Friday, September 13, 2013

Business Forms Bound In Books

Even in today's technologically driven world there is still a great demand for business forms bound in books. From corner cafes to construction sites to retail merchants, many businesses still rely on this type of business form for the storage and transmission of mission critical information. These books are available both as multi-part snap-out carbonless forms or in bond and tag paper types.  Business form books can be dropped from great heights, spilled on, and handled with greasy or dirty hands and still continue to fulfill their function.

Business form books can be divided into 4 basic types. These are the the wrap-around book, the triad book, the flyleaf book, and coil or spiral bound books. Typically the form will have a perforated stub to allow it to be removed from the book. If a part of the form set needs to remain in the book, that part should not be perforated. The stub area of the book is stapled to bind the forms in the cover. Normally a piece of chipboard is added to the back of the book to provide additional stiffness.


A wrap-around cover is composed of a single piece of 150lb manila tag that has been scored in 4 places to allow the book to wrap-around the business forms that are bound in the book. These scores vary in width according to the thickness of the number of forms to be bound into the book. Wrap-around covers encompass the entire form, allowing for a portion of the cover to be inserted between sets to prevent image transfer between more than one set.


A triad cover is composed of two pieces of 150lb manila tag. One piece of tag is scored in two places allowing it to wrap-around the book and provide for insertion into the book to prevent image transfer between more than one set of forms. The short piece of tag is the cover for the forms. This type of book allows the short cover to be imprinted with information such as form name, numbers contained in the book, instructions on filling out the form or any other information you need to have readily accessible. The cover can be printed both front and back. You can also utilize other heavy weight cover stock for the cover and print the cover in process color (CMYK) or spot colors (PMS). Colored stocks can be used to allow various books to be easily differentiated. For a more finished look the stub area can be taped.


The most basic of covers is the fly-leaf. It is composed of one piece of 150lb manila tag and a piece of chipboard. The tag cover can be printed as in the triad cover above. There is often a piece of chipboard added to the back if carbonless forms are being used to insert between sets to prevent image transfer. As with the triad, other materials can be used to replace the manila tag for the cover.


Forms can be bound in books using coil binding, which is also known as spiral binding. It also can be used for any book that you want to be able to lie flat, such as cookbooks, instruction manuals, musical scores, and so on. Coil binding is composed of either metal or plastic coil that looks similar to a spring. The coil is fed through specially punched holes and then is cut to size and crimped to keep the coil from backing out of the holes. When coil binding is used for business forms there is usually a 150 lb Manila Tag cover with a chipboard backer. Covers may also be scored, as with the triad cover, to provide a division between the form sets for writing. Coil binding provides a book that will lie open and flat and is useful for many applications. The cover of this book may also be printed as in the triad book covered above.

Three pieces of equipment are required for coil binding. A punch is used to create the holes along the edge of the document. Then a coil inserter is used to thread the coil through the holes in the cover. Some shops choose to do this step by hand. Finally the end of the coil is cut to size and then must be crimped to prevent the coil from coming loose from the book. This step can be done using crimping pliers that cut and crimp the coil simultaneously or by using a machine that has been designed for this specific purpose. 

I hope that this introduction to business form books is helpful. If you need a quote for business forms bound in books please call our customer service at 800.633.1228.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What is desensitizing ink and how is it used?

               Sometimes it is imperative in a carbonless form design to have an area that does not reproduce from part to part. This area could for instance, contain a credit card number, a prescription or a social security number. To achieve this goal desensitizing ink is sometimes utilized in the area that has been chosen to not reproduce from part to part. Desensitizing ink is not analogous to spot carbon because it can only be used to block transfer in an area not to facilitate the transfer in a limited area. 


               Desensitizing ink is composed of various compounds that neutralize the Lewis acid which is encapsulated on the coated face (CF and face of CFB) of the paper. Some of the inks incorporate varnish to accomplish this. When pressure is applied in a desensitized area, no transfer should take place from part to part. Coloring such as titanium dioxide is added to the ink to make it visible to the press operator. The ink appears white and has a distinctive smell.

Design Considerations

             When designing a form that uses desensitizing ink several considerations should be kept in mind. The area to be desensitized should be set at 100% density. You can either create a specific desensitized ink in your design software or you can just choose a color such as yellow to represent the ink. With desensitizing ink less is more. It is best to keep the desensitized area to less that 40% of the total surface area of the form. The more ink you lay down the more likely you are to get offsetting or scumming and desensitize areas that you did not intend to. It is cheaper to utilize an additional plate with a block out pattern than to add a plate and desensitizing ink if your objective can be achieved by obfuscation of the information.

