“It has gone beyond our expectations,” says managing director Steve Taylor. “I don’t understand why you wouldn’t buy a press with this technology.”
The press is a four-colour XL75 with tuned mercury vapour lamps to produce the narrow spectrum UV light that is needed to initiate the curing process. The ink is held on the surface of the paper and is fully dry once it reaches the stack. A sheet can be pulled, rubbed immediately and there is no residue to come off on the hand, says Taylor.
“It has made life pretty easy on substrates where we would normally have had problems,” he says. “It prints as well as conventional. If anything there is more lift on uncoated papers because the ink stays on the surface. There is no spray powder, no sealing, no coating. The inks cost a little more, but the press is using less power.”
The extra cost of the ink does not impact the business. It emphasises short runs where any additional cost of ink is easily absorbed in the overall cost of running a job. With longer runs ink will be a greater overall proportion of the final job, so can make the job more expensive than printing with conventional inks.
In contrast the short runs are making Wincanton competitive on work that it would not previously have printed. “We have produced work on vinyls which we could produce on our inkjet printer, but would never be able to compete with faster machines or screen presses. Now we can print these on the UV press and can be competitive,” Taylor says.
“People in agencies are starting to find out about UV and what it can do. We are constantly looking to see what other things we can print on it.”
When the machine was first installed Heidelberg ensured that the full team of chemists and engineers was on hand to manage the installation and get the business running. Any teething problems were rapidly dealt with, and successfully. After the initial flurry, Wincanton has coped on its own. “It has been pretty trouble free, to be honest,” Taylor adds.
The company has not had to switch lamps in the year it has been running the press. The mercury vapour tubes will become less effective over time, but it has so far not had any impact on Wincanton.
The company had to switch from the plate it had been using previously to a more resilient product, and the new version is used both for the UV press and its conventional machine. Each has been separately profiled so that output is all but identical so jobs can be moved around to suit the business. Inpress Control, which for Taylor is almost as impressive as the UV, monitors and adjusts the ink duct settings on the fly. “It’s just amazing,” he says.
This gets the press into colour fast enough to keep waste to an absolute minimum, further mitigating the impact of more expensive inks. “And we have a much cleaner working environment.”
Production director Ian Gatfield's expectations of increased versatility and speed of throughput have been met.
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Heidelberg can offer standard UV, LED-UV and LE-UV, its name for single lamp UV. Conventional drying with a seal will also enable faster turnarounds says the company.
“A lot of customers are looking at whether they should move from conventional to low-energy or LED, we’re the only manufacturer with a significant installed base of all three options so we want to help visitors make the right decision for their businesses by offering unbiased advice matched to their business needs,” says Heidelberg UK managing director Gerard Heanue. The vast majority of the installations are outside the UK where KBA can also offer the three styles of UV.
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