Puzzles are a combination of printed paper and cardboard, which is then processed to obtain a specific shape. But it all starts with printing and, above all, what we would like to put on a puzzle or an educational jigsaw.
Do you want to learn more about producing this type of material? Check out the article below and discover what is required to make puzzles from the raw material.
An example of a standard puzzle and a two-piece puzzle.
Before finding its way to a child or an adult, every product must undergo a series of production processes. Here are the steps they all go through before they achieve their final form.
For some years now, the vast majority have been double-sided laminated puzzles. As the name itself suggests, these have images printed on both sides. This considerably increases the quality of the product and has a great impact on its aesthetics.
Our company considers it one of the most pleasant stages of production. This is when design moves out of the virtual world and presents itself to us. The use of offset printing is typically applied for larger quantities. This is particularly applicable for those orders that exceed 500 sheets. The reason for this is that to start a machine for a given print generates initial costs (e.g. plate lighting or machine calibration) as well as costs related to the materials for setting the print, which only becomes reasonable for larger volumes.
This stage significantly improves the aesthetic and mechanical properties. The refinement you find in our products comes from the application of an additional layer of varnish, foil or hot stamps. Considering the growing awareness of the significance of the environment, there is a noticeable tendency to skip this stage.
When it comes to puzzles, the most common solution is a matte or gloss dispersion varnish. We can partially classify this stage as printing, because the varnish is applied as what is known as the “fifth colour". Another method used for puzzles is UV coating, which means that it is applied "cold" and hardened by UV light. The matt or gloss effect is much stronger than from a dispersion varnish.
Foil-wrapping of puzzles is by far the least popular refinement method. Most of the products are intended for children, so this process is avoided to ensure maximum safety.
The process of hot foiling with matt foil.
Once the front and reverse sides of the puzzle are ready, it is time to give product the desired thickness. For this we have to laminate, that is glue two or three layers together - the reverse side to the cardboard and then the whole to the front side. A lot of experience is required at this stage. This is because the front and the reverse sides often have to be matched perfectly. This means that the images on both sides work together, and must be in specific positions in relation to each other.
We know from experience that people who have no contact with the direct production of puzzles very often think that thickness determines the quality of puzzles. This is why it is widely assumed that the thickness of each piece should be at least 1.5 mm. Our company is capable of making products that can be up to 2.5 mm thick.
Laminating the reverse of a puzzle with solid cardboard.
This stage often comes as a surprise. After attaching our prints to the cardboard, we must allow the moisture to "escape” and give the glued surface time to "bind". Once secured against free binding, the puzzles can be sent for maturing. The average waiting time is about 2 weeks.
What’s the point of this? You should know that the adhesives intended for children's products have a significant amount of water in their base, which makes the product soft after laminating. Ignoring this phase could lead to the deformation in the puzzles and distortions to their surface.
This is an undesirable effect caused mostly by the structure of the paper and the tree itself. Cardboard is not uniform, so when the glue is applied in an ideal thickness and left to bond freely, the forces propagate against the structure of the material (the cardboard). Such an effect is unwanted.
Drying laminated puzzles and a technological break before the next stage.
During this stage, the work is carried out by the heaviest machines, with pressures of up to several hundred tonnes. Puzzle machines are not really complicated. Their main purpose is to generate the right force to perfectly cut out each piece. This process is done by pressing the knife against a flat surface (the future puzzles are positioned between the surface and the knife). In traditional machines, the cutting knives are mounted directly on the board (these are called punching dies).
The choice of machine type and the force during puzzle production is determined by the thickness of the puzzles and the puzzle die. The concept of a puzzle die includes many issues – it is based on the desired size of the individual pieces, the final shape of the whole product and the look of a single puzzle.
Removal of bleeds after the die-cutting process.
The cut puzzles should be broken apart and packed into a suitable box. The pieces made during die cutting have what are known as bleeds, which are trappings in the form of frames. We remove them during die cutting (in a machine with cleaning sections) or directly during crushing. Depending on the geometry and the size of the puzzles, breaking may take place using machines or is done 100% manually. It is necessary, as the final product would not fit into the box if all the pieces were put together.
Puzzles prepared in this way go directly to the product packaging or an intermediate packaging stage. This is usually a sealed bag that is about 40 μm thick, a string bag or one made of ecological materials.
Puzzles secured in a heat-sealed bag.
It is now time for the final stage of puzzle production. Before closing any packaging with puzzles in it, there are often "extra" elements included, such as: posters, booklets, advertising materials, etc. In many cases, the box must also contain accessories. For example, these may be inserts for positioning the final product or its individual elements. They can also be used to fill the box and reduce the free space for the puzzles in the packaging.
When the product is ready, the only thing left is to protect it against opening. This step can be skipped in online or direct sales to the target customer. However, this operation is necessary when distributing for re-sale. The most common methods for closing the box are shrink wrapping or attaching stickers to the opening points.
The advantage of stickers over the wrapping the entire product in a film is that the wrapping somewhat obstructs the aesthetic values of our box. Stickers are also good from an ecological viewpoint, because they minimise the use of more plastic.
Check out our services for the production of puzzles, games and other elements. We can also prepare a unique puzzle for you, which you can sell or use for the promotion of your company. We look forward to doing business with you!