Sign & Digital Graphics

November '12

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Breakthroughs in printing technology have added leather to the many sub- strates available to sign shops. "Laser engraving on leather products has been a growing market for us," says Michael Erwin, vice president at Wausau Awards & Engraving, Wausau, Wis. "We laser engrave light colored leather including wallets, portfolios, journal covers, and more." The shop does their engraving on a 40 and a 60 watt machine from Universal Lasers Systems. Erwin explains that the process of laser engraving is where a laser burns text, logo or design into the leather. "In the laser engraving process on leather, we can burn any text, logo, or design that we can setup on the com- puter," he says. "The quality of the final imprint depends on the original artwork. If you have a vector format file of a logo, that quality will be very good. High qual- ity JPG files work as well." He says that laser engraving on leather works best on light or brown colored leathers. For visibility from a distance, light colored (tan, white, light brown, medium brown) seem to work best. For reproducing photos or detailed artwork (reproduced as a half-tone print like newspaper images) you almost invariably need a hard-surfaced high-quality leather that is light in color," he says He points out that they have found that dark colored leathers (black and deep brown) don't provide much con- trast. sive screen printing. With our process it is possible to create truly unique custom leather pieces—one piece at a time—or do large production runs—whether it be footwear, furniture, book covers, car seat covers, clothing or accessories." Gevorkian points out that their pro- prietary process allows them to create leather goods with consistent, durable graphics on leather—any leather, be that crust, coated, dyed and everything in between. "Handbags, boots, shoes or jackets... everything we produce is custom made," Gevorkian says. "We can even put images on exotic skins such as python, alligator, snake and ostrich. Our process is direct onto leather so we don't have to use a laminator. Once applied, the image bonds permanently to the leather, becoming part of it. It will retain the natural beauty and the feel of leather with added benefit of full color image on top of it. "This process allows for both short custom runs as well as long production runs. And it's eco-friendly—there are no solvent inks or laminating films applied to leather. There are no size limita- tions—except the size of the skin. We can put images on leather panels as well as pre-cut patterned pieces," he concludes. Engraving Leather by Laser In addition to digital printing, laser engraving is another way to apply graph- ics to leather. 64 • November 2012 • SIGN & DIGITAL GRAPHICS "For black leather, we usually rec- ommend engraved metal plates affixed to the surface which can hold either text or logos," Erwin says. "The specific nature of your leather item determines the manner of engraving, embossing, or debossing we will be able to perform on the item." Primarily we use leather products provided by the customer. Laser Bits (www.laserbits.com) sells a variety of real leather products that work well for laser engraving; we use some of their plaque plates and tags from time to time. Laser Bits also sells Fiebing's Leather Sheen, which we use in some cases to seal or finish off the engraving. The necessity of that really depends on the leather itself," he concludes. SDG SPECIALTY IMAGING DIGITAL GRAPHICS

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