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What's New in the Neighborhood

Copyright © 2013 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in June 2014, Volume 39, No. 12 of The Engravers Journal
Laser Reproductions, Inc. (LRi), Skokie, IL, recently introduced natural wood that can be sublimated with colorful images. A variety of key chains can be made with the Punch’nPress key chain stamper from Johnson Plastics, Minneapolis, MN.

   I am constantly looking for something new. A new process, a new product or even a new way of marketing. You are probably no different because we never know what new “thing” will open up a world of profitable new business. This article is about the new things I’ve found over the past six months or so as manufacturers and distributors have been busy introducing their new lines for 2014. A few of these things may not be totally new to you, but they were to me so I have included them in my list. The folks at EJ and I hope you find something in this list that helps make you money and helps make your job a little easier.
   Punch’nPress Key Chain Stamper: One of the newest devices on the market, and probably one of the most heavily advertised in 2014, is a key chain maker from Johnson Plastics, Minneapolis, MN. This inexpensive device brings far more to the market than just another way to make a key chain as it begins to open up an area of marketing our industry knows very little about—impulse buying with immediate production.
   The majority of the products we make and sell in our industry are items that people have to come back to the shop to pick up or that we have to ship to them. They place their order one day and pick up the product, or we ship it to them, several days later. There’s not really much we can do about that but…. This new device allows personalized key chains to be made “on the spot” in a couple of ways. For example, a typical school picture is just the right size for some of the key fobs offered for use with this machine. You can also design a quick graphic in CorelDRAW and send it to a printer, and you have all you need to make a personalized key chain—in about a minute.
   The way this works is simple. The punch comes with two dies. One trims the paper insert to the correct size and shape. Once the insert is punched, it only takes a second to remove the first die and insert the second. This die applies pressure to a clear plastic cover piece over the insert in the key fob. As pressure is applied, the clear plastic cover pops into place to create the finished key chain. Multiple dies are sold (in matching sets) for different styles of key fobs. Dies run about $85 per set, the key fobs are less than $1 each and the punch is $115 without any dies.
   Rack Star: The name “Rack Star” may not mean anything to you but if you have a laser engraving machine and you are called on to engrave odd-shaped products or to cut things out of sheet stock, you should know about this device. It is being marketed by Rowmark LLC, Findlay, OH, through Rowmark distributors.

You can create curved photo plaques by sublimating ChromaLuxe photo panels from Condé Systems, Mobile, AL, and then forming them into an arc shape using a roller from Accucutter Company, Carlisle, PA.

   Rack Star is a modular laser cutting table designed to easily secure unusual and odd-shaped parts for laser marking and cutting. It is available in a variety of sizes to match the most common sizes of laser engraving tables available in the industry. The Rack Star features aluminum rails with cone-shaped pins that can be adjusted to hold items of different shapes and sizes, and in different orientations. The table can also be used with fixtures such as acrylic risers and V-blocks (included). The V-blocks, for example, have holes that align with the cone-shaped pins to hold items like wine glasses, baseball bats and flashlights. Custom fixtures are also available from Rowmark or you can make your own. With an appropriate jig, you can easily use this table for engraving multiple items at once, such as several coffee mugs or a large quantity of pens, with accurate and repeatable positioning.
   In addition, the Rack Star also functions as a vector cutting table. The rails can be adjusted to provide support across the bottom of a sheet of engraving stock for cutting. The low contact cone-shaped pins hold the material level and in place away from the engraving table, which greatly reduces the chance of reflection from the laser beam onto the bottom of the item being cut. This is especially nice for cutting wood and acrylic sheet stock.
   New CHE Heat Presses: First Edition Screenprinting, Pittsburg, KS, has introduced the CHE Splitters, two new heat presses designed for applying heat transfers to garments. First Edition Screenprinting is the custom transfer division of Cliff Hix Engineering (CHE), a company that was founded in 1991 by Cliff Hix and specializes in screen printing equipment.
   The new presses are being touted as three machines in one because a major design feature is that the presses include three interchangeable “quick change” cantilevered platens (shirt, bag and single sleeve platen). No tools are required to change the platens; simply slide one off and replace it with another.
   The other useful feature is that, unlike other heat presses, this one has a platen that cantilevers out from its base. This makes it very easy to split a shirt over the platen which can be a useful feature, particularly when applying transfers to both sides of the garment. On most presses, you need to lay the garment on the platen to press it but the problem with this is that if a heat transfer has already been applied to one side of the garment, it will receive the same amount of heat as the side being pressed and this can cause serious problems.
   Two models of the press are currently available. The CHE-2400Q Splitter is a manual press that includes 15" x 15", 8" x 12" and 5" x 14.5" cantilevered platens, a hydraulic controlled opening and a three-year warranty. The second model, the CHE-2800Q Splitter, is a good deal larger and is air operated (opens automatically). It features 8" x 12", 5" x 14.5" and 16" x 20" platens. At 69 pounds, the 15" x 15" manual press is light enough to be considered portable. The 16" x 20" press checks in at 145 pounds and requires an air compressor.

