While some print firms have not received work from the Olympic Games, Press On Digital had to invest in new kit to meet the event's demand
Using 80,000sqm of self-adhesive vinyl, digital wide-format printers Press On Digital Imaging festooned shop window after shop window with jaunty jubilee imagery and ensured London’s taxis, trucks and vans are all doing their bit to generate excitement ready for the Olympic games.
"We’ve wrapped 2,200 taxis this year and that’s probably the most that any company has ever done before," says Andy Wilson, managing director at the company behind this substantial – not to mention patriotic – output of 80,000sqm in just 10 months.
While others are reporting that the Olympics has not quite brought the boom in business that was promised, Press On has been kept very busy indeed by the events of 2012. And the machine that has been busily generating metre after metre of celebratory print, has been an HP Scitex LX850 latex printer, purchased last August.
The investment in the machine, reports Wilson, was a direct response to indications from Press On’s customers that they expected to be ordering much more print than usual this year.
"A lot of people haven’t had as much work as they’d expected for the Olympics," says Wilson. "More is coming in now but that’s too late for some people. We were lucky that our clients were planning ahead.
"Of course, when you’re talking about a £150,000 piece of kit you don’t just buy that on a gamble," he adds, explaining that the company was careful to check that enough of Press On’s customers were looking at a busier year in 2012, to make sure the investment was justified.
"You go back to the marketplace and talk to your customers and say ‘look, we’re thinking about getting this piece of kit, what are your expectations for growth over the next 12 months?’ They can’t guarantee anything, but they can give you a forecast that you can work with."
And the forecast looked so lucrative that Press On decided to replace a smaller HP Designjet L65500 latex printer, which was single-roll and so could only produce 150 metres over an eight-hour shift, with the dual-roll LX850, which could print up to 300 metres in the same time.
This has suited Press On’s purposes perfectly, reports Wilson. "It’s a very easy machine to work on," he says. "As long as you plan the work in advance, it will run for nine hours unattended. So we load that machine up at 6pm at night when the shift finishes, then nine hours later you’ve got 300sqm of high-res print."
And the team at Press On are very pleased that they decided to stick with the latex technology they’d so far been impressed with when using the L65500.
"We did look at a number of other machines," reports Wilson. "But we ruled out a solvent machine based on the fact that the gassing-off process made production more time-consuming. Because the latex ink is quick-drying, unlike solvent ink, it means that you can turn work around quicker, you can go through finishing quicker."
The company also looked at a couple of Durst machines, says Wilson, but ruled these out because UV inks would not be as suitable as latex for producing the vehicle wraps that constitute such a large part of Press On’s output.
"The problem with UV ink is that it can have a degrading effect on self-adhesive vinyl," he says. "It’s a lot more brittle than latex ink so you can’t really use UV ink for wrapping vehicles as successfully."
Solvent and UV printing processes were also vetoed, says Wilson, because of the extra expense that creating a different print room environment would have entailed. "Latex is ideal because it does not require any particular specialist environment," he explains. "It is not a solvent printer so it doesn’t require heavy extraction and it doesn’t have the pungent aroma of the UV printers."
Installation of the LX850 was therefore very straightforward. "We’d cleared a space for it downstairs in our print shop and I reckon it was installed in about five hours," says Wilson.
The company did, however, have to alter the air conditioning system for this space when it quickly emerged that the machine generated a lot more heat than had been anticipated.
"We ramped up the air conditioning about six months after buying the printer," says Wilson. "But that wasn’t a hassle – we just bought a more powerful climate control system."
In fact, the main reason for ramping up this system, says Wilson, was to allow for the installation of a second LX850 in the near future. With another HP L65500 coming to the end of its lease soon, Press On has decided that replacing this with another bigger, dual-rolled latex machine would make the most business sense.
"We’ll have enough work to fill that. That’s a done deal," says Wilson, explaining that the versatility of the machine means the company is confident there will be plenty of demand for its services well after mania over the Olympics has finally died down.
"Although we focus on self-adhesive vinyl as our weapon of choice, we can also handle a wide range of other materials on this machine," says Wilson. "It does nice fabrics and they don’t smell like solvent printed fabrics and will compete with dye sublimation. So we’re doing more and more fabrics on it every month."
In fact, rather than worrying about not filling the new and prospective LX850 machines, Wilson is aware of a need to be careful about pushing them to the limit. The company has experienced some downtime with the first LX850, but Wilson puts this firmly down to how hard the company makes them work.
"In view of the fact that the machine has done around 80,000m2 in 10 months, we’ve had an acceptable amount of downtime on it," he says, explaining that in most instances, downtime has been due to worn out ink flow switches which have needed replacing due to inevitable wear and tear.
"In 10 months we’ve probably had no more than five days of downtime," he adds. "And Art Systems, the company who do the servicing for HP, has reacted well to any call-outs, normally coming out if not the same day then the next day."
UK and Ireland country manager at HP Designjet Graphic Solutions Business Phil Oakley responds: "While the printer is built to cope with high printing volumes, the maintenance required will of course increase as volumes increase into heavy production, 24/7 environments." LX850 customers tend to print, on average, 3,000-4,000sqm per month, he adds.
Overall, reports Wilson, the build of the Scitex printers is very impressive. "On the whole I’d say it’s been a very reliable machine," he says. "It’s a pretty simple machine; if you take all the covers off you can see there’s not an awful lot that will go wrong with it. It’s all pretty proven technology – HP and Scitex have a good reputation now for making robust machines."
The only thing Wilson would improve about the LX850, he says, is the size of its ink cartridges. But again, this is a reflection of Press On’s specific and highly demanding needs rather than a real flaw with the design of the printer, he says.
"I’ve pushed the boundaries with the machine because I get custom-made vinyl rolls of 150m rather than 50 or 100m," explains Wilson. "So sometimes when you’re printing darker colours on a 300m run it will run out of ink before it runs out of vinyl, in which case we have to swap the cartridges mid-job."
But with HP on the case of sorting this minor dissatisfaction out for Press On, Wilson is on the whole a very happy customer. For him, the Jubilee and Olympics have already made 2012 a very successful year. All he needs now is for team GB to do their bit over the next few weeks.
Speed POP prints, up to 45sqm/hr; light boxes and indoor soft signage, up to 27sqm/hr
Print resolution Up to 1,200 dpi
Technology HP latex printing technologies
Ink types HP latex inks
Ink cartridge colours CMYK, light cyan, ight magenta
Ink drop 2picolitre
Ink cartridge size 3litre
Printheads Three (C/K, Y/M, light magenta/light cyan)
Nozzles 10,560 per printhead
Contact CWE Solutions 08444 829895 cwesolutions.co.uk
Press on Digital Imaging began life in 2000 as a billboard printer based in Rochester. Still located at the same plant, the company has since significantly expanded its offering so that, in the words of managing director Andy Wilson, it now "prints pretty much anything large-format digital."
This includes retail display, outdoor advertising, banners, glazing graphics and exhibition stands.
Why it was bought...
The company invested in a HP Scitex LX850 Industrial Printer to replace a smaller HP Designjet L65500 latex printer. The move to the bigger machine was made in response to indications that the company would experience increased demand from its existing customers this year due to events such as the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee.
How it has performed...
The new LX850 has performed very well over the past year, reports Wilson. "On the whole I’d say it’s been a very reliable machine," he says. "It’s a pretty simple device; if you take all the covers off you can see there’s not an awful lot that will go wrong with it. It’s all pretty proven technology- HP and Scitex have a good reputation now for making robust machines."