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HR Corner: Expert Advice on Staffing


Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group LLC, a consulting firm and PSDA partner that specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations and their member companies. St. John has been a highly rated speaker at several PSDA events, including the annual Print Solutions Conference & Expo, and writes many of the "Final Thoughts" columns on the back page of Print Solutions magazine.

In this new section of the Print Solutions e-Newsletter, St. John responds to recent human resources-related questions that may impact you and your business. Have a question for Claudia? Send your query via email and your question may be answered in a future edition of HR Corner.

All PSDA member companies receive discounted pricing on Affinity HR Group's wide variety of services. For more information, visit the group's website.

Q: “Jane” has been with us for 17 years and, until recently, has been a terrific employee. We are changing our business model and her duties are now more strategic than tactical. For the past six months her attitude has been horrible. Can I fire her for a bad attitude?

A: It sounds like your company is going through some major changes. Typically, someone who excels in a tactical position is more challenged with strategic work and does not do well with change. And it sounds like she's dealing with a lot of change right now. If she has been terrific, why don't you try to address her disengagement before you fire her? Addressing disengagement takes support, understanding and listening (the most underrated and essential of management skills). And it takes feedback. To turn the tide, consider the following easy read: "Tell Me How I'm Doing: A Fable About the Importance of Giving Feedback" by Richard Williams. Knowing you care, you are listening and you want her engaged will go a long way. Go there first and then let's talk termination.

Q: We often supplement our work staff with interns, particularly during rush periods. Do I have to pay them?

A: The U.S. Department of Labor issued a ruling clarifying that, unless the intern is getting the same or similar education as he or she would get in the classroom, the intern is entitled to pay and no less than minimum wage. Many employers believe that the “real-world experience” interns receive makes it a sufficient learning experience. However, unless you have structured a bonafide educational program, you should be paying your interns minimum wage or more.




Don't forget to join Claudia St. John for a complimentary webinar on Tuesday, March 20, wherein she will present "Recruiting for Top Sales Professionals."

In this webinar, you'll receive tips and strategies for successful recruiting. Content will also include posting alternatives, screening tools, interview techniques and what to look for in your sales candidate.

Learn more and register today
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PSDA News

Registration to Open Soon: Print Solutions Conference & Expo and Small Distributor Summit in Baltimore



Registration for PSDA's 2012 Print Solutions Conference & Expo, taking place June 4–6 at the Baltimore Convention Center will open next week. This three-day event, designed for distributors and channel partners, is packed with education sessions, solutions-oriented discussions, networking and direct access to industry-leading innovations. Learn more.

PSDA small distributors are invited to attend the 2012 Small Distributor Summit taking place June 3–5 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Expand your learning beyond traditional educational sessions through hands-on demonstrations, interactive discussions, group idea-sharing and informal discussions at networking events. Education and discussion topics include a focus on business development, marketing planning, sales planning and financial planning. More information will be available soon.
Deadline Approaching: Submit Your Innovative Work for 2012 PEAK Awards

The deadline to submit entries for the PEAK Awards is Friday, March 30. The Print Excellence and Knowledge (PEAK) Awards highlight unique and successful print applications. Hosted in partnership with the Print Education & Research Foundation (PERF), this competition honors the work of print professionals who have met their customers' printing needs by providing outstanding value-added products and services through creativity in design, production, fulfillment and other services while solving problems or improving business functions.

Learn more about this program and submit your best work for consideration today.

Member News

AG PrintPromo Solutions Named Among Ohio’s Top Diversity-Owned Businesses

PSDA member AG PrintPromo Solutions recently was named one of the “Top 100 diversity-owned businesses in the state of Ohio” in the Div100 by DiversityBusiness.com. On the listing, Anup Gupta, president of AG PrintPromo Solutions, said, “Large corporations have finally realized the economic impact of diverse businesses on one hand, and the personalized service and the envious work ethic that lot of small business owners bring to the table, on the other. It is a win-win situation for both parties. Small business success is the backbone of the U.S. economy.”

When asked what makes AG different, Gupta (pictured, right) said: “There are a lot of companies that can sell you ‘stuff.' What makes us different is that we take time to get to know our clients, understand their needs — goals they are trying to accomplish with their promotion or print project. Then we come to them with cost-effective solutions to address those needs in the most effective and efficient way. We strive hard to deliver value-added services to our clients — unique and creative ideas that help them differentiate from their competition.”

