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American Printing -- Proof Is in the Match

November 2004
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

When it comes to auditioning ink, Shawn Welch is no Simon Cowell. Welch, vice president of operations for Madison, WI-based American Printing, doesn't have the same itchy trigger finger displayed by the now-infamous "American Idol" judge. In fact, Welch loves to take a long, hard look at the results on-press, anywhere from two to six weeks.

It behooved Welch to be methodical in choosing his primary ink supplier. Aside from some UV printing, the ink that emerged victorious from Welch's screening would pretty much cover all of American Printing's big press printing jobs.

American Printing is a sheetfed-only printer with 75 employees and annual sales in the $12 million range. It serves the southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois markets with annual reports, art prints, point-of-purchase materials and various products for the manufacturing sector. The company produces a great deal of agency-related work.

"It took months of testing (to make a determination)," he says. "We wanted to give everyone an equal shot, so we ran each ink a solid month, anywhere up to five weeks. Sometimes we'd go back to something we'd already tried and get a second opinion on it. But over a period of several weeks, we got the opportunity to run it on all types of jobs."

When all the inks had dried, Welch found a perfect match with Van Son Holland Ink and its VS5 line, which was rolled out earlier this year by the Islandia, NY-based manufacturer. The VS5 line was chosen from a field of four manufacturers.

Not a Perfect Start

American Printing has been using the VS5 formula for roughly 10 months, and Welch notes there haven't been any performance issues. That wasn't always the case.

"We were having some issues before, but the VS5 allowed us to print sharper, match proofs more consistently, and gave us less scuffing and drying problems in the finishing area," Welch notes. "Our percentage of times that we're having an exact match to proof is far greater because of the sharper printing and reduced dot gain.

"Our press operators definitely have noticed a difference, and the setting time has certainly been reduced. So far, we really like it."

The VS5 formula is part of a coming out party in the U.S. market for Van Son Holland Ink, which previously only distributed products for smaller format and duplicator presses. In debuting in the medium- and large-format sheetfed offset markets, the company unveiled a program through which it funnels sales and service of the ink through selected U.S. regional ink companies.

American Printing's distributor, Press Color of Glendale, WI, was an unlikely partner for Van Son a little more than a year ago. According to Dennis Curtin, vice president, Van Son had been courting his company for nearly a year, but Press Color wasn't interested. In a July letter to Van Son, Curtin broke the news.

"They (Van Son) were gracious in defeat," Curtin allows.

Undaunted, Van Son extended an invitation for Curtin to attend a VS5 Council Meeting in Chicago and, out of respect to the host, Curtin decided to attend. The demonstration soon convinced Curtin that his company needed to take a prolonged look at the VS5 formulation.

"The main reason I hesitated was because we already distributed (another manufacturer's ink) and didn't want to distribute two inks, plus manufacture our own line, as well," Curtin says. "But after attending the Van Son meeting and presentation, I knew I'd be crazy not to get into this."

The keystone advantage of the VS5 formula is the significantly smaller percentage of water it needs—roughly 15 percent to 18 percent less than typical inks required during press trials, according to Curtin.

At a Printing Industries of Wisconsin gala, one user happily reported to Curtin that his mileages were up by 20 percent. That's not out of the ordinary, according to Pat Byrne, technical sales representative for Press Color, who worked with American Printing on the project.

"The VS5 held their proofs, reduced their dot gain by about 3 percent, and had better contrast numbers and trapping numbers," he says. "When you run less water, you get quicker turnaround times, better mileage and less calcium issues. I've seen anywhere from 7 percent to 10 percent more mileage on the ink per pound, which is also a big plus."

Press Color, a regional ink manufacturer with sales under $10 million a year, is one of more than a dozen manufacturers/distributors to carry and service the VS5 line. While his company has been in business for more than 45 years and has had success with its own line of ink, Curtin finds the Van Son name to be a door opener.

"We're a small, regional ink manufacturer," he says. "With Press Color, it's like the 'who are they?' ink company. Having the new Van Son line allows us to go in with a large company name, bring them small company service and it's really helped us to grow in the sheetfed market."

Curtin hopes the results enjoyed by American Printing represent one of many successful auditions that the VS5 line passes. Especially without Simon's snooty commentary.

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