Tech Talk: LED-UV Is Best Cure For Carlisle Printing
Marcus Wengerd, owner of Carlisle Printing in Sugarcreek, Ohio, recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of using his 10-color Manroland sheetfed offset long perfector equipped with an AMS LED-UV curing system. He relates his experiences and views on the many benefits that LED-UV technology provides his print shop in the following Q&A discussion.
Q: How did you become interested in UV and LED-UV curing technology?
MARCUS WENGERD: We are located in the middle of Ohio’s Amish country, and it may surprise you, but the Amish were early adopters of LED lighting in their homes. The Amish here use solar panels and DC batteries, so LED lighting was a great fit for them. I had been studying LED technology and realized several years ago that LED would change UV curing forever.
Q: How did your management philosophy affect your decision to embrace the LED-UV process?
WENGERD: I have some very specific ideas about the kind of printing company I want to own and manage. My workforce is my greatest asset and their Amish roots are a big part of our success story. They take great pride in their jobs and their workplace. I want to provide the kind of printing plant that they can be proud of — the kind of shop that not only puts out top-quality work, but is also highly efficient and clean.
Getting rid of the spray powder in the pressroom was a huge leap forward in plant cleanliness. I believe offset printing can, and should be, “copier clean and simple.” In my view, LED-UV is the closest that litho has come to digital when you are looking for cleanliness, quick turnarounds and premium quality.
LED-UV has also provided us what I call a “multiplier effect” of many benefits that interact to make Carlisle Printing better. Whether good or bad, things tend to snowball or multiply against each other, especially in a printing plant.
I created the following list regarding the benefits that LED-UV technology has provided our shop. I can’t necessarily say they would apply across the board to all print shops, but they’re based on my personal experiences with the particular job applications that we run.
- Faster press speeds mean more capacity
- No spray powder
- No buffing for laminating
- No waiting for lamps compared to conventional UV
- Less maintenance than conventional UV
- Fewer blanket washes
- No white gutter space needed
- No marking
- Perfecting jackets? Don’t need them anymore. We run on ones that would have been considered trash, or you can replace them with steel jackets
- Chiller away from the press/heat removal can be away from the pressroom
- Less AC tonnage required to cool our pressroom (every dollar of energy spent on traditional UV requires another dollar of air conditioning)
- We use the same profile for coated and uncoated paper
- No hickeys/no hickey delta effect to cause dot gain
- Save ink because of fewer washups
- Gained one hour per day of extra production because evening washups were eliminated
- Less fountain solution required
- Less press wash required
- Quicker blanket and impression cylinder washes because ink does not cure by oxidation
- Switched to 20 micron stochastic at the same time as switching to LED-UV
- Instant turnaround
- Cleaner pressroom
- Cleaner bindery
- Instant measuring of color data for profiling (no need to wait for dryback)
- Ability to print and varnish on two sides in one pass
- No heat distortion on plastics
- Long perfector will have same dot gain on side A as on side B
- Neater stacks to the cutter/bindery
- Less knife draw when cutting when no spray powder is used
- No offsetting or bricking
- LED curing can be adjusted to lower power when running lighter-coverage jobs
- Ink never dries in, on or around the press; therefore, we have a cleaner pressroom. If you have LED ambient lighting in your pressroom instead of fluorescent or metal halide, white LED lighting has no UV output. LED packs the power to give you what you need where you need it (i.e. UV in the press and no UV outside of the press)
- Perfecting 130-lb. cover stocks with varnish on both sides
- Material cost savings in paper, ink and press parts
Q: Reported downsides of LED-UV are the high material costs for inks and coatings. What has your experience been?
WENGERD: UV ink is nearly twice the cost of regular sheetfed litho ink but, in my opinion, consumable costs are a wash. First off, consider that ink costs are only about 2% of a total print job, whether they are UV or not. Paper is closer to 20%. When your makereadies use less paper, it makes a bigger difference faster.
And, with perfecting, I don’t have to spend time or paper to find the marking to set guides. That is a huge savings. Also, I am not tossing (and paying to dispose of) 2 pounds of ink per color per day from that end-of-day washup we don’t do anymore.
Color control is also much more efficient. We save time and paper by checking sheets immediately without waiting for dryback. This used to cost us a day in itself and another makeready. A big saving for us is using the same ICC profiles on coated and uncoated stocks, as well as a single profile on both sides on our perfector. This is huge.
Q: What other advice can you give printers regarding LED-UV technology in today’s competitive environment?
WENGERD: I believe LED-UV technology will strengthen the healthy printer. “Little holes sink big ships.” LED-UV makes print predictable and plugs those profit drains that can be so elusive. That predictability is a huge profit multiplier. Predictable printing processes are an important key to survival in this business.
Unanticipated costs are the most difficult to control. I am a big believer that when you make a smart investment once — and that one investment buys you predictable processes and output — you’re much better off than continuously facing many smaller costs that are unpredictable. Unpredictability, both in costs and quality, in my opinion, is a great danger for any printer. It erodes profitability and customer satisfaction.
Carlisle Printing’s ability to achieve predictability has changed us in a great way. Like many printers, we would quote one way to win the job and then realize we needed to run the work in a less efficient manner. That is a profit killer. Now we run it like we quoted it.
Any printer who is regularly quoting perfecting will have jobs that cannot be run perfecting for one reason or the other. That is just unsustainable. It will only become more difficult to compete running a long perfector without a good UV system, and I just don’t see how that system could be anything but LED.