This is the sixth year AG PrintPromo Solutions has been named among the top 100 minority owned companies in Ohio. The winning companies will be honored at a special awards ceremony at DiversityBusiness.com's 12th Annual Multicultural Business Conference, taking place April 25-27 at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.
The Flesh Company Holds iPad Contest for Distributors

PSDA member The Flesh Company recently announced a contest running through March 30 in which distributors can be entered to win a new iPad. During the two-month contest, any quote with a value more than $1,500 will be entered in the contest. The winner will be drawn at the close of the contest and notified the following week. Any product produced at the Parsons, Kan., or Fenton, Mo., facility is eligible, including business forms, labels, integrated forms, security documents, envelopes and digital print. Details of the contest can be viewed at the company website.
AccuLink’s HP Indigo 5500 and Scodix 1200 Production Line Yields Award-Winning Work

Greenville, N.C.-based AccuLink, a PSDA member, which operates HP Indigo 3050 and 7000 model presses, invested in the HP Indigo 5500 late last year to build a competitive advantage while moving production from offset to digital printing. The new digital press and UV coater allow AccuLink to create premium products that help its customers achieve better marketing results than standard printed materials.

AccuLink recently produced a personalized, tri-fold mailer for a professional football team that was sent to 1,800 prospects encouraging rentals of skybox seats. The front features a football that appears to be autographed by the addressee. The football image also has dimples, creating a pigskin texture and a raised grip. According to Lindsay Gray, co-owner of AccuLink, team officials were very happy with the 4.4 percent response rate to the mailer, which helped sell out the team's skybox seats for next season. Since installing the press late last year, AccuLink has seen additional evidence of the superior quality of its new printing and coating installation: Three early jobs the company produced on its new equipment have won awards.
Midwest Single Source Promotes 4 Employees

PSDA member and Wichita, Kan.-headquartered business Midwest Single Source recently made some changes in leadership. Kevin Ulwelling, formerly the general manager, has been promoted to president of Midwest Single Source. Angela Williams, formerly the controller, has been promoted to chief financial officer. Chris Eckhoff (pictured below, bottom left), formerly the equipment sales manager, has been promoted to vice president of the equipment division. Sarah Strydom, formerly the branch manager and marketing coordinator, has been promoted to vice president and chief marketing officer. Ulwelling and Eckhoff work out of the Wichita facility; Strydom works from the Kansas City, Mo., location; and Williams works offsite in Georgia. Pictured clockwise from top left are Kevin Ulwelling, Angela Williams, Sarah Strydom and Chris Eckhoff.



Graphic Dimensions Establishes 24-Hour Turnaround Policy for Check Line

Graphic Dimensions, a PSDA member and trade manufacturer of business documents, recently instituted a standard 24-hour turnaround policy for all CheckMate™ orders. CheckMate is a line of imprinted checks offering a wide variety of customizing options and fraud deterrent security features. CheckMate is available at all three (Georgia, Kentucky and New Hampshire) facilities. For a free CheckMate sales kit, email info@graphicdimensions.net or call 800.699.2978.

Industry News

Label Printer Redirects 99 Percent of Waste Into Fuel Pellets
Packaging Digest (03/07/12) Pierce, Lisa McTigue

Weber Packaging Solutions has launched a new effort to save its former label waste from landfills by converting it into pellets that can be burned for industrial fuel. The company annually generates more than 1,500 tons of paper and synthetic waste as a byproduct of its label manufacturing and printing process, and Weber's John O'Leary said that "with all the new waste-handling options that are available today, it's often possible to repurpose scrap and save on disposal costs at the same time."

Weber's label scrap is turned into fuel pellets by Pellet America of Wisconsin, while Weber collects the waste using a scrap-loading system from SP Industries that Weber facilities manager Matt Zoost said is "designed to literally pack paper waste into semi trailers." The system is essentially a massive trash compactor that compresses the label scrap by shunting it into a semi-trailer. Once a trailer load of compressed scrap is completely filled, Pellet America picks up the material at Weber's facility and ships it to its own plant.

"We're on pace to redirect 99 percent of our annual label waste from the landfill, and repurpose it as raw material for fuel pellets," Zoost said. "And it looks like we're also going to reduce our waste disposal expenses by nearly 20 percent, and that includes the cost of using semi-trailers to transport the material to Wisconsin."