The Rack Star from Rowmark LLC, Findlay, OH, is a modular laser cutting table that can be used for holding a wide variety of odd-shaped items and for vector cutting completely through materials.

   Tape Dispensers: Innotec of Wisconsin, Inc., Racine, WI, has introduced two new tape dispensers that are really cool. One is a must-have especially for people who do a lot of sublimation. These electronic dispensers, named “Daisy” and “Duke” (a little humor there I think), join “JR” and each offers a variety of features to save a ton of time and expensive tape for anyone who uses a fair amount of tape for plaques, trophy plates or sublimation.
   The one I really want to talk about is the most expensive (of course) and the coolest—Daisy. Daisy has a unique feed system that places the tape on a rotating carousel as it is dispensed for easy removal. As tape is removed, another piece is added automatically. Daisy will provide pieces of tape up to 1.5" wide and 2.5" long.
   The other new dispenser is Duke, a straight-line dispenser. It can dispense from one or two rolls of tape at the same time, offering two pieces each time the device advances. Like Daisy, it works with both single and double coated tapes. Duke can work with widths from 1/4" to 2.5" and in lengths up to 39".
   JR, the veteran device, is still the least expensive version and can also dispense from one or two rolls simultaneously, works only with double coated tapes 1/4" to 1.5" wide and can provide lengths from 3/4" to 39". It is intended for the first-time buyer. I would suggest investing a little more money if you can and go for the Daisy. I want to put one on my desk and just watch it all day!
   Sublimating on the Curve: Condé Systems, Mobile, AL, has devised a way to sublimate curved pictures! Well, actually, it isn’t as magical as it might sound. The pictures are actually sublimated onto a flat substrate, such as .050" ChromaLuxe metal photo panels. Where the curve enters the picture is after you fashion the flat sublimated piece into a curve using a metal rolling device such as that built by Accucutter Company, Carlisle, PA. The Accucutter rolling device has been around for decades and was originally used for making trophy columns. Of course, today few people make their own columns but the device is still available for around $400 and it is perfect for forming those ChromaLuxe photo panels so they will stand on their own. Small panels make great pictures for a desk while larger ones work well in a bookcase or on top of a hutch.
   Sublimatable Ribbon: Sublimatable ribbon has been around for years but I haven’t found a type that works very well. Condé Systems has now introduced ribbon that really works. Condé is now offering both white grosgrain ribbon (which is ribbed/textured) and white satin ribbon in .625", .875", 1.5", 2.25" and 3" widths and 36" lengths. The company also offers 4" wide ribbon in grosgrain. Although polyester should sublimate easily, I have worked with a number of polyester satin ribbons in the past and had marginal results with them. This new ribbon has done a much better job than anything I have ever tested. This type of ribbon makes excellent personalized hair ribbons.
   Wonder Flock: A new product, at least to me, for applying rhinestones to garments is “Wonder Flock” from Digital Art Solutions, Tempe, AZ. This transfer material can be cut using a vinyl cutter and makes applying rhinestones to a garment much easier than many of the other products on the market. The flock-like material helps hold the rhinestones in place and the dark color makes them easy to see.




LRi is now offering sublimatable napkins that can be used for a variety of applications.

This sublimatable belt and belt buckle from LRi is one of the new unique products available for sublimation.

Both male and female gymnastics resins are now available from Freeman-CMA, Parsippany, NJ.

