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"Print on demand"

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jwarrend
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In the thread about "production costs", both Lee and FastLearner mentioned a printing technology called "print on demand." I know very little about how games are printed, but my sense is that it involves some sort of photographic plate (which is why there is a large setup cost) whereas there's now a digital technology that doesn't have the attendant setup costs.

But, my understanding is also that the digital technology is only for books, and can't be used to print cards, game boards, or tiles.

Does anyone understand the technologies enough to give us a brief description of how they work? I'm curious as to what prevents the digital technology from being used on game materials (cards, etc) and whether there's any prospect on the horizon for extending the technology to those materials. I know that if the large setup costs could be removed, a large obstacle to small print runs would be lifted (and that may or may not be a good thing...)

Thanks for any info anyone can provide!

Best,

Jeff

VeritasGames
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Re: "Print on demand"

jwarrend wrote:

But, my understanding is also that the digital technology is only for books, and can't be used to print cards, game boards, or tiles.

Some of the larger scale ink jet printers can print on up to 24 point cover stock. You can make tiles, one-piece boards, etc. The problem with the ink jet printers is cost. Ink jet printers need special stocks with a gel receptor layer for inks. Thick stock like that, particularly C2S (coated two sides) has been manufactured, but mostly in labs. It works, but there's almost no demand for it, and so custom manufacturing it is wildly expensive.

Without that custom stock, however, you could use ink jet technology combined with various types of laminating technology then ink jet printers (the big ones) can be used with thinner stocks which are subsequently laminated. You'd do something like:

laminating film + card face + double-sided adhesive layer + card back + laminating film

The cost was generally prohibitive, although we figured a way to streamline the process. It's the sort of thing where you HAVE TO own your own equipment to avoid going bankrupt making 2 decks of cards. It was even viable for direct sales. Just not viable at all for any form of mass market sales -- to expensive.

We have researched other non-inkjet methods. Inconclusive so far. We have found a method (which my business partners would kill me over if I mouthed off about too much) to print in color for about the same price as black and white digital printing. However, we're not sure the equipment can handle stocks as thick as we need. Still working on that.

The biggest cost: the inkjet inks, and sometimes the inkjet stocks. Also, pretty labor intensive.

The technology is there. It can be done. It's questionable as to whether the price makes a game marketable. Such a setup is entirely possible and probably even desirable for some companies wanting to test market or prototype its games using high quality materials.

Quote:
Does anyone understand the technologies enough to give us a brief description of how they work?

You create a digital image. Maybe color separated. Maybe just a PDF. Maybe postscript images. All depends on the setup. You run it through a computer and send it to a digital copier, ink jet printer, or laser jet printer, or digital press. Voila -- Print on Demand.

POD books exist because there's a demand for them.

For games, the bigger companies wouldn't even consider it, because if you can sell 3000+ copies of your game offset is WAAAY cheaper. Since there's not a lot of steady demand many people have not arranged for the setup of POD for games. Games produced on somebody else's technology (Kinko's, etc.) is almost always so expensive that you can't even direct market the product.

Since you have to own your own equipment, it keeps out hobbyists, and the big companies tend to move in such volume that offset is better.

That's why you don't see this stuff. That and the technology is _just_now_ getting to where you can handle really thick stocks and reasonable ink and stock prices.

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I'm curious as to what prevents the digital technology from being used on game materials (cards, etc) and whether there's any prospect on the horizon for extending the technology to those materials.

Sometimes it is, at least in part.

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I know that if the large setup costs could be removed, a large obstacle to small print runs would be lifted (and that may or may not be a good thing...)

As noted above, the setup costs for POD are not insubstantial themselves -- they are primarily front end costs, with pretty high costs for consumables (ink, stock, etc.) as well throughout production.

If we make a breakthrough, you'll probably see some of our games via POD technology next year. If we do, we'll probably set up a service to allow gamers to custom print small runs of their games at prices which (hopefully) will be cheaper and higher quality than other methods.

Anyone who tells you the technology is not there hasn't done their homework. Anyone who tells you the price point may not be right for another 5 years may or may not be correct. Only a little more research will tell me for sure.

Lee

FastLearner
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"Print on demand"

The technology isn't there yet. I've done my homework, I'm nearly positive.

The "benchtop" equipment that I don't see is the die cutting. I mean, sure, you can POD square-cornered cards, and you can hand corner-round a bunch of cards if you want to, but the amount of labor required makes POD "real" playing cards highly improbable, AFAICT.

Die cutting for anything else of size (excluding one-at-a-time small-ish stuff like Sizzix or Ellison), especially anything thick like tiles and counters, doesn't seem to exist anywhere. Is there some piece of equipment that I'm missing, one that is "benchtop" and allows for custom dies?

-- Matthew

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

FastLearner wrote:
The "benchtop" equipment that I don't see is the die cutting.

Who said "benchtop"? Not me. "Print on demand" does not equal "benchtop". Some of the best POD machines are $80,000+ digital presses that take up an enormous amount of room. It's still a print-on-demand press, and is often the kind of POD machine used by larger printers for important jobs. If you have a die cutter and a digital press that can handle the appropriate stocks then you may have yourself a print-on-demand playing card system.

"Print on demand" simply means that you can create a single copy of something without breaking the bank and without outrageous setup costs. We had one model involving a large roll-fed printer with a takeup roll on the other end that would allow us to do custom print runs once a week for all sorts of different products and then just transfer the roll to a roll-fed laminator. Labor wasn't even stupidly high.

The amount of storage space for equipment was about half a garage, though, so this is not something that can be undertaken casually.

Now, will it be cost prohibitive? The answer is maybe. Certainly certain routes are, but we may have happened upon a technology released in the last few months that will allow it. I'll keep you posted when I'm at liberty to say more.

At least one printing company I talked to said they really wanted to do POD cards, but hadn't bought enough equipment to do it yet.