How Offset Punches Above Its Weight
Labels & Labeling (02/28/12) Hunt, Barry

Despite the ambivalence of offset printing's position in a flexo-dominated sector, there has been an increase in activity among some narrow/mid-web press manufacturers, with the emphasis on realizing rapid setup times and faster job changeovers to handle bigger volumes of short-run tasks. Offset has a leg up in terms of print quality and consistency because it dovetails with proven, globally recognized quality standards. Offset also can produce such quality and consistent material faster and more easily than the most prestigious flexo or high-end digital printing.

Offset printing is an indirect process that applies precision-made rubber blankets to the transfer of the image to the substrate, thus permitting a broad range of printable substrates, running the gamut from thin unsupported films to textured or uncoated paper grades. Opportunities for generating shrink sleeves, sachets, pouches, wraparounds, tube laminates and small folding cartons are opening up thanks to presses of greater width and versatility, while the vitality of production flexibility helps account for the growing interest in offset-based combination/platform presses.

UV-cured offset is now a solid, entrenched presence in certain levels of labels and packaging production. Rotary offset is no longer restricted exclusively to long-run applications. Its many quality and production-led advantages make it competitive with UV flexo at the top, value-added end of the market. The strength of semi-rotary is primarily dictated by regional market demands and global trading trends, while concurrently carving out niche, high-end applications worldwide.

Wal-Mart Has a Sustainability Plan, Do You?
MyPrintResource (03/05/2012) Whitcher, Joann

Running a sustainable operation extends beyond many print service providers' (PSPs) paper and plate recycling efforts, and Fortune 1000 companies undertaking a sustainability program will require their PSPs to show with measurable data the carbon footprint of their printed product across the entire lifecycle. "Printers are completely missing the strategic challenge they are going to face over the next few years," said Don Carli with the Institute for Sustainable Communication.

Carli pointed to "a disconnect [in the graphic communications sector] with the changes that are taking place in the boardrooms and the supply chain organizations of Fortune 1000 companies. There is a big gap to what PSPs are doing, and to what companies like Unilever, Ford and Verizon are doing within their own organizations and within the supply chains that address their own products." Carli stressed the need for PSPs to become more thorough and exacting concerning the measurement and qualification in the performance of their products, services and suppliers.

An outstanding example of a commercial printer realizing success with its sustainability program is Monroe Litho, which has about 60 ongoing reduce, recycle and reuse efforts, including a wind-powered facility and its status as a Sustainable Green Printing Partnership-certified company. "We always tried to do lean manufacturing; we were always trying to be an environmentally sensitive printer," said Monroe Litho CEO Chris Pape. "We were one of the first to go alcohol-free in the 1980s." Monroe Litho recycles or reuses 100 percent of its waste, apart from food waste, making dumpsters completely unnecessary. In 2010, the firm recycled more than 1 million pounds of printing paper, cut VOC emissions by 28 percent from the year before and used more than 650 tons of American-manufactured FSC-certified printing paper.

Commercial printer Central Florida Press offers clients a carbon calculator, which lets the printer and client collaborate on reducing energy and paper use, ultimately shrinking the client's carbon footprint and paper consumption. Meanwhile, Carli emphasized the need for printers to "think outside the envelope," noting that they "often focus on paper, plates and printing equipment, but ignore opportunities that exist within their buildings."
Print Solutions Magazine "Print is Green" Issue

For more on sustainability in the print industry, check out the special March 2011 issue of Print Solutions magazine.

Direct Mail Lets Online Marketers Stay In Front Of Customers Longer
Chief Marketer (02/27/12) Levey, Richard H.

King Fish Media CMO Gordon Plutsky said direct mail is a viable tool for online marketers seeking sales opportunities. "Email mailboxes, both work and personal, are full of offers from every company a consumer has ever done business with, as well as unsolicited email and spam," he noted. "By reaching a consumer through the mailbox, a marketer creates a different type of conversation. It's more thoughtful. It provides recipients with a designed mail piece for them to look at and make a more considered purchase."

Plutsky noted that email is the most efficient way for marketers to converse with customers they already have a relationship with, but it has a tendency to be less personalized for the customer. "A print piece [embodies] more of a shopping and discovery process," he said. "It's fun to discover things you might not have seen before, as opposed to having a sale item or two pushed at you. The trick is to establish that immersive environment versus the push environment."