   Gallery Wrap: A hot new trend in the personalized products market right now is to transfer photos to canvas to create custom artwork that can be hung in a home, office, etc. Johnson Plastics has introduced “Gallery Wrap” which is a do-it-yourself kit that involves sublimating an image onto canvas and then stretching the canvas over a wood frame, with the image extending around the edges of the frame as well. This eliminates the need for a picture frame and creates a classy piece of artwork ready to hang on a wall.
   A corner guide starter kit is required for assembling the frames, which includes four corner guides, 4 oz. of glue and ten pins for fastening the wood frame together. Sizes available are 8" x 10" and 11" x 14" as kits. Pairs of stretcher bars in 8", 10", 11" and 14" lengths are also
   Sublimated Fishing Lures: Surely you jest, but no. The world of unique sublimatable products continues to expand and now Johnson Plastics has introduced fishing lures that can be sublimated with images and messages. The lures are available in white or silver and are commonly referred to as “spoon lures.” Each features a treble hook, jump ring and plastic storage box. Be the first on your block to try one out—or better yet, be the first in your town to sell these for either personal use or as a promotional product.
   Tile Display Stands: Another addition to the personalized products market is tile display stands from Johnson Plastics. These stands offer a modern look, rod iron feel and a great way to display sublimated ceramic tiles in a 45 degree position. This makes the stand unique in the sublimation industry since most stands hold tiles in a horizontal position. The stands come in two sizes. The small one works for 4" and 6" tiles while the larger one holds 6" to 12" tiles.
   Sublimatable Napkins: Laser Reproductions, Inc. (LRi), Skokie, IL, adds to the growing selection of sublimatable products with new sublimatable napkins. These microfiber cloths are 10.5" x 16.5" with serge-finished edges (edge seams are encased in thread). LRi suggests washing them in cold water and tumble drying or laying them flat to dry. I can think of all kinds of applications for these. How about personalized napkins for a wedding, baby shower, graduation, retirement, etc.?
   Sublimatable Belt: Also from LRi is a sublimatable web belt with a buckle. These belts are inexpensive, costing about $4 each for the belt and $6 for the buckle. The belts can be printed on both sides and multiple belts can be used with a single buckle. The buckle requires a support block for sublimating ($2) and can be sublimated with a monogram, an image to match the belt or any other text or image. The polyester belt is 1.5" wide and 47.5" long. Web belts can be cut down to whatever length is needed.
   Sublimatable Jewelry: Sublimatable jewelry isn’t anything new to the industry, but some of the materials and designs from LRi are. There are too many options to discuss here, so I suggest you check them out on LRi’s website. Sublimatable jewelry is great for Mother’s Day, Christmas and birthdays but also consider offering them to groups like Compassionate Friends where a jewelry item featuring a photo of a lost child is worth its weight in gold and then some.


LaserFlex from LaserBits, Phoenix, AZ, is an interesting new product that allows you to create custom heat transfers with your laser.

Johnson Plastics has introduced sublimatable fishing lures, just one more unique product for personalization.

The pet market is booming which makes pet urns, like these from LovedPet, Royal Oaks, CA, potential hot sellers in your business.

   Sublimatable Business Cards: LRi now offers an ultra-thin sublimatable metal cut in the shape and size of a business card. These cards are made of. 008" thick white aluminum and measure 21/8" x 33/8". The metal is printable on both sides and can be used for a variety of applications, including business cards, bookmarks, playing cards, coupons, frequent buyer cards, etc. The metal cards can also be cut down to use for other applications, such as engraving plates.
   Sublimatable Wood: Is it possible to sublimate on natural wood? Yes. LRi is offering natural wood boards where the wood grain actually shows through the image, producing effects that range from rustic to natural. This makes for an interesting application for signs and art in the home or office. The laminated birch boards feature the company’s King Coat dye sub coating with a matte finish designed to create bright colors through sublimation. The wood boards can also be laser engraved. LRi’s wood photo boards are 5/8" thick with a beveled back to give them a shadow mount look. They have two keyholes to hang in either a vertical or horizontal orientation and are available in 12" x 8" or 12" x 12" sizes.
   Gymnastics Trophy Tops & Resin Figures: I don’t usually include trophy tops or resin figures in my “What’s New” articles because there are so many of them, but this year I am making an exception for one trophy figure which will be available in September and three resin figures available now from Freeman-CMA, Parsippany, NJ.
   The reason I am including them now is because in addition to being available in female gymnastics versions, they are also available in male gymnastics versions—something that is hard to find. I have already sold about 100 of the resin figures and have a pending order for the trophy figures for next year. Gymnasts are starving for new figures, trophies, resins and medals, and they want them in both male and female versions. Female gymnastics trophies are fairly easy to find, but the male gymnastics awards are another story. Freeman-CMA, however, has stepped up to the plate and introduced a small resin figure (under $2), two sizes of a larger design and will be offering a really nice trophy figure in the fall.
   Pet Urns: The pet business is huge and those of us in the personalized products business have only scratched the surface. I ran across a company called LovedPet, Royal Oaks, CA, at a trade show recently and was very impressed with both the people and the products. They make a variety of wood pet urns that can be sized to hold anything from a small cat to a horse. Urns are offered in four wood species, including walnut, cherry, oak and maple. Designs vary, but most can be personalized with either sublimation or laser engraving and a pre-cut mat can be added to highlight photographs and engraved plates. Laserbits, Phoenix, AZ, also offers wood pet urns.
   In addition to the wood urns, LovedPet offers other unique styles of urns as well. For example, cat lovers will appreciate two designs that feature a sculpture of a cat on a wooden base. There are also several urn designs that mimic rocks and are made of faux granite. All have an area for engraving and can be ordered on line.
   LaserFlex: LaserBits has introduced a really unique product called LaserFlex heat transfer sheets. This unique product, which is available in nine colors, allows you to use your laser to create a colored transfer that can then be applied to fabric using a heat press. Basically, you create a design in CorelDRAW, invert it so the correct portions of the image will be engraved away and create a vector outline around the image. During engraving the laser vaporizes the colored sheet leaving the transfer image and the white release liner paper intact, and the image is vector cut from the heat transfer sheet. Next, you press the transfer and a garment in a heat press, and remove the liner paper to reveal the colored image on the garment. The result is an image that looks like it was screen printed, only better because there is no weeding involved and, unlike screen printing, you can use it for short run jobs.