So, again, our research shows that for under $20,000 and maybe for under $10,000 you could set yourself up with the requisite equipment, but then you have to have the storage space for it and the volume to handle it.

Since you are hinting about desktop POD, though, here's what I found out.

One thing that makes it MUCH more possible is using microperforated card blanks, which is the reason I was asking for C2S poker-sized card blanks. Now, I now the cards end up with a slight fringe around the edge, but I'm not certain how much the average gamer would care. That's why I want to get some C2S microperforated blanks to test with gamers. If the cards are attractive, since so many gamers use sleeves anyway, I'm not certain that all of them would care if the cards were on nice playing card stock, had great art, and were otherwise durable.

Games like Talisman have come for years in microperforated card sheets. People love those games.

Games on 8.5" x 11" microperforated sheets would be very cost effective. One huge cost is tuck box and display box designs. If card games were packaged upright with an ad slick on the front and shrink wrapped (like Steve Jackson sells some of his old RPG counters lines) then suddenly packaging prices are cut by thousands of dollars and yet the product looks not so unlike any number of counter and tile based games and game expansions.

The trick there is to make sure, if possible, that the stock and ink type used are durable enough that a varnish coat is not required. Again, we found inkjet stock like this, but it was expensive to manufacture, very expensive. The ink was not on the surface in the gel receptor layer, but penetrated the surface and locked in below a protective coat. Outrageous. Like a self-sealing playing card stock. However, it was only available as C1S stock unless you custom ordered it, and we'd be the only people on the planet custom ordering it. Very expensive.

Since the inkjet inks were also hideously expensive, I think the stock/ink combination will end up being a non-inkjet-oriented technology. We may have happened upon that. We have tests in two weeks to find out.

I think for a professional price point you would offset the backs, microperforate the sheets, and cut them into 8.5" x 11" blocks, and then POD the faces as needed.

I found a manufacturer for a "flexible steel rule" die, but I'm trying to track down a vendor who can microperforate poker-sized cards and who already has such a die. They are rare. The die isn't even that expensive $500 - $1200. However, I'm not certain most finishing services are used to working with flexible dies, which is one reason we've held off for now.

When that happens, it will allow for desktop POD of cards if you have non-inkjet technology at your disposal.

Cards can be mailed direct in a priority mail envelope. One priority mail envelope is a flat rate for as much stuff as you can stick into it. It's not weighed, so that's good for direct sales.

My partners would kill me if I leak too much more, but I'm leaking just enough to get feedback in case somebody can contribute a missing piece to our puzzle here.

Lee Valentine

FastLearner
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"Print on demand"

That makes it a matter of perspective, then. Personally I don't consider pre-perfed cards -- even microperfed cards -- to be of final game quality.

Benchtop usually refers to equipment that's as large as the size of a complex copier, like a Docutech. Desktop usually refers to smaller equipment, as big as a large laser printer. The die cutters I've seen would take about half the garage all by themselves, so that's what I was going by. (There may be smaller die cutters -- I've only seen ones that handle full press sheets, so I may be missing something.)

If you're die cutting thin stuff (like cards), you could use a die on a standard offset press, something that fits within that half-garage just fine. You'll run through blankets pretty quickly (as the die will tear them apart), but it's not cost prohibitive. Unfortunately those kinds of dies won't cut through anything thicker -- that tends to require hydraulics.

If you want microperf cards, though, you should defnitely check out this thread:

http://www.bgdf.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=786

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

FastLearner wrote:
That makes it a matter of perspective, then. Personally I don't consider pre-perfed cards -- even microperfed cards -- to be of final game quality.

Do you then consider the dozens of games like Talsiman that come with microperforated cards to be unprofessional in their design? This seems to be pretty common with Games Workshop games (at least the older ones), many of which did not have cards that were die cut and shrink wrapped. They almost always shipped in unpunched sheets.

Do you consider the hundreds of war games with microperforated chits and tiles to be unprofessional?

I'm looking to see if your preference extends only to playing cards. I just printed a game out on "Plain cards" (C1S stock through an inkjet, backs pre-printed). They were fine. It was the uncoated stock and the poor art (PDF game from RPGNow) that bugged me, not the cards themselves. They worked fine. If I had had them in card sleeves I couldn't have cared a bit, particularly if it had been some of my favorite CCGs coming back from the dead in some POD format.

Re: equipment I think I said (maybe I didn't) that I expected our equipment to take up half a garage total. So I think we've found slightly smaller equipment than the "half a garage" die press you saw. Two of our machines were gonna be about the size of a big copier, and one was gonna be a little larger. Maybe the garages are of different sizes :-)

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If you want microperf cards, though, you should defnitely check out this thread:

Thanks, but entirely useless to me. Those cards that people wanted were uncoated. I'm interested in C2S stock. That stuff can't be used in inkjet printers. You need inkjet coated stocks or uncoated stocks. Most people here had that preference. We want C2S stock.

I've been trying to actually track down (via private emails with Tom) who the vendor is actually doing the microperforation work.

Lee

jwarrend
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"Print on demand"

While I can appreciate the detailed (and heated! nice!) discussion you guys are having, I feel that you're talking a bit over the rest of our heads. I started this thread because I lack basic knowledge about how a deck of cards, say, is commonly made. I'm hearing snippets of that process described here with a healthy amount of jargon tossed in, but would someone who really understands be willing to post a (perhaps) brief description of how a deck of cards is customarily made (including how they are "cut out") and how this process would be different in the "POD" technology? Treat us (or me, at least) like we're idiots, if you wouldn't mind...

(and don't feel you have to stop the "detailed" version of the discussion -- I'd just appreciate a more hand-holding description of the process if someone's interested/willing to provide it. Thanks!)

