Crossmark Graphics Journey Into LED UV

By Barry Walsh

Introduction

AMS LED UV is a revolutionary UV curing system designed specially for the graphic arts industry. The AMS LED is a compact, modular, solid-state design that eliminates many of the complexities of a conventional UV system. One of the many benefits of an LED system compared to a UV system is that it delivers a high intensity cure while consuming a fraction of the electrical energy. Plus, with an LED system there are no bulbs to replace and virtually no drop-off in intensity over the life of the system. Multiple intensities and various wavelengths are available to meet the needs of specific applications or processes.  The AMS LED UV system seamlessly integrates into any existing or new press. 

Barry Walsh recently sat down with Jim Dobrzynski, Sr., founder of Crossmark Graphics located in New Berlin, Wisconsin to discuss his upcoming two year anniversary of the installation of his Komori, six color press plus coater, equipped with an AMS LED UV system. Here is what Jim had to say about his journey:

Barry: Jim, can you tell me a little about what initially sparked your interest in LED UV?

Jim: Well, about five years ago when it was time to buy a new press, we wanted to consider UV. Since UV was new territory for us, I decided to invest in the decision making process and attended the Print UV Conference.

Barry: How did attending Print UV benefit Crossmark Graphics?

Jim: It was a great investment. The best part is that we got a chance to meet other printers that were facing the same issues we were dealing with; printers that were glad to share their experiences. I have attended every Print UV since.

Barry: What happened after Print UV?

Jim: We spent the next year looking at new presses. We liked the idea of H-UV; the lower upfront investment of H-UV was attractive.

Barry: Then what did you and your team do?

Jim: I attended  the Print UV the following year pretty much sold on H-UV. When I shared this with other printers in the room, I kept getting the same response, “Never run a one lamp system.” Then I was asked by Hans Ulland of AMS a very powerful question, “Do you want to be just another ‘me-too printer’ or do you want to stand out from the rest?” The answer was simple, and that is what led us to strongly consider and then purchase an LED UV system.

Barry: Describe your press configuration.

Jim: We have interdeck LED UV docking stations after print units 2, 5, 6, and at the end of the press. We also have a traditional UV system in the delivery. With multiple docking stations, we can place our LED UV lamp in various locations – depending on what the job requires. We also have an IR dryer on the press. 

Barry: Why did you decide to add traditional UV in the delivery? 

Jim: We use LED to cure the inks and traditional UV in the delivery for UV coatings – it’s the best of both worlds. We get the benefits of LED UV cured inks: with the economy, wide choices, and special effects available in traditional UV coatings.  

Barry: What are the benefits of LED UV for Crossmark?

Jim: LED offers all the benefits of UV and a whole lot more.  All UV cured inks come off dry, ready for the bindery, with little or no marking and reduced make-ready time and reduced make-ready waste.

With LED UV, we have none of the odors associated with traditional UV inks. It prints the same as our conventional litho, and that is important to us because we are G7 certified. With LED, the final product looks great on uncoated paper, plastics, and lenticular. LED loves plastic substrates, and the lack of heat generated by the LED system is perfect for plastics. Loads come out cool and dry and without any change in size. It’s great on a wide variety of substrates. We have not found a single job or substrate that we can’t print with the AMS LED UV.

Barry: What do your pressmen think about LED UV? 

Jim: They love it. All the pressmen want us to replace our remaining conventional litho press with an LED UV capable press. The time for that press investment may be near, and you can bet it will be with an AMS LED UV system.

Barry: Being an early adopter of LED UV in North America, I’m sure there were a lot of questions thrown your way about LED working properly. What were some of the questions you had to answer?

Jim: I think many printers mistakenly believe LED UV requires additional dryers, such as an end of press UV or IR/Hot Air. We have found that to be totally false. We only run our end of press UV when we are doing a specialized coating, and we only use the AQ coating when a customer requires it. The LED UV does 100% of the drying of inks on every job. If there is no coating, we don’t even turn on the other dryers.

