Printers Grab Attention With 3-D, Holographic Images

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Advances in production processes have made three-dimensional images a viable and cost-effective option for creating attention-getting direct mail pieces.

Two companies have patented production processes that allow 3-D images with depth and motion to be mass-produced for as little as 25 cents for a postcard-size mail piece. Production costs decrease with order size because of economies of scale but increase with the size of the image.

"[3-D imaging] does lend itself to reasonable quantities rather than limited mailings,'' said Jerrold Schwartz, vice president of sales and marketing at National Graphics Inc., Brookfield, WI. "The process of creating and printing is much more technically demanding than a normal print job. What's happened with technology is that it has allowed us to produce an image that is very clear and use it on a range of applications.''

National Graphics used its Extreme Vision process to produce 3-D images for the videocassette covers of "Independence Day" and "The Lost World: Jurassic Park." The movie studios were pleased with the response rate of each video, Schwartz said, and sales surpassed expectations. National Graphics also has produced postcards for direct mail campaigns and is using 3-D images through envelope windows.

Web Communications Group, Itasca, IL, recently received two patents for its production methods that offer mailers a low-cost alternative -- 15 cents to $1.25 per piece -- to traditional 3-D printing with significantly shorter turnaround time. Its Lamigram product can be completely printed in one run, replacing the separate processes of printing a separated image on a special type of plastic and then laminating it off the print line to a paper backing.

"Lenticular printing has been done before but never to the extent of this," said Web Communications president Gary Jacobsen. "We've made it into a nontraditional print media product that's affordable to very large businesses that mail to consumer-based quantities."

Lamigram can be used for a cut-through on an envelope or catalog cover, pop-ups and more, but Jacobsen is reserving the first application for a prominent advertiser to produce a magazine insert. Web Communicaions has sent invitations to companies in the hi-tech, pharmaceutical, liquor and cigarette industries.

"The longer a consumer interacts with a promotional piece, the more brand awareness there is, the more play they get for their money," he said.

Holographic images are another option to get marketing pieces noticed. Holograms can work under varying light conditions and are four times brighter than white paper, according to Joe Funicelli, executive vice president and general manager at Unifoil Corp., Passaic, NJ. The company produces a metalized paper called Unilustre that enables mass-production of holograms.

"Our main business is very large run,'' Funicelli said of Unifoil's sports card and point-of-purchase display work. "The direct mail piece is in the lower end of our scheme, and that's why it's one of the last areas we've attacked for this process."

Unifoil has a partnership with holographic film manufacturer Crown Roll Leaf, Paterson, NJ, to develop Unilustre and the holographic production process. The companies are conducting a marketing campaign to attract direct mail clients.

Crown Roll Leaf and Unifoil can customize a photograph or any supplied artwork into a hologram that highlights the areas the client desires or produce a hologram from thousands of standard patterns. The hologram printing costs are identical to those for plain paper, Funicelli said, but the base paper materials can be 2 1/2 times more expensive.

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