“We’re a boutique printer with an online shop specializing in digital printing and finishing as well as enhancement options for short-to-medium runs,” says Ralph Hadem, Managing Director of Colour Connection GmbH, when prompted to sum up his company in a nutshell. Colour Connection, which employs 21 people at its Frankfurt site, generates 30% of its turnover and practically all new leads through its own website and shop, which was given a complete relaunch in 2018.
The remaining 70% are accounted for by bespoke projects – 70% of them for agency customers, though also the marketing departments of large organizations and printers. “What sets us apart from other digital print providers is that, barring thread stitching, we can handle the A to Z of finishing in-house,” Hadem emphasizes. "That’s why we can offer our clients competent advice; after all, we know exactly how everything works. We’re also very flexible when it comes to deadlines because we’re not reliant on external finishers.”
Dedicated to the exceptional in digital production
Printed products aside from the mainstream are the hallmark of Colour Connection’s business. That hasn’t always been the case. The firm was established in 1994 as a prepress provider with the focus on film exposure and entered into digital production three years later. About nine years ago, when the big online printers began stepping up their activities in the digital printing segment, Colour Connection decided it was time to redefine the business model. “We were convinced that a market exists for premium printed products, where the aim is not simply to fill standard art paper as cheaply as possible but to create something exceptional – something more ambitious and sophisticated,” Hadem explains. “Since then, all of our strategic investments have been in printing and finishing equipment that is in some way special. That’s why we print on Kodak Nexpress Digital Presses: they ship with very attractive in-line enhancement options and are suitable for an enormous array of substrates.”
It was back in 2001 that Colour Connection first invested in a Nexpress Digital Press. Today, the company works with a Kodak Nexpress SX3900 Press and a Kodak Nexpress SE2500 Press. Two wide-format inkjet systems for different types of application plus a third digital production system round off the printing capacity. Having said that, the two Kodak presses predominate with more than 85% of the entire print volume. When asked why they’re the perfect production tools for Colour Connection, the Managing Director cites the high print quality, the non-toxic and VOC-free Kodak Dry Inks, the excellent register, the advanced and efficient prepress workflow and the diverse optional solutions for the Fifth Imaging Unit.
Open to a wide range of substrates and enhancement options
The openness of the Nexpress Presses to a wide range of substrates is yet another essential asset for Colour Connection’s operations. “This ability of the Nexpress Presses fits in flawlessly with our business strategy,” Hadem stresses. “We have about 60 different substrates permanently in stock in our online shop in a variety of grammages. On top of those, we receive daily deliveries of special papers that have been requested by customers. That’s a service you can only offer if your presses can cope with a variety of substrates without any problems.”
Colour Connection has equipped the Nexpress SX3900 Press with the optional long sheet deep pile feeder, so that sheets of any size up to 356 x 1000 mm can be printed. This larger format is a vital precondition of six or eight-page products and gatefolds, which traditionally play a key role. The Nexpress SX3900 Press has also been upgraded with the Kodak Substrate Expansion Kit, enabling it to print on materials up to 0.61 mm thick. “The Substrate Expansion Kit is a cool feature – not least because we meanwhile produce paperboard and folding boxes more or less daily alongside commercials in every form under the sun,” Hadem adds. “Demand for packaging is rising steadily, especially on non-standard materials. The run lengths are generally between 10 and 300, and we can provide a fast service here thanks to the packaging design software we purchased nine months ago and our ability to punch in-house.”
Spectacular printing effects
Typical examples of what Colour Connection can achieve on the Nexpress Presses and the other production equipment appear in the company’s Digitaldruck Ideen Blog, which is updated with new posts twice a week. The blog serves customers as a source of ideas and inspiration, introducing them to clever, stunning and exciting products that have been printed on unconventional materials using special enhancement and finishing techniques. With more than 1500 posts in the meantime, it is a showcase for the creative use of additional, special inks in the Fifth Imaging Unit of the Kodak Nexpress Digital Presses.
Unless otherwise specified, Clear Dry Ink is normally employed in the Fifth Imaging Unit as a topcoat or for watermark effects. Whereas on the Nexpress SE2500 Press, Opaque White Dry Ink for maximum opacity on colored or dark substrates is the default fifth color, Colour Connection alternates between Gold Dry Ink, Dimensional Clear Dry Ink and the new Metallic Clear Dry Ink on the Nexpress SX3900 Press. In combination with CMYK, Metallic Clear Dry Ink can be used to reproduce silver, bronze and copper colors or simulate pearlescent papers.
There is no doubt that the two Kodak Nexpress Digital Presses form the backbone of Colour Connection’s print production. “Our operators report that the presses are rock-solid workmanship and do a really good job,” Hadem comments. “And beyond the quality and technology of the presses themselves, we also appreciate the way Kodak treats its customers. Right from the start, it’s been a fair partnership conducted at eye level.”
Photos: Digitaldruck Ideen Blog, Colour Connection GmbH