Plutsky said sending circulars or price-related items is likely a waste of money and material, and he suggested that marketers should focus on storytelling and engaging the customer when using direct mail. When it comes to magalogs and catalogs, "marketers should use storytelling as opposed to the usual product shots in front of a blank background," Plutsky advised. "When you create an emotional connection using storytelling, you do a better job of building affinity and trust. Build that, and you are more likely to see an action taken, with the action being a purchase."

Plutsky stressed that direct mail, specifically a well-designed, comprehensive catalog, is particularly effective for reaching out to prospective or lapsed customers. "With print, a marketer does a matchback and can look at new customers or orders generated," he said. "We have done matchbacks and attributed sales to a specific mailing we did [on behalf of our clients], particularly for new customer acquisition efforts. Additionally, customers use codes printed on the catalogs when placing orders online."

Plutsky mentioned research determining that females starting in their late 20s are most receptive to print marketing materials, while marketers concentrating on younger millennials should mainly use digital, social and mobile channels. "An audience that is middle aged — that is an audience that really appreciates a well-done mail piece," he said.
Five Ideas to Boost Your Direct Mail Effectiveness

In the January 2012 issue of Print Solutions magazine, Robin Marchetti discusses the value of direct mail marketing and the approach you need to have a truly successful piece. Check out the article.

It's Not Your Father's Packaging Market
My Print Resource (02/06/12) Whitcher, Joann

The packaging segment — which includes flexible packaging, tags and labels, folding cartons and corrugated boxes — will be a top growth area within the graphic communications industry during the next several years, according to industry consultants and associations. Currently, retailers have the leverage and are looking for new and innovative packaging to help build brands, but it will be the consumer in the future, said Stuart Brownell, Kodak Global Packaging Market Segment Manager. "They will have so much control, with things like QR codes, which allow them to check pricing and availability anywhere, anytime," said Brownell.

Flexography is expected to remain the leader in packaging printing for the foreseeable future. A report commissioned by PRIMIR, Benchmarking and Worldwide Market Trends for Flexographic Printing forecasts 4-5 percent annual growth for flexography through 2013, with sales accounting for more than 60 percent of the $440 billion printed packaging market. Digital printing is making a play to be the top choice for the production process, and the increase in targeted and customized packaging is a strong factor for its promotion.

"Today's consumer is used to a lot of interaction and engagement; the digital platform allows that interaction to happen," said Kathy Popovich, marketing director of Innovative Labeling Solutions. Digital package printing will grow 15.7 percent annually, increasing from $1.8 billion in 2009 to more than $3.7 billion in 2014, according to InfoTrends' 2010 Market Assessment: Color Digital Printing in Packaging and Label Converting.

POS in Retail Moving Toward Greener Pastures
ITVarNews.net (02/28/12)

IT decision makers are being driven by an increasing emphasis on environmental friendliness to seek green printing solutions on point of sale (POS), while simultaneously addressing total cost of ownership goals with greener retail solutions. As a result, the way enterprise and SMEs do business and engage with end customers is changing. Retailers are deploying green POS printing related efforts to enhance brand image as well as reduce IT spending.

In the meantime, global corporations concentrated on driving printing solutions also are collaborating to offer cost-effective green retail solutions to help retailers fulfill their environmental objectives. These solutions boast ecologically friendly features and uphold sustainability via product longevity and material reuse programs.

Issues addressed by the latest POS printing systems and features include conservation, reliability, manageability and serviceability. Green retail solutions are helping merchants preserve the environment and realize monetary savings by boosting the efficiency of their operations.

Looking ahead, greater numbers of retail-oriented enterprise clients are likely to support eco-friendly POS printing solutions, which can meet the challenge of going green as well as minimize their OpEx.

B2B Marketers Taking a Fresh Look at DM Tactics
Chief Marketer (03/08/12) Viveiros, Beth Negus

Interest in the central strategies of direct marketing is growing amid a more metrics-driven push in marketing, with Mac McIntosh Inc. business-to-business (B2B) consultancy president Mac McIntosh noting that "budgets haven't increased, but CFOs are starting to understand that they can't just keep doing the same thing over and over and expect results. They're realizing the power of the right offer at the right time." McIntosh said testing has emerged as key to the operational value of direct marketing, and the way to realize profitability from mail is to find more surgical uses for it in marketing campaigns. Target specific segments at certain times with specific types of pieces, he advised.

