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Feb 1, 2011 12:00 AM
“You are only as good as your last job,” says Greg Smith, president of Georgia folding carton maker Printed Specialties Inc. (www.printedspecialties.com). PSI had a great year in 2009, despite a very tough economy. But the additional business put a strain on PSI's ability to turn jobs as quickly as its customers had come to expect. Smith moved quickly, bringing in new pressroom and finishing equipment to increase capacity and speed throughput. The move brought the company new capabilities and earned ongoing work from a big customer.
Founded in 1911 by Smith's great-grandfather, PSI got its start producing record jackets and labels. Its current Carrollton, GA, plant opened in 1982 to serve Columbia Records. “When Sony Music acquired it in the late '80s, we lost that business, which forced us to decide whether to keep this plant open or not,” says Smith. “My uncle decided at that time to bring in a diecutter, and we started doing video sleeves for a company here in the South, as well as CDs.” PSI's folding carton odyssey had begun. Decades later, PSI is well connected in the entertainment and computer markets, also serving health, beauty and specialty food clients. The $10 million, 65-employee company operates a 50,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant and a 40,000-sq.-ft. warehouse facility with a sheeting operation. Packaging runs generally range from 100 to 100,000 pieces.
“Printed Specialties is not a large company, so we rely quite a bit on our vendors,” says Smith. “We expect a lot from the companies we do business with.” And PSI's customers — including some of the largest computer hardware and software companies in the world — expect a lot from their printer.
One particular customer's work required 4-color process plus a PMS color, then satin coating and a spot gloss. “We'd run satin aqueous coating on the press and UV gloss offline, and the process was very slow.” Smith says.
Seeking to streamline and improve the production of this piece of business, Smith sought out advice from press vendors. “MLP USA put together the puzzle for us and showed that they could achieve the same quality inline at high speeds,” he says.
In the first quarter of 2010, PSI bought a new Mitsubishi Diamond 3000LX press. The 16,000-sph Diamond 3000LX shares the shop floor with another 6-color, 40-inch sheetfed press and a 6-color, 28-inch press, both from Komori. On the front end, PSI runs an Agfa CTP device and a Nexus workflow from Artwork Systems.
A Bobst SP 103-ER Autoplaten diecutter Smith added in mid-2009, along with a Bobst Expertfold folder/gluer, have eliminated a manual diecutting waste removal step and improved PSI's finishing capacity. The finishing department also has window machines and scoring equipment.
PSI's new press was put into full operation in June 2010. It has six printing units, full UV interdeck dryers from Grafix, an extended delivery and a Harris & Bruno anilox UV coater. It provides fast changeovers, automated makeready, connectivity to prepress via the Mitsubishi CIP4 ColorLink server and closed-loop color control. Among its automation features is a Sentinel automated ink dispensing system. Smith says, “That's huge on this press.” PSI runs Toyo UV inks and Kelstar UV coatings on the Diamond press. “Six units with coater is really the optimal configuration for our needs,” he adds. “Most of our work is four process colors plus one PMS color, sometimes with a varnish and a dull or gloss coating.”
The job that drove this press purchase is now printed entirely using UV. “We plate the spot satin coating with UV and run a gloss UV through the coater unit,” says Smith. “[The Diamond] prints a very sharp dot.” He says moving loads directly from the press to the diecutter without waiting for inks to dry or coating in a second pass is the best thing this press has done for production. Completing print runs like this inline, in one pass, enables the company to increase its capacity and turn jobs faster. “That's our main goal here,” says Smith. “Decrease lead times, get the product to you faster and do it without increasing your costs.”
One key to UV coatings, Smith says, is their ability to prevent scuffing as the packaging product is diecut and finished. “You can easily scratch a carton as it's going through a folder/gluer, and if you scratch 100,000 of them, it's not good.” While conventional inks dry hard enough, he explains that the UV ink is much harder, with very good scuff resistance.
The UV press also opened up new application possibilities for PSI, such as pearlescent, scented, sparkle and “alligator” textured coatings. “There are a lot of interesting options that the customers are asking us to try and to do,” says Smith. “It's all about cell depth on the anilox roller.”
PSI prints on coated and uncoated paperboard, plastics, foil and metallized polyester film, among other packaging-related materials from 80-lb. text to 32-pt. board. “The metallized polyester was a three-pass job before, and now it's one pass,” says Smith.
“Soft touch” coatings are becoming more popular, in which the coating on paperboard has a waxy feel and a satin finish. Smith explains that most of these coating applications have been aqueous, at PSI, but it's a benefit to be able to run it UV on the new press.
Depth of coating is key for some customers, which requires an offline step on a Sakurai silkscreen press running UV. “Some customers really want the coating to be just like glass,” Smith explains. “If you can't achieve this high level of coating, they're not happy. So the silkscreen press still fits in for a few customers, where we have to get this high gloss.”
The company also recently added an HP Indigo digital press. Smith and his team are still experimenting with the press on short runs, to determine the best fit. “[Digital] doesn't lower the price immediately. And it's hard to make 100-piece runs fit, no matter what device, because it's not a rectangle. It's a diecut piece that has to be folded and glued beyond printing,” says Smith. “We're finding that if a customer wants versioning or some sort of variable data, that's where it really fits in.”
Smith has lined up a high performance packaging operation at PSI. He estimates printing capacity has increased by one-third as a result of his latest equipment installations.
“The average carton printer typically can turn around a project in 10 to 12 working days. We've reduced our turnarounds to seven working days,” Smith says. He also has been able to reduce operations from three to two shifts, five days a week.
PSI aims to provide fast turnaround, high-quality packaging at solid pricing. “We strive to be a world-class company,” says Smith. “We have some world-class customers. To service those customers, we have to have world-class equipment. I think we've assembled a great lineup.”
The fourth annual Print UV Conference (www.printuv.com) will be held March 6-8, 2011, at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event, themed “UV Printing Comes to Life,” is expected to attract over 200 printers, suppliers, trade media and industry observers connected to the rapidly growing UV printing movement sweeping the landscape of commercial printing, packaging and specialty graphics.
MLP USA Inc. offers an online calculator to determine how much time per week SimulChanger automatic plate changing can save in an individual company's typical work schedule: www.mlpusa.com/simulchanger_calc.cfm
Check out PSI president Greg Smith's blog:www.printedspecialties.com/pt/blog
The Diamond 3000LX is a 40-inch press that accommodates stock ranging from 0.0016 to 0.04 inch, including plastics. Standard features include the API III (Auto-Preset Inking) system; centralized operator makeready and control (COMRAC); and automated features including ink roller cleaning, lubrication and plate cylinder positioning. A Bernoulli device for the delivery is available as an option, as well as IR dryers, UV curing, the DiamondLink III control system, automatic plate changing and closed-loop color control.
Denise Kapel is managing editor, AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at email@example.com.