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Leveling the Lenticular Playing Field

(March 2007) posted on Thu Mar 15, 2007

How five wide-format print providers have upped their game in lenticular.

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By Kacey King

If there was any doubt that lenticular can attract the attention of large numbers of people, it was laid to rest last year when Rolling Stone magazine used the technology for both its front and back 1000th issue covers. A dramatic, three-dimensional collage featuring some of the biggest names in music, film, TV, and literature, the lenticular graphics were featured on 2 million copies of the magazine, both subscription and newsstand editions, and generated national attention.

Movie studios, which have always recognized lenticular as a good attention-grabber, also have been utilizing lenticular to great effect. Sony Pictures, for instance, recently produced a lenticular poster for the new Nicholas Cage film, Ghost Rider, which premiered in February. The graphics featured a close facial shot of Cage that transformed into a fiery skull. In addition, Sony’s lenticular movie poster for the upcoming Spider-Man 3 has the chest torso of a red Spider-Man suit morphing into a black-and-white costume of that film’s villain.

Examples of inkjet-produced lenticular are a bit more rare. In fact, despite a growing market in out-of-home and P-O-P printing, only about 3% of the lenticular market (including small- and large-format applications) is currently produced using wide-format inkjet equipment, says Flipsigns’ Thomas Mark, a 37-year veteran of the lenticular industry. The majority of jobs are typically produced using high-speed lithographic presses.When wide-format inkjet is used, it generally is produced in one of two ways:

* By direct-printing in reverse onto the back of the lens with UV ink using a flatbed inkjet printer (currently estimated at 25% of the wide-format inkjet lenticular business). "The companies that are most successful with this are the flatbed printers that have vacuum beds [that] suck the sheet down and the printhead moves over the sheet, as opposed to printers that pull in the material on a set of rollers," says Jim Owens of Microlens.

* Or by printing on a rollfed wide-format inkjet printer, or a photo imager (such as a Durst Lambda or Oce LightJet), and laminating double-sided adhesive to the back of the lenticular lens and attaching it to the substrate. This requires skill in registering the lenticules of the lens to the lines of the printed file to make sure they line up just right.