And, to side with Fast, I wouldn't consider a microperfed game to be of "acceptable" quality, setting aside whether it was considered "professional" (which I think is an objective-sounding word that turns out to be subjective -- better to cut right to the chase). But, Fast and I are big fans of the "German" genre of games, which are all super-high production quality. In that sense, we are snobs...(but nice snobs, naturally)

-Jeff

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

jwarrend wrote:
description of how a deck of cards is customarily made

I believe I already answered that question, at least with regards to the printing process via POD machines.

Re: offset printing -- typically on a Rollem Slipstream machine. Very expensive toy. Feed it sheets, ink, and data files. Maybe some plates. Out come playing cards. I think the thing may even shrinkwrap them.

Look here:
http://www.rollemusa.com/slitting_collating_systems.htm

At the bottom of that page is a movie of the machine in action. Groovy, huh?!

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(including how they are "cut out")

I view that as a new question, in some ways. I view the print-on-demand part of it the printing and or binding. The rest I sort of feel is "finishing" or "post processing". Highly related and required for a successful POD model (which is why we are discussing things).

In any case, you cut (ideally) by passing finished sheets through a die cutting machine (which is what we have been discussing). Think a monster cookie cutter if you don't know what a "die" is.

Alternately, you can guillotine (dropping blade) or roller cutter (giant pizza pie cutter) the sheets into rectangles and pass them through a device which rounds the corners. This method produces cards which are not all quite the same horizontal and vertical dimensions unless you are VERY lucky.

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I'd just appreciate a more hand-holding description of the process if someone's interested/willing to provide it.

Ask more detailed questions. It's sometimes unclear what people know and don't know.

Quote:
But, Fast and I are big fans of the "German" genre of games, which are all super-high production quality. In that sense, we are snobs...(but nice snobs, naturally)

Then you should be somewhere else for your game threads, or you better be willing to have a garage full of equipment. Except for one time prototyping, POD is way too expensive if somebody else does it. Just not worth it. And those somebody else's are very likely to not have a die cutting press. Even if they did, you'd have to supply them with a $300 - $500 card die to cut with. Most POD shops will guillotine cut and corner round these things. Some may not even have shrink wrapping devices.

Sometimes you can get POD and finishing done separately. Have a copy shop do the POD part, and then hire a finishing company (people who do post-processing) to cut the cards, round them, and shrink wrap them. But then it's not so POD if you have to schedule appointments with 2-3 shops, eh?

Again, without die cutting, you are paying a lot for a prototype where all the cards are not equally sized (very close, but not quite even).

So, generally, you'd use POD technology if you want a prototype in these instances.

If you want a production level game you need a die cutter and a production grade printer/copier along with matching cover stock (or playing card stocks) and inks.

If you want German-engineering, then cough up a ton of labor and half your garage and at least $7,000 for machines to do this on your own. Or do what the Germans do and offset things. In that case things will look beautiful, but every time you want to make a new game it may cost you $10,000 to $20,000. If you are only going to be able to sell 500 units of the game you'll likely lose your wallet trying to offset those games. In that case POD production may be a better option.

Take your pick.

If you want pushbutton POD production with no labor and the same quality as offset machines, then you live in the wrong universe. POD (for cards) requires some additional labor, it requires settling for microperforation, or it requires you to outsource the product for die cutting and shrink wrapping.

This latter solution (if you are using POD not to have things actually "on demand" but to allow for small runs) is the possible middle position. You get die cut cards, and nice shrinkwrapping. But you can do a fairly small number of games and still have it not break your bank. You just have some extra travel to a finishing shop.

Finishing shops charge around $50+ setup fees per service provided (die cutting, shrink wrapping, etc.). So if you tried to do this one game at a time it could cost you $200+ to produce a single prototype of the game this way once you factored in all costs of letting other people do stuff. However, if you produced 500 games at a time, and sold them direct, then taking the POD sheets from a printer to the finishing service is then more viable, because the high setup fees are divided by 500. $100 (setup die cutting and shrink wrapping) / 500 games = 20 cents a game for a setup fee.

In addition to the setup fee there's a per unit fee (per sheet chopped and shrinkwrapped), but that's not what kills you. It's the setup fees.

And the setup fees and travel time to a finishing service is what kills the "on demand" part of the print on demand technology. You still get the advantages of producing 500 units pretty cheaply though.

Lee

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

BTW -- if you want me to reply, keep the questions out of larger text blocks. I have a terrible visual impairment, and I can barely see what I type half the time, let alone, what you type.

Not required, but I'm more likely to miss details if I'm stopping by the board and everything is in a giant block of text. That's normally my problem, unless you specifically want me to reply.

Cheers,
Lee

FastLearner
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"Print on demand"

VeritasGames wrote:
FastLearner wrote:
That makes it a matter of perspective, then. Personally I don't consider pre-perfed cards -- even microperfed cards -- to be of final game quality.

Do you then consider the dozens of games like Talsiman that come with microperforated cards to be unprofessional in their design? [etc.]

Yes.

Quote:
I'm looking to see if your preference extends only to playing cards. I just printed a game out on "Plain cards" (C1S stock through an inkjet, backs pre-printed). They were fine. It was the uncoated stock and the poor art (PDF game from RPGNow) that bugged me, not the cards themselves. They worked fine. If I had had them in card sleeves I couldn't have cared a bit, particularly if it had been some of my favorite CCGs coming back from the dead in some POD format.

Yes, I consider PlainCards quality cards to be considerably sub-par.

Quote:
Re: equipment I think I said (maybe I didn't) that I expected our equipment to take up half a garage total. So I think we've found slightly smaller equipment than the "half a garage" die press you saw. Two of our machines were gonna be about the size of a big copier, and one was gonna be a little larger. Maybe the garages are of different sizes :-)

No, we're on the same wavelength. I've seen 4 or 5 different die presses and all of them were designed for full press sheets. I haven't seen smaller ones, and that's precisely what I said.

