YPP adds additional Mimaki hardware to diversify and expand product offering
Macclesfield-based R A Smart has installed additional print hardware at Your Print Partner (YPP) who has added a Mimaki JFX200-2513 grand format flatbed and a Mimaki UJV-55 3.2m roll fed UV LED printer to its already established textile, dye sublimation and solvent printing business.
According to YPP managing director Stuart Maclaren (above right), the plan is to continue to diversify the company’s product and service offering to offer an extended product range to both end customers and print companies requiring a trade print service. "We're already very well known for our ability to print polyester textiles such as flags, airmesh banners and event signage, thanks to our bank of Mimaki dye sublimation and direct-to-textile printers, but we're consistently being asked for additional products and are keen to deliver,” he says.
Lincoln-based YPP is an all Mimaki house and alongside the new Mimaki flatbed and 3.2m roll fed LED UV units, the company sports three Mimaki JV5-320DS 3.2m dye sublimation printers, two Mimaki direct to textile machines, Mimaki solvent wide format hardware and a pair of Transmatic calendar presses used to fix the dye sublimation output. All are housed in a specially constructed print room which also features a sewing and make-up area, a new showroom, warehousing, despatch and offices.
Maclaren sees the move into direct to substrate printing as a key strategy in customer retention. "With the most recent investment, Your Print Partner has become a 'one stop shop' for printed graphics. Whatever the need; be it signage on foamboard, printed textile or rigid exhibition graphics - even high quality retail backlit work, we can produce it in-house, removing the need for customers to have to work with multiple suppliers."
Making its debut at Sign & Digital UK this year, YPP will have a stand that showcases its capabilities, featuring a range of systems that demonstrate to visitors what can be created with its products. "It's a great opportunity to talk with prospective new customers as well as making existing partners aware of the breadth of our capability," says Maclaren. "Having visited the show myself for many years, I'm looking forward to participating as an exhibitor - and using it as a platform to launch our new range of stretch fabric products.”
Managing director at R A Smart, Magnus Mighall (pictured above left) says: ”Stuart continues to break new ground in production printing and UK manufacturing. We're very pleased to be supplying YPP with the new Mimaki hardware that is enabling the company to diversify into exciting new products."
New precision software from swissQprint avoids reprints after a crash
The moving print head carriage of a swissQprint UV printer immediately halts should it come into contact with a person or object. The system also stops instantly if there is a danger of the print head grazing the substrate, typically where there are undulations or raised edges. People and print heads are thus protected. But what about the print item and the work carried out so far? This is where swissQprint has figured out a new software feature that looks set to save users both time and money by avoiding reprints.
After a crash, two mouse clicks by the operator make printing resume at exactly the same point where the print head carriage came to rest, and this can often be right in the middle of the pass. The output software resumes operations at the exact same point on the printing pass, without leaving any tell-tale traces, and helps users to avoid rejects and rework.
The new feature is already integrated into new systems and is available to existing customers as a software update.
Mimaki Europe’s Mike Horsten to join HP in EMEA sales manager role
A quick call to Horsten has confirmed this today, and he says he set to join HP in March 2017 where he will move from marketing to a pure sales position with the graphic arts giant where he will assume the role of HP Sales Manager Large Format Graphics Production EMEA.
Horsten was reluctant to speak openly about the move, only to say he has had a great time while at Mimaki Europe and that he is really looking forward to a fresh new challenge.
Blimey! Who saw that coming?
Inca appoints resellers in Italy and Russia for SpyderX hybrid printer
Sales and support in Italy will be handled by SMG SPA, a specialist graphic arts supplier with over 20 years’ experience representing major brands such as Fuji, Kodak, Xerox, Toyo Ink, Roland and Pressmax in the graphic arts and related markets.
In Russia, AT DESIGN has added the SpyderX to an already impressive line-up of distributorships. Headquartered in Moscow, AT DESIGN has 14 regional offices and over 150 personnel in sales, service, application and engineering roles. Its customers operate in a wide range of industries — graphics, textiles, packaging and industrial — and use a variety of technologies — wide-format, single-pass inkjet, screen and flexo.
The SpyderX is aimed at POS print companies looking for a high-quality, production-level printer to produce a wide range of rigid and flexible products. The 6-colour+white SpyderX uses Inca ink, features both 3.2m-wide flatbed and roll-fed capacity, and delivers high-speed production (230 sqm/hr) production with sharp, pinpoint accuracy.
SMG SPA and AT DESIGN join an impressive line-up of SpyderX resellers that already included Perfect Colours (UK), Digital HiRes (Spain) and Schneidler Grafiska (Sweden).
Keeping up with customer needs is the key to business longevity for this digital printer
With the average lifespan of a company reported to be as little as 10 years it is no surprise that businesses seek to adapt to the ever changing external environment as they strive to not only prosper but to actually survive.
And the external challenges are becoming harsher and harsher with business facing increasing pressures due to economic, political, and social turbulence on the world stage. So what is the secret to a long and successful business life and exactly how easy is it to extend the life-cycle when competitors fail?
Paul Reeve, managing director at Structure-flex Ltd, believes his company has remained in business for over 45 years because it has kept the customers’ needs right at the heart of its operations.
“Structure-flex has always had a strong customer ethic,” he says. “Since the company’s inception in 1970, we have strived to produce high quality products manufactured to meet the specific requirements of our customers.
