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85 years playing card board from Koehler

Customers have a winning hand with Koehler playing card board


Have you ever wondered during a friendly game of cards what it actually takes to produce playing cards with all their necessary features?

Customers have a winning hand with Koehler playing card board

Often we don't spare a thought to things we take for granted. The cards are there whenever we need them. The manufacturing process and its subtleties are a complete mystery to us. We do not imagine what is involved.
We will now remedy this sad state of affairs as far as playing cards are concerned. Before you hold the cards in your hands, they have already passed through numerous production steps.

The best quality comes from Oberkirch

The starting point is the finished playing card board, which has been produced by us in Oberkirch in Baden for 85 years. Of course, the board has changed over the years, but Koehler has always produced the highest possible quality for the respective times.

After the board (usually cut to size and stacked on pallets) arrives at our customers, the playing card manufacturers, the board is first subjected to a random inspection. This checks whether the grade, packaging, quantity and specifications are correct and correspond to the order.

Paper has to acclimatize

Afterwards, the board has to acclimatize. This means that the pallet, which is still packed climate tight, is left to adapt to the climate prevailing in the printing room for a certain period of time. This is mainly to allow the stack temperature to adapt to the room temperature. As a rule of thumb, this takes 24 hours per pallet and 10 °C temperature difference. This is especially important in the winter months.

In addition to the temperature, the relative humidity is also decisive for problem-free processing of the board. The so-called standard climate in most printing works today is around 50% relative humidity and 21 °C. So that the board is at the same level from the outset, we produce it under precisely these conditions. This ensures that the carton does not warp unintentionally when the pallet is unpacked. In technical terms, this is referred to as edge waving when the board is too dry or as bulging when it is too moist.

Fully automatic further processing thanks to state-of-the-art Technology

Now we can get started. After unpacking, the pallet is moved directly to the sheet-fed printing ma-chine and transported onto its infeed table by lifting and dragging suckers. There, the sheet is pulled into the first printing mechanism by suction belts using so-called grippers. Beforehand, the print job with the basic settings had already been transmitted electronically to the printing press, and the printer received either an electronic or physical job folder with samples. One or more printing inks are printed depending on the printed image and the board surface. The machine requires one printing mechanism per color. Most playing cards today are printed using the so-called 4-C process (4-color = cyan magenta yellow black). For some cards (e.g. in casinos), special colors are also used for the back, so sometimes only one color is needed there.

After passing through the machine, the printer first checks the register mark and the coloring. The register mark is necessary for the alignment of the sheet so that it can be printed correctly and the printed image is not positioned crookedly on the card after cutting. It must also be checked that there are no specks of dirt, as this would be a "marked" card in casinos. In order to be quite sure here, a so-called inspection control is usually installed in the machines today. This is a camera system that enables optical fault detection and, if necessary, marks it so that the goods can be ejected from the process.

Special coating for easy handling

However, brightly printed paper alone is not enough to meet the requirements of the subsequent game. Because, if the cards were simply made in this way, a deck of cards would not be ideally playable. The cards would move with difficulty and unevenly in the hand. Therefore, a special playing card varnish is applied over the entire surface of the printing ink. This is done inline, i.e. in the printing press using a special varnishing unit, and enables the players to handle the cards with ease, the mix-ing machines used in casinos to mix them flawlessly, and also protects the cards against dirt, hand perspiration, creams and other influences that can drastically impair the properties of a deck of cards.

Once the sheets have been printed, they have to wait about 24 hours, giving the printing ink and varnish sufficient time to dry. The sheets can then be processed further without any problems.

Further processing takes place in special systems that basically always process the board according to the same principle:

  • A large sheet is cut into individual strips (lengthwise)
  • Then individual sheets are cut from each strip (crosswise)
  • The individual sheets or cards are pushed together to form small stacks
  • The stack is aligned correctly and then rounded at all four corners. The corner rounding can be done in two steps with individual cutters, or in one step using a full punch.

The finished decks are then wrapped in cellophane inline and inserted into a folded box. Packed in cartons and palletized, they are conveyed to the shipping area, from where they are transported to the respective distributor or directly to the casino.

Further processing cardboard

The stack is aligned correctly and then rounded at all four corners.

Further processing cardboard

The large sheets are cut into individual strips.

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