Print finishing solutions from China and India can provide performance and price, you just have to make sure certain criteria has been followed, says Charlie Scandrett
When Pressnet CEO Charles Scandrett first travelled to China for All In Print 2002, he had no doubt that Chinese equipment would be affordable. Using his university engineering studies, he set out to assess which brands were actually well-engineered. “I found islands of excellence in a sea of post-communist mediocracy”, he says, “Like all manufacturers who start from scratch, the Chinese manufacturers began by copying other brands. However the best of them paid attention to ISO 9001 quality systems and used only quality imported components.”
Companies like HPM guillotines went all the way to Germany to buy the same hydraulics and safety lights as famous German brands. Then they hired German software writers to make their touch screen control system with a cut-calculator which runs on a Mitsubishi PLC from Japan.
They also imported all their bearings and switches. Their foresight has made them an international brand with distributors all over the world, they are sold widely in the USA by Microcut as the Prism brand. And they came to Australia, a HPM 135 guillotine has worked reliably for three years at a trade binder. Auscote in Brisbane has one of the six recent installations in Australia.
Purple Magna folding machines began decades ago as a rebuilder of used Stahl folders. Then they first manufactured some very similar models that had been popular in the 1980s. In this century, they began designing their own models, and listening to their international distributors. They have produced two models specifically at the request of Pressnet, which have subsequently been popular with fellow Sakurai distributors around the world. The all-buckle Magna 490-4-2 and the Magna 560-6-4 are designed to be versatile commercial jobbing folders.
Other companies like JMD and Guangming began as OEM manufacturers for European and American machine brands, then branched out with their own product using the same standards set for them by their primary contractors. They then began to innovate and produce original proprietary technology. JMD produce a range of perfect binders starting from a computer-set single clamp 500 books per hour model, with a PUR option. This Superbinder 50E is designed to work with the Italian Zechini’s Fiorino computer-set cooling tower and three way trimmer. Scandrett says this combination is the fastest setup POD bookbinding line for digital printers in the world, adding “there is simply no competition.” JMD still manufactures Zechini’s perfect binders as an OEM.
JMD also manufactures the much larger Challenger perfect binding lines, which run up to 8,000 books per hour, all with computer setup and PUR. The new models will have precise cover registration, equal to any world brand.
When JMD launched their Pearls 8000 saddle binder, they teamed up with Schneider PLCs to write the automated software. Every machine comes with wrong section, missing section, skew section and missing stitch detection as standard. This level of sophistication was well received at drupa 2008. Scandrett believes JMD will become a very well-recognised industry brand in years to come, they have prepared their technology, established their management and research systems, and begun expanding internationally.
Guangming, and its little sister company New Star, are the major manufacturers of celloglazers in China. They have the fastest machine setup, and manufacture all products to international CE and ISO 9001 standards. Testimony to their reliability comes from local companies such as Queensland Trade Print, which has run a Guangming SAFM 800 flat out for two years every day, with only one service call in that time.
Scandrett says, “The reliability of international components is the reason for this performance. The new New Star YFMB 520 is the most affordable small automatic celloglazer on the world market, with stream feeder and auto-sheeting. However it is built to the same international standards as Guangming, and is ideal for the small to medium printer to keep this embellishing function in-house.”
Scandrett also found that the share register of a Chinese manufacturing company was important as well. The cronyism of any state ownership in a company usually installs a lot of deadwood in a company. However fully private Chinese companies are like any private company, the management performs or gets sacked. Also when a Chinese manufacturing company has significant foreign ownership, then their management systems and strategic direction become international.
MK (Masterwork Machinery) began in Taiwan in 1971. In 1992 they moved to a plant in Tiajin, China and have become the leading Chinese platen diecutter and hot foiler manufacturer. Scandrett says, “They also make an advanced range of folder-gluers for carton gluing, short makeready and sophisticated box control are strong features. MK’s quality matches any world brand, but it is their innovative technology that sets them apart. They have launched the MK2 1060 STE which is the world’s first three station hot stamper, diecutter and stripper in one line.
They have also released the MK 1060 ER which diecuts and then blanks out small shapes (like drink coasters) onto a receding stack. These are labour saving machines intended for the world market. However the most spectacular innovation was their 2008 release of the MK3920SERW which is a web fed hot stamper, diecutter and stripper. This machine is a significant development in large scale production of foiled and diecut material”
Masterwork sells to the largest printing companies in the world in Japan, Europe and the USA. Without any Australian representation, MK machines have found favour at local trade embellishers, Allkotes, Avon Graphics and Protectaprint. Seeing such high end local market acceptance, Masterwork has recently approached Pressnet to represent them in Australia.
Not all Pressnet’s islands of excellence are in China. The Italian companies Zechini and Petratto have chosen Pressnet to represent them. Zechini in Milano make the Fiorino computer-set cooling tower and three way trimmer for POD perfect binding, and a range of hard case binding machines. As well as these stand-alone machines for short run hard case binding, Zechini launched the VIP Hardcase fully automatic book line at the last drupa.
Petratto in Turino make a range of folder-gluers that can be deconstructed and reconstructed by the operator to make any unusual box or folder that the human imagination can invent. Scandrett says, “These are clever machines and mastering their installation gives a company a market niche because they automate functions which were previously done by hand.”
In the UK, KAS Paper Systems began business after WWII by making a machine that could turn a council gas bill into a selfmailer. Apparently this was important because paper for envelopes was in very short supply then. KAS is still a Hampstead family company, and it manufactures a range of entry-level floor-standing envelope inserters for SMEs. The main feature is high automation, and one model of machine that can insert a range of envelopes from DL to C4. Situated in a village north of London, KAS also make polywrappers and magazine inserters for putting products inside magazines before they are polywrapped for postage. CEO Stephen Hampstead believes that since more than 90 per cent of commercial print is eventually mailed, then small to medium printers should have a mailing service inhouse to fully service their client demand.
Silk screen is the traditional the way to achieve very high reflectances (more than 80 per cent) in UV coating applications. Pressnet has now added the Sakurai range of automatic silk screen presses to its Sakurai offset presses from Gifu, Japan. Sakurai silk screen presses are also are widely used in the security industry. Usually when you use your credit card, a Sakurai silk screen press has been used in making it.
A new method of achieving high reflectances at high production speed is the Proteck 105D UV double coater from India. Hallmark Greeting Cards in the USA has installed several of these Protecks to replace all their silk screen coating. Scandrett says the Proteck 105D stands alone in its speed of 12,000 sheets per hour, its low electricity consumption, and the fact that it is a double coater. He says, “This is a world first from an innovative Indian company, which was once soly an OEM manufacturer. The Proteck 105D can achieve more than 90 per cent reflectance at printing-press speeds, using two Harris and Bruno flexo coaters, while consuming half the power of competing brands.” Proteck is another emerging world postpress brand from Pressnet’s diverse archipelago of affordable excellence.