Category Archives: Printing

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Gulf States Label Company: A Field Report

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On March 26, the DIGM 3350 met at Gulf States Label Co. Their location is near Clay Road and the Sam Houston Tollway. The printing plant specialty is custom labels using flexography. Mike Williams, President/Sales, began our tour with some details about the outfit. The company has been in business for 11 years and a total of 30 years of experience under their roof. He introduced Bob Nicolosi, as our guide from that point forward. Bob is the one in the company for technical expertise.

We entered the print manufacturing area. Bob began by discussing the difference between flexography and offset lithographic printing. Mainly, flexography is a direct method that uses relief plates. Their presses are very different from all the rest I have seen on these field trips. Rotary flexography was invented in the 1950’s. Some advancement has been made in the dies and plates; otherwise the process remains as it was in the early days. Bob continued by giving us an overview of the cylinder and plates. We were shown plates in varying stages of completion and a set of plates for color separation. The flexible plate is mounted on a metal cylinder. The first press was in makeready mode and not quite ready for us.

The 16” press was running a job. The group made its way over to the 6-color machine. This is an in-line press that has separate tower for each color and a drying unit at the bottom of each tower, so that color with be dry before the next is applied. This press is capable of running 500 feet per minute. A die-cut was being used to cut the unwanted sticker portion away from the backing. This portion was being fed onto its own roll above the press. The output was sheet of label that the customer was planning on feed through their own laser printer.

We went back over to the other press and the pressman was not doing so well. Bob took matters into his own hands and restarted the press (or as Mr. Stokes said rebooted).

We stopped by the Production Department. These ladies are finishing the job by putting the labels on cores, rolling them up and counting by measuring increments of 10”. Bob talked about his start in the printing business. In 1977, he began by rewinding labels. He reminisced about the old-style, a more hands-on than today. He continued by telling us that the problem labels were spliced out of the web and flagged for the production department to be aware.

We finally got a look at the 8-color 10” press in action. We walked down the side of the press. It was very easy to tell all the parts of the process. The ink reservoir was full and the ink was thin. The Anilox Roller provided ink from the reservoir and the doctor blade wiped the excess. The soft plate with raised images was wrapped around the plate cylinder and was being inked. The impression cylinder rolls the opposite direction of the plate cylinder with the substrate passes between the two. The impression cylinder pressed the web-fed labels into the raised images. The web then goes through an in-line dryer. There was also a die-cut being use on this press. Just like the other, the sticker portion that was not label was cut and removed, while the labels remained with backing. The unwanted material was spooled above the press. I found it very interesting.

I would choose to do business with Gulf States Label. I believe that they are a leader in their business. They created a niche that will sustain economic uncertainty and they know their stuff. What really impressed me was the fact that went through the UL certification process and became Authorized Label Suppliers. Bob spoke about the process briefly. Another fact that makes me what to do business with Gulf States Labels was Bob continually saying “It’s what the customer what’s…” I know these folks take care of their clients.

I think this is my favorite trip so far. I really got in there and saw a process that was all theory. I would still like to see more flexography, such as packaging and other applications. I think this is the most flexible printing process; but Bob burst my bubble when he discussed the initial cost for a top of the line 12-color in-line press would run about half million. I won’t be buying my own flexographic press any time soon. Guess I’ll stick to Serigraphy until I graduate.

ImageSet Digital: A Field Report

On April 16 @ 2:30 p.m., the DIGM 3350 class visited ImageSet Digital. The digital printing company is located at 6611 Portwest Dr, near I-10 and the 610 Loop. I use to work down the street on Old Katy Road so I knew exactly where it was located Debbie Briggs, our tour guide, introduced herself and told us about her history in the printing industry. She started when the Linotype process was being used.  (We saw this type of press at the Museum of Printing History.) She talked about how the industry has changed over the years and how she has adapted herself to embrace these changes. She also told us with technology comes more automation and less to do. So she has expanded her business services to include marketing.

Our first stop was the Customer Service department. This is where the company’s process begins; when a customer calls a CSR (customer Service representative) and asks for a quote. Once a job starts so does its tracking. Debbie explained to us that a CSR role is the best for getting exposure to all departments.

The Press Room was next. It was a lot smaller compared to last week’s web-fed environment but it seems just as loud. ImageSet Digital is an all Indigo shop. When they went to buy this press, the manufacturer insisted that they buy two presses, so that they would not go down. The Indigo prints a 13″ x 19” sheet. Debbie said the industry is moving toward this larger format. The press uses “liquid toner”; which is toner suspended in oil. We were introduced to Jose, who worked for Indigo.  It was reiterated that presses are more automated now and how providing more services would set you apart from the competition.

The Bindery was our next stop. Of course, there was an employee working the cutting machine because most everything had to be trimmed (being printed on a large format). She listed all their bindery elements, which are comparable to what we had seen on other field trips.

Our last stop was the warehouse. In a room off to the side was ImadeSet’s new digital envelope press. Debbie was very proud of it and how it would provide customer with even more personalized marketing messages using variable data printing. She told us that part of the year; the warehouse was a mini M.D. Anderson card shop. Since 2006, The Children’s Art Project partnered with ImageSet to create an online catalogue based on web-to-print technology. Customers could pick a design, create a message, pick a font and color for their message, add signatures or logos and address individual envelopes with name and address in their color choice. Then proof the card and envelop online. That year, turnaround time and errors were reduced; creating a large savings for the Children’s Art Project.

I would choose to have a product printed by the digital printing process utilized by the ImageSet. The files printed on the Indigo are amazing. I have been interested in cross-media marketing for some time now. It validates my understanding of technologies that are up and coming.

This trip reinforced my understanding of how printing and marketing go hand in hand. Digital printing and variable data printing data provides a very personalize, one-to-one messages that can be used to send the receiver to a personalize URL to learn more. There is a higher response rate foe these campaigns. This was my favorite trip and I would love to work at a place like this in the future.

ADPOWER: A FIELD REPORT

ADPower

ADPower Logo

On February 20, 2011, my half of the DIGM 3350 class visited ADPOWER at 2:30 pm. I got lost but was only 3 minutes late, went in a circle about three times. I missed our tour guide’s name and his affiliation with the organization. I am pretty sure he is a manager or owner of this screen print shop. ADPOWER has been in business over 15 years and 80% of their sales are return clients. That’s impressive. He guided us through the process of screen printing.
The first step is to sell the job. The client will need art work and a product to print it on, usually a T-shirt. The client can provide their own art work or the in-house Art department can take an idea and create an image with that idea. No matter where the art work comes from, if it has more than one color, a transparency and a screen is needed for each color.
We went out to the shop and our guide showed us the order forms on the wall waiting to be processed. He said that this form follows the job until completion. Next we went into the screen room. This is where the coated screen waiting on a new job. These screens are coated with emulsion. The screen is then exposed to a bright light. This light burns out the part of the screen that you don’t want. The screen then hardens and the unwanted film is washed away. I think was interesting that we got to see how to fix a hole in the screen. TAPE IT.
With ready screens, the first thing to be done is registration is. This is done with a T-square each time a new color is introduced. When all the colors are printed, the job is checked against the order form. The job is then broken down and sent out to the customer.
After the job, the screens go into “quarantined” where cleaned. There are two options at this point: 1) Save the screen because the client knows they will reprint or 2) The screens are stripped of the emulsion. If there ghosting or a haze of the last job, the screens must be power-washed. The screens are coated with emulsion for the next job.
I would choose to do business with the ADPOWER because they know their stuff. They have been doing screen printing for a long time and it shows. I like their business model and would be confident I would receive a quality product.