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Quote:
If you want microperf cards, though, you should defnitely check out this thread:

Thanks, but entirely useless to me. Those cards that people wanted were uncoated. I'm interested in C2S stock. That stuff can't be used in inkjet printers. You need inkjet coated stocks or uncoated stocks. Most people here had that preference. We want C2S stock.

I've been trying to actually track down (via private emails with Tom) who the vendor is actually doing the microperforation work.
Then I guess it wasn't "completely useless" to you, was it?

-- Matthew

FastLearner
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"Print on demand"

VeritasGames wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
But, Fast and I are big fans of the "German" genre of games, which are all super-high production quality. In that sense, we are snobs...(but nice snobs, naturally)

Then you should be somewhere else for your game threads,

Please, that was completely unncessary. Jeff (jwarrend) and I are far more familar with what is traditionally discussed here than you. I'm pretty sure that if someone were to look somewhere else for info it wouldn't be Jeff.

That said, we discuss all levels of game production here, from DTP to full-scale mass production, so I'm pretty sure it's all good.

Quote:
or you better be willing to have a garage full of equipment. Except for one time prototyping, POD is way too expensive if somebody else does it. Just not worth it. And those somebody else's are very likely to not have a die cutting press. Even if they did, you'd have to supply them with a $300 - $500 card die to cut with. Most POD shops will guillotine cut and corner round these things. Some may not even have shrink wrapping devices.

QED. Hence my statement that games are not ready for POD.

Obviously we're talking about different levels of quality. From my perspective, the type of cards you're talking about are equivalent to comb-binding in book POD: it's functional but lousy. Once devices like the Docutech managed to perfect-bind, POD books really took off.

Again from my perspective, POD for games of a quality similar to store-bought eurogames isn't a reality, and won't be a reality a year from now.

I do think, though, that benchtop laser cutters could make it a reality.

-- Matthew

Anonymous
Gotta chime in

Interesting thread.

I find Lee's responses rather inappropriate and outside of the intent of this forum.

This forum is intended to help each other in every aspect of game design, prototyping, production etc.

You've obviously researched everything and know better than everyone else here how to accomplish this, so I am not sure what the purpose of your posts are other than to find someone to make a micro-perf die for you.

It seems to me that if you have been able to figure everything else out, you should be able to find someone to make a simple die.

No one here knows everything. I've been manufacturing games professionally for almost a decade and I expect to learn something new everyday. I visit this forum for that reason as well as to help others who don't have the same experience as me.

Just my opinion, but your attitude does not seem to be in keeping with the rest of the community.

My 2 cents.

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

[quote="FastLearnerYes, I consider PlainCards quality cards to be considerably sub-par.

Me too. Except for playtesting.

Quote:
No, we're on the same wavelength. I've seen 4 or 5 different die presses and all of them were designed for full press sheets. I haven't seen smaller ones, and that's precisely what I said.

Exactly.

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I've been trying to actually track down (via private emails with Tom) who the vendor is actually doing the microperforation work.

Then I guess it wasn't "completely useless" to you, was it?

The thread itself was entirely useless to me. The lead to Tom may or may not be useless (although that came outside the thread, thanks for the lead).

Lee

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

FastLearner wrote:

Please, that was completely unncessary. Jeff (jwarrend) and I are far more familar with what is traditionally discussed here than you.

I meant by that quote, "you should be in the offset printing thread, not the print on demand thread, since print on demand will clearly not be for you and you may well be wasting your time researching this subject for your business beyond fulfilling curiosity."

I did not mean, "you should go to a different board and quit using BGDF."

If there was confusion on that point, my apologies. I was suggesting that the individual not waste his time giving serious inquiry into POD if it is wildy unsuited for his needs.

At this time, while I think POD games are technically feasible, they are only useful for a handful of individuals.

This is precisely why I said the following quote:

Quote:
or you better be willing to have a garage full of equipment. Except for one time prototyping, POD is way too expensive if somebody else does it.

You read my quote out of context. It was saying, "give up the notion or be willing to buy a garage full of junk, cause that's where the technology is at."

Quote:
QED. Hence my statement that games are not ready for POD.

They are if you are the one with POD equipment. If you have the die cutter yourself then it can work. If you try to outsource it, it won't. POD is possible. We may end up talking about different levels of quality.

Quote:
From my perspective, the type of cards you're talking about are equivalent to comb-binding in book POD: it's functional but lousy.

Actually, I've talked about two systems. One where you print out cards on playing card stock and die cut them yourself with all the equipment in your own garage (i.e., you setup your own POD infrastructure). Those should be high quality.

The others require outsourcing labor (getting rid of the "on demand" part) or else microperforating (reducing the quality of the product).

However, if you are willing to own the machines, the POD is possible. Whether it's cost prohibitive, we're not yet sure of.

Quote:
I do think, though, that benchtop laser cutters could make it a reality.

That is probably true.

VeritasGames
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Re: Gotta chime in

gamemaker wrote:
Interesting thread.

I find Lee's responses rather inappropriate and outside of the intent of this forum.

Unless my one sentence was miscontrued (which it might not be if you read it in context, but sorry if it was unclear), I don't think I've said anything that's particularly inappropriate.

Quote:
This forum is intended to help each other in every aspect of game design, prototyping, production etc.

Sure. It's also to warn people away from taking leaps that require too much cash or effort for their business model.

If the guy has a garage to spare and plans to produce many niche market games, then a POD printer and a die press may be for him.

If not, he should copy the notes he has and run in fear from the idea, because to have anyone else do it will be wildly expensive. And to go without the die press will, as others point out, potentially reduce quality.

Quote:
You've obviously researched everything and know better than everyone else here how to accomplish this

I'm clearly missing details. However, since I have spent several months researching ink costs, maximum stock thickness for printers, etc., I'm not completely without a clue on this.

Quote:
so I am not sure what the purpose of your posts are

Um, try "to answer the guy's questions and carry on a discussion."

