Waiting days for printed jobs to dry is not much fun in an industry that increasingly demands rapid turnarounds.
Peterborough-based direct mail specialist KJS Print to Mail Services had had enough of waiting around and decided to take control of the situation last year by replacing a Ryobi 524 B3 five-colour press with a new SRA2 Sakurai machine equipped with LED UV drying.
The firm wanted to move up from B3 to better handle its customers’ needs as it was increasingly seeing changes in run lengths and formats.
“A lot of the jobs required a bigger sheet than we were doing and we were putting out quite a lot of work on that side, so the investment was partly about bringing that in-house,” says KJS managing director Stuart Speechley.
But more crucial to the investment decision, the company was keen to take advantage of the benefits of UV drying technology. Although various UV drying options are available, it was LED UV that piqued the interest of KJS.
“As a direct mail company, a lot of our work comes straight off the press and needs lasering,” says Speechley. “So when we heard how LED worked we were very interested as we could get jobs straight onto our laser printers and out of the door faster. It was about improving turnaround times.
“I would say UV is almost necessary for our industry and LED UV uses less power because there’s no heat there. Energy saving is a big factor as well and it’s more environmentally friendly because there’s no mercury, which is a good selling point and quite important for some of our clients.”
The company started to look at the options available on the market and learned about Sakurai’s offerings through word of mouth and recommendations from engineers Speechley and KJS chairman Kevin Brown had spoken to over the years.
KJS chose to test the 16,100sph Sakurai Oliver 466SD four-colour straight press plus coater, specified with Baldwin LED UV dryers, although five- and six-colour and straight or perfecting options are also available.
“We tested the machine initially at Sakurai’s headquarters in the UK and knew pretty much from that what we were after,” says Speechley. “During the testing we brought sheets back straight away to make sure they would go through our laser printers – that was the most important thing.
“We placed the order and then went over to Japan to see the actual press that we were going to have shipped across to us and did some print tests on that to make sure everything was right.”
The firm moved its existing Ryobi press into another space in its factory around a week before the Sakurai was delivered last March to ensure it could continue printing during the installation process.
Two cranes were used to install the 9m-long Sakurai press weighing 18 tonnes. The installation took around three weeks to complete and once the Sakurai press was up and running the Ryobi machine, which the firm sold, was moved out.
“The training went well, we trained three of our guys and Sakurai stayed with us for a couple of weeks,” says Speechley. “For the guys it was just about getting used to the new machine, which wasn’t too difficult as there are a lot of similarities between this machine and the Ryobi. The steepest learning curve was getting their heads around how UV works compared with conventional.”
The machine’s LED UV drying capability quickly transformed the business in a number of ways. “There’s certainly work we have probably shied away from before that we can now do just as easily as anything else,” says Speechley. “For example, we can print onto plastics now and we’ve had some jobs like these in mainly because we can now do what other people can’t.
“We also switch from coated to uncoated stocks all the time now and we don’t worry about trying to club all of our coated or uncoated jobs together anymore because it makes no difference at all.”
He adds that the machine is also a lot cleaner than the old Ryobi, which has led to a more efficient process from printing through to finishing.
“Because we’re not putting sprays on and no ink is coming off into the laser printers, there’s probably less downtime with those machines as well. It’s clean right the way through, even going through to inserting lines and folding machines as we’re not putting spray powders and rubbish into those now either. The other good thing with LED UV is that you don’t have to wash up every day.”
Speechley’s only real bugbear is the higher cost of the inks compared with conventional inks. “Though I think the ink costs will go down as and when there are more LED models out there,” he says. “It’s starting to get a little bit more competitive than it was but it’s still not at the prices of conventional inks.”
The ink costs were another driver for the move to SRA2, Speechley adds. “You don’t want to be going really long with your run lengths with those ink prices, so for us it was more about having bigger sheet sizes on the medium length runs.”