On The Press

             On the press the print tower closest to the front of the machine is best for desensitizing ink. It is difficult to print on the area that has been desensitized so it is best to lay this ink down last. Because of the white color of the ink you must clean the ink tower it is used in thoroughly; otherwise the last ink used will tint the ink. Some plates will not stand up to desensitizing ink. If possible you may want to acquire a sample of the ink to test with your plates. If your plate is able to be utilized with desensitizing ink you will need to carefully maintain the correct ink and water balance. Desensitizing ink usually requires more water than a typical offset ink. If you lay the ink down too heavy it will offset or scum and possibly cause transfer issues in other areas of the form.
To test the desensitized area wait for 5 minutes to allow ink to set on form, then use a coated back (CB) paper to test for mark through. Some press operators use CF Indicator Spray from Appleton (Appvion) Paper to check the desensitized area.

               Desensitizing ink is a relatively easy way to prevent transfer from part to part of a carbonless form if the guidelines above are followed.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for our trade partners so that they can understand the various aspects of carbonless forms printing. SICPA desensitizing ink is used at SEF, Inc., on our Didde offset presses in this manner.  Your equipment may vary and no guarantee is made that this will work on your press. Certain types of rollers (e.g. polyeurethane), plates and fountain solutions may not work well with desensitizing ink. Remember to check with your parts and ink vendors as to the suitability of their product on your machine.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What is variable-data printing and how can I sell it?

Variable-data is best described as data that changes on each copy of a document. It can be as simple as consecutive numbering or as complex as the changing of names, photos, offers and addresses for every piece of a large mailing. Personalization of marketing collateral using variable data can increase its overall impact on the recipient. This is usually noted by higher response rate than more generic forms of marketing. As a rule, variable data is a powerful marketing tool because of the fact that we all love the sound and sight of our own name. If I receive mail that that is addressed to “Occupant,” it usually just goes in the recycle bin. I do not open it and I do not ponder what mysteries lie inside the envelope. On the other hand, a mail piece with my name on it increases the likelihood that I will open it. But if the piece has my name on it and a special offer geared to my interest or desires and is presented in an attractive way, I will be more motivated to take a look at the offering that is being made and to respond to it.

In the example below note that each customer of Steve's Fruit and Veggie Shack is being made a different coupon offer based on past buying preferences. 

Variable-data has many more uses than just mail. If a company has a brochure that they send to prospective customers, each brochure can be personalized for each individual by using the wonders of variable-data. The brochure can then be produced in limited quantities using digital printing. Employee handbooks can be personalized for each individual, or for multiple locations using variable-data. Short run carbonless forms can be numbered using variable-data on a digital press. Many companies use preprinted shells to add variable data as they need it. The uses of variable-data are limited only by you and your customers imagination.

What do I need to know to be able to sell variable-data printing? 

First, you need an understanding of your customer and how they market themselves. Do they have marketing collateral that they are using that could benefit from the use of variable-data? If so, you will need to gather the data necessary to turn the static materials into a dynamic variable-data marketing piece. If they mail out coupons and special offers to their customers, this would be a great way to put variable-data to work. If you receive mail that has variable data and gets your attention, sell something similar to your customer if you believe it will meet a need.

Second, you are going to need a spreadsheet of the information that is going to change from piece to piece. For example, if you are doing a mailing you will need a spreadsheet that has the information broken up as follows: A column with the person’s first name, a column with the person’s last name, a column with their street address, a column for their city, a column for their state, a column for their zip code, a column for each item that will change. Remember variable data can be verbiage, images or a combination of the two. If you are going to be using variable graphics or even static ones, you will need image files for these with a resolution of at least 300 dpi. This will insure that you end up with a quality image on the end product. On this spreadsheet the last column shows that each customer prefers a different type of fruit. The photo at the top of the page corresponds to the first three rows of customers and their preferred fruit.

Third, you are going to need a printer that both understands variable-data printing and is able to produce it cost effectively. Digital printing has opened the door to a myriad of possibilities for the use of variable-data printing. The problem is that few people understand how to use this print option effectively. The days are gone when you just needed a printer; now you need a partner who can hold your hand in the uncertain days in which print is going through. 

Fourth, never stop learning. Always be open to new ideas and possibilities. Variable printing can be a powerful tool. It takes you out of just selling print and into the realm of marketing. This gives you the power to increase you customer’s bottom line if done well. Instead of being an expense, printing can be turned into a money generating machine.