If you see my posts on other threads I practically wrote up a mini-FAQ on CCG print buying. I already have a place ("Zimmer Industries") who can make the die I need. It's only about $1200. So, it's more a matter of curiosity than anything else as to whether anyone has a pre-existing die, since if I'm stuck with somebody using their own die I won't be able to shop around and get the best price.

So, I already think I'm going to get my own die if we go forward with the project. I'm just making sure that I have to.

You are way off base here, about me. One sentence in my previous post was likely misinterpreted and/or poorly written (although in context I think my intent is much clearer if you re-read it).

Quote:
other than to find someone to make a micro-perf die for you.

Please. Please. These things are so rare, that I doubt anyone on the boards knows about these other than you, and I was already discussing this off the board.

I'm answering one person's questions to the best of my ability. I even went back and tried, per the original party's request, to bring things down to easier terms (like "pizza cutter"-style blade) to make sure the fellow got what little information I had to offer.

I'm also debating (on the side) the viability of POD. I think it probably is viable if you are willing to be YOUR OWN POD shop (i.e., have your own printing setup). I think it's not that viable if you have to outsource it, and have largely said as much.

I have also agreed with Matthew on the lack of viability of this technology without a lot of $$$ and space.

Quote:
It seems to me that if you have been able to figure everything else out, you should be able to find someone to make a simple die.

Please read my messages to you. I _already_have_ found someone to build me a die. Already. Zimmer Industries told me it was not a problem. I'm looking to see if I need to bother buying one. It's utterly a matter of curiosity. If the only people who have them are outside of my state, shipping the materials back and forth will be so expensive that after about 3 microperf runs I should build my own die.

You are wildly assuming fantastic things that are really untrue.

In fact, I didn't bring up the microperforation idea except in response to the notion that the equipment needed to be small, or that you needed to outsource it. If you read my earliest posts in the thread (and even later ones), I think I've made it clear that I think the best way is to own your own POD machine and big die press.

Microperforation is only an option if you want to be able to print out things on your desktop.

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No one here knows everything.

Certainly note me.

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I've been manufacturing games professionally for almost a decade and I expect to learn something new everyday.

Kudos to you. It's something we all aspire to, but few have reached.

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I visit this forum for that reason as well as to help others who don't have the same experience as me.

Right, and in this instance, even if my knowledge has gaps, I have been researching this very topic for months. So I came to share what I know. I've been very explicit on which technologies were dead ends for me (e.g., the inkjet stuff looks awesome, but at least for the quality of ink we wanted to use was brutally expensive).

The fact that Matthew and I disagree does not mean that I wasn't here to learn and share. I learn by reading some other threads. In other threads (like the intro to CCGs thread and this one), I share what my research has told me.

Quote:
Just my opinion, but your attitude does not seem to be in keeping with the rest of the community.

What attitude? The fact that I disagree with Matthew? Or the fact that I probably poorly worded a single sentence that was subsequently read out of context?

Having seen Matthew quote my own post back to me, I'm assuming that you are reacting to "go somewhere else for your threads" and I've explained by that that I meant "you probably aren't suited for doing games POD, because they are expensive and clunky to outsource, and you only get results with lots of space and $$$, and should therefore be reading other threads, because this is decidedly dead end for you."

Lee
My 2 cents.

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
"Print on demand"

VeritasGames wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
description of how a deck of cards is customarily made

I believe I already answered that question, at least with regards to the printing process via POD machines.

I guess, sort of. It kind of read like the "answer" you gave below:

Quote:

Re: offset printing -- typically on a Rollem Slipstream machine. Very expensive toy. Feed it sheets, ink, and data files. Maybe some plates. Out come playing cards. I think the thing may even shrinkwrap them.

This is great, if I know what "offset printing" or a "Rollem Slipstream machine" is. I guess one could sort of tease out the information as to how the process works. But it's not far different from a situation where you (hypothetically) asked for a description of my research (pulsed laser ablation) and I said something like this: "Turn on the KrF. Maybe even a XeCl. Start shooting. Put something in the beamline. Stuff comes off. Can do it in air, maybe even vacuum." This might give you some vague sense of what it is that I do, but...not really.

Of course, you're under no obligation to provide a "detailed" answer, but again, what I'm asking for is a basic, jargon-free description of how a deck of cards is made, from start to finish. More on this below...

Quote:

Ask more detailed questions. It's sometimes unclear what people know and don't know.

FastLearner is a graphic arts professional; Yekrats, Anyeone, Gamemaker, DonB, XXOCC and a couple others are professional publishers. I think you can safely assume that most of the rest of us know nothing. Doing so will certainly help people who know nothing, since the people who already know about the process don't need this info anyway...

Quote:

Then you should be somewhere else for your game threads,

Well, since I started this thread, I am in the right place by definition! Though, it's possible I haven't asked my question clearly enough. I'm not looking to set up a POD shop, or, for that matter, to even have a game POD'd. My curiosity is about a more basic matter. It's my understanding that in printing a game typically, there are fixed setup costs that are very high and make small runs too expensive to do economically. On the other hand, it's my understanding that having a printer make a game by POD, you would not incur these same setup costs. So again, what I'm looking for is a description of how the technologies work, and thus, where the money goes for the setup costs. And then, my question was why companies like Delano, for example, aren't making games via POD. Is it just the up-front cost of the equipment, or is POD simply not workable on game components like tiles or cards?

Again, I can sort of tease the answer to these questions out of your notes, but it's interspersed with a lot of jargon, costs, and space requirements, which aren't what I'm looking for (although someone else might be, so it may be helpful to someone at some point). I'm looking for a more high-level (but that doesn't mean vague!) description of how game components are commonly made, and how they could/would be made with POD technology. This might make a useful topic for the Wiki. I personally think only about designing games, but I think it would be useful for folks like me, even without self-publishing aspirations, to have some info about how the games that we're working on would actually be made.

Thanks again for any info you (or anyone else) can provide!

