Me & My: Kurz DM-Luxliner
Monday, August 23, 2021
The Foil Printing Co is seeing sales of foiled products continue to soar, both at home and abroad, as a result of this investment.
Huddersfield-based The Foil Printing Co is a fairly small company. It has an annual turnover in the region of £1.3m and employs around 13 members of staff. But despite its modest size it is enormously ambitious and this ambition has seen it generate monthly sales of circa £60,000 selling printed collateral such as business cards, flyers and stickers, to customers in the UK, Europe and even the US, where demand for its services is rapidly growing.
When the first Covid lockdown was implemented the business was enjoying a sustained period of growth and was forced to rethink its foiling capability as it was struggling to keep up with demand for orders.
According to director Liam Smith, the digital printing house – which runs a couple of Konica Minolta presses – got into foiling around three and a half years ago.
“At the time we saw foil as an added-value thing,” recalls Smith. To start with the company bought a Matrix machine. “It was great,” says Smith. “We spent around three months figuring out temperatures, speeds and everything we needed to run it.”
Then the company, which is part of Aura Print Group, built a separate website for its foiling offer – thefoilprintingco.com - because sales had started to soar.
“It was such a good product that it took off so we bought a second Matrix,” says Smith. The first Matrix machine had a steel roller and the second one had a rubber roller.
“We then expanded the website into America and the volume in America is three times the size of England so it’s a huge market,” adds Smith. With new customers from the US coming on board the company soon reached capacity on the two Matrix machines and faced a crunch decision.
“We could have got feeders for them, but in reality that wouldn’t really work because you might do business cards 10-up on SRA4 and if someone orders 250 cards you’re looking at 25 sheets plus overs and you’re not going to set up an automatic feeder for 25 sheets.”
Smith says that the company realised “it was time for us to move to the next level” because a member of staff would be stood behind one of the manual machines for around five hours a day. “And that’s not a fun job.”
So he starting looking around for an alternative that could boost capacity and offer the same if not better quality results than the Matrix. Smith knew that he wanted something that operated in a similar way to the existing machines so that the switchover would be relatively seamless. As a result he ruled out Konica Minolta’s MGI JETVarnish, which he travelled over to France to take a look at.
“It does do foiling, but it’s a completely different process [to the Matrix]. It sprays down the clear glue first and then the foil sticks to it. We were used to putting a laminate down and then overprinting, so it would have meant a dramatic change to the whole production process,” says Smith.
Then he came across the Kurz DM-Luxliner from Leonhard Kurz. He saw the machine at Ricoh’s site in Telford a couple of times and ran a few tests on it to establish it was right for the company. “It offered us the capacity and the quality that we needed,” says Smith.
So he placed an order for the machine and then the Covid pandemic kicked in and the deal was placed on the back burner for a while. However, in spring this year the company was finally able to take delivery of the new device.
Up and running
Installation went smoothly and the company had plenty of space to accommodate the new machine because it moved into a new 600sqm site a couple of years ago. The machine operators were able to get up to speed on the DM-Luxliner pretty swiftly after receiving ‘livechat’ training over the internet with the Kurz team in Germany.
“Because it works in the same way to the Matrix we already had experience in terms of the speed, temperature and pressure so it was very easy and we were up and running within a day or two.”
Kurz’s DM-Luxliner is a UV-free metallisation system that uses printed output from toner-based digital presses – and HP’s ElectroInk – as the adhesive for the foil, meaning no additional adhesives are required. It is capable of running at up to 2,400 B2 sheets per hour, according to the manufacturer.
The device uses Kurz’s Digital Metal system which combines the software, the machine and different types of foil. The foil can be over-printed and it can also be used as an alternative to metallised papers or cardboards. The company says the machine is easy to set up and use.
Smith concurs it’s relatively straightforward to use, but despite the company’s familiarity with Kurz’s foiling process he says there were a few small teething problems initially. “However, we would go onto a FaceTime call with them and fix the issue remotely. I think we also had to have one roller replaced and someone came out to do that, but other than that it’s been very smooth going.”
