By Cassandra Balentine
The concept of hybrid printing takes on many definitions. For one, it refers to a press that features two or more different technologies in one—such as digital printing and finishing functions; or alternatively a total environment that utilizes two or more technologies, like digital and offset.
In either scenario, combining digital and traditional printing methods offers a piece of both worlds on one device. For flexographic users, the addition of digital print capabilities presents new opportunities, such as variability, shorter runs, reduced makeready, and improved turnaround.
With both digital print and traditional finishing tasks handled inline on one machine, converters are able to offer value-added products.
Mark Andy user Subtle Impressions recently updated its hybrid printing capabilities for label production with a digital label press. Based in Gastonia, NC, the print provider offers items like labels, keg collars, and folders and covers with digital, flexographic, and finishing technologies.
The company decided it was time to enhance its digital printing technologies at the start of 2019, brining in a Mark Andy Digital One press. This enabled them to offer low-volume work of 2,000 to 2,500 label runs and remain productive. However, the press quickly absorbed a lot of the company’s existing work as well as created its own revenue. Chris Brown, co-owner, Subtle Impressions, realized that it would be beneficial to further expand its digital print capabilities.
Subtle Impressions first came across the Digital Pro at a regional event hosted in Atlanta, GA by Mark Andy. “We looked at a few other digital machines that were just way too slow,” states Brown in a case study published by Mark Andy.
The print provider was also interested to learn that the new product line offered standaone press solutions as well as an engine upgrade for existing Digital One customer machines.
The Mark Andy Digital Pro is designed for entry and mid-market environments. It offers CMYK dry toner electrophotographic printing with optional inline flexographic decoration and converting—including spot color, varnish, laminate, cold foil, die cutting, stripping, and slitting. The maximum speed is a true 77 feet per minute (fpm) and a resolution of 1,200 dpi. An extensive substrate range, the machine handles pressure sensitive stock—paper, BOPP, PET, and PP, unsupported paper, and tag stocks. With no primer needed, existing label stocks are also compatible.
The engine upgrade option for the Digital Pro enables the 77 fpm—a 70 percent increase over the predecessor as well as 30 percent lower cost to print, which stems from improved efficiencies in toner consumption and a higher yield on some consumables.
With increased demand for work the Digital Pro could effectively produce, Subtle Impressions weighed the option of adding a new press or enhancing its existing solution. It ultimately decided to go for an engine upgrade.
The results from the upgrade are proven on the shop floor. “The new digital print engine is great from a quality standpoint, does not take up additional space on our floor, and has increased capacity tremendously,” says Brown.
The company says a customer that would require 14,000 pieces would be produced three across with the old engine in three batches due to the recalibration and diameter of the role. Now it is produced in two batches. This improves on press speed as well as reduced changeover time.
“What’s nice about Mark Andy digital is that it is all inline,” shares Brown. Faster throughput, less set up and clean up time, and a bridge transferable skillset are benefits of hybrid printing.
The Digital Pro engine upgrade is one piece of the Digital Pro production label press product line, which consists of the Digital Pro 1, a roll-to-roll solution for converters with strong offline finishing workflows; and the Digital Pro 3, a true hybrid label solution that enables converters to print value-added labels for customers. According to Mark Andy, both Digital 1 and 3 are overprint labeled so that the platforms can identify and register to pre-printed media.
Companies like Subtle Impressions benefit from the future proof platform design that enable field integration of new advancements. The label converter effectively produces lower volume runs with the same capabilities customers are used to with flexographic label production.
In another hybrid consideration, print providers get creative with finishing, finding a way to streamline finishing from offset and digitally printed output. Muller Martini shares the story of Core Publishing, part of the Thomson Reuters Group. Based in Eagan, MI, the print provider offers offset and digitally printed books, as well as ebook solutions.
Efficiency is critical to profitability. One way the company achieves this is a unique configuration of three key finishing processes—stack feeder, binder, and gathering machine—in one to solve a customer-specific demand.
For digitally printed products, it needs its signature stack feeder in-between the gathering machine and its Muller Martini Alegro perfect binder. This also means that two processes can run at the same time so digitally printed products are fed directly from the feeder to the binder, while the gathering machine is prepped for the next offset production job or to gather signatures while a digital job is running. Any improved production means added efficiency, equalling real dollars for a print provider.
This hybrid finishing approach accelerates workflow substantially, allowing them to keep pace in print finishing with growth and changes in the digital print industry.
At Core Publishing, the Muller Martini Alegro perfect binder runs 71 meters long, one of the world’s largest lines. It stretches from the manual feed to the 27 station 3694 gathering machine, the Muller Martini Solit three-knife trimmer, and the Muller Martini CB 18 book stacker to the Pluton palletizer.
According to Steve Zweber, director, Core Publishing Solutions, the hybrid Alegro Digital really shows its strengths when printing both short-run jobs with low page counts and offset printed long-run jobs with higher page counts. He shares that print continues to play an important role in the multimedia company’s communication mix. It produces more than 18 million reference books, specialized brochures, and updates each year. Three-fourths of all print jobs are processed digitally, digital print only accounts for 15 percent of the company’s page volume—so efficiency is critical.
Outside of Ordinary
Hybrid printing is an all encompassing term that involves two or more technologies working together for a common goal, either inline or in the same facility. Companies like Subtle Impressions and Core Publishing Solutions benefit from these special configurations for improved digital printing efficiency. dps
Jun2020, DPS Magazine