-Jeff

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

jwarrend wrote:

This is great, if I know what "offset printing" or a "Rollem Slipstream machine" is. [ I guess one could sort of tease out the information as to how the process works.

Dude, how do you have to tease it out. I gave you a product page with pictures of the Rollem Slipstream and a movie showing it in action. Please don't tell me that I have to explain something because you are afraid to click a link I post and watch a movie.

The Rollem Slipstream is a complex machine, and it's easier to explain via a video and the product page than it is to explain line by line to you.

Go back and check the link I posted on the Slipstream. Lots of big card companies use it. It's basically an automatic card making machine.

"Offset printing"? Do a google search or else just assume that it's what many printers do who aren't printing on a digital photocopier.

Otherwise, you can look here. There's an article called "How offset printing works..."

http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/offset-printing.htm

Again, if you have questions, just keep asking them. I have no clue what level of knowledge you have here. Others who work in the printing industry can undoubtedly give you very precise definitions, and more precise than I can give. I know what I know as a buyer of that service not as a person who engages in offset printing.

Quote:
This might give you some vague sense of what it is that I do, but...not really.

Please, that's hardly what I did. With regards to the Slipstream I gave you a link to a video of the machine in operation. Unless you want me to explain every internal mechanism in it (which I can't do), the product page and the video of the machine working should have been fantastically more informative than the techno-babble you claimed that I spouted.

"Offset printing" is a term I've found commonly used among laymen. I didn't know you didn't know what it meant.

Quote:
what I'm asking for is a basic, jargon-free description of how a deck of cards is made, from start to finish.

And to avoid jargon I gave you a video showing cards being processed through the industry's standard machine. The page I sent to said that:

"With the push of a single button
the Slipstream:
Trims all four edges of a sheet and the multiple printed images

Cuts the sheet into separate rectangular portions as small as l 7/8” x 2 l/2”

Perforates and/or creases each portion

Collects and delivers all the portions into a fully collated stack or individual pack, with accuracy within l/l000th of an inch.

Transfers the packs to in-line round corner, shrink wrap, box die cut or over-wrap systems.

The following diagram shows the processing..."

Then there was an operations video. Was this not clear enough?

Quote:
FastLearner is a graphic arts professional; Yekrats, Anyeone, Gamemaker, DonB, XXOCC and a couple others are professional publishers. I think you can safely assume that most of the rest of us know nothing.

I am not a pro publisher. I have done playtesting and design consulting. I am partnering with a veteran of the CCG industry who has printed millions of cards and with a professional print buyer. I'm the design guy. I know what I know about the nuts and bolts of the process because I got conned into doing some of the phone research for the team on current tech innovations.

I assumed that everybody here had pretty substantial knowledge (and in some areas much more than me). I figured in some subject areas that maybe only one guy or two on the whole board knows something, but I assumed (apparently wrongly) that folks here were master-tinkerers one and all. The tone of this forum strikes me that way. Perhaps I'm baffled.

I'll keep your summation in mind for future reference. At the same, time, please don't be frustrated. Just keep asking more questions.

And please, if I offer a link with a simple explanation and a video do use it. If you use it and then still have questions, then that's useful to know.

Quote:
Well, since I started this thread, I am in the right place by definition!

What I meant by that, is if you want POD cards, Matthew and others think it can't be done usefully. I think it can, but only with a lot of time and money or with certain quality compromises.

What I meant by my remark, was that unless you were willing to make sacrifices in quality or unless you are willing to invest $$$ and half your garage, this is a dead thread for you if you are trying to POD games (since I'm the only one who's claimed that it can reasonably be done, and since you may not want to do what I'm recommending).

If you just want to learn about POD (and don't want to actually use it), then I'm in error, and this thread is very much alive. I apologize if this describes your situation. I perhaps wrongly inferred that you intended to use the technology to produce games as opposed to learning about it. My bad. Learning is never dead end.

Sometimes, however, if you come with built-in requirements on cost or quality, though, a subject may be dead until the technology gets up to the speed you want it at.

If you want to know more generally about POD for books, that's not a dead thread, but that's pretty simple. Effectively that's a high speed digital photocopier with either integrated or separate machines for slapping a quick (generally glue) binding on the book.

Quote:
I'm not looking to set up a POD shop, or, for that matter, to even have a game POD'd. My curiosity is about a more basic matter.

Highly in error. I directed you elsewhere because I thought your needs might not match the tech and I thought you might be considering printing with it. Sorry. Curiosity is always open for discussion, and far be it for me to close off such a discussion.

Quote:
On the other hand, it's my understanding that having a printer make a game by POD, you would not incur these same setup costs.

Money goes into setup in traditional printing by cleaning the printing presses, setting up the inks, putting plates (ask if you don't know what those are, like giant devices to apply ink to paper in specific patterns) on the machine, selecting the paper stock, loading that onto the machines, etc.

Setup costs in traditional printing are to pay for the initial labor involved in setting up the machine.

Consider a low-tech example. You bring in 100 pages for photocopying. You want the pages reduced by 10%, and you want them doublesided. You also want them on a special bone white colored paper. The photocopy guy has to walk over, change the copy paper. Put the pages on the tray (making sure they are even). Then he has to set the copier settings. Then he punches in a number of copies and goes to town.

At this point, he's engaged in a lot of effort if you want one copy. However, if you want 50, he just sets the copier to make 50 copies and walks away. Printing is much the same way. All the hassle up front is for setting up the first page. After that, it's sort of start the machine and let it do it's job.

So you get stung for the initial labor.

Throughout a game printing process, it's really easy to see who is using a highly automated system and who is not. The Rollem Slipstream is like an automatic playing card making machine. Labor is lower. Setup and production costs are lower. In other shops, the print the cards first. Take them off the press. Cut them into blocks. Put them on another machine that rounds the corners. Then they hand separate the decks. Then they shrink wrap them on another machine. Lots of labor.