“These requirements have changed over the years so we have evolved to ensure that those requirements are met as precisely and efficiently as possible whether that be; investing in the latest technology, moving operations to larger facilities, or developing services such as creative design.”
Structure-flex has been a leading manufacturer of high quality tension lorry curtains since the product was first invented and has continued to provide an increasing range of innovative technical products for the commercial vehicle industry ever since.
Its relocation in 2015 to a bespoke 50,000 sq ft factory, combined with ongoing investment in modern state of the art high frequency and hot air welding equipment, now provides the manufacturer with the largest capacity digital print side curtain manufacturing facility in the UK.
But it is a journey that hasn’t always been smooth, as Paul explains: “We knew we wanted quality from the outset, but the challenge has always been how to deliver it.
“Supply partners didn’t really understand the demands of the market quickly enough, especially in the early days, so there was a big learning curve for us around the print process and how to deliver a standard that met expectations at an affordable price.
“We now only work with supply partners, like printing press manufacturer EFI, who understand the business and are able to support us in providing the highest quality that we insist on for our customers.”
In order to consistently deliver the highest quality Structure-flex has invested millions of pounds over the years to constantly update its equipment and take advantage of the latest developments in printing technology.
In the early days of the company’s existence, designs and images on curtainsiders were created using large tracings that were marked with small holes and then pounced with chalk. The chalk marks provided a pinline for the sign-writers to follow but it was labour-intensive and only allowed for single use.
For sharper images and repeatability, the company moved to pre-cut vinyl forms and lettering but signwriting still remained hand applied until around 1999. Pre-cut adhesive masking sheets were positioned on the curtain on which there was a knife cut outline of the livery, this was then ‘weeded out’ from the sheet allowing the specialist ink to be brushed over like a large stencil.
“This was a key moment for us,” says Reeve. “The move away from chalk pouncing dramatically improved reproduction and standardisation of image application and, of course, factory cleanliness. It started to raise the bar for quality graphics on curtainsiders and marked the beginning of a new market for Structure-flex.”
The most significant change for the company came, though, when superwide format digital printing became available. Although large format printing was well established in the sign industry in the late 90's it was generally only used for static applications in the USA, the machines were expensive, and the substrate materials were unsuitable for printing curtainsiders.
To meet a growing interest in large static signs in the UK a number of companies, including Structure-flex, invested in early versions of US machines. By 2004 the company had investigated the potential for low cost overseas manufacture in the Czech Republic where it established a factory and invested in its first wide format printer, a Gandinnovations Jeti capable of printing 3m wide.
Starting its wide format printing in the Czech Republic rather than nearer to home, however, lengthened the learning curve for the business and nine years later Structure-flex withdrew from offshore manufacture, investing in a second Jeti machine but this time in the UK.
“Superwide format digital print has certainly been the biggest change in our manufacturing process,” admitted Reeve. “The output ability of digital printers, compared to traditional signwriting and drying methods, is far superior and requires significantly less factory space.
“As the business has grown, the investment in digital printers has enabled livery production to remain in tune with curtain manufacture. Very few curtains now leave without a graphical element as designers take advantage of the creative possibilities digital print offers at more reasonable costs than available historically.
“Around four years ago we invested in a Durst Rho 320HS printer and, more recently, another EFI Vutek GS5000R both of which have white ink options that enable printing directly onto pre-coloured media. This saw the end of an era on the older traditional methods, which was a massive change in our operational approach.
“Although this technology undeniably represents a significant investment, to remain at the forefront of the market it has been crucial to continually improve our digital printing performance, not only in terms of the process itself but also the materials and inks used.
“In comparison to the smaller Mimaki printers we operate, the learning curve on superwide printing was steep. We now operate in a different way to those early years and have an environmentally controlled dedicated print room, in-house colour management and profiling, as well as a preventative maintenance schedule.”
As the process became more complex, Structure-flex faced other challenges around the manipulation of artwork and colour profiling. More detailed liveries also increased the risk of making errors and consequently customer services became at the centre of the business offering to help create tailor-made solutions and avoid any potential issues with clients.
Innovation has also been vital in extending the company life-cycle. At Structure-Flex’s inception, the product range consisted of large bulk bags used in the Middle East oil and gas industries, and soon the company progressed to manufacturing curtainsiders.
Over the years, the company has taken advantage of enhancements in curtain materials and widths, ranges of ink colours, designs in buckles and rollers, security features, as well as insulation options. Systems such as its Reflex and Smoothside curtains have been popular partly due to the ability for the entirety of the full digitally printed curtain to be seen without any buckles interrupting the design.
“Through innovation, we have evolved into far more than a digital printer and offer significantly more than simply curtainsiders,” Reeve explained. “Structure-flex’s origins are with entrepreneurial packaging engineer, David Frankel, who obtained the worldwide licence to manufacture and distribute the Original Big Bag.
“He worked closely with European PVC coated fabric producers and machine builders to achieve the optimum performance from High Frequency welding technology to deliver a product which met very demanding criteria in extreme climatic conditions.
“We still offer the Original Big Bag today, along with fleet graphics for rigid vehicles, full or partial vehicle wraps, banners, and building wraps, and have recently been accredited as a 3M Select Gold Partner, one of only eight in the country, following an in-depth audit of our facility and external assessment verification.”
So, how is Structure-flex looking to prosper in the next 45 years? “Continue what we do best,” says Reeve. “Produce the highest quality products at competitive costs supported by great customer services, and innovate where possible to keep at the forefront of the market.”
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