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Market Trends

Ancillary Print Technology

To make a print business truly efficient you need an eye for detail, Brendan Perring investigates how pulling together an array of kit could help exponentially boost your performance

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Technotrans has noted an upturn in demand for ancillary technology such as its UV ink pumps to maximise efficiency without new equipment investment

More than the sum of it's parts

WIth hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on the very latest professional printing equipment in the UK each year, it is surprising how much of that investment and hard work is then undone by overlooking all the variables that affect the output quality, productivity, and even life-span of such technology.

Gone are the days for many where huge amounts of wastage was part of the every-day life in a print house; today the most successful print businesses look like more like a super-car factory, and they live by the same ethos of tight environmental control, fine margins, and incremental performance leading to an overall improvement in productivity. And that dear reader is where the  pieces of print technology that run ancillary to your presses come in—individually they make  small difference, but when you add them up it makes a great change.
Essential consideration

One company that offers such equipment is Humidity Solutions, whose owner and director, John Barker, says that printers should pay attention to factors like humidity if they are to achieve true quality in output.

Available from Humidity Solutions, the wall-mounted steam humidifier is seen as an ideal technology for use in digital print rooms

“There are very clear and well-documented benefits to maintaining effective humidity control within a print environment—whether it be digital, litho, or web,” he says, adding: “Humidity control is an essential part of the printing process and all press manufacturers require this to ensure the effective performance of their equipment.
Without some sort of control they will be outside of these operating parameters for a large part of the year.”

Humidity control is an essential part of the printing process

Indeed, Barker points out that many printers spend thousands of pounds on their machines and paper stock and then leave them in uncontrolled environments where the climatic conditions may be changing on an hourly basis. Stable humidity reduces static, improves the dimensional stability of the paper, and also improves machine speeds as the paper does not curl and cause jams. The result is improved quality and a healthier bottom line.

Barker continues: “By spending a little—usually considerably less than they anticipate—printers can create stable conditions that support optimum performance of both the printers and paper stock. For instance, a system we recently installed for Ripe Digital cost just £1,500 and is delivering precise humidity control in support of their operation.”

Leading on from this, Barker points out some of the solutions on offer from his company, including the Eiger, which has been designed specifically for smaller digital print rooms. He expands: “The Eiger provides temperature and humidity control plus air filtration, air movement, and fresh air from a single unit to ensure conditions remain in the Quality zone for optimum machine speeds and print quality.”

The all in one Eiger Airflow package from Humidity Solutions can be used to control temperature, humidity, airflow and air filtration, as well as introduce fresh air

For litho, large digital, and web-based printers, Humidity Solutions also offers the Airtec high pressure system, which can be retrofitted to existing buildings, is economical to run and cools the air, as well as ensuring stable humidity, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning.

Enhancing quality

Also weighing in on the debate is Richard Mawson, managing director of CyanX, who says forward-thinking printers should always be looking for ways to gain an advantage and improve performance, including ancillary technology.

Mawson expands: “Although a wide range of products are supplied by CyanX, covering a number of products and processes, generally ancillary systems exist to enhance and improve production capability—either to streamline a process to improve productivity, enhance quality, or offer something extra to allow a printer to produce for new markets, often in niche areas.

“If we would like to raise awareness in a specific area it would be the benefits of retrofittable LED-UV systems. LED-UV is a much publicised and talked about trend in litho. It is perhaps not seen as an ‘ancillary’ system because press manufacturers offer LED-UV factory-fitted—even when the technology is made by a third party. Our message is—you can buy your LED-UV separately, and it’s better that way.

“Our LED-UV equipment comes from Eltosch Grafix, part of the Hönle group, a global leader in UV technology with installations worldwide.”

Mawson cites the Eco-Seal coating system as one of the top-selling products at CyanX, adding that the solution enhances a company’s end product and profitability by exploiting a unique niche. He explains: “Eco-Sealed mailers will peel, but not re-seal; thus they are secure and tamper-evident, but need no envelopes, meaning no insertion process or cost—and because they are rated as postcards, they are cheaper to post. Eco-Seal allows the freedom to create eye-catching, self-contained designs that have been shown to generate higher response rates.”

CyanX also offers a range of humidification and antistatic solutions, including the Ikeuchi humidification systems, as the firm serves as the technology’s exclusive stockist in the UK and Ireland. One example in this range is the Ikeuchi’s AKIMist, which has a patented ‘dry fog’ system that achieves a uniform spray of droplets which all have a diameter of less than 10µm.

CyanX also recently became an agent for Stop Static, which has a host of products including Static String, Static Elastic, and 360 Ion Rods, which cover a broad range of applications from sheet fed, flexible packaging, converting, coating, laminating, plastics, and numerous reel-fed processes.

