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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Envelope Converting Tip: Setting up the sheet for printing.

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 4, 2012 11:41:00 AM

One of the most common questions from printers who aren’t familiar with envelope converting is, “Where do I place the impression(s) on the sheet?”

An envelope converter will typically provide a layout to the printer which will show the proper placement of the unfolded envelopes on the sheet to be printed. “Print to the layout” is the short answer to these questions and will usually suffice.  

However, with the growth of digital printing as an economical way to print small-run 4-color jobs, converting jobs of under 5,000 are becoming more common. Digital printers are making customers aware that they can print as few as 500 letterhead and matching envelopes in 4 color process at a reasonable cost. The envelope component is typically printed on flat sheets and then converted for a minimum charge that is less than the cost of setting up a litho press with plates, etc.

In these cases, the printer will be using a small sheet with a one-up impression. The envelope converter will usually provide a die layout that doesn’t always show the proper position on the sheet.

In these cases, the standard rule is very simple. The printer must position the unfolded envelope impression 3/8” of an inch from two sides: typically the flap side will be one and one of the side seams the other.

envelope die cutting through paper 

Often, printers will assume that the envelope must be centered on the sheet. This looks neat and clean but it does not yield good results. The reason is that when the cookie-cutter style high-die cuts through the paper (see photo), it needs to break through the ream.  Envelope dies have a small metal piece screwed to the side in the shape of a small anvil. This is what slices through the paper as the die is pressed down. However, it needs to be positioned no more than ½” from the edge in order to work.

If the envelope impression is centered on the sheet, the “anvil” will not be close enough to the edge and the paper will buckle as it is cut. This will cause more variation in the folding. (See previous blog posts to get an explanation of variation in envelope converting).

So, by all means, print to the layout! But if the layout doesn’t show position, just make sure you place the impression no more than ½” from two sides of the sheet (3/8” is ideal) and you’ll be good to go.

Topics: envelope converting, envelope converting tips, Envelope variation, envelope converting layout, envelope die cutting, envelope converting mistakes

Envelope Converting Tips and Mistakes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Aug 25, 2011 10:49:00 AM

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 actually begins.

The first step is die-cutting the envelope impressions (or 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.

 die cutting envelopes, Elite Envelope & Graphics, envelope converter

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 tricky jobs. Once the envelope blanks are cut out of the sheets, they are stacked and ready to be fed into the folding machine.  Each folding machine has a mechanic or “adjustor” who is responsible for setting up the equipment to run the various size envelopes with or without windows.  The adjustor constantly monitors the equipment and pulls off envelopes as they are being made to measure and check glue and other factors which are important to a properly constructed envelope.

Some tips to ensure a problem-free converting experience:

  • Always ensure that the sheets are printed in strict accordance with 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 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.

Topics: elite envelope, envelope converting, envelope converting tips, Envelope variation, envelope converting layout, envelope die cutting, envelope converting mistakes

Envelope Converting: The Basics

Posted by Jerry Velona on Aug 19, 2011 1:39:00 PM

envelope converting elite envelope

The term “converting” in relation to envelopes is sometimes not well-understood. So, here’s a very simple explanation: 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.  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 or can be covered with ink on both sides.  In either case the process is the same with a few modifications depending on the stock and if or how it is printed.

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

"The Printing Company" 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, TPC 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 good example of an envelope job which must be converted. The Printing Company has the capability to print up to a 19 x 25 sheet size. Elite Envelope will supply them with a digital file that shows 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.

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, TPC has been advised to include a certain amount of extra sheets.  In addition to the regular printing sheets, they will also supply what are called “spotter sheets” which are regular sheets with dots added in the 4 main corners of each envelope on the sheet. A small number of these sheets (typically 1 for every 200 sheets supplied) are required with every job in order for the cutting to be accurate. I’ll explain that later in more detail.

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. I’ll pick up where this leaves off in my next post.

 

Topics: envelope manufacturer, envelope converting, envelope converting layout, envelope converting process, envelope blank, spotter sheet, layout, envelope converting basics

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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