Greenhouse Graphics was one of the first UK printers to install the Komori H-UV technology, completing the installation a little more than two years ago.
At the time the Basingstoke business was the fourth in the country with the press and the four-colour machine was its first venture into buying new. The Lithrone 429 H-UV replaced a five-colour Lithrone 28 after a thorough examination of its options, which had included buying a retro fit solution. It has not looked back.
“Yes the inks are more expensive,” says managing director Ian Crossley, “but the paper saving more than makes up for that. There is no powder on the sheet and no waste when backing up.”
There are advantages in buying a new press with the latest in terms of technology and makeready aids. At an initial makeready this cuts start up waste from 250-300 sheets to 80 sheets, but it is reducing the numbers of sheets lost when turning the job to print the reverse side that Greenhouse has found the greatest change. With powder on the sheet, there also needs to be frequent blanket washing and that means start up sheets are lost every time.
That no longer happens because the sheet is perfectly dry and clean when it is put back through the press. And both sides of the sheet are identical in terms of print quality. “When we back up there is no need to clean the blankets down every time as we did with the previous press, there were sheets lost at start up. There might be a need for a blanket wash several times on each job,” he says. “This outweighs the extra cost of the ink by a long way.”
This improves matters on the shop floor where the operators can get on with printing rather than cleaning. The lack of powder helps keep the environment much cleaner both for staff and any customers that might be looking around.
The powder free environment equally means there is no powder to accumulate on collators and folders necessitating a clean down.
The instantly dry sheet also means the company can be confident of hitting a schedule no matter whether printed on coated or uncoated papers, with light coverage or large areas of solid. “Then we can guillotine it straightaway, so that if someone wants 1,000 or 5,000 leaflets very quickly we know we can deliver.
“We print a reasonable amount on uncoated papers and there has been a definite increase in quality. On all papers we are printing better – that might be because it’s a new press – and there is definite difference in quality that has been noticed by customers, especially on uncoated.”
Aside from the extra expense of the inks, Greenhouse has had to replace a set of UV lamps, though after 14 months rather than the nine months they were expected to last. Likewise it switched from the Fuji ProT3 plate to Kodak as the run length on the Fuji develop on press plate was too short, even for a company specialising in short runs. Crossley is waiting for the next generation of Fuji plate which is said to have a life of 60,000 impressions even with UV inks.
The plate has performed well, with a better life on coated papers than on uncoated, and a slight tendency to go blind very quickly if the company pushes up against this parameter. It knows what to look for as this figure is reached so as not to be caught out. “Generally though the plates have lasted longer than we thought, reaching 17,000 impressions,” he says. Most of the company’s work is in the hundreds and low thousands of sheets. It is a rare job that runs to 20,000 impressions. “Generally the plates have not been a problem, no more than they would be on a conventional press,” he explains.
There are advantages on scheduling jobs as well as on the shop floor. Crossley is confident when quoting delivery times that printing will not be a problem. The days of leaving uncoated work to dry for a couple of days before even thinking about printing the reverse, and then waiting a few more days before approaching the finishing lines for fear of marking are long gone.
This also means fewer pallets of work in progress and thus it is easier to locate those that are needed, something that is a niggle for many companies though rarely quantified.
Greenhouse can also interrupt a longer print job to load and print a few hundred copies of a short run urgently required job, without fear of uncontrollable disruption. Three years ago he would not have dared ask press operators to do this. “We are much more in control of our schedules,” says Crossley. “In the old world we would have to wait an indeterminate time especially for uncoated now we can print to the schedule that we want to run.
“There are still issues, as with any technology, but it is now much easier to do the turnarounds we are being asked for.”