more complaints about e mail spam.

The DMA book is bursting with statistics showing direct mail to be resurgent in today’s world of direct marketing.  Mail has many advantages over digital communication; not the least of which is it exists in the physical world – the “real” world that you can touch and feel. That mail piece will stay on the kitchen counter until someone opens it or moves it somewhere. Just the fact that it’s tangible gives it a permanence that just doesn’t come from e mail despite the latter’s great convenience. 

As more and more payment and compliance transactions are done online, direct mail comprises a greater percentage of total print and mail volumes. At Elite Envelope, we see this to be very true in the composition of our business.  Much of the envelope converting we do every day comes from printers who are producing slick envelopes to enclose creative and colorful direct mail content.  A lot of the envelope printing including much of the four color envelope printing we do falls into the direct mail category including non-profit fundraising mail.

To ensure the viability of our industry into the future, we simply must appeal to millennials and even younger demographics. Getting them to look forward to receiving things in the mail should be high on the priority list for all direct marketers. It’s our future.

As always, would love to hear your comments on this subject.

Topics: direct mail, envelope printing, envelope converting, four color envelope printing

Four Color Process Envelope Printing - which method is right for you?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 9, 2015 1:29:00 PM

fancy envelope picture

Envelopes used to be an afterthought when it came to a printed package. A lot more time, attention and expense would typically be spent on the contents rather than the package which enclosed them. That is no longer the case and here's my theory as to why:

One of the pervasive aspects of our increasingly affluent society is that people's tastes and expectations change; generally in a more expensive direction. Just to take a couple of examples (there are many others):

My parents drank Maxwell House ground coffee that they bought in a large, pressurized can at the supermarket probably for the same price (or less!) than a single latte drink at Starbucks costs today. Maxwell House was good enough for them and millions of others.

Anyone try to give away their old cathode-ray TV lately? Last year I had the Salvation Army refuse to take mine because "everyone wants flat screen TVs these days".  They also wouldn't take my used but good condition sleeper couch with down cushions because of a small, faded portion on the back from the sun.  Apparently, even poverty isn't what it was 50 years ago.

Those are just two examples but the point is, for most of us, pedestrian isn't good enough anymore. One of the prime drivers of this is technology which, for example, makes flat screen TVs less expensive today than my 19" Sony Trinitron cost 15 years ago. Our standard of living has gone up largely because the cost of what used to be premium items has decreased. We're less willing to settle for...

simple black printing on envelopes for example!  You can buy a fairly inexpensive color desk top printer and print your own envelopes in pretty colors.  You can also go to Staples or other walk in digital printers, hand them your flash drive and walk out with some fancy color printed envelopes.

But what about if you're a small business owner or a print buyer?  What are your options for more than just a few hundred four color process envelopes? 

There are four possible ways to do this:

  • Offset
  • Lithographic
  • Flexographic
  • Digital

 

  • Offset - The most common offset press made for envelopes and used by most envelope converters, envelope manufacturers and envelope printers is the Jet press made by the Halm Corporation. The four-color jet press is a great option for a quantity of 5,000 and up where the printing is light to medium coverage with no bleeds.  For instance - if you have a small four color logo that you place with your return address, the four color Jet is generally the best way to go for price and good quality.

 

  • Lithographic - By this I mean high-quality sheet-fed printing from a large, sophisticated press made by companies like Heidelberg and Kamori which you'll find at large, commercial printing companies. Envelope converters like Elite Envelope will take printed sheets from these companies, almost always printed in full color, and cut, fold and glue them into envelopes. The reasons an envelope is printed this way boil down to three: coverage, quality and stock.  If the envelope has full coverage, front and back, this is one of your two options (flexo is the other, more on that shortly). If the envelope uses coated stock, then it generally needs to be printed this way. And sheetfed offset is generally the gold-standard for print quality in the industry. So if your envelope has to look better than anyone else's, this is probably the way for you to go.

 

  • Flexographic - Also known as "flexo" uses hard-plastic photo polymer plates versus the metal plates used in offset printing. It is done in-line (as the envelope is being manufactured) and features quick drying ink. Flexo used to be pretty much exclusively for "down and dirty" print jobs;  black or one color with simple copy. It's main advantage is cost; especially on very large quantities (typically 100,000 and up).  The quality of flexo printing has improved dramatically over the past several decades and there is now so-called "enhanced flexo" equipment which prints four color process in full coverage with outstanding results. However the quality is still not quite up to the level of lithography.

