Cleaner and dryer days with LE-UV
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Picture the scene. A client calls and urgently needs a job printed on uncoated stock, finished and ready by tomorrow. Not a difficult scenario to envisage in this day and age, but a job that many specialist litho printers would still struggle to accommodate, in-house at least.
With more and more clients demanding shorter turnaround times and increasingly using uncoated stock, litho printers have had to look for ways to continue to win new work and keep existing customers happy.
Becoming increasingly popular among printers of late is UV technology, which promises instant drying and therefore eradicates the issue of having to factor in a lengthy wait before a job can be finished.
Earlier this year Somerset-based Wincanton Print, which serves a wide range of both UK and international customers, became the first UK company to take delivery of a Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 75 LE-UV (low-energy UV) press.
The business was founded by managing director Steve Taylor in 1980 and he runs it alongside sales director Peter Vallis and production director Ian Gatfield.
Still accounting for around 80% of the firm’s work, Wincanton Print was on the lookout for a new litho press that could replace an older model as part of a technology refresh that Gatfield says the firm carries out around once every four to five years, usually in line with Drupa.
“We started off with secondhand machines and then wanted to go to the latest technology. We bought a Heidelberg machine at one of the Drupa shows and, since then, every four to five years when the next Drupa comes along we would look at getting rid of one machine and getting a newer one in,” explains Gatfield, who joined Wincanton Print in 1990.
“About two years ago we were toying with what to do as things were getting a bit tough, and at the same time Heidelberg started to push its LE-UV machine.”
He adds: “We knew the market was starting to put them in but what we’ve learned over the years is that it takes this technology a couple of years to become established and to get all the bugs ironed out.
“We heard about a couple of local companies that had put KBA and Komori UV presses in but we wanted to wait and be sure about it and ensure that it would complement our conventional press. It took us a couple of years to make sure that we could see the uncoated work was going up.”
Satisfied that a UV press would be a worthwhile investment, the firm started to look more seriously into the options available. This included a visit by Gatfield and Taylor to Heidelberg’s national showroom in Brentford to find out more about the manufacturer’s new LE-UV offering.
The firm ultimately ordered the four-colour LE-UV XL 75 press, deciding that LE-UV tech-nology was more suited to the business than alternative UV technologies due to the lower cost of the lamps.
“We looked at other machines in the marketplace but this Heidelberg press answered all our questions and we’re a Heidelberg house so we’re familiar with them. It also has Inpress Control, which gives a significant advantage for quality control and increased efficiency,” explains Gatfield.
The machine was installed over a period of around three weeks at the start of 2016 and replaced a conventional five-colour Speedmaster XL 75, which the business sold on.
A major catalyst for opting for an LE-UV press over another conventional press, Gatfield says, is the ever-increasing amount of work the firm is completing on uncoated stock.
“We’ve recently seen a lot of designers and printing going over to uncoated and bespoke paper. At the beginning of last year around 20% of our work was on uncoated stock but that’s now edging up to around 30% to 40%.
“Even though the XL 75 we had here had coating on, once you go onto an uncoated stock of any sort, it doesn’t dry.”
The new press is operated alongside another conventional five-colour Speedmaster XL 75 with coater, which the business kept on to complement the LE-UV press and to com-plete longer runs, work on silks and spot colour work.
Gatfield says the firm’s only real concern about the LE-UV press was the higher ink costs.
“But we’ve worked out that for a £1,000 job, the cost of the extra inks adds up to about £10. And the more people that get into the UV ink market, the cheaper the ink costs will become.”
The business also operates two Ricoh Pro C901 digital printers, which it now mostly uses for runs of 200 or less or work that is individually numbered or named. Gatfield says that, due to the click charge, it’s just as economic to put slightly larger runs on the LE-UV press.
Around eight of the firm’s staff are trained on the LE-UV machine and Gatfield says they got used to it quickly due to the similarities to the firm’s existing XL 75.
“The LE-UV almost exactly the same, apart from a couple of software upgrades and the way the UV light is switched on so our press minders only had to get used to how to deal with the inks.”
