For Buchanan Visual Communications, the Future Of Print Lies in Perfecting
DALLAS—11/06/06—While the demand for six-color sheetfed presses remains strong, many commercial printers that strive for differentiation in a commodity-driven market find presses with unique attributes of 10 or more printing, coating and drying units increasingly more attractive. Buchanan Visual Communications went further—and longer—than that.
The Dallas-based firm installed a 12-color Mitsubishi Diamond 3000R convertible perfector with twin coaters. Known as the Double Diamond perfector, this 40-inch press incorporates 17 total units, the largest number of units of any commercial sheetfed press currently in operation.
“This is truly a one-of-a-kind press,” remarked David Johnson, president. “The ability of the Double Diamond perfector to print six colors and coat both sides of the sheet at one time gives us a definite advantage in the marketplace. We can up-sell existing accounts on value-added services, such as spot ultraviolet coatings, ultraviolet inks or hybrid UV inks instead of conventional inks and aqueous coatings. The majority of jobs we do entail press checks by our customers, and being able to cut that time in half with a two-sided press check helps save clients money.”
Founded in 1956 as a garage-based shop emphasizing letterpress printing and related die-cutting services, Buchanan today fulfills the gamut of visual communications. The company occupies a 75,000-square-foot facility built in 1997 and staffed by 122 employees.
Buchanan provides commercial printing, typically from 5,000 pieces to 200,000 pieces, supported by digital printing and strong database management. High-quality, branded collateral for business-to-business and business-to-consumer communications benefit from Buchanan’s unique solutions. The printer has seen relatively brisk growth in digital printing and direct mail, with sales volume increasing annually. Total revenues for 2006 are projected at $22 million.
Buchanan, a veteran of perfecting, already had two Diamond 3000R models (a four-color and an eight-color with single coaters) and a 10-color, 40-inch Heidelberg Speedmaster in the pressroom when the company decided to upgrade its production capacity to include a 12-color machine.
“The 12-color press pushes about the same amount of work out the door per hour as two six-color straight presses with half the labor cost,” Johnson observed. “The Dallas market is made up predominantly of printers that have the capabilities to perform standard four-over-four work. A lot of printers have upgraded to five-color and six-color presses. But unfortunately, the five- and six-color market has become commodity driven. To fight the battle with decreasing margins, especially on the commodity work, you need to generate more revenue for every hour of production. The only way to do that is with perfecting presses. Three years ago, we began converting all of our sheetfed equipment to perfecting.”
The Double Diamond replaced the 10-color Heidelberg Speedmaster and a six-color, 40-inch Heidelberg straight press. The new configuration of presses now produces an outstanding array of finished products, from straight 12-color work with up to two coatings on either paper or plastic to two-over-two projects with coating.
The coating configurations and drying package provide great flexibility in the job mix. The Double Diamond can accommodate aqueous-over-aqueous coatings, ultraviolet (UV) and aqueous coatings on either side of printed sheets or UV-over-UV applications -- all inline and in one pass. Apart from the added value of the finished product, UV offers protection of the printed sheets.
Buchanan opted for an interdeck UV curing system incorporating technology from Grafix LLC, with two dryers that can be positioned after printing units two, four or six. Buchanan also outfitted the press with stub unit dryers before and after the coaters. A chamber/anilox coater is located after the sixth printing unit and before the sheet-reversing unit. The second chamber/anilox coater is situated after the twelfth printing unit.
“Certain jobs don’t lend themselves as well to perfected printing,” Johnson pointed out. “It’s the nature of the jobs, regardless of the press. We print those jobs with UV hybrid inks. The sheets are completely dry before they go through the reversing unit, which eliminates the risk of marking and has virtually eliminated dot gain as a production issue.”
Automation technology keeps makereadies to a minimum. All three of Buchanan’s Mitsubishi perfectors feature automated plate changing and presetting. They also include CIP3/4 connectivity to prepress, X-Rite closed-loop color-control systems and automatic changeover from perfecting to straight printing using the touch-screen COMRAC press control.
“The Double Diamond will makeready both sides of a six-over-six job in less than 60 minutes,” Johnson noted. “That’s pretty impressive.”
In the perfecting mode, the Double Diamond can process lightweight paper up to 12-point board. When converted to straight printing, it can handle the thinnest of papers up to 24-point board. In addition, Buchanan can print on synthetic substrates, another major source of differentiation and a whole new profit center.
Although the Double Diamond began commercial production in September, Johnson said the company already has received orders for projects printed on plastics that could lead to subsequent business with numerous existing customers.
“Printing on styrene, static-cling and synthetic paper affords a real opportunity for us,” he said. “There are fewer players in plastics printing, and the higher margins compared with conventional substrates reflect this fact. The press has given us the opportunity to increase revenues for each dollar expended on labor and has opened us new markets for expansion.”
About Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses
Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A., Inc.) markets multicolor sheetfed and web lithographic presses manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. MLP U.S.A. provides complete sales, parts and service for the entire line of Mitsubishi presses. For more information, contact MLP U.S.A. in Lincolnshire, IL, at (847) 634-9100. Information also can be obtained by visiting the company’s website at www.mlpusa.com.