With high automation you get just a setup fee. With low tech you get high labor fees at all stages of the process. Printing 3000 decks of 100 cards, shrink-wrapped can cost you $7000 or less with a Slipstream. One traditional printer was going to charge $30,000 for the same thing because every step (printing, cutting into rectangles, rounding corners, collating the cards, shrink-wrapping them, etc.) were all on different machines that took people time to setup.

Quote:
So again, what I'm looking for is a description of how the technologies work,

If you want deep, deep descriptions ask the printing guys here on the offset technology. Or ask the Rollem folks for any product information they can send out to you on the subject (if folks here don't own one).

Quote:
And then, my question was why companies like Delano, for example, aren't making games via POD. Is it just the up-front cost of the equipment, or is POD simply not workable on game components like tiles or cards?

It's really a demand issue. The technology is there. For instance, inkjet printers need special paper with a gel coat on it (that's what the ink sinks into). Almost nobody needs to inkjet double-sided things at photo quality. The standard demand is for a single photo sheet or a photo on one side and text on the other. Text is OK on uncoated stocks. So most inkjet sheets are not coated on both sides (what you'd want to make playing cards easily). Since inkjet stock that's coated on both sides is rarer its more expensive than normal inkjet photo paper.

Next, if you want your cards to be durable you need a special coating on them so the ink doesn't rub off. Your desktop inkjet doesn't do varnish coating. So you need a very special paper that allows the ink to sink in below the surface of the card rather than sitting on top. This type of paper exists but it is VERY expensive. And it is made in 2-sided form, but only in labs, and rarely sold.

Next, there's the thickness of the stocks -- most inkjet printers are low end desktop printers and aren't meant to handle things like wargame tiles. They are meant to handle photos and typing paper. Again, the demand isn't there to handle thicker stocks, so fewer cheap thick injet stocks exist.

Now, these stocks do exist for the big inkjet printers. Some of those will handle paper that's about 24 point paper (I have another thread on this, search for my name). That's 24 thousandths of an inch. Thick stuff. You can make simple wargame counters out of that stuff.

The demand is lower, the cost is higher. People use it for making signs mostly, and mostly on a once a year basis or something (not 1000s at a time), so the market tolerates high pricing that kills this stuff for mass markets.

Laser printers face some of the same problems (only they don't need special gel-coated papers to print on). Demand. Demand. Demand.

Most people printing cards want to print a lot of them. So they go to traditional printers. The demand for color laser printers to handle really thick stock is pretty low around the household. High end printers can handle the stuff though, and it's not nearly as expensive as the inkjet. Depending on your artwork and printer, you may like inkjet color better than color from other non-inkjet sources, so that may be a concern.

Next, what do you do when you print the stuff? If you are making cards, you need to cut them out, right? Well, most copy shops don't get a lot of people asking them to die cut playing cards. They are not equipped for it. So they have to fake it by cutting the cards into rectangles on one machine, then rounding the corners on another. The cards come out fairly similar, but not the quality you'd really want.

So, the demand is not there for the technology to be universal and cheap. And where it is viable, it's viable primarily if you have your own equipment. And it still, at best, is a two-step process (print and die cut on a separate machine).

POD has lower setup costs, but for cards the per unit costs can be so high that you'd want to offset cost can be anywhere from 1/3 to 1/20th the cost of doing POD once you hit 3000+ units.

The inks, etc. in POD printers tends not to be that cheap.

Lastly, the people who normally do POD don't carry actual playing card stock. They might be able to order it, but playing card stock is super expensive unless you order a lot of it. Some vendors will sell it at a substantial markup, but lots of people want you to buy it in 5000 pound quantities. One company wants you to buy it in 46,000 pound quantities.

Heritage Paper, Arjo Wiggins, and a few others are the only ones I've heard of who make high quality playing card stock (and Wiggins imports it from their European parent company). Maybe Beaver Paper. Actual playing card stock isn't made by thousands and thousands of company's worldwide. I know of a handful. An insider in the print business probably would know of a lot more. Suffice it to say, pretty specialized stuff, so copy shops can't get it for you cheap, and some of their machines may not handle a thick coated stock well.

The companies that handle big offset printing of playing cards make so much money in volume that they don't want to be nagged to make 10 copies of a deck of 52 special cards. It's not worth their time or money.

The result is, the technology seems to be there (or almost there, I'm not sure on that, we're checking on the price for new inexpensive inks and stock which may change things), but few companies have the demand or the interest to marry the machines and customer base together to do the stuff.

Printing 3000 decks on a Slipstream is so much cheaper than going to Kinko's that it's not even funny, and the Slipstream decks are nicer.

The only solutions I've found are to order a lot of playing card stock yourself (or stick with non-playing card stocks -- again search the archives for this distinction under my name), order a POD printer yourself, and order a die cutter and shrink wrapper (as an optional third step) yourself. You can actually crank out decks reasonably fast then, but there is some labor and you have to own at least $7000+ in machinery (maybe $15000+ for nice stuff) if you are serious about volume. And you have a place to put all this. If you have that, you can probably POD games. Whether you can do so inexpensively, I will know by the end of the year. Tech innovations in the last 4-6 months may have just changed my answer from "no, you can't" to "yes, you can".

Otherwise, you're stuck printing out stuff and cutting out a handful of cards at a time with Ellison person die cutting machines. At that point, the speed advantages of POD are pretty much gone, and your only advantage is that you can make one deck for pretty cheap if you can get the right paper.

Either that, or microperforating playing card stock and laser printing it. But then you are selling unpunched sheets which will generate cards with an unflattering "fringe" around the edge. They won't look as nice as decks off a Slipstream even if they are all the same size, on the same stock, and even if they use high quality inks. Plus, people will have to punch them out instead of just opening them and shuffling. Another downside. That's the only way I've found to end run some of the problems if you don't want a garage full of equipment.

