Graphics Form the Difference
In rewriting the definition, Joliet Pattern has successfully parlayed its distortion printing capabilities into award-winning point-of-purchase designs. The company recently won 2001 POPAI OMA bronze awards for its Ronald McDonald Happy Meal Merchandiser, 65-inch Coca-Cola Bottle Display, E&J Gallo “Wild Vines” Bottle and McDonald‘s/Coca-Cola “Synergy” logo wall display — all of which involved distortion printing on the displays.
Joliet Pattern is one of a few companies in the metropolitan Chicago area to offer distortion printing. “It’s a very inexact process, so you need to have very skilled artists and production staff,” says Andy Wood, owner.
Approximately 100 people are employed at the Joliet, IL-based facility. Inside the plant, 17,200 square feet of space is devoted to screen printing and screen making; 8,800 to case goods and other finishing,; 5,800 to vacuum forming and heat sealing; 15,000 to storage; and 3,400 square feet to graphic arts,plastic mold tool and die casting die area and the office.
Joliet Pattern offers a range of screen and digital printing services. A Lüsher 126-inch by 118-inch JetScreen computer-to-screen imaging system enables the company to create projects in-house without film. According to Wood, this will greatly decrease the turnaround time, from concept to completion, on any given project. “Nine months ago we purchased the direct-to-plate machine. Today, approximately half our jobs are filmless,” Wood says.
A recently purchased Vutek printer runs large format digital projects, such as a 40-foot by 10-foot NASCAR banner on flexible material. Because of the company’s success in using the equipment, Joliet Pattern was chosen to be a beta site for a new Vutek printer capable of printing 72 inches wide by any length, and onto 1-inch thick media.
The company also has nine additional screen printers with UV curing units. The UV units are equipped with proprietary lamps “which make the ink more flexible,” he adds.
According to Wood, Joliet Pattern can print onto a variety of media using multiple formats, including four-color process, reverse/second surface, vignettes/tints, two-sided and backlit. Commonly used media includes: flexible and rigid plastics, vinyls, static cling vinyls, paper and card stocks, fabrics, hardboard, metal, PVC and glass.
“While some materials work better than others, in general we really haven’t found anything we can’t print on yet. The material we use generally depends on the application and the look that the customer wants,” Wood explains. “For example, Chick-fil-A came to us when they saw one of our (glossy printed) displays and wanted a similar look. But when we met with Chick-fil-A, we discussed the fact that cows really aren’t glossy, they’re more of a matte finish. This is just one example of where one look will bring in a new customer, but you have to change the substrate to fit the product.”
Special attention to detail and durability is given to each project. For the Ronald McDonald Happy Meal Merchandiser, the entire unit had to be “kid-safe, with crisp but not sharp corners and durable,” Wood says. To test its durability, he relates, the CEO of McDonald’s “took a baseball bat to it. It didn’t break, but it made us nervous there for a minute.” Joliet Pattern got the order to produce 14,000 of the displays in a seven week time period.
The polyethylene components in the merchandising unit are just some of the products formed on the company’s three MAAC thermoformers, a 48-inch by 72-inch three-station rotary and two 30-inch by 36-inch single-station models. In addition to producing parts for POP displays, Joliet Pattern also vacuum forms custom packaging, cases and promotional kits for customers including Sanford and Sobe.
After forming, excess material is trimmed either with a Thermwood Model 40 three-axis, 60-inch by 60-inch CNC router, or die cut using one of five cutters in the shop: a 39.4-inch by 98.4-inch Freeman full-head four-pillar hydraulic cutting press, a 33.5-inch by 42-inch rotary Ampak or one of three 12-inch by 24-inch Clicker presses. Kenco punch presses are on-site for cutting metals.
Finishing capabilities include sonic welding with Branson press welders, heat sealing, pad printing, foil stamping and laminating. Assembly and fulfillment services are also available. “We offer complete manufacturing and fabricating services,” Wood says. “Our customers demand good quality out the door — and our goal is to provide it. It’s hard enough to get a good account the first time — but it’s almost impossible to get it back again if you mess up. Our bottom line is our reputation,” he adds.