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A bright future

Mar 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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In a previous article highlighting new UV products seen at PRINT 05 (see "Bright lights, better productivity," October 2005), we noted that hybrid UV is providing double-digit growth for equipment and press suppliers, not to mention commercial printers who are expanding into new markets while improving production efficiencies. Here, we present some users’ stories.

Fast turnarounds and new opportunities
Sandip Mehta founded what became Zoom Graphics (Oak Forest, IL) three years ago. Along the way, this $5 million, short-run, fast-turn commercial printer grew from eight employees to 45. Zoom specializes in point-of-purchase, marketing materials and other work for business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients. The early days were rough. “I bought an existing business after September 11, 2001,” explains Mehta. Armed with market research, he outlined Zoom’s future: It would serve the short-run, four-color, quick-turn market, a niche well-suited to UV capabilities.

The original business came with a couple of two-up presses and a subsequent acquisition included a five-color 40-inch press. But Mehta describes his half-size Ryobi 756 with UV and aqueous coating, and his Ryobi 520 GX, also with UV and aqueous coating as “the two major pieces of equipment the business is built on.” (xpedx Printing Technologies, Lenexa, KS, is the U.S. distributor for Ryobi presses.)

The small-format 520GX has been in place for about 10 months; the 756 was installed about four months ago. The 756 features a Prime UV system as well as a Prime IR Action unit for aqueous drying. Because it can handle substrates ranging from plastics to board, the half-size press can be used for labels and package prototypes. Bindery upgrades include a 45-inch Colter & Peterson Saber cutter and an MBO folder. Mehta credits Zoom’s smooth UV transition to Joe Secedi, president of American Pro-Tech (Chicago), a veteran Ryobi dealer for xpedx. “Joe did all the research,” says Mehta. “He assembled all our vendors—Bottcher, Sun, Prisco, Prime and so on—and guided us.”

Mehta also acknowledges Prime’s help with the UV set up. “We asked for two lamps in the drying and delivery and they gave us three,” he says. “We asked for two interdecks and again they gave us three.” The water-cooled system is custom-engineered for Ryobi presses.

While things are looking much better for Zoom, Mehta isn’t complacent. “There’s still a lot to achieve and a lot to learn,” he says. “Competition is going to get tougher—whining about it isn’t going to get you anywhere. It’s how efficient and service oriented you are.”

Building better book components
Founded in 1961, Visual Systems Inc. (VSI) (Milwaukee) is a 90-employee, $21-million, 65,000-sq.-ft. operation. The company specializes in book components, overhead transparencies and ancillary products for the educational publishing market.

According to VSI marketing manager Jeff Burg, the all-Heidelberg shop got started in UV about 18 years ago. “About 16 years ago, we had the first two-color as well as the first five-color interstation UV press in the United States,” he says. Prior to installing that equipment, VSI relied on a bank of six one-color presses with conveyor UV systems. “We were printing four-color process on a one-color press,” recalls Burg. “You put ‘em down and shuffled ‘em through. That was an interesting time, before we started buying multiple-color UV presses.”

VSI installed its first Heidelberg CD-74 UV press in 2004 and added a second in 2005. Both are equipped with technotrans America/IST UV systems.

Burg says the half-size format is a good fit in terms of both size and substrate capabilities. “This press let us move up to six-up from four-up,” he explains. “It’s also allowed us to do our our book component work two-up vs. one-up.”

Because VSI often prints on thin plastics, it also likes the greater control afforded by a smaller press.

UV enables the company to cost-effectively produce many combinations of varnish, glitter, matte gloss, Hexachrome, metallics and more. It’s also been instrumental in developing VSI’s BaseOne, a book cover technology that allows for printing directly on a plastic substrate.

For hard cover books, BaseOne provides a durable, wet-look cover—and a potentially speedier production process, since it eliminates the traditional lamination step. For soft cover books, the BaseOne is positioned as a durable cross between a soft cover and casebound book.

Raising the bar with raised UV
Founded in 1956, American Printing (Madison, WI) is a 90-employee, high-end offset commercial printer. Shawn Welch, vice president of operations, credits UV technology with fueling the company’s growth.

Typical jobs include annual reports, brochures, marketing materials and point-of-purchase displays for corporate and agency clients. In addition to traditional paper substrates, the company prints on plastics, foils, synthetics and static-cling substrates.

