Thermography is a printing process where the ink is raised on the sheet.

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It was originally created to simulate engraving at a lesser cost. The process is done with a normal offset press and a “thermo” unit is attached to the end of the press or duplicator. The sheet is printed with ink and comes off the press with wet ink on a conveyor belt that takes it under a unit that drops a resin over the whole sheet. It then passes through a vacuum unit that removes the majority of the excess resin that is not attached to the wet ink.

The sheet then passes through a heating unit that actually melts the resin over the ink giving it the raised effect. Thermography is usually much shinier than engraving and also if the sheet is turned over you do not see a crushing of the paper fiber like on engraving. It originally was used on stationery and business cards but has been used as a design accent on brochures and all other advertising pieces.

The thermo units are mostly made for smaller presses so you usually will not see them on big quantity jobs. Most times the resin is clear so you can actually thermo a varnish to give a raised varnish or wet look. You also can get resin in very limited colors usually silver or gold. The popularity has decreased since the wide adoption of laser printers. The laser printers generate heat and sometimes it can be enough heat to actually melt the resin again in the printer and possibly do damage.

Different printers generate different amounts of heat so it depends on the maker of the printer. Thermography still has a resurgence in the design community about once every 3-5 years as an accent.

Written by Buzz Tatom
The Odee Company, Dallas, Texas

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