Me & my: Ryobi 924 LED-UV

Jez Abbott
Monday, October 12, 2015

There was a definite moment at Ipex last year that swung it for Mike Greene. The ABC Print Group managing director was looking at stepping up formats from B3 to B2 when he rolled up at the show and got talking about LED-UV drying technology with the guys on the Ryobi stand.

This, he recalls, caused a “pause; a change of thought pattern”. Instead of leaping from B3 to B2 Greene took stock. ABC Print Group, which produces an A-to-Z of material from business cards to large posters, had been in tentative talks with Heidelberg about swapping out a 10-colour B3 perfector. The German company, he insists, makes fantastic machines, but there’s a ‘but’.

“We like the B3 market, but other technology was getting better and cheaper. We were talking of swapping the perfector for an XL 75 with Inpress, but hadn’t concluded the deal. That was when we walked past the the Ryobi stand at Ipex and learned about LED-UV,” explains Greene. He also learned that the Japanese manufacturer takes a slightly different approach to print format than its rivals.

As well as quick-drying, ABC Print Group wanted to break in to new markets such as short-run A1 posters, so out went the 10-colour perfector, as planned. But into the 1,300m2 base in Hereford this March went not another Heidelberg. Instead, in went a Ryobi 924 SRA1 press with the LED-UV drying system. 

Greene wanted something different, and that’s what he got: the machine was the UK’s first Ryobi LED-UV press and its instant drying, low-energy use and environmental benefits won over the ABC team, which already has a host of accreditations, from FSC to ISO 12647-2 process standard.

“We try to be pioneering and avoid fishing in the same pond with the same kit as everybody else. We wanted to be among the first to get into the LED-UV market. Komori had H-UV curing systems while at that time Heidelberg had low-energy UV systems. Both came with mercury lamps.

“But these are expensive to buy and run and wear out three or four times a year, which is not so good at a time when print profits are constantly being chipped away. This is what put us off this kit: we were keen to take costs out instead of adding more costs on areas such as bulbs and electricity use.

“Had we gone for another press option we could have had to spend £40,000 to £45,000 upgrading our power supply with an electricity substation. That said, I’m not knocking Heidelberg: their kit is amazing and if they had the technology then, possibly, I wouldn’t have talked to Ryobi.”

Clean machine

Before the machine was installed at Hereford, a team from ABC Print Group and Ryobi’s UK distributor, Apex Digital Graphics, went to the Ryobi showroom in Geneva to see the press in action. Demo jobs for stationery, wall charts and presentation folders were all coming out in top quality, but the look of the machine was as striking as the print spooling from it. 

The Ryobi was spotless, remembers Greene. Minus the coating units there was none of the spray powder that forms such a messy signature to much traditional litho kit. Spray powder and coating units are “the two biggest litho bugbears”, says Greene, clogging up components and causing other problems, such as machine operators breathing in spray dust.

“Then there was the drying. Instant drying means a wider range of substrates can come off the press completely dry. Even if you have a coater and massive heaters with other presses, you struggle to get uncoated paper dry, but with UV, it’s immediate.” 

Greene had the floors and footprint checked to ensure the premises could accommodate the Ryobi, which was the same width as the 10-colour perfector but 2m shorter. Apex had the press up and running within a week, while two machine minders went to the Apex showroom in Hemel Hempstead for more training.

Apex spent another two weeks on site “holding our hands, checking and monitoring the system”, recalls Greene, as his team came to terms with what was a traditional press with traditional ink. But inclusion of a photo-inhibitor additive reacts to UV light to harden. Agitators in the machine meanwhile ensure the ink keeps constantly moving for a smooth, seamless flow.

ABC Print Group recently did a job for 400 A1 wall planners on 300gsm uncoated paper for the Rugby World Cup. The job kicked off at 10.05am and the guillotine operator was cutting before 10.30am. 