He’s been so impressed by the new machine that he says he wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to someone else looking for a foiling option and that it has brought the company a whole host of different benefits, the biggest one being additional capacity.
“We’d got to the point with the two small [Matrix] machines that we couldn’t take any more work on there and there were delays when one of them ever went down. They were running five hours a day and this machine runs between just one and two hours a day, so we can get so much more work through it.”
The company recently sold its steel roller Matrix machine, but it has kept the rubber roller one as backup in case the Kurz ever goes down. His willingness to keep hold of one of the older, smaller machines is also due to the fact that it is capable of producing some colours that the Kurz currently isn’t able to, which is one of Smith’s few gripes with it.
“It would be great if it could provide a larger range of colours,” he says. “When Kurz came out to see us they showed us all the colours that they produce for other machines and there were some really nice things like a foiled brown and a cyan. It has got a decent range – we’ve got about nine to 10 colours from them – but there were some other colours in there that I know would sell really well.”
The foiled business cards, flyers, certificates and stickers that it has been producing on the Kurz have all been selling really well since the machine was installed and a lot of this business has been for companies or individuals based in the US. So how come a company based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, is able to sell its products so successfully to customers across the Atlantic?
“They love to buy from English companies,” says Smith. “It’s like we say in this country that German things are well built so as a result we look for German machinery over other machinery. Well, the Americans like to buy from us. Some of the comments we’ve received is ‘there’s nothing like this round by us’.”
And The Foil Printing Co isn’t just selling into one state or region. Smith says the company receives orders from across the US and they’re able to turn around these orders pretty swiftly. “It’s so quick and cheap to send things abroad these days. Everything is produced here in Huddersfield and then shipped by courier. If we send something to New York we’ve had things arrive as quickly as the next day, but usually it’s up to three days.”
Broadening its customer base helped the business not just to survive the pandemic, but thrive. Smith says that the wide-format side of the business has not really picked up just yet because no events or exhibitions have been able to happen, but orders continued to roll in for the other printed collateral the company produces.
“I think by November last year we were a bigger company than we were pre-Covid. We did have a tiny little dip in January when we had the second lockdown, but last month was probably our third or fourth biggest month ever and we’re now about 20% up based on the last month of what we were pre-Covid.”
Growth has been so stellar that Smith is keen to broaden the range of papers the company offers. It already stocks a large range of options, but he’s looking to add a cotton paper made from 100% cotton and he also intends to add a hemp and bamboo paper as well to satisfy growing customer demand for things that are a little out of the ordinary. At the same time the company is exploring investing in another digital press and Smith has narrowed the options down to a couple of different machines. But that’s for another day. For the time being he’s happy to continue growing sales of the company’s foiled products both to UK customers and to our cousins across the pond.
Footprint Approx 2.5x1.5m
Stamping speed Up to 2,400sph (B2 format)
Foil width 550mm
Paper weights 120-350gsm
Paper formats Minimum: 320x460mm; maximum: 560x750mm
Price Guide price of £100,000 (SRA3), £125,000 for a B2 version
Contact Leonhard Kurz UK 01923 249988 www.kurz.co.uk
The Foil Printing Co, part of the Aura Print Group, was founded in 2018 to service the growing number of people purchasing foiled products from Aura. The firm serves three core markets: the UK, Europe and the US. The Huddersfield-based company offers a wide range of foiled products spanning wedding stationery and invitations through to business cards and promotional products. It runs two Konica Minolta digital presses, a Bizhub Press C1085 and AccurioPress C6085, alongside a host of finishing kit. The company currently employs 13 people and is aiming for annual turnover of circa £1.3m.
Why was it bought...
The company launched a dedicated foiling service three years ago and business has boomed ever since. As a result, it was struggling to meet demand on its existing machinery. The company wanted to boost capacity and reduce the number of hours staff had to spend on the machines by introducing a more automated system.
How it has performed...
It has been a “game-changer” for the business, according to Liam Smith. Whereas the company’s old machines were running for five hours a day the Kurz DM-Luxliner is able to wade through jobs in just a couple of hours.