The optional coating unit has enabled the business to offer a gloss UV and spot UV varnishing service while other features that came as standard have also proved popular with Speechley.
“It’s been nice to have the spot UV option and we’ve had clients go for a gloss UV rather than a gloss laminate, which has worked quite well. It can be done inline and the effect is really good.
“The operating console is also very good. We can link our IT better from platemaking to the press so we can line jobs up now where we didn’t have that technology on the Ryobi.”
The press takes around or just over 100 sheets to makeready, depending on the job, Speechley says. The company’s average run length on the machine is between 10,000 and 20,000 though it frequently runs jobs of more than 100,000.
There have been no major issues to report says Speechley who, as a first time Sakurai customer, has been satisfied with the service received to date.
“Anything we have come across has just been tweaks rather than faults, such as adjustments to the bulb, software tweaks and roller adjustments. Settling on a UV ink that we prefer to run was also quite important because all of the different manufacturers’ inks run differently so that’s been a bit of a learning curve.
“Sakurai have been back to us whenever we’ve had anything to deal with, which has mainly just been glitches and things on the computer panel.”
Overall, Speechley is more than happy with the press and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others, except perhaps to those doing long runs on a regular basis due to the cost of the ink.
“We’d be lost without it, it’s a godsend,” he says. “There are pluses and minuses but I would say the gain is so much higher because of the cleanness and speed. We no longer have to wait two or three days for big solids and things like that to dry which has been a big turning point for us.
“And some of the jobs are so vibrant now, when we get really high-quality pictures it really sets them off. Where we probably thought it looked brilliant before, it now looks incredible. Once LED UV ink prices go down I think it will be formidable and a press for all.”
Speechley says the Sakurai will enable the firm to continue to expand its services and client base and he is certain it will boost turnover.
“We’ve always been a very reactive and proactive company and this machine just helps us to enhance that reputation for getting jobs done. We don’t mess around, we get jobs straight out the door and this press backs that up, which is invaluable. There’s no doubt that we’re gaining work because of the speed.”
The business has recently installed a Horizon AFC-566FG folder to support the press and plans to invest in a new guillotine in the near future. It has also taken on three new staff due to its increased workload since the press was installed – two on the finishing side and one in IT – and Speechley says two more people will be taken on in the next few months.
“We’ve probably won 10 or 11 new clients in the last three months alone and a lot of that can be attributed to the press coming in. It’s onwards and upwards for us now,” he concludes.
Max sheet size 660x508mm
Sheet thickness 0.04-0.6mm
Min sheet size 297x200mm
Max printing area 660x485mm
Max printing speed 16,100iph
Plate size 670x560mm
Feeder pile height 900mm
Delivery pile height 840mm
Price About £510,000 for this spec
Contact Sakurai UK 020 8577 5672 www.sakuraiuk.co.uk
Peterborough-based KJS Print to Mail Services was established in 1998 by managing director Stuart Speechley and chairman Kevin Brown. It produces direct mail and marketing jobs for clients in the financial sector as well as theatres, charities and small enterprises. The business has a turnover of around £3m and employs 26 staff at its 929m2 premises. Besides the Sakurai Oliver 466SD LED UV press, the company also operates kit including two CMC envelope inserting machines, two STS polywrapping lines, two Xerox Nuvera 144s and a Xerox 1000 digital colour press. It has also recently installed a fully automatic Horizon AFC-566FG folder.
Why it was bought…
The firm wanted a larger press than its existing Ryobi 524 B3 machine to handle changing run lengths and formats. Also keen to take advantage of the benefits of LED UV drying, it found that the Sakurai machine ticked all the boxes.
How it has performed…
The company can now transfer work straight out of the press and over to its laser printers without having to wait for the work to dry, reducing its turnaround times substantially. The machine has also enabled the business to offer new services, such as printing onto plastics. “I don’t think there are any boundaries to what we can print on now, we’re not scared of anything anymore,” says Speechley.