B2B marketers also can give a boost to their direct mail through variable data print, which embeds elements such as personalized URLs (pURLs) that take recipients to dedicated landing pages. However, pURL usage is not as prevalent as one might think. "We're not seeing a lot of variable print direct mail," McIntosh said. "The printing industry needs to educate the market that this is something [mailers] can ask for."

There has been a heavy reliance on email among marketers in recent years because of its low cost, but it is no longer always the simplest option due to the hazards of spam traps, black lists and the use of harvested names. "To work, it has to be part of an integrated marketing program," McIntosh said. B2B marketers are incorporating email within the social space, using sites such as Facebook to spur email signups and offering "share this" buttons in emails to take campaigns to a viral level.

U.S. House Passes Bill on Unfair Trade Practices; Measure Helps Wisconsin Paper Industry
Sheboygan Press (WI) (03/07/12)

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a trade bill on March 6 that incorporates a proposal pushed by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) to protect Wisconsin's paper industry and other manufacturers. The legislation would reverse a December federal appeals court decision that stripped the Commerce Department of the authority to levy tariffs on subsidized imports from nonmarket economies, such as China and Vietnam.

Supporters of the legislation said that such taxes, known as countervailing duties, are necessary to level the playing field for American manufacturers, including those in the paper industry. Without congressional action to amend the Tariff Act of 1930, the Commerce Department would have been forced to cease collecting taxes resulting from 24 countervailing duty orders on imports from China and Vietnam. Jeff Landin, president of the Wisconsin Paper Council, praised the House action on a measure he said was vital to the Wisconsin paper industry.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate where it is expected to be approved. The White House supports the legislation.

Markus Kayser’s 3-D Solar Sinter Prints on Sand — Could Replace Concrete
Green Prophet (02/20/2012) Nitz, Brian

German designer Markus Kayser has developed a 3-D printer that runs on sun and sand. Called the Solar Sinter, the machine is powered by photovoltaic panels and uses a lens that concentrates sunlight from a larger Fresnel lens onto a tray of sand, which is sintered or melted to form a glass object. As far back as 1933 scientists were theorizing that sintering could be used to burn roads and canals into the desert, but Kayser is the first to actually use the idea for a real-world application. Kayser said he would like to see this technology used to replace concrete as a building material, using the immense power of the sun directly rather than converting it into electricity, which would cut back on the large amounts of CO2 that are emitted in concrete production. He hopes his printer will inspire the industry to look into sintering as an alternative manufacturing process, particularly in architecture and infrastructure. With enough funding, the process can be scaled to produce large-scale projects, Kayser said, noting that his own work is sponsored by Kohler.

New Plan to Jumpstart Package Recycling
Supermarket News (02/27/12) Garry, Michael

Starting in June, Costco warehouse stores will feature new recycling labels on the cans, bottles, bags, overwrap and boxes for some 12 Kirkland Signature private-label items. Meanwhile, Seventh Generation paper and cleaning products elsewhere already have the labels on a 22-ounce laundry pre-spray spot remover and 180-ounce laundry detergent sold at Target stores. The labels are a test of the voluntary Packaging Recovery Label System being piloted by a handful of companies, with the goal of eventually becoming an industry standard. The initiative was developed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), a division of the sustainability nonprofit GreenBlue that includes consumer packaged goods firms such as Seventh Generation, Campbell Soup, Kraft Foods, Procter & Gamble, General Mills and Unilever. Anne Bedarf, senior manager for SPC, said the project intends to increase recyclability but "the focus is initially on better communication so consumers are not so confused."

The labeling system includes three main label options, each describing a different level of national access to recycling for the product at hand: "widely recycled" — 60 percent or greater access to recycling — "limited recycling" — between 20 percent and 60 percent access — and "not yet recycled" — less than 20 percent access. SPC also created a fourth label — initially intended for film and overwraps — indicating that a package can be deposited in a store's plastic-bag recycling bin if clean and dry.

Each recycling label contains the chasing arrow triangle know as the Mobius loop logo, and names a packaging material, such as paper, and a packaging component, like a box. The system follows the Federal Trade Commission's "Green Guides" designed to prevent greenwashing, and uses national recyclability data compiled by SPC. All labels make note of the website, www.how2recycle.info, where consumers can find additional resources.

How to Read the Marketing Warning Signs
PRWeek (03/05/12) Joseph, Jim

Jim Joseph, New York University professor and president of North America at Cohn & Wolfe, discussed the various warning signs for when a marketing program may be at risk of failure. "If your marketing program only speaks to the wonders of the brand or offers endless self-promotion ... then you're in danger of being tuned out and passed over," he said. "Consumers now outright reject a brand monologue, seeking instead a community dialogue where they can interact with the brand and with others of like mind." Joseph suggested that the dialogue should be more about the consumer and less about the brand.

