How Does Thermography Printing Work? A Step-by-Step Guide

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Every day, businesses print 27 million business cards. That’s 10 billion business cards per year, which leaves one important question for business owners.

How do you get your business cards to stand out from that startingly large group of potential competitors?

The answer is thermography printing. Thermography printers add the subtle enhancement of raised lettering to the most important projects.

So how does thermography printing work? Find out in this helpful guide.

What Is Thermography Printing?

Thermography printing is known in the industry by a few names. Thermographic printing, offset printing, and raised-ink thermography all describe the same technique and outcome. 

The outcome of thermographic printing is a tactile surface with raised ink. As such, it is a cost-effective alternative to embossing and engraving.

From business cards to letterhead, the most important projects stand out with thermography printing. 

How Does a Thermography Printer Work?

Thermography printing involves four main steps. It combines slow-drying offset printing ink and a powdered resin.

Step 1: Printing with Offset Printing Ink

The first step of the thermography printing process is similar to a regular print job. In this step, text and/or images are transferred to a substrate of paper or cardstock.

The printing technique used for thermography printing must produce an image or text that is still wet. Professional printing companies often use pigment inks for these jobs because they are slow drying.

Step 2: Applying the Embossing Powder

To create the raised, or embossed, look, thermography printing applies a powdered resin to the printed page. At this point, the embossing or thermographic powder overlays the entire page. However, it attaches itself only to the wet ink.

Embossing powders can vary in texture and appearance. Textures include fine, medium, and coarse. Different powders also create dull, matte, or glossy appearances. Finally, most projects use a transparent powder, which takes on the color of the printed ink. However, metallic, white, and even glow-in-the-dark powders are also options.  

Step 3: Vacuuming the Excess Powder

The vacuuming process removes the excess powder, leaving only the resin that attached to the ink.

Sometimes a vacuum machine is used. More often, though, thermographic printers utilize vibrating conveyor belts with runners. This setup changes the orientation of the page from horizontal to vertical. It also filters the unused resin into a sump so that it can be used on future projects. 

Step 4: Creating the Raised Image or Text

The final—and truly transformational—step involves passing the project briefly through a radiant oven. In the oven for just seconds, the substrate experiences temperatures of 900–1300 °C. 

As the substrate’s temperature increases, the powdered elements melt. The result is text or images that are raised and shiny.

Some thermographic printing systems include fans to cool the project as it leaves the oven. This isn’t essential, though. In fact, the project begins to cool—and the ink begins to solidify—as soon as it leaves the heat of the oven.

This last step of the process is, perhaps, the most important. Precision and consistency in temperature are essential to produce high-quality results. Indeed, excessive temperatures can cause the substrate to ignite. On the other hand, if the project is not heated enough, the printing can appear uneven.

Reputable printing companies are skilled in the entire thermography process. They also use the best equipment to create sharp images and text with vibrant colors.

Thermography Printing FAQs

With a basic understanding of thermography printing, you might be ready to add it to your business’s marketing and communication strategies. However, you also might have a few additional questions.

What Projects Can Benefit from Thermography Printing?

Thermography printing can enhance any project. Still, the most common applications include:

  • Business cards
  • Letterhead
  • Report covers
  • Invitations
  • Greeting cards

How Much Does Thermography Printing Cost?

Thermography printing prices vary depending on the size of the job, the detail involved, and other factors. Still, one important generalization is possible: Thermography printing is a cost-effective alternative to the more expensive engraving and embossing techniques.

Setup times are also much shorter with thermography. This is helpful if you’re facing not only a limited budget but limited time as well. In fact, if you’re facing a time crunch, thermography printing could save you money in that regard too. Since the process itself is faster, you could avoid costs associated with expedited projects.

Once you’ve settled on thermography printing, gather your project specifications and check it out online to find out the specific costs.

Do DIY Thermography Printing Techniques Work?

You can find instructions for DIY thermography printing techniques online. These techniques continue to use embossing powder. Instead of printers, conveyor belts, and ovens, though, they use rubber stamps, ink pads, and a heat gun.

The problems with DIY thermography printing are many.

First, few people or businesses have heat guns, and even fewer know how to use them safely. In fact, heat guns are dangerous tools, reaching temperatures up to 1,500 degrees. As such, they require significant safety gear and precautions. Even then, a user’s safety isn’t guaranteed.

Second, DIY thermography printing techniques are simply incapable of producing the quantity of projects most businesses require.

Finally, quality is necessarily compromised on DIY jobs. Remember, professional results require professional equipment and expertise. 

Can Thermography Printed Letterhead Damage My Business’s Printers?

Another advantage of working with a professional thermography printing company is the protection it affords to your business’s own printers.

When you order thermography printed letterhead, you’ll likely be running countless sheets through your own office printers. Is this safe? Can thermography printed substrates damage your printers?

Actually, the answer to both of these questions is yes.

Thermography printed substrates can damage your printers if you use the wrong type of embossing powder. This is especially likely if you attempt a DIY technique or work with a less-than-reputable printing service.

However, thermography printed substrates produced by reputable companies are safe for your office printers. That’s because the best companies use laser-safe powders that are compatible with your business’s printers.

Thermography Printing for Ink-credible Results

When you want to add elegance and eye-catching appeal to your business’s printed materials, thermography printing is the way to go.  When you want to up your business strategy in other ways, our blog is the way to go. Check out more of our valuable content today.