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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Custom Envelope Variation – part two

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 5, 2017 11:40:45 AM

In our last blog we presented the issue of variation in envelope converting and the reasons why it happens. In today’s piece, we’ll add the third and final reason for variation; jet offset envelope printing.

Envelopes can be printed in 3 ways (that topic to be fully discussed in a future article). The type of printing where variation can come into play is Jet offset printing. This is when the envelope is made and then printed after the fact.  In the typical Halm jet offset printer, a stack of envelopes is placed on one end and through vacuum pumps is fed through the printing cylinder over the plates and printing blanket and out the other end.  Like the envelope folding machine which forces the envelope to travel over a distance to its final destination, the printing press brings the envelope through various stages which cause it to move slightly.

_MG_0147-1.jpg

If the envelope is being printed with the same copy for each item and going through the press once, the amount of variation is so slight as to be virtually undetectable. However if, say,  you have a company logo that has been pre-printed onto the envelope and you are then feeding those “shells” into the press to add a certain return address next to the logo, you could see some variation or “bounce” in the placement of the return address in relation to the logo.  As in folding, the variation is generally within 1/16” of an inch but it could be more on a larger envelope like a 9 x 12.

Which brings us to things you can do to minimize the variation in your custom printed envelopes or custom envelopes in general; here are a few ideas you can put to use:

  1. Be realistic with your design – Certain designs for envelopes are almost sure to be a problem. Perhaps the most common one is designing the flap to be fully covered in a certain ink color. This looks cool but unfortunately the variation inherent in the process will cause there to be either some white on the flap or some color folding over of the color to the front of the envelope. The best way to avoid this is to either end the color 1/8” below the score line or wrap-around the color to the front 1/8”. It might not look as sharp but you’ll get a much neater and more consistent look.
  2. Avoid gloss coated stock where possible – Yes, it’s shiny and looks and feels great but it is also much more difficult to handle and the slipperiness of the coating causes more movement in the paper both in cutting and folding which can bring about greater variation.
  3. Deal directly with an envelope converter – Those of us who do this type of thing on a daily basis will be more familiar with the potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Have you had any problems with envelope variation on your printed pieces?  Contact us and we will provide an analysis of the problem at no charge or obligation to you.   

Our commitment to customer service never varies!

Topics: envelope printing, envelope printing mistakes, Envelope variation, custom envelopes, envelope variation solutions

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

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 Variation - Part 1

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 21, 2011 10:51:00 AM

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, printing. Another major factor is the nature of the raw material; i.e. paper.

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.

Elite Envelope and Graphics, Inc.

Folding: Once the blanks are cut, they are then loaded into the machine which applies the glue and folds them into a finish 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 next week’s blog, I’ll finish up the reasons for variation and also discuss some strategies that customers can take to minimize its effect.

Have you had any instances where envelope variation has caused problems? I’d welcome your comments.

Topics: envelopes, envelope manufacturing, envelope converting, Envelope variation, envelope manufacturing problems

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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