Fuelling expansion

Perhaps one of the most well-respected suppliers in this sector of the print industry supply chain is Technotrans, the managing director of which, Peter Benton, says he cannot recall any printer in the last 20 years having not had a return on investment when buying press peripherals.

Technotrans says customers have said that its solutions, including the Smart Chiller, have had a major impact on production

Benton comments: “We have identified a strong trend towards investment in these products over the past 20 years, and I believe various factors have fuelled the expansion. Recessions and downturns have played a part in that printers have sought to increase output and safeguard the quality of an ageing press until they can cost justify buying new. Many found that press peripherals helped them do just that.”

Speaking to Benton, he points out that the strong environmental lobby in the 1990s was important in fuelling interest in filtration—which cuts the chemistry bill and the waste disposal bill—and in inking systems because both cartridges and bulk systems eliminate the issues of ink skinning and remnant waste that was the bugbear of tins.

O Factoid: The use of humidification systems in print rooms help combat the static electricity built up by friction.  This occurs when humidity is below 45 percent. Humidity above 55 percent ensures that static will never build up. O

Benton continues: “Press technology advances has turned a craft industry into an industrial process and increased speeds and productivity require the add-ons. Then there has been the uptake in waterless and alcohol free/reduced printing and more particularly the recent interest in LED-UV and LE-UV technology, each of which requires more process control than conventional printing, and that has provided another stimulus to press ancillaries.”

Benton also advises that in interest in specialist UV ink pumps, designed to feed ink without fear of polymerisation before the ink hits the paper, has also been on the rise. In recent times, he further explains that Technotrans has entered the digital market where temperature control is a necessity, and its Omega chillers have had an increasing following.

Clean it up

This constant supply of new technology and the factual difference it can make to production makes a good case for investing in it. And one of the more recent solutions to have been launched to improve the working environment in the print room is Air Watch, an air monitoring system from Kemper. Sensor technology is able to determine and document the number and weight of nanoparticles, and then analyse it with smartphone, tablet, or PC and compare it to limit values. A traffic light display also visualises permanently the status of air quality.

Air Watch captures particles in the range of 100 nanometers to 16 micrometers, which includes the fine dust categories PM2.5 for alveolar common dust and PM10 for all inhalable dusts as defined by the World Health Organisation. The solution also continuously monitors the air quality regardless of the type of workplace, with the monitoring system measuring fine dust particles in a radius of up to 30m using a laser-powered sensor.

Speaking about the new solution, Björn Kemper, managing director of Kemper, says: “With our new air monitoring system Air Watch, we introduce for the first time a system on the market that is in a position to efficiently measure the number of fine dust particles.”

New from Kemper, the Air Watch is an air monitoring system that analyses air quality and displays results on a smartphone, tablet, or PC

What the launch of the Air Watch from Kemper points to, and indeed all the ancillary print production solutions mentioned above, is that printers need to achieve greater returns from a static set of resources. As such, the only way for them to do this is to reduce wasted print, and be able to monitor production variables and act before problems occur. In the case of the Air Watch it can flag up, for instance, if using a certain speciality paper-grade is going to have an adverse effect on the quality of the print run through the chaff it is producing.

Putting it into practice

With this in mind, another key player in this sector is IST Metz, which has gone to much pain to educate the market about another key piece of print production technology that could help your business achieve more than the sum of its parts. 

The firm used a Wifag OF-7 newspaper press at the Centre d'impression et d'arts to test out the performance of its LED UV print curing technology. The press was installed in 2007 and initially consisted of BLK-3-type UV systems from IST Metz, although this has been updated to LE-UV technology, in which appropriately-adapted printing inks are used in addition to specially-doped UV lamps.

During testing, one of the two LE-UV radiators was replaced with an LED cure system, which accordingly provided separate UV units for the front and back— simultaneously allowing a comparison between low-energy UV and LED-UV technology to be made.

Upon examining the results of the incremental test process, IST Metz found that by using LED-UV inks, high production rates can now be achieved, while surface speeds—such as those usually achieved on presses for narrow-web label printing or in sheet-fed offset printing—were significantly exceeded in the test runs.

However, the firm did note that to guarantee reliable curing, in cases that require it, an appropriately-modified speed should be selected as a function of the substrate used and of ink density, especially when black ink is involved.

What this test and the small cross section of technology discussed in these pages highlights is that you can do the seemingly possible. You might not be able to invest in new presses or finishing kit, but you certainly can upgrade them and build a network of ancillary print technology around them that can substantially improve your performance from a set of static variables. Considering the many improvements and benefits these solutions can bring to a print company, and the relatively low cost when compared to other parts of the production process, there is simply no excuse to ignore investment here.

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