In 2001, American Printing added an eight-color, 40-inch Mitsubishi 3F-16 press with a Grafix interdeck UV curing system, chamber/anilox coater and Sun Chemical hybrid inks. In 2004, American Printing added a six-color 28-inch Mitsubishi Diamond 1000LS with aqueous coater. In 2005, the company added another full size press: a six-color Mitsubishi Diamond 3000S with aqueous coater. “It reached the point where we were nearing capacity on the 3F-16 again,” explains Welch. “Now we can shift conventional 40-inch work to the Diamond 3000S.”

Welch says the company’s years of experience with UV are helping it literally shine. “We are reaching gloss levels in the mid-90s consistently,” he notes. “Our reputation is there, we’re [comfortable] there.”

American Printing isn’t afraid to experiment. “When a customer has a unique idea, we’ll keep trying until we get it,” says Welch. One recent high-end project took some testing, including a lot of trial and error. Ultimately, American Printing prevailed and is doing similar projects for other customers.

The original job was an 8 1/2 x 11-inch brochure with a whole front panel bleed. “It was foil-stamped with holographic foil and then overprinted with solid black, kind of like sepia duotones,” says Welch. “You could see the flash from the foil through the halftones. And, on top of that, we used a Cyrel plate to apply spot UV coating to achieve a raised starburst pattern.”

Welch’s long experience with Grafix IR dryers predisposed him toward Grafix’s UV system. But the No. 1 reason was the company’s knowledge. “We’re doing a lot of raised UV—where you put down a super heavy layer with an anilox roller—Grafix was very familiar with these techniques .”

The UV boom also prompted American Printing to beef up its bindery with a 40-inch Brausse die cutter and fully automated Heidelberg Stahl folder.

Premium UV & expanded possibilities
Founded in 1974, Premier Press (Portland, OR) is a family-run 105-employee, $16 million operation. Premier prints packages, brochures, catalogs, posters and other work using nine offset presses ranging from one-color, 18-inch Hamada to a 40-inch, six-color Komori with inline UV coater. It also recently added a second HP Indigo 3000 digital press and serves as an Agfa beta site.

In 2001, Premier retrofitted its six-color Komori Lithrone 40 with a UV system, expanding its plastics, vinyl and spot coatings capabilities. All of the peripheral on-press equipment is from technotrans, including the thermal drying system; the UV system is IST Metz, supplied by technotrans America/IST sheetfed division.“It seemed like a great opportunity to be able to offer something that everyone didn’t have,” says Jodi Krohn, president. “You can get a whole lot more contrast, if you are doing a dull gloss spot, and a lot better registration than if you were doing it offline. If you’re printing on unocoated stocks, the drying issue is huge and the brightness of the color is substantially better—you get less absorption into the sheet and a lot more holdout. [It also lets us] get into plastics, vinyls, and maps and things.”

The company markets it spot UV capabilities as “Diamondkote,” which it describes as precise, spot high-gloss UV coating for premium marketing and corporate identity pieces.

UV helps give some projects a little extra zing. “We’ve done golf brochures where you’re hitting the process with gloss to get [the image] to pop, to give it a sheen like the metal a golf club would really have,” says Krohn.

In addition to its UV-equipped Komori Lithrone 40, Premier also has two additional 40-inch Komoris: a six-color and a two-color, as well as a six-color Lithrone 28.

UV is in the house
Cedar Graphics (Hiawatha, IA) is a $22 million, 90,000-sq.-ft. operation that offers high-end multicolor printing. The company is currently in the process of adding two 41-inch KBA Rapidas. One is a six-color and features an Air Motion UV system. The second press, a 10-color long perfector is prepped for UV.

“We researched UV for three years,” says Hassan Igram, CEO. “We felt it was an attractive market—we saw many potential applications among our customer base, such as book covers and calendars that call for four-over-four or four-over-five inline gloss aqueous or UV.”

Igram says UV is a logical extension of Cedar Graphic’s commitment to quality, customer service and continuous improvement. Previously Cedar Graphics had to outsource UV projects. “Turn times are more critical than ever,” says Igram. “If you’re outsourcing, you’re risking delivery dates. UV will give us more control and flexibility when it comes to producing jobs.”

