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SOLVING INK ISSUES -- Inking a Deal

August 2001
BY CAROLINE MILLER


When a printer opens up a can of ink, he sees more than just cyan, magenta, yellow, black or a PMS color. He also sees things like trust, quality and technical support, which all help ensure that each batch is as good as the last. It's this combination of product and customer service that is essential for any printer. And the way to develop this winning combination is through a working partnership with an ink supplier.

Whether you're a commercial, quick or label printer, a good relationship with an ink supplier helps ensure quality printed products.

One true-life example of the right formulation helping to improve a printer's business is the story of Avon Press in Hauppauge, NY, and its partnership with Van Son Holland Ink.

For Avon Press Vice President of Manufacturing Marvin Freeman, opening a can of ink used to be like opening a can of worms. "We had a lot of problems matching PMS colors. The ink didn't pop and wasn't sharp."

To try and solve his problems, Freeman turned to Van Son. And after just one press run, Freeman was sold. "We could immediately see the difference in Van Son's gloss content versus the other ink company that we were using," he remarks.

Speeds Press Checks
Today, Avon Press uses Van Son Holland's Signature process inks and Quickson Plus PMS color ink.

"The dot prints extremely clear. We can match our digital proof or traditional Matchprints better with Van Son inks. This allows our press clients to be on-press for just a few minutes, so it saves them time, as well," Freeman reveals.

But it is not just the quality of Van Son's ink that left a lasting impression on Freeman. Almost as important has been its customer support.

"Their technical support and customer service have been very good. Van Son sales representatives regularly call to make sure everything is consistently OK. If we have a specialty job running, a sales rep will often come to watch it run on-press. It makes a big difference because they are there, backing up their product," Freeman says.

Like Avon Press, Brook & Whittle, a pressure-sensitive label printer in North Brandford, CT, has developed a strong working partnership with its ink supplier, SICPA.

The printer, which does work for companies such as Gillette, Yankee Candle and Pepsi, began working with SICPA a year ago after experiencing compatibility issues.

"We brought SICPA in to help us solve a problem. The inks weren't laying down properly. They were pin-holing and keeping us from producing a quality product and running at the necessary speed to compete in this market," recalls Steven Stewart, Brook & Whittle president.

SICPA was able to solve compatibility issues with its line of UV rotary screen 78-3 series and UV flexo 39-5 series inks. "We use screen in combination with UV flexo inks," adds Stewart. "Compatibility is the big issue there—putting screen under UV flexo or vice versa."

As part of SICPA's ongoing partnership with the printer, any time there's a special job on-press, a SICPA representative travels to the plant to help ensure the color quality of the job.

"We do work a lot of eight-, nine-and 10-color printing work. SICPA has helped us meet the quality standards that our clients demand from us ," he concludes.

Sun Valley, CA-based Brothers Printing, a commercial shop specializing in political printing, has enjoyed a 25-year relationship with Gans Ink.

"We've worked with Gans almost exclusively. They provide great specialty colors and are able to mix and deliver colors the same day," explains Brian Cohen, a co-partner at Brothers Printing. "They have real good service and a very consistent product."

A Tiger in the Press
Brothers uses Gans' Bengal four-color process inks for most of its work, according to Cohen.

Gans' stay-open ink not only helps Cohen produce high-quality jobs, it improves his productivity, as well. "The stay-open inks can stay open for hours on a press. It doesn't require us to wash up and that translates into time and material savings, which translates into money," he says.

Even more important to Cohen is the technical assistance that he receives. Since Brothers specializes in political printing, it is often called upon to create very unique jobs that can be highly complex.

"We had a situation recently with a particularly hard job. The ink wasn't responding well to the specialty paper upon which it was to be printed. I was able to talk with Gans' technical support and explain the problem to them. They spoke with me on a technical level and helped solve the problem," remarks Cohen.

At Craftsman Press in Cheverly, MD, its motto is "whatever it takes." This also describes the relationship the printer has with its ink supplier, Flint Ink, reveals Joe D'Agrosa, vice president of manufacturing.

