In 2016 Corsham Print became one of the first UK printers to install LED UV technology, buying an RMGT 524GX for its Wiltshire business. It joined a brace of Ricoh digital presses that were already in place, making the commercial printer one the few running litho and digital side by side in the same format and therefore ideally positioned to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each.
At the time he bought the press, director Chris Perry said that the litho press would complement the previous digital investment, so the RMGT would take the longer runs from the digital presses, which were taking more and more of the workload the company was taking on. “We will be able to turn jobs in a few hours,” he said at the time. It would be running metal rather than polyester plates for the first time.
The new press replaced a nine-year-old Ryobi which lacked the automation and refinement of the latest press, and of course it did not have the LED UV technology.
The reality has turned out not to be as clear cut as this. Digital and litho work go hand in hand. There are few jobs which by virtue of their length must be produced on one technology or the other. Instead either or both types of press may be used.
To those looking for advice, Perry says: “Don’t stick to one technology. It’s digital and litho for us. Both have an important role to play in our business going forward, especially when we are building relationships with customers. It makes us more flexible. We can produce runs up to 50,000 if needed. We don’t want to do that every day of course: we don’t make our money on that sort of work.
“We specialise in short run print production. Our success is down to keeping the gap between jobs as short as possible. The fast makeready on the RMGT machine is critical. It makes our litho production cost effective against digital on runs as short as 300 copies.”
The press includes ink key set up via Cip3, has automatic plate loading, and preset features to halve set up time compared to the Ryobi presses it had had in the past. The low cost metal plate used and reduction of waste has increased the types of work where one day it might be printing 50,000 one day and a couple of hundred sheets with the next job.
“Being able to print on a wider range of stocks also does make a difference. Uncoated stocks especially provide a key point of difference for litho. Digital almost always leaves a sheen on that type of substrate. The LED UV curing capability means that sheets are dry to the touch as soon as they come off the press, colour is true and accurate, and ink volumes are kept to the minimum because there is no absorption into the stock as the ink dries.”
The result is also a more vibrant look and one where the feel of the paper is retained unlike the way that digital print lays on the surface.
This provides an important point of distinction compared to the online print providers where prices are low and turnaround can be rapid. Corsham can be just as fast if needed, but he says: “We like to think that the work we produce you simply couldn’t buy online. Different stocks, different sizes, different finishes. In our opinion print is not a ‘one size fits all’ type of business.”
Nor is he overly concerned about competition from websites, digital marketing or other screen based messaging. “Our new marketing slogan is ‘In a digital world print stands out’. We firmly believe that people are returning to print because their customers take notice of a piece of print rather than a digital screen. It’s tangible, you can hold it, you can share it easily, it carries significantly more gravitas, and print is very portable in that you can read it anywhere without ever having to plug it in.”
This is not to say that Corsham is wedded to print only. It operates a Nettl shop and offers a web design service through its creative design operation and so enabling customers to order print online. Nettl also enables the company to offer a broad range of large format banners and displays.
By Gareth Ward
"The fast makeready on the RMGT machine is critical. It makes our litho production cost effective against digital on runs as short as 300 copies,” says director Chris Perry. Corsham Print has direct experience of running LED litho alongside digital printing.