Wincanton Print has quickly started to reap the benefits of the press, which it runs 24/7, says Gatfield. The machine has increased capacity by around 20%, even with one unit less than the conventional press it replaced, and the company can now offer its customers next-day delivery on uncoated work.
“We’re getting more value into the company by dealing with uncoated work more quickly and the quality of the work coming off the LE-UV press matches our old press and better, it’s just phenomenal,” says Gatfield.
“With a traditional litho press the ink goes into the paper, which shows up the surface of the paper, but with the LE-UV it dries instantly on top so the surface of the paper doesn’t affect the print as much.
“Our customers can’t believe the quality we’re printing on some of these boards with the LE-UV press.”
Gatfield says the company can now print, cut and finish jobs on uncoated stock just as quickly as it could complete jobs on silks and gloss papers on the conventional XL 75 that was replaced.
“Beforehand it was up to two to three days before we could really handle some uncoated stock after printing. We can now print on bespoke GF Smith papers and weird and wonderful boards. We’ve also no longer got any worries about any marking when finishing.”
The LE-UV press has also boosted the company’s efficiency in a range of ways, Gatfield reports.
“On our traditional press, if we were closing the machine down between shifts we’d have to wash down the coating and would lose an hour. On the UV press we can literally just walk away from it, and leave the ink on the rollers and in the ducts for as long as we want.
“There’s also no start-up time as the ink is already on the rollers and we don’t have to worry about spraying it or washing it up. The downtime between shifts is minuscule.”
Gatfield adds that due to the smaller footprint of the press, and the fact that work is no longer sitting around drying for days, the business has regained a lot of extra space in its factory.
“The factory is also cleaner because we’ve got no spray powder and the actual cost of the LE-UV is a lot cheaper than the infrared light that we had on the traditional press, so that’s come down by two-thirds.
“We’ve been told that we could see a 25% saving in our energy costs and all this compensates a little bit for the increased ink costs.”
Including the LE-UV press and an Agfa Anapurna M2500i wide-format printer, the company has invested around £1m in new machinery over the past year. Gatfield believes the new equipment – the LE-UV press in particular – will ultimately increase the firm’s turnover and profit.
“It’s early days yet but we’re looking to offer more bespoke stuff in the future and we’re going to start experimenting with spot UVs and spot metallics. Initially it’s made us 20% more efficient so we’ve now got to sell that extra capacity,” he concludes.
Location Wincanton, Somerset
Inspection host Production director Ian Gatfield
Size Turnover: Around £5m; Staff: 45
Products Leaflets, books, birthday cards, business cards, signs, banners and POS material among others for trade customers, advertising agencies, print management companies and direct clients
Kit Four-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 75 LE-UV press, conventional five-colour Speedmaster XL 75 with coater, two Ricoh Pro C901 digital printers, Agfa Anapurna M2500i and two Mimaki wide-format printers, Zünd cutter, Heidelberg Stitchmaster, Autobond laminator, Horizon perfect binder and two Stahl folders
Inspection focus Adopting UV drying technology
If you only have the facility to operate one offset press, consider whether UV or conventional litho is most suited to your business. For a company dealing mostly in long runs on silk and gloss papers, a UV press may not be worthwhile. “If you have two presses, I’d definitely say that an LE-UV press alongside a traditional press is the way forward,” says Wincanton Print production director Ian Gatfield.
Be aware that the inks used in UV curing are more expensive than standard inks, due to their extra sensitivity. Gatfield says that for a £1,000 job at Wincanton Print, the cost of the extra ink is around £10.
Look at the options. Manufacturers including Komori, KBA, Ryobi and Heidelberg all offer a range of litho presses equipped with various types of UV drying systems while companies including IST (UK), AMS and Benford UV can retrofit UV drying technology onto conventional presses.
Bear in mind that LE-UV, LED-UV and conventional UV technology all have different benefits and cost implications so make sure you consider which best suits your needs.
But don’t be afraid to make a bold move if you are satisfied with your findings. For Wincanton it has improved efficiency. “We knew LE-UV was popular in Europe and Japan and had been field tested, but we were the first in the UK to order it,” says Gatfield.