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Ahead of the Curve

Sakurai UK

Sakurai Graphic Systems is a family affair, with long traditions. Genevieve Lewis talks to Mark Priest, UK sales manager, on the history of the company and where it stands today

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Mark Priest is the UK sales manager for Sakurai

A family tradition

Yoshikuni Sakurai founded Sakurai Graphic Systems in 1946, who remains as the chairman and chief executive officer. Today it is run by his son, Ryuta Sakurai, who is the president of the company.

The business successfully entered the UK market, working with British-based businesses and those in Europe, and has had a home in London since the turn of the millennium.

“Sakurai Graphic Systems is a global company manufacturing offset and screen-printing presses,” says Mark Priest, UK sales manager. “We also offer full solutions including all ancillary equipment, training, engineering and provide clients new to screen-printing with a recommended list of consumables suppliers that also offer technical and product support.”

He continues: “All partner equipment we sell as a package, is best in class and proven over many years to be reliable and do what it says on the tin. Brands such as Natgraph dryers, Grunig sceen processing equipment and most important of all, a Sakurai fully automatic screen-printing press offer reliability and longevity.”

The team in London currently consists of 12 members of staff, but there is also an additional third-party team of engineers all around the country. The Hounslow base also serves as the European demonstration centre, with Priest explaining: “The building is the European headquarters for screen-printing machine sales and distribution and houses our European demo centre. We pride ourselves in being able to offer full demonstration functionality in-house with pre-press, screen making, screen cleaning and reclaiming and printing on our cylinder presses and flatbed presses.”

A Sakurai press with dryer and stacker

Despite only having a team of 12 permanent staff, they are busy people, selling and installing around 40 presses a year. “The London branch sells, distributes and installs approximately 40 presses per annum, a figure which is rising year-on-year,” says Priest. “We are the gateway into Europe and offer full engineering support to the install base which is in the hundreds.”

Our presses and new products are created using the latest manufacturing equipment and techniques

Japanese businesses often have a long and inspiring history and Sakurai is no different. Priest says that manufacturing precision and reliability is the main ethos of Sakurai. “Our cylinders are manufactured to tolerances of one micron,” he says, adding: “Our presses and new products are created using the latest manufacturing equipment and techniques, in state-of-the-art premises in Japan.

“To give you an idea of the quality of our manufacturing, our screen presses weigh 3.5 tonnes for B2 and 4.5 tonnes for B1. They are engineered to achieve the ultimate in precision printing, a requirement for the electronics industry, which often requires printing 30-micron lines of silver conductive inks onto plastics to make circuits. This is why our presses have such a high resale value, they last for 30 years, way beyond the life cycle of any digital solution. This also means our solutions offer minimal risk.” 

The Print Show

Sakurai will be returning to The Print Show this month for the first time since 2016. Priest explains: “[We want] to raise industry awareness of what can be achieved with our fully automated, MS-102 screen-printing machinery and LQM foiling solutions. We want to show what we can do and talk to potential new clients and print buyers. Our screen presses have been used to overprint spot UV varnish onto offset printed sheets for years, in B1 and B2 formats. Our new foiling system provides us with the ultimate print embellishment offering for the UK.”

[We want] to raise industry awareness of what can be achieved with our fully automated, MS-102 screen-printing machinery and LQM foiling solutions

He continues: “Fully integrated, the Sakurai foiling system uses screen-printed varnish to adhere the foil. The process is innovative, easy to use and the effects are truly outstanding, achieving the wow factor all print buyers want.”

Priest adds that screen-printing is an analogue process in this digital world and has become highly automated and extremely precise. “The process enables the operator to achieve a wide variety of ink film thicknesses, which can produce 3D (raised) print, [and it] literally pops out of the paper at you. High build, structured varnish effects can be achieved which enhance the overall look, feel and impact of the job. Special effects like glitter, ‘glow in the dark’, different textured finishes with tactile surfaces or highly saturated Pantone colours, all look amazing, when printed screen.”

An example of finishing from Sakurai

At The Print Show, Sakurai will be showcasing a fully automatic screen-printing line, with offset feeder and side-lay (dot for dot register), touch-panel-driven console, and the latest UV dryer technology and sheet stacker. “We will showcase some simple effects that can be achieved, printing live at The Print Show,” says Priest. He continues: “We hope to inspire new clients to screen-printing equipment. Best of all, a full solution with all the equipment you could want from prepress through to press, costs a lot less than a digital solution; that’s running costs and capital equipment. Why pay more for less luxury, impact, texture, contrast or detail?”

Priest concludes: “Come and see it. Come and have a look at what an analogue process can produce. The detail, the contrast we can achieve, it’s so creative. In today’s current market conditions, clients want special finishes and luxurious foil to be applied to their work, their packaging or promotional printed items. It’s about giving the end user an experience that increases the impact and value of CMYK print.”

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