Fifth, start small and then move on to bigger and more complex product offerings. As you learn more, your confidence will grow. Explore the possibilities of variable-data printing and share them with your customers. Develop the habit of constantly being on the lookout for ideas that could benefit your customers using the magic of variable-data printing.

This is just a rudimentary introduction to variable-data printing. I hope that it gives you idea of what variable-data printing is about and the possibilities it presents for growing your business. Below are a few links to tell you more about variable-data. If you would like to discuss a project, call our customer service representatives at 800.633.1228.

For more information on variable-data printing check out these links.

Adobe presents several examples of variable-data printing here.

There is an article on variable-data printing at Wikipedia.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What security features are available on checks and other business forms?

Check fraud causes hundreds of millions of dollars in financial damage to companies yearly. It is in their best interest to make sure that all their negotiable documents are as secure as possible against alteration and copying. Prescriptions are another item that is often copied or forged. The best approach to make sure a document is legitimate is through the use of multiple security features to keep unauthorized copies of the document being passed off as the original. Using paper that has alteration protection manufactured in provides another level of protection . A tried and true methodology most often used to provide a secure document is the strategy known as security feature stacking.

Stacking is when multiple security features are applied to a document to prevent unauthorized use. An example would be the use of a void pantograph, micro-printing, and watermarked paper. A warning band should be added to the document to alert the person receiving the document of the security features that have been used on the document.

Some Common Document Security Features

Warning Bands: Imagine having the worlds best alarm system, but you never turn it on. You can have all the security features available on a check and if no one knows about it, what good does that do? This is where a warning band comes into play. The warning band tells the receiver of the check to verify if the listed features are actually there on the document. If you are going to stack the features on a document, it does little good unless the receiver of the check or other document is aware of what safety features are integrated into the document. Usually the warning band is placed across the top of a document and it has a listing of the security features that you have chosen to incorporate into the document.

Colored Backgrounds: Many documents are produced with a background printed in a density of 10% or less in a color that contains no black or red. Typically a background produced in this manner will not copy if the document is scanned. This works best if a back and white printer is used to print the document.

Big Dot Little Dot and other Optical Screens: The venerable big dot little dot system is still used to produce void pantographs. Other systems have been developed with varying success. All of these systems have a certain propensity to fail at some level. This reinforces the need for the stacking of security features. If one fails you have a back up.

Water Marked Paper: One of the most secure methods of insuring that a document is the original is the use of water marked paper. A water mark can be a true (Fourdrinier), or an artificial water mark. 

True Water Marks: A true water mark (Fourdinier) is produced by a special roller as the paper is being manufactured.  This mark becomes apparent when the paper is held up to light and is visible from the front or back of the document. A true watermark is difficult to reproduce. It cannot be be duplicated on either a scanner or a copier. The supply chain on most security paper is controlled by the manufacturer, keeping the product out of the hands of all but legitimate printers. A large buyer of water marked stock can have the mill produce a custom water mark for them. 

Artificial Water Marks: An artificial watermark can be produced by printing a pattern on the back of a document with transparent white or a coin reactive transparent white ink. To view the water mark image, the back of the  document is usually tilted at a 45 degree angle to the light source in the room. Artificial watermarks can be words, logos or images. This allows for customization of the product while supplying a security feature at the same time. This water mark can only be viewed on the side on which they have been printed. This is usually the back of the form.

Click here to learn more about business form paper.

Click here for case studies on Appleton Docucheck security papers.

Coin Reactive Ink: Coin reactive inks change color or become visible when scratched with a coin. This feature is often incorporated into transparent white ink used to produce artificial water marks. Coin reactive ink is a security feature that cannot be scanned or copied. It is often used on prescription pads to provide an easy verification of an original document at the pharmacy.

Colored and Ultraviolet Visible Fibers: Some security papers are produced with visible fibers as part of the manufacturing process. The most commonly used fibers are red and blue colored. There is often the addition of fibers that are visible only under ultraviolet light. This is limited in effectiveness to those recipients that have an ultraviolet light source on hand. Colored fibers can be copied or scanned.

Chemical Reactive Paper: Security papers often have the ability of react to common solvents that are being used to remove ink from a security document. Most often they turn a particular color in the area where the solvent was utilized. This gives a visual warning that the document has been altered. 

Erasure Protection: Erasure protection makes it more difficult to remove the ink that the check was signed or written with.

Toner Fast Paper: When a document is printed, the ink seeps into the fibers of the paper and in essence becomes a part of the fiber. When a document is produced using toner, the toner lies on top of the fiber. Some of the toner adheres to the fibers but usually can be scraped off by a diligent individual. Toner fast paper has been manufactured so that toner more readily adheres to the document and cannot be easily removed.