While Greene is impressed by the press’s top speed of 16,200sph ABC runs it slightly slower at 12,000-14,000sph to ensure no quality compromises on the new work the company has picked up, such as A1 and A2 retail posters and A4 landscape work.

New capabilities

The new press also means ABC has expanded its offering to include PUR-bound products. Previously the company could print only four pages at a time, but the Ryobi’s SRA1-format means it can achieve 16 pages on one sheet of paper, requiring much less folding and collating, which cuts down on outsourced finishing costs by between 40% and 50%.

“Environmental benefits are superb. There is less power use, ozone is removed from the process and there’s no ducting or extraction of spray powder needed. Maintenance is easy, we just wipe the press down once a month and that’s it.”

Since installation, the Ryobi 924 has worked almost flawlessly. Almost: the only glitch was a negative reaction caused by plate chemistry. But tweaking the fount solution on the press quickly smoothed out the problem. And since March there have been no breakdowns, “touch wood”.

Greene is coy on costs – “between £600,000 and £700,000”. But he says the 924 works out at about two-thirds of the cost of a B2 machine from other manufacturers. However, the technology is not for everyone’s needs, he cautions.

“For massive runs with high ink demands, this is not for you because the ink is more expensive. But for shorter runs and quality colour, the Roybi is excellent. There are no coating costs or spray bills and it uses less electricity, so for smaller jobs, even with more expensive ink, it stacks up to be a good investment.”

ABC Print Group continues to work with Apex on a technology that remains relatively new to the European market. Apex managing director Bob Usher is “very hands-on”, says Greene, who is also working with ink makers such as Flint to ensure the LED-UV process is completely clean. He has also bought a new filtration unit from Technotrans and, six months down the line, the Ryobi looks as new as the one in Geneva. 

Greene is keen to keep pioneering and experimenting with the latest kit; he says his next buy is likely to be a Ryobi 925, the manufacturer’s latest SRA1 machine. Customers, on the other hand, can be slower to latch on to what the latest technology can offer, he says.

“We still get a lot of enquiries about jobs with a sealer, but you don’t need one with this press. 

“When it comes to choosing a paper we tell customers to pick one from a swatch or sample book and that will be the finish they get – there’s no coating or varnish, which would completely change the look and feel of a paper, such as a 350gsm silk. What you see is what you get.” 


SPECIFICATIONS

Number of printing units Two to 10 including perfecting 

Printing speed 3,000-16,200sph 

Max paper size 920x640mm

Min paper size 410x290mm 

Max printing area 900x615mm 

Paper thickness 0.04mm-0.6mm 

Plate size 910x665mm

Feeder pile capacity 800mm 

Delivery pile capacity 900mm

List price Around £695,000 depending on final specification

Contact Apex Digital Graphics 01442 235236 www.apexdigital.co.uk


Company profile 

ABC Print Group has been running for 15 years and the 28 staff produce reports, brochures, business stationery, consumer packaging, direct mail, exhibition media, folders, leaflets and signage. As well as the Ryobi 924 SRA1 LED-UV press, the company runs a Heidelberg Anicolor, two two-colour Heidelberg Printmasters, a Konica Minolta 6501e, a large-format Agfa Anapurna and an HP 5500 printer. 

Why it was bought...

The Hereford-based commercial printer bought the Ryobi 924 to benefit from its instant drying - “putting ink on paper is relatively easy, but drying is a different issue”, says managing director Mike Greene - low energy and environmental benefits. It also wanted to push into new markets such as A1 and A2 posters, A4 landscape work, presentation folders and work requiring PUR binding.

How it has performed...

According to managing director Mike Greene the press has performed almost flawlessly: “Moving to the SRA1 means we can print eight pages of A4 in one pass, doubling that achieved on B3 kit, while the LED-UV technology means we have a dry-to-the-touch sheet straight from the back of the press. Productivity gains are big, as are savings on maintenance and cleaning because there is no spray powder.”

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