Printing Technology

Relief Printing (also: Thermography)

In collaboration with Druckzuck/Spezialdruck in Berlin

With relief printing

… printing ink becomes tangible as a relief on the paper. The finish can be either matt or gloss.

Best possible uses of relief printing?

This printing method is primarily used for business cards, invitations, corporate printed matter, greeting cards and packaging. Relief printing is particularly suitable for filigree motifs. Relief printing allows for even  greater precision than die stamping.

What is special about relief printing?

Relief printing is a stand-alone finishing method and a cost-effective alternative to die stamping. Contrary to stamping methods, no tools are necessary and there are no visible marks on the back of the material. All pantone or HKS colours are suitable for relief printing.

During the printing process, the relief printing machine is connected with the offset printing machine. The printed sheet is put through both machines online. Therefore, no second stage in the work process is necessary, which would be the case if you were working with inkjet 2D/3D enhancement printing or screen printing.

What are the advantages and the disadvantages of this technique?

Relief printing is a cost-effective finishing technique. However, it is not suitable for all types of paper. The best printing materials are papers with a grammage from 90 g/m2 that are not very absorbent. Only full tones are suitable for thermographic printing. Halftones or 4c-colour prints are technically impossible to produce. The format is normally not larger than A3.

How does the technique work?

A thermography powder is applied immediately after the print run, when the surface is still moist. This powder is made of synthetic resin and only sticks to the newly applied ink. Afterwards, under the influence of great heat, it melts with the ink, forms a transparent coating and gains in volume in the process. This creates a relief. Transparent powder or special powder in metallic, pearlescent, neon, etc. can be used. You can also experiment creating your own special mix.

Relief printing is also suitable for small print runs, because no extra tools need to be made. The hourly output is up to 4,000 sheets, which enables you to handle larger print runs.

All calendered papers (calendered natural papers or coated papers) with a grammage of at least 90 g/m2 are suitable.

Finishing highly absorbent papers is less easy, since the ink is absorbed quickly, which prevents the development of homogenous relief printing results. Synthetic materials, for example envelopes with a foil window, are not suitable because they melt under the influence of heat.

How do you see the future of this method?

The technology of relief printing is fully developed. However, there is still scope for innovations for the special thermo powder. Smaller US-American and British manufacturers frequently experiment with quite whacky powder qualities. 

Printing house

Printing houses with offering for Relief Printing

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