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Flexpress - investing in LED-UV for the future

Leicester-based Flexpress Ltd has detailed its installation of two new Ryobi presses, both equipped with the latest LED-UV curing technology. The B3-format 524GX press with LED-UV replaced a similar format 524GX, whilst the SRA1-format 924 with LED-UV replaced a B2-format Ryobi machine, with the increase in sheet size allowing the business to handle an even wider range of work.

The products were supplied and installed by Apex Digital Graphics, Hemel Hempstead, the official RMGT (Ryobi) representative in the UK for presses up to SRA1 format, and the exclusive CtP and plate distributor for the Chinese pre-press manufacturer CRON for both UK and Ireland, and a company that has enjoyed a near 20-year relationship as an equipment supplier to Flexpress.

Commenting on this latest investment, Flexpress Managing Director Steve Wenlock said: “The big benefit of LED-UV for our business is the fact that the drying is instant. We work from a fairly small unit and therefore we can’t really afford stacks of paper sitting around the floor for too long, so the idea is that we can turn jobs around quicker, be even more responsive to our customers need, get the paper out of the door faster, and to an even higher quality than before is something that should positively delight our customers.

“From a customer angle, time is the number one advantage,” Steve explains. “No customer says I’m going to give you more time to produce this job! Speed of turnaround is ever more critical: LED-UV technology will allow us to move work quickly on to the next stage of production, whether that is backing-up or finishing the job for delivery.”



The new presses join a recently installed Cron computer-to-plate device, also supplied by Apex, ensuring a cost effective production system from plate production through to finished job. The 36-inch UV platesetter is able to image and process UV metal plates for Flexpress’s SRA1 and B3 printing equipment.

“Quality is the other important aspect: because sheets exit the machine dry, set-off issues are eliminated – something that can occur all too easily if a job is being rushed through, even in a company that is focused on quality production, especially when working with uncoated stock. The process also means that there is no absorption of ink into the stock, which means less ink is used as well as faster drying.

“The instant drying offered by LED-UV also means that we can consider printing on a wider range of substrates, such as plastics. We do produce such work already through our Indigo press, but higher volumes of such work will be significantly more cost effective to produce on a litho press. We believe that there is a growing market for this type of work.”

 

Why RMGT / Ryobi?
Commenting on the choice of presses for this latest investment, Steve Wenlock references Ryobi’s pioneering role with the technology: the company first exhibited the potential of LED-UV back at the Drupa show of 2008. The company has continued to develop and refine the technology since then, whilst both ink suppliers and the press competition have been playing catch-up.

“We have worked with Apex and Ryobi for nearly 20 years. We know Ryobi as a leading press manufacturer and Apex as a supplier that really supports its customers. Ryobi are undoubted leaders in this technology, so why would we need to look elsewhere? Our operators know the Ryobi architecture and technology already, so it is just a matter of adding the LED-UV knowledge on top of the extensive printing knowledge that they already have.”

Inking Up The Press
All of the leading ink suppliers now offer product for the LED-UV market, and all are working hard to establish their product as the ink of choice.

“We are working closely with Toyo inks,” said Steve Wenlock. “They seem very focused on providing quality products backed with good service. They have outlined workshops and training for our press operators. They are a supplier that is keen to invest in LED-UV.”

Inks for the process are referred to as “duct stable” inks, meaning that there is no need to wash up at the end of the day or re-ink first thing in the morning – a real time saver, and something that will win the hearts of press operators for sure!

The Cost Equation
According to Steve the cost equation is likely to be different for each print company. A range of factors will need to be considered. For those already using existing UV solutions, the electricity costs for LED-UV will be a huge winner, but for those entering UV printing for the first time, the savings on production speed may well be the deciding factor. Yes, ink costs will be higher, but with no need for spray powder or seals, the savings on such consumables can help offset these increases, along with the fact that drying is no longer relying on a degree of absorption of ink into the printed stock, meaning that less ink will be used on each job.

The performance of LED-UV technology on a litho press brings the process much closer to digital production in many ways, but with the creation of the best possible print quality and stock flexibility. Printers seeking to invest in litho equipment need to seriously examine the benefits offered by LED-UV in great detail before finalising their decision.

About Flexpress
Flexpress produces a wide range of general print for the education, local government and manufacturing businesses, including banners, flyers, leaflets, booklets, business cards and posters. The company also runs an HP Indigo 5600 and a range of Océ digital presses, an Océ Arizona 360GT flatbed UV printer for large-format jobs, and finishing equipment including guillotines, laminators, cutters and perfect binders. The business has a team of 27 and a turnover of £2m, which it is hoping to boost to £2.5m with this latest investment.


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