Gallery Wrap from Johnson Plastics is a new way to create custom wall art.

The Punch’nPress Key Chain Stamper from Johnson Plastics is a convenient tool for making personalized key chains on the spot.

A new technique from USA Rhinestones, Fort Worth, TX, allows creating rhinestone designs on garments that appear to light up.

   The Hardwoods: “The Hardwoods” from Rowmark is a selection of real wood sheet stock that can be used for a wide variety of projects, signs, architectural projects and awards. Available in 1/8" and 1/4" thicknesses, the 12" x 24" panels come in red oak, walnut, cherry and maple. These unfinished panels are sanded smooth and are ready to engrave or cut with a laser. They can also be engraved with a rotary engraver.
   Light-Up Rhinestones: Are you or your customers into rhinestones? Well, here is one of the neatest rhinestone products I’ve ever seen: Rhinestones that light up! Actually, the rhinestones don’t light up but they have fiber optic light channels scattered throughout the design which makes it look like the rhinestones are illuminated. A small battery pack is hidden somewhere in the garment. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can do in your shop but you can send your rhinestone garment or your design to USA Rhinestones, Fort Worth, TX, and they can put the optic fibers in for you. I priced the American flag shown in the photo accompanying this article and it wasn’t out of line at all. Of course, the size and garment causes the price to vary. The owners told me the machine that works this wonder cost them over $100,000 so we aren’t likely to see it being sold to engraving shops anytime soon.
   CorelDRAW X7: It’s that time again. Corel Corporation has released version X7 of CorelDRAW, the graphic design software most of us use. There are lots of sources for this product and prices vary wildly, so shop around. Remember, too, that you can buy the upgrade version if you have a previous X version of the software (X4, X5 or X6). Educational versions are also available for those who are enrolled in college level classes and some other situations. This is a big savings if you qualify. This time, a “cloud version” is also available for $198 per year ($16.50 per month). This allows a single user to access the program from multiple computers. Version X7 upgrade features include a number of enhancements with fills, fonts and the workspace. For more detailed information about changes, go to: http://www.corel.com/static/product_content/cdgs/x7/CorelDRAW
GraphicsSuiteX7_ComparisonChart_en.pdf. Also, watch for future articles about the new version of CorelDRAW in upcoming issues of EJ.
   Remember, too, that if you use plug-in programs from companies like Laser Jump Start, Nampa, ID, or Digital Art Solutions, your plug-ins may not work with the new Corel version. Check with the individual software providers for information about upgrades to their programs.
   Lightroom 5: This is a new version of Adobe Lightroom. Intended for people who use and store lots of bitmaps, this program is becoming a mainstay among sublimators and photographers. Capable of not only locating photos quickly, it can also perform many of the complex tasks of Photoshop both quickly and easily without the expense of owning Photoshop. Although it does require a learning curve, it is much easier to learn than Photoshop and training is available on YouTube for free. Cost is about $109 from www.amazon.com.


Innotec of Wisconsin, Racine, WI, offers several electronic tape dispensers that can save you time.

   Sublimation App: Condé Systems is introducing a new app designed to help turn social media traffic into orders for personalized products. The cost of the iPersonalyze app is only about $30 per month with a one-time $200 setup charge. The iPersonalyze app is designed to give digital decorators the ability to sell custom sublimated products through a branded Facebook Page, company website or showroom kiosk. As a business owner, you are able to select, price and manage your products using an online dashboard that provides access to all customer files, orders and shipping addresses while also tracking sales and providing marketing tips. Once a customer places an order, he or she can proceed to a checkout page to pay for it via PCI DSS, which accepts all major credit cards and PayPal.
   It’s exciting to periodically write these “What’s New” articles because it goes to show that our industry is, indeed, moving forward and branching onward toward new areas. As you can see, there’s a lot happening in the areas of sublimation, laser engraving, awards, personalized products and more. This article is not, of course, all-inclusive but it does provide you with a look at what’s new in the industry. Perhaps you found just what you needed to give your business a boost! Or maybe you found another new product that is making your life a whole lot easier. In any case, be sure to let us know. We’d love to hear from you!