"Flint Ink has always responded to our needs. We've never had any problems with their ink and their customer service has really set them apart," D'Agrosa says.

"We installed an automated Heidelberg Sunday 2000 and Flint formulated an ink specifically for our web press. We've never had any ink issues, nor have we had any downtime related to ink problems. That has been essential in assuring our productivity," he adds.

Still, solving challenges— whether it be printing on different substrates or on-press performance issues—is key to printers such as Bob Collin, owner of Chief Printing, a quick printing operation in Mukwonago, WI.

"We used to have one press on which we always had problems with the ink milling up and emulsifying," remembers Collin.

At a trade show, Collin had the opportunity to talk with a Spinks Ink representative about his ongoing problems. He went home with some samples and experimented with Spinks' Titan ink on the press. Suddenly, his milling and emulsifying problems were gone.

Collin immediately changed brands and has been using Titan ink ever since. But it's not just Spinks' product that was a factor in keeping Collin's business. Customer service has also been an important part of their relationship, notes Collin.

Just Checking In. . .
"Our sales representative keeps a real close eye on us. He calls every week to make sure everything is running well. Service and the quality of the product have been the primary factors in our decision to stay with Spinks. We don't have any problems. The coverage has been really nice and the runnability has been excellent. After all, if it doesn't run well, it doesn't matter what the price is."

For Joe Merrit, pressroom manager at Cohber Press in West Henrietta, NY, K+E printing inks from BASF are the best bang for the buck. The high-end commercial shop has been using the BASF 908 series, as well as the BASF hybrid series.

"I have worked with three or four different ink companies and, by far, BASF is the best company with which I've worked. Basically, I have little or no ink-related problems," Merrit says.

BASF's reliability and runnability continue to impress him. "I have operators that are new to the press and guys who have 25 or 30 years of experience; the ink relates the same to all them. Ink-related problems are pretty much non-existent.


Single-Fluid Ink: On the Cutting Edge

The widely anticipated single-fluid ink technology may soon be out of beta testing and available to the mass market. Single-fluid technology, which was first introduced at DRUPA 2000 by both Flint Ink and Sun Chemical, eliminates the need to balance ink and water on-press.

While both companies' offerings are referred to as single-fluid ink, they do differ greatly in chemistry and technology, notes Diane Watt, Flint Ink marketing director.

Both companies will showcase their versions of single-fluid ink technology at PRINT 01, and it appears that Sun Chemical's Drilith W2 will even be available before the show. Sun's Drilith W2 is about to leave beta testing and enter the commercial market, reveals Dick Drong, marketing manager for sheetfed inks. "At this time, production is ramping up and moving forward," he states.

A sheetfed offset ink, Drilith W2 contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and is formulated to run with waterless plates. It can be washed from the plates using a simple water and soap solution, thereby eliminating press washes that contain harmful VOCs.

Still in the beta test phase, however, is Flint Ink's four-color process ink for sheetfed applications.

Flint Ink is keeping additional details about its single-fluid ink technology close to its vest. "We are still in the testing phase and there are some really critical things happening in the next few months with the project," Watt reveals. Flint Ink's offering will be available to the mass market in the foreseeable future, she adds, although no firm time line has been established.

While remaining guarded on the details of its single-fluid ink technology, Watt does remark that much has changed since the single-fluid ink technology was first demonstrated at DRUPA 2000. "We've come a long way since DRUPA. At that time, the focus was really on opening up the breadth of performance of the ink," she says.

Single-fluid ink technology has been touted by both ink companies as providing printers with less waste, faster makereadies, no color variation, as well as eliminating the need to balance ink and water on a press. "Because users are printing using a waterless process, they're able to come up to color more rapidly because, essentially, they're printing pure ink on the substrate," claims Drong.

"The elimination of color variation is a major problem that many printers are trying to eliminate. Generally, color variation problems have been related to water interaction and the way ink performs on-press, as well as the way it feeds down the ink distribution system."
 

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