Regarding game boards -- you need the boards, right? Kinko's doesn't make them. And many company's will charge you only a little more to put a color image on the board than to build the board itself if you are ordering 3000 boards. If you are ordering just one game quad-fold game board for $15.00+ then the cost is so high that it's not to your advantage to do it except for prototyping. Again, nobody has found the customer base to keep 1000+ game boards on stock and equipment to print, mount, and box them.

Quote:
Thanks again for any info you (or anyone else) can provide!

Hope that helped.

Hopefully some printers will chime in who know more about the actual printing technology. Maybe I gave you a start on the process itself and the economics.

And again, sorry for the confusion, I was encouraging you to jump to another thread because I thought you wanted to manufacture with the technology and it sounded like there was a poor fit between what I thought you wanted and what the tech does right now. I didn't want you to waste your time and money just to end up dissatisfied. We've been researching POD CCGs for about 6 months now, and we are constantly having to rethink various aspects of the labor, pricing, etc. The tech is there, but it's just not easily afforable. And it's not integrated (like the Slipstream is).

I don't have enough knowledge to answer all of your likely questions. Hopefully some of the other folks will pitch in a bit and pick up my slack, adding corrections as needed.

Maybe you can teach me about something on another thread :-) And maybe I can learn something more for myself from any printers or print buyers who chime in on the workings of the actual printing machines.

BTW -- you want to know something about the stock itself, try here:

http://www.bgdf.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=472

I think Matt's got some info in another thread that's got the exact sizes that sheets of various weights come in.

Cheers,
Lee

SVan
Offline
Joined: 10/02/2008
"Print on demand"

For me that info was great. I probably don't plan on self-publishing, but it is nice to know what goes into it. Thanks for your help!

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

SVan wrote:
For me that info was great. I probably don't plan on self-publishing, but it is nice to know what goes into it. Thanks for your help!

Sure. Hopefully others will add some points and correct things as needed. I take it that my description was reasonably clear?

Did anyone check out the Slipstream machine? It isn't really POD (I mentioned it just to show the normal way cards are made as opposed to POD), even though in many ways it is a fantastically well-integrated looking machine.

When Rollem hooks up their non-printing technology in the slipstream up to an actual POD printing system, WOW! Then you'll have POD cards at offset speeds and quantities.

Just for the cool factor I suggest checking out the machine if you are a hobbyist.

Lee

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
"Print on demand"

Great post, Lee. I was going to reply to Jeff with much of the same info you passed along (not the inkjet stuff, but the general printing stuff) and am now glad I waited. :)

-- Matthew

VeritasGames
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"Print on demand"

FastLearner wrote:
Great post, Lee. I was going to reply to Jeff with much of the same info you passed along (not the inkjet stuff, but the general printing stuff) and am now glad I waited. :)

-- Matthew

Thanks. Hopefully, you understand that some of my quotes above that disturbed you were the result of poorly formed thoughts or sentences, rather than attempts to "banish people from the board."

Matt, I'm starting to note that some material on a given subject is sometimes separated across multiple disparate threads, which sometimes go unnoticed by people. As an example, somebody asked about pounds of paper the other day and I knew the press sheet size varied by paper weight, but I didn't remember the sizes. I _think_ you had a post on that. It would be good to have that info together, but it's in two separate threads.

I'd like to chime in as well on the idea of a wiki, etc. I've seen some of your posts on stocks, etc. I think stuff like our posts on stocks and technologies are probably appropriate for general reference.

I had the same problem in some of the board game threads -- sometimes the best info was piecemeal available in 2-3 threads.

Folks may eventually benefit from that consolidation of information. Since I'm a game design type guy and not a print buyer, manufacturer, or printer myself, perhaps you, Tom, and others would like to collect some info with me over the next few months and compile them into "ready reference" for people so they don't have to pay in sweat and mistakes for the info like I have so far.

Thoughts?

Lee

SVan
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Joined: 10/02/2008
"Print on demand"

VeritasGames wrote:
Did anyone check out the Slipstream machine? It isn't really POD (I mentioned it just to show the normal way cards are made as opposed to POD), even though in many ways it is a fantastically well-integrated looking machine.

Just did. Wow, what a machine. Looks like card games can have their costs cut down if you use a printer with one of these things.

It probably was answered before, but does this thing do the printing too? Or is it just for the cutting?

-Steve

Anonymous
My Apologies to Lee

Just wanted to take a moment to publicly post my apology to Lee for slamming him earlier in this thread.

I mis-understood exactly where he was coming from and really should have PM'd him for clarification before making my post.

He has obviously done an enormous amount of research on POD and I thank him for sharing it with the forum.

VeritasGames
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Re: My Apologies to Lee

gamemaker wrote:
Just wanted to take a moment to publicly post my apology to Lee for slamming him earlier in this thread.

Not a problem. I was the one that failed to convey my meaning appropriately.

Some things that sound like a shot across the bow from a stranger sound like a bungled turn of phrase from a friend, as I just wrote Tom to say privately.

Since, on these boards at least, I'm the "new kid on the block" I take responsibility for the bungled turn of phrase.

Hopefully, my responses to folks have helped to clarify that I'm here to share the crumbs of information I have gathered and am not here to kick people off the boards. :-)

Quote:
He has obviously done an enormous amount of research on POD and I thank him for sharing it with the forum.

Let's see if that works. If we get an actually fully functional professional grade (no microperforated edges) print job working with minimal labor as a POD enterprise, I'll let you guys know.

One of my business partners almost choked on his lunch when I told him we ought to find venture capital to buy a $65,000 Rollem Slipstream used.

That's how you do POD: bring the playing card stock out of your printer and onto one of those. Zing. You have a shrink wrapped deck. The machines are stupidly large though. I just found that the "footprint" (the size of the base) on one model may be 20' x 20'. Practically fits in the back of your pocket doesn't it. :-)

Lee

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