He stresses the company’s commitment to being more than just a printer—Cedar boasts digital asset management, marketing and fulfillment services. In addition to an impressive array of press iron and two HP Indigo 3050s, the company has an extensive range of postpress equipment including some heavy-duty die cutting and specialty binding machines. Cedar Graphics may add a UV system to the new perfector in a few years. “We do our best to anticipate the market,” Igram says.

Bright ideas

Are you considering adding UV capabilities? Here are some handy tips.

Your interface or mine?
How well does the prospective UV system interface with the press? “Consider the fit and finish of the components,” advises Bill Bonallo, president and CEO of technotrans America/IST sheetfed div. (Corona, CA). “How well do they fit in the machine? Will the components restrict access to the plate, blanket or impression cylinders? Obviously, this is most important in the interdeck area, between print units.”

The approval factor
Has the UV system been OEM factory approved? “OEM press suppliers have specific temperature guidelines for cylinder, side frames, grippers, gripper bars, chain and chain guides. These are extremely critical issues for UV systems,” says Bonallo. “Safety interfaces with guards are also key.”

One controller does it all
Can the UV systems’ controller interface directly with the OEM’s press interface? “In addition to utilizing the press’ control system, this eliminates a separate operator control at the delivery of the press. This feature typically must be specified when the press and UV system are ordered,” explains Bonallo. “Not all UV suppliers can do this—it’s another reason to look for an OEM-factory approved system.”

Think about your ink
“There is a tremendous difference in hybrid UV ink formulations from various suppliers,” says Bonallo. “You have to know how these different inks will react on press with roller, blankets, plates and any potential impact on print quality,” says Bonallo.

It’s always best to test!
Solvents used for washing rollers and blankets shouldn’t be used indiscriminately. “Some hybrid UV users will use a straight UV wash to start the washing up rollers,” says Bonallo. “Most of the time, this has a disastrous effect on the rubber. The bottom line: Not all inks, rollers, blankets, plates and coatings will react the same when used for hybrid or UV printing. Test all inks and washes with the roller and blanket supplier before putting them on press: Better safe than sorry!”

Welcome to CIM City
VistaPrint recently hosted an open house at its 68,000-sq.-ft. plant in Windsor, Ontario. In addition to highlighting the company’s latest addition, a third 41-inch MAN Roland 700, the event also served to showcase computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM). CIM enables VistaPrint’s two production facilities to produce an average of 12,000 unique print jobs per production day with a minimal amount of labor. (The other facility, located in Venlo, The Netherlands, boasts two Roland 700s.)

VistaPrint uses MAN’s printnet/PECOM to track job-level information and establish press capacity. “It provides us with a bridge of information from the platemaking process to the press,” says Chris Connors, vice president, manufacturing.

16 Web sites serving 120 countries
VistaPrint’s goal is to bring high-quality, low-cost printed products to small businesses and consumers by “standardizing, automating and integrating all aspects of the value chain.”

Customers from 120 countries can initiate the CIM process via one of VistaPrint’s 16 localized Web sites to order business cards, postcards, brochures, data sheets, letterhead, thank-you cards, invitations and other products. VistaPrint’s proprietary design tools run in real time via the Internet—no software is installed on the user’s hard drive. Orders can be designed, printed and in the customer’s hands in as few as three business days.

VistaPrint says its customers, many of whom previously produced their business cards or invitations on home computers, typically spend $30 per order. A proprietary computer program aggregates jobs based on format, run length, customer location and other variables. One press sheet can hold 143 business cards, 42 postcards, 21 oversized postcards or nine pages of letterhead. The average run length per ganged sheet is 240-500.

No waiting for ink to dry
Each press is set up as a distinct production line, with its own nearby platemaker and cutter. Two employees crew the press: One is responsible for basic operations and quality control while the other ensures the plates are ready to go.

The three Roland 700s are configured as full UV with five printing units, inline coating and perfecting. AdPhos/Eltosch provided the UV system. Other highlights include Bottcher EPDM rollers and Flint UV 7700 series ink. The Windsor plant will soon add a fourth Roland 700—with the first North American installation of MAN’s Prindor InlineFoiler.

Katherine O’Brien is the editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at