via Deutscher Drucker (German Printer): Marketing High-Gloss Color
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PRINT PRODUCTION WITH LED UV: “Manufacturing for the discriminating: Enduring success stories with innovative LED prints featuring high-quality workmanship and finishes...” This is what one finds if they stumble across Königsdruck Berlin while searching the Web. The promises seem grandiose – but are they? A look behind the scenes of this well-known print house reveals more.
Formed in the days of the German Democratic Republic as a “stamp business,” the first significant shifts in Königsdruck Berlin’s operations came when the borders were opened.
“No one was waiting for us,” explained founder and shareholder Olaf König, “so we had to establish a business focus that offered us long-term stability.”
König had the good fortune to become acquainted with two “old hands” in the graphics market who put him and his business on the right track, helping him to establish a successful start-up production space of 135 square meters.
For König and his small team, being on the “right track” meant that the operation produced work of unmatched quality: this focus was pursued tenaciously, continuously and consistently.
From the inking sheetfed offset printing press in 52 format to a two-color, five-cylinder machine – both colors in one gripper closure – facility changes one and two followed, ultimately bringing the company into a 1,000 square-meter space, which allowed the business to expand into finishing services. As the company grew, König kept the guiding words of his two mentors in mind.
QUALITY AS THE STANDARD OF ALL THINGS
The unwaivering focus on quality brought the necessary customer-base growth, especially from the agency scene. The expansion of the printing room with a five-color press in 52 format and a four-color press in format 50/70 was a result of this business.
And at the end of the 1990s – almost exactly 10 years after the fall of the Wall – Königsdruck Berlin was able to invest in what was then the latest generation of a 3B-format machine with six printing units plus coating. In the meantime, now with more than 15 employees, they started “print finishing” with coatings.
Whether it was two-dimensional dispersion coating to protect sensitive surfaces, or sequential coating applications like drip-off (also called “strike thru”) for the visual refinement and tactile feel sought for sophisticated print pieces, the company’s expansion of capabilities were always based on its sustainable strategy of “quality printing.”
The pre-press stage was always adapted to the printing room’s conditions. Thus, early investments were made into whole-page illumination of films and, with the change in format to 3B, an eight-page computer-to-page plate setter by Agfa in-house.
PIONEER IN UV TECHNOLOGY
Königsdruck Berlin made a big step in 2003, moving into its current location at Alt-Reinickendorf 28. With around 2,500 square meters, the company suddenly had more than two and a half times the production space. They succeeded in selling the machinery from the old location at a reasonable price, so they could face the market situation at the new location with new, modern means of production.
By investing in the first UV coating machine in East Berlin, the company quickly established itself as a pioneer of this technology, and the standard for “quality” was redefined. High-quality volumes of art and pictures, and catalogs for expensive products and elegant brands, now make up the daily business of Königsdruck’s printing plant, which has grown to 25 employees.
With traditional UV printing, it was possible to gain a broad spectrum of experience in print finishing –however, this technology came to a standstill in development, both technically and environmentally.
Thus, “alternative research” commenced at König’s company, from “water-free offset printing” to the new – at least in Germany – topic of LED UV curing and finishing technology.
NEW OR UPGRADE?
Peter Reiter of Frankfurt-based Graphic Team, who represents one of the leading producers of LED UV systems in the German market – Air Motion Systems – was contacted to address the issue of upgrading the technology on Königsdruck’s existing presses.
AMS LED systems are made for new presses and offered by OEMs, but also can be retrofit on existing presses, for operations desiring to effectively adapt their existing machine base to market conditions. Together, Reiter and König visited the Adler print house, which is seen as the pioneer of “retrofit” LED UV setups in the German market. On the trip back from Bad Elster, the next step was clear to Olaf König, and after a short meeting with AMS president Steve Metcalf, the decision for Königsdruck’s next step was clear.
Upgrading their existing press, which was starting to show its age, didn’t make sense to König: but a new press equipped with AMS’s LED curing modules was of great interest.
The printer found the collaboration it was seeking in press manufacturer KBA (Koenig & Bauer AG), with whom it was able to develop a common marketing strategy as well as a technology-based partnership. In the spring of 2015, the company invested in a Rapida 106 six-color press with triple-extended display, and a hybrid drying/curing system that paired AMS-LED UV with conventional UV dryers. Here, the cooperation of the companies was imperative, so Königsdruck was able to successfully integrate AMS LED UV technology into its plant.
Eighteen months have passed since the installation of the new KBA press, and this time has given the Berlin-based team ample knowledge and experience in LED curing. Above all, Königsdruck has gained notoriety as an expert it printing with LED UV coatings, particularly drip-off effects.
ENHANCEMENT AND DIVERSITY OF MATERIALS
According to Olaf König, LED UV curing provides a sales tool that he likes to call “marketing high-gloss color.” In particular, he feels printing on natural papers and curing the ink with LED provides an unmatchable level of color brilliance, paired with a resource-saving printing process and a great tactile feel on the final product. His 18 months of experience with LED UV applications confirm to König that he took the right step into the future. The ability to print on a host of substrates– not just paper – is opening up new channels in which he predicts more possibilities for development.
Thus, Königsdruck Berlin has established itself as the go-to print house for those desiring to stand out in the market with quality, finished pieces - from the simple to the most complex.