Barry: You mentioned you are G7 Certified. Can you share how that certification is affected by using LED cured inks on one press and conventional litho on the other?

Jim: With the right ink sets, we haven’t seen any difference between our conventional litho versus LED UV. The gloss is the same and our presses are fingerprinted the same. Once it’s dry, you can’t tell the difference. 

Barry: Some printers have told me that they believe UV inks are dull; that statement seems to contradict that belief?

Jim: Our LED UV work has just as much pop and gloss as our conventional litho, and we measure it. I guess those printers have not seen what an LED UV system can truly do.

Barry: We hear a lot of questions and concerns about UV ink costing more. What are your thoughts on this?

Jim: As long as I can get paid for the high-quality work we do, I am okay with higher ink costs. Yes, all UV inks cost more, but remember that ink represents only about 1% of the total cost of a job. The benefits of UV and LED far outweigh slightly higher ink costs.

 

Barry: How did you handle your suppliers during the change?

Jim: We invited in our current suppliers along with two alternatives for blankets, rollers, ink, and chemistry. We told them what we wanted to accomplish and worked hand-in-hand with them to choose the best solutions. It was all pretty transparent. 

Barry: Any problems launching the new press with LED UV?

Jim: None whatsoever. We had one small problem with our IR Dryer, and that was easily adjusted.

Barry: What does your sales team think about LED UV?

Jim: At first, the green aspect of LED UV sold a few jobs. The LED logo was also a plus. But after a year and a half, I’m convinced our customers don’t really care too much about how it’s printed. It’s the quality and turnaround times we get from LED UV that are the hot buttons. Plus, the fact that we can do plastics is a real competitive advantage for us. Not many local companies can do plastics, and we do them very well and efficiently. The confidence we have doing rush jobs, without worry, is also a big advantage for our sales team. We accept work others printers won’t touch, and those jobs come at a premium.  Like I said earlier, there is no job we can’t print with LED UV.

Barry: Is there anything you would do differently if you were to do again?

Jim: That’s hard to answer. I would probably have two LED lamps instead of one. The flexibility to put an extra LED somewhere else on the press would enable us to do more special effects. When we get our next press, we certainly will have an extra LED lamp along with docking ports after each print station to give us full flexibility. 

Barry: Can you tell me a little more about your decision making process, and how AMS fit into that process?

Jim: It was an education more than anything. I spoke with a lot of UV users. The Print UV Conference was invaluable. AMS took the time to learn about the type of printer we were and wanted to become, and the type of work we wanted to focus on. AMS was a great partner throughout the entire process. Our other suppliers were also essential partners, especially Komori.

Barry: Any problems with the LED system installation?

Jim: It all went very smoothly. Come to think of it, we did have one hiccup. There was a miscommunication somewhere about the press specifications, and that affected where the mounting brackets were to be placed. AMS had to reconfigure their plans before installation, and they did it all without any finger-pointing. They just reconfigured it and made it right. AMS came in and the install happened. That hiccup didn’t delay the install one bit. It was quick and smooth.

Barry: How has adopting LED UV affected Crossmark Graphics overall?

Jim: First and foremost, I’m very proud to tell you that we have had back-to-back record years in both volume and profit since adding the new press and LED UV. I do have to give credit to our great team for helping pull it off. We couldn’t have done it without them. Additionally, we are doing a lot more high-value work on plastic substrates, and we are more efficient when we run lenticular – and you know how tough that can be to run. As nearly everyone knows, those substrates are very expensive, so we watch the waste carefully. The LED UV helps us keep waste to a minimum. Plus, the waste of other substrates is also lower because of the LED UV.

I probably should mention that I choose to restrain our annual growth to just 15% to 20%. Our growth could have been greater, but with uncontrolled growth there will be problems, which I want to avoid. I guess at the end of this chapter in Crossmark’s history; we are a better printer and a more competitive company since adding the Komori press with the AMS LED UV.

Barry: Jim, thank you for your time. I think what you have learned throughout the last few years can be valuable to just about any printer considering either a UV press upgrade or just starting their UV journey.