Paragon Customer Communications is considering a second LED UV equipped press to follow on from the success of its first UV investment. That machine was a retrofit on one of its three Sakurais at its Rotherham plant. Any second press will be a new machine.
Operations director Kevin McGowan explains that the experience of fitting the LED UV has been so positive and the results so beneficial that further investment is now likely. The company went to UK supplier Benford UV for the fitting and installation of the LED array and control equipment. Benford also provided the support and training needed to get the printer comfortable with the new technology.
Paragon began looking for a solution to the problem of how to meet demand for fast turnaround from customers who wanted next day if not same day delivery. In common with other litho printers, Paragon would not know how long any job would have to sit on the pallet before being dry enough to finish. There were pallets of work in progress all across the factory. The switch to LED has put an end to this.
“Work can be backed up straight away,” says McGowan. “In fact it’s performing pretty much like a digital press. It’s load the plates and paper and off you go.” The press that has been modernised in this way is a five-colour Oliver 66. Installation was swift and McGowan is not going to switch away from the technology now. He says that before making the commitment “we investigated our options around UV drying. Other parts of the group are using UV. We sort of stumbled across Benford, looked at their technology and spoke to other customers they had. It seemed to be a simple retrofit and a cost effective one.”
The company was offered different styles of UV before choosing LED. “The electricity consumption is next to nothing,” says McGowan. “Whereas older style UV technology will consume a lot of power and the lamps have a relatively short shelf life. LED is more robust.”
From Benford’s point of view, LED is indeed robust and an on/off digital technology, but the operating window is narrow, certainly compared with conventional litho and with other styles of UV. It means, says Marc Boden, managing director, that companies need to be careful about the on press chemistry. Many are set up to run well with a certain ink but once the system is up and running the printer will switch to the UV ink provided by his previous ink supplier only to find that creates problems.
This has not happened at Paragon. McGowan says that the recommended INX Sakata ink and fount are in use and that “the training and support provided was brilliant. They were printers and could relate to what we were seeing. Now my lads are loving it and the technology is trouble-free.
“We have been fortunate in that the transition has been pretty easy. It took us a couple of weeks to move from conventional to UV. Now we are not going back. A job can come in and we can turn it around on the same day which is keeping our customers happy. It has opened doors to doing what was previously too complicated for us and would have to be outsourced.”
Paragon has the press on three shifts, hence the thoughts about adding further capacity. “I can’t believe how simple it has been. The press stays clean because there is no spray powder and while the price we pay for ink has gone up, that’s nothing compared to the benefits. It’s an all round win-win and so easy to do,” he says.
Other than changing ink and fount, Paragon also changed rollers, putting the new compound in before the conversion. “There has been a slight change in the ink ducts and maybe we are running the press slightly slower because of heat restrictions in the rollers. But as we are not doing long runs, this isn’t a problem. It’s about short runs, fast turnarounds and doing as many make readies as we can.”
Not every installation runs as smoothly says Boden. His experience with fitting UV systems to sheetfed press extends back 25 years and covers all the flavours and complexities that are possible. One recent installation of UV included a mix of LED for inter decks and traditional UV on the coating units for both sides of the sheet on a ten-unit Komori Lithrone in Las Vegas. Standard UV is popular to avoid yellowing on coatings that work in parts of the spectrum addressed by the LED, and to keep the costs of the varnish down.
The interest is coming from commercial printers coming to UV for the first time. This is why Benford has taken on minders who can do the hand holding necessary to make the transition. “It is so important that we train the customers to understand the technology. We have learned a lot from our experiences in getting this in place, so we know that it’s so important to get right. You need to hold people’s hands.
“Once it’s right though there are huge benefits. And you only have to check the fount and clean the filters once a month. That’s all it takes.”