"Lenticular has moved beyond the trinkets and trash market," says Tim Traub, lenticular business unit manager with Outlook Group Corp.
Traub says the surface backing for lenticular lenses used on book covers is only 14 mil thick. That's down from the 18 mil thickness common for label and packaging applications.
The thinner material makes it possible to increase lens density on book covers to 100 per inch, compared to 75 per inch for packaging. That makes for sharper, more graduated images that come close to what the human eye considers reality, Traub says.
Outlook Group and supplier National Graphics have tag-teamed commercializing lenticular materials since 1994. That's when, Traub says, Outlook became the first to offset print lenticular images.
One recent advancement to lenticular printing technology is improving image quality, cutting production cycles, and driving wider adoption of the technology.
It's called "onserting," and it enables printers to output directly on the back of the plastic lens. That's a sharp break with the past, where images were printed on paper, and later affixed to the plastic lens—a time consuming, imprecise process.
"All our materials are printed with a sheet-fed offset, using National to do the pre-press interlacing," Traub says. "National takes the customer-supplied art files, and translates them into something we can print."
This workflow continues with the sheet-fed product being put on the moving web stream. It emerges as a fan-folded label. One of the major advantages of onserting is better alignment.
"It's very difficult to align it perfectly, and the tolerance is close to 1/200th of an inch," Traub says. This requires a level of precision that exceeds what automatic registration controls can handle.
For this, Outlook's staff goes with manual craftwork to align on the Komori Lithrone 644 six-color press they use. Doing so makes the process a little slower than traditional print jobs, up to 4,500 sheets per hour versus up to 10,000 per hour. But precision results are the payoff.