Blackmore has won around £250,000 of new work since February specifically related to its new four-colour KBA Rapida 105 press, the first in the UK fitted with Air Motion Systems' LED curing technology.
The Shaftsbury, Dorset-based company has been so happy with the £1m-plus press that chairman Peter Smith said he is considering buying another for Blackmore's sister company, Lamport Gilbert in Reading, for high-quality, quick-turnaround work.
The group has sent two representatives to visit KBA’s German factories. KBA and AMS announced a partnership for LED UV on new presses in September last year. The AMS LED curing system is integrated into KBA’s VariDry system as a factory fitted option, although it is also available as a retrofit.
“We’re reviewing our press investment plans. Two of our guys are in Germany at the moment,” Smith said. “But it’s about the mix of work. The ink is very expensive but you don’t use anywhere near as much. You’ve got to look at the economics of it.”
Ink for UV LED printers costs £46 a set, compared to £15 for the standard variety, Smith said, but the LED curing system means the press requires less ink, something that represents a significant saving when printing on some grades.
The LED curing system operates at a lower temperature than a mercury vapour lamp, giving it a longer service life and allowing it to be handled soon after the press stops printing. Nor does it require a warm-up, saving time and energy. Blackmore is also keen on the technology because of its environmental benefits – a key driver for the company and of appeal to its clients in the charity and ethical cosmetics sectors.
“If you’re producing a very long run, the economics may not work, but as I’ve got a lot of short runs, I put them on the KBA,” Smith said.
The company is increasingly supplementing its bread and butter litho work with short-run offerings, particularly in high-end marketing, for clients such as Neal’s Yard and the National Trust, for which it is a 'platinum' supplier. It also services high-profile food and drink industry customers, such as Bay Tree Food Company and the Guild of Fine Food.
Director of marketing and sales David Bland said he was investing in new sales staff to drive sales on specialty papers, and added the KBA could print on all of GF Smith’s papers.
“There’s a massive opportunity for new markets such as greetings cards. We have lots of work on weird and wonderful papers – it can print on anything.”
Installing a similar machine at Lamport Gilbert would significantly up throughput, said Smith: “We could replace the B2 and B1 presses with just one press and still have spare capacity.”
The KBA AMS Rapida 105 was Blackmore’s first KBA and has been a successful learning process, according to Bland and Smith.
“As a company we knew what we wanted to do, we wanted to see who would support us,” said Smith.
Blackmore has also just won planning permission for an 840sqm extension for its 2,200sqm Shaftsbury factory. The space is earmarked for storage, Smith said, “a massive issue”.
KBA area sales manager Paul Abraham said it was impressive that Blackmore was now hitting an eight-minute makeready time and was down to 80-150 waste sheets. Bland said wastage had been between 300-500 on the company's previous machine.