Micro-printing: Type set at a size of 1 point or less. The type appears to be a line to the naked eye. When magnified the type can be clearly read. It is very difficult to copy or scan a document that will have readable micro-printing. When used on a document as a line it is usually indicated by MP at the end of the micro-print line. This feature of course only works if the recipient has a  magnifier of sufficient strength to see the micro-print clearly.

Printed Backer: A backer can be printed on the document with verbiage that notifies the receiver that this document is an original document. This is accomplished by using an ink that doesn’t copy well, such as a light gray. Many documents also include micro-printing on the backer as another level of security against unauthorized duplication.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does provide an overview of different options for producing a secure document. Remember it is of little value to add security features if no one is aware that they are there. Use a warning band to get the message across that an effort has been made to protect this document. Let thieves look for easier pickings than your security feature stacked document.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Display of various carbonless business forms

What Are Carbonless Business Forms?

Carbonless business forms at their most basic are simply ink applied in planned repetitive patterns on specially treated paper. Or as I have heard some dismissive printers say, “It is just ink on paper.” The way we choose to look at things has a profound effect upon how we actually perceive them. It is only by great effort that we can look beyond the caterpillar and see a butterfly, glorious in its painted wings, floating effortlessly through a clear blue sky. Carbonless business forms seem to be merely a commodity that is sold without much thought about what they are and how they are used.

On the SEF, Inc. Website, (Click Here), you will find this definition:“A business form at its most basic is a document that is used to collect, store, or transfer information that can be used to manage business or other processes. It is usually printed on paper and has collection fields printed upon it for information to be entered in.” It is a cold and lifeless definition that needs to be expanded upon.

I became involved in the business forms industry at the tender age of 16, operating a New Era press and manufacturing computer punch cards. I moved on to various shops and types of printing, but we were always putting ink on some type of paper. Fortunately, I was taught to take pride in my work and see it not only as a representation of my customer’s image, but as a reflection upon myself as a craftsman. A carbonless form not only represents the company that uses it but also the individuals that produced or procured it. Consider what type of carbonless forms or other printing that you are putting your dealer imprint on. Do they not cast a reflection, good or bad, upon you and your company by the quality of the item produced at your behest? Should they not be the best, as they not only identify your customer but also yourself?

When I pick up a carbonless form or any other printed matter the first thing I look at is the quality of the copy. Is it clear and crisp? Or is it a form that has been shot by cameras and scanned until it is skewed and the letters are starting to fill in? Are the images clear? From this perusal I begin to form an opinion of the company that the form represents. Many times companies are content with quality that is inferior to what can be produced today. They do not perceive that the inferior form is a reflection on their image. They see it as a necessary evil, or only a piece of paper with ink on it.

I remember a medical form that we were printing around ten years ago for a distributor whose client was a hospital in a small town in Alabama. The quality of the form was terrible to the point that I decided if I was in the vicinity of that hospital, I would do all in my power to stay out of it. We gave them a quote to reset their form but the customer refused it. I marveled that a medical facility had no concern for clarity and accuracy in its medical forms. Carbonless forms may be at times all that stand between you and life or death. Is it clear? Is it legible? Will the doctor or the person in the lab understand what information is being conveyed? The answer is, we all hope so, when the patient in need of care is us. Complacency in small details often belies a contempt for greater things.

In a carved wooden box on my dresser, where various memories are stored, for many years lay a canary second sheet from a carbonless business form. It was from Friedman’s Jewelers in High Point, North Carolina. It was hand written and recorded the purchase of a certain diamond ring many years hence. This was to be the engagement ring of the young lady who would one day be my wife. Often times I would take that form from the box and I was transported back in time as a young printer standing at a jewelry counter trying to pick out the perfect ring. A ring that could be bought with his limited resources, and yet be appreciated by his bride to be. Thirty two years later the ring is still there, the symbol of our happy years together. A symbol that began as an agreement with a jewelry company on a carbonless business form.

Carbonless business forms are more than ink on paper. They are the image of a company or organization and even of those who produced or procured it; they are life or death; they are a memory that brings pleasure or pain. When a customer hands you a form to reproduce, remember these things. It is more than ink on paper because we choose to see beyond the necessity to the possibilities that exist in that simple piece of paper. Cast off complacency, and become an advocate for excellence in carbonless business forms and all other types of printing. What are carbonless forms? More than you ever imagined.