 

  • Lastly as I already mentioned, there's digital printing.  This is done mostly with toner versus ink. The quality is generally very good especially as the technology improves. Unlike the other three methods, there's virtually no-set up time required for digital printers. You pretty much just click and go. For that reason, digital is great for small runs of up to around 2,500.  However digital printers are very slow in comparison to offset or flexo presses so after that number, you're better off going offset.  Another drawback with digital printers is because of the intense heat needed to set the toner, regular poly window patch material melts.  So special and more expensive material must be used if you're printing a window envelope.  Plus, while the quality is good, it has a different look than offset printing. So, if the components are printed offset, they won't match the envelope which can be a problem in some packages. However, one great advantage to digital printing is that it can easily print variable data which has become essential in the world of direct marketing. And if you need a larger quantity of digitally printed envelopes, there are some very-sophisticated digital web presses that can print on sheets or rolls for converting later.

 

If you have a question on how to print a particular envelope to best meet your needs, send me an e mail or give me a call. I'll be happy to help you sort things out.

 

 

Topics: envelopes and printing, envelope printing, envelope manufacturer, envelope converting, four color envelope printing

Order Form Envelopes and Bind-In Envelopes – What you need to know

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 22, 2015 3:13:00 PM

In the Brave New World of envelopes and printing 2015, much like in the music and recording world, everything is mashed up. In order to survive and thrive through the decline in overall print and envelope volumes of the past decade and a half or so, many companies have diversified their product offerings in order to maintain and increase their market share.  It seems like there is an unspoken consensus among those in the print and mail industry that “you gotta’ do, what you gotta” do” to survive.

Elite Envelope made this decision a few years ago when we decided to join forces with and eventually acquire the cold-web printing company Web Corp. While many of our customers were and are printers themselves, we found no resistance from them when we began to sell direct mail and financial printing. We consulted with many of them beforehand and were quickly reassured.  Part of this was our particular situation and the fact that cold-web printing on uncoated roll stock was not seen as competition to most sheet-fed printers.  However, my feeling is that there is a sense that the only envelope converter in Boston (that’s us!) provides a valuable service to the printing industry in general and thus needs to remain viable.  This general sense applies industry-wide to those of us that remain strong and profitable.

Which brings me to the fact that our cold web presses are great for printing bind-in envelopes and order form envelopes which we are now featuring as a product offering in the aftermath of the closing down of B & W Press in Georgetown, MA which had been one of the major suppliers for these products both in New England and nationally.

This product goes by several different names:  order form envelope, bind-in envelope, donor envelope, bind-in order form and more.  Although the word envelope is used in many of the descriptions, this is not technically an envelope; at least by manufacturing/converting standards.  An envelope is characterized by seams and panels which fold across each other in some configuration.  The order form envelope et al is really just a folded piece of paper which is glued at the edge in one portion to form a pouch that can be used as an envelope.  It’s more in the business form family than the envelope family.

The phrase “bind-in” means quite literally that the product is in many cases bound inside a catalog or brochure before it is mailed.  The order form envelope is then removed by the recipient and used to order products or, in the case of donor envelopes, to make a donation. The “envelope” portion can be separated by a perforation and will have a strip of seal gum which when moistened will seal the envelope for return mailing.

While not as sturdy and durable as an envelope, these bind-in products are perfectly functional and mail-able under US Postal guidelines.  The main benefits are they are less bulky than an envelope and therefore easier for the bindery to insert and take up less space.  They also weigh slightly less than an envelope which can be a factor when postage costs are considered.  Lastly and most obviously they are multi-functional combining the order form, promotional material and the envelope all in one convenient piece.

Elite can print them in full color on both sides or very simply in spot colors if that’s your preference. They can be made in various styles and configurations with a single panel in addition to the envelope or with multiple panels for more comprehensive messaging.  We are one of the few companies that can provide both standard, conventional envelopes as well as the paper form envelope product described here. Please let us know if we can be of service and I’d like to hear how you have used this product in your business.  

Topics: envelope converting, cold web printing, order form envelopes, bind-in envelopes, donor form envelopes

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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