Joseph also cited the need for marketers to use traditional vehicles such as TV advertising. "Going social is certainly all the rage, but it's important to still include other tactics that will drive reach, frequency and ultimately impact," he explained. "I am not one of those people who think TV advertising is dead. It's alive and well ... but it has to have a very specific reason for being in the marketing plan. You may not get the impact you want going only social — chances are that a retail component combined with a meaningful CRM effort along with a little advertising will bring the synergy you need to drive sales, not just tweets. Most of the really impactful campaigns, like we see in the beverage category, still have a mix of traditional vehicles — some form of TV or print advertising, point-of-purchase display and online promotion. Consider the entire mix, not just the vehicles du jour."

The shape of the brand program and messaging is influenced by consumers, and Joseph stressed that marketers must get accustomed to this fact. "So think ahead and map out scenarios of where the conversation can flow and plan for it," he said. "If you don't like a potential outcome or you think it's too risky, then change the course."

Sculpteo Takes 3-D Printing to the Cloud
Forbes (02/07/12) Ludwig, Adam

Sculpteo is a French company that is constructing the 3-D printing infrastructure to support an impending shift in manufacturing. "The materials that we can use for 3-D printing will eventually be as good as materials used in factories, making it easy for consumers to customize the design of any object," said Sculpteo Chairman Eric Carreel. "And with cloud technology, it could be done using smartphones and tablets."

Sculpteo's original mission was to enable the design, uploading and ordering of personalized merchandise by individual consumers, but it is moving beyond that challenge to create a cloud-based engine that allows any business to offer 3-D printing services on its own website. The company's new 3-D Printing Cloud Engine offers firms embeddable instruments to devise and market their own 3-D printed objects.

Sculpteo must deal with the novel challenges of processing 3-D printing to support its cloud-based infrastructure. "Choosing materials to clothe 3-D surfaces makes the process much more complex," Carreel said. "You can have a very nice drawing on your screen, but you may have designed something that cannot be used." Sculpteo has developed an algorithm to correct errors that crop up in designs, while pricing objects based on form, volume of material and technical parameters of production is another consideration. "Helping designers and retailers compute the right cost is very complex, so we have to develop algorithms for that too," Carreel said.

Sculpteo has teamed up with Dassault Systemes to help refine the dynamic interactions among the e-merchants, designers, customers and 3-D printing facilities using its cloud-based service, and Carreel is convinced that Sculpteo "will do for 3-D printing what PayPal did for online payments." Sculpteo is one of a number of companies seeking the democratization of manufacturing by giving designers the tools to generate products through a cheap, scalable single process.
Print Solutions Magazine Innovation Issue

In the most recent issue of Print Solutions magazine focused on innovation in the print industry, Heidi Tolliver-Walker dicusses how lenticular printing represents a unique opportunity for savvy manufacturers and distributers. Check out the issue and read Tolliver-Walker's article, "Lenticular Packs a Punch."

Droplet-Generation Model Could Impact Printing Industry
The Engineer (United Kingdom) (02/17/12) Czyzewski, Andrew

A new model has been developed that describes the tendency of liquid thread to break into drops, which could have an impact on printing and other industries. Engineers at Cambridge University have created a fully controlled model of a print head to recreate the process of droplet generation. "Most conventional print heads will produce very small droplets but only under very specific conditions with a very specific ink — so if you change the ink properties even by a very small amount, most printers will stop working," said project collaborator Alfonso Arturo Castrejon-Pita.

A key challenge for the print industry is developing printheads that can make "clean," single and uniform-size droplets with a wide range of fluid properties, the team said. By using a simple fluid solution of water and glycerine, the team was able to analyze the effects of viscosity, surface density and density. The process of droplet generation was recorded using ultrafast-imaging techniques to examine how long threads, or filaments, are formed and broken. "Our regime diagram can predict whether or not a certain liquid can be broken into useful droplets; it is, in simple words, a rule of thumb to determine whether a liquid can be used to produce a droplet or not," explained project leader professor Ian Hutchings. Castrejon-Pita said the findings could have implications for the print industry as well as biomaterials, electronics and solar cells.


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March 15, 2012
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