Waterless Printing on Komori H-UV: A New Beginning
It has been more than one year since Kitanihon Printing (CEO Hideharu Kawaguchi), a printing company based in Toyama, Japan, began waterless printing at B1-sized H-UV 4-color machine (Hybrid UV printing system). The H-UV model, supplied by Komori Corporation, is the world’s first waterless machine and is widely acclaimed.
By adopting the waterless technology, Kitahihon Printing improved its business with its superior and consistent print quality and reduced make-ready time, besides it proving to be less of a burden on the operators, and other improved features. The company now reaps the double benefit of waterless printing and job efficiency, including reduced toning issues, even after a long duration of work production with reliable quality output.
Focus on Waterless Printing for Better Registration
Kitanihon Printing established in 1947 as a general printing division, split from Kitahihon Shimbun (newspaper), and started providing commercial publishing and printing services for companies and public agencies. The company, which is established in Toyama, has a corporate philosophy saying, “as an information media firm centered on printing, we work hard to build a system that allows for ‘more effective communication’ in all areas and contribute to cultural enrichment and social development.”
In an effort to evolve as an information communications company, it has recently formed a new team called the SP (social planning) section to resolve customer complaints. Kitanihon Printing also plans to lay the groundwork to become a solution provider company and draw up a guideline for future equipment purchase. It considers its adoption of waterless printing a measure necessary to resolve customer complaints.
The first floor of the company headquarters building houses the printing and bookbinding facilities. The printers that are currently up and running are B1-sized Komori Lithrone perfecting 8 color L-440SP and B1-sized Komori Lithrone 4 color LS440 H-UV, which Kitanihon acquired in 2003 and 2012, respectively. The first model is for 100% waterless printing. While the H-UV 4-color model supports waterless printing, it can also be used wet offset for spot color printing. Kitanihon is awaiting new orders for the waterless method from now on, thereby increasing the share of waterless printing jobs in the total work it does.
The company started using the general-purpose perfecting 8 color L-440 SP for waterless printing in November 2011 mostly because it wanted to improve registration. “Operators worked really hard, yet couldn’t get rid of fan-out or other registration issues caused by water. So, we started to consider using the waterless solution and finally decided to introduce it with strong support from Toray,” explains CEO Kawaguchi on why the company decided to adopt waterless printing.
Now, Kitanihon Printing is reaping the tangible benefits of the waterless from the improved quality due to better registration, proving to be a lesser burden on both the operators and the environment, and increased job efficiency for shorter delivery times.
“The printing industry must enhance its competitive edge by improving the value of its services, not by offering lower prices. This would translate to greater employee satisfaction and business growth,” said Kawaguchi.
In addition, he plans to incorporate eco-friendly practices into the business expansion strategies. His company has published a booklet titled “The benefits of Waterless Printing Technology” to promote the process of waterless printing to clients as a green, environmentally friendly method that does not generate alcohol waste.
“The environmental aspects of the key business strategy matter a lot, particularly since clients, including public agencies and power utilities, have a heightened awareness of the environment. If the butterfly mark that symbolizes waterless printing becomes widely popular, waterless printers could help us expand our business more actively. I even predict that printing companies will have to provide waterless printing to enter a bid for an order,” adds Kawaguchi.
Hideharu Kawaguchi, CEO
Visible Improvement in Operators’ Work Performance
The company introduced waterless printing for H-UV 4 color machine in 2015. Initially, the printing company conducted wet offset printing, but in April 2014, it ran a waterless UV printing test as per Toray’s suggestion. In fact, employees still vividly remember the time when they had struggled to remove ghosting issues from printed products.
They were not convinced that waterless UV printing would eliminate these issues. After some tests, however, they found no ghosting in a test run under the same conditions, and, at the same time, there was no glitch in representing colors from their color chart. Based on this experience, Kitanihon made a shift toward waterless UV printing.
The majority of the conventional and UV inks that Kitanihon uses for waterless printing is supplied by NIK Ink. While doing test runs of waterless UV printing, Kitanihon received much help and advice from the ink manufacturer.
“One of the biggest advantages of using waterless printing is that it resolves problems that we used to have with the dampening water like ghosting. It is also effective in reducing stress on the operators. Besides, we’re wasting less paper each year. Over the recent years, we’ve seen 15% less wastage of paper,” said Sawazaki, head of management headquarters and department head of production management, when explaining the cost-saving effect of waterless printing.
As the rollers’ lifespan increases, they do not have to be changed frequently; they also do not need the dampening system any more. Considering other benefits such as reduced overtimes, the total cost of waterless printing is definitely not as high as printing in wet offset. H-UV has its own positive features such as the powderless procedure as well.
So, what do people working on the ground have to say about this technology? This is what Yamaguchi, section chief of production management, says about changes brought about by the introduction of the waterless printing system.
“I was doubtful at first, and then, since I don’t have to control water anymore, my job has become really easier. Since there are less volatile elements, we can print things with consistent quality. It is easier to adjust colors or registration. In the past, we had to go through at least five test runs before finding the right colors, but now we can do it in just a single or a couple of tests. The time we spend for make-ready has been shortened by 15-20 minutes per order.”
Initially, Yamaguchi was in charge of the H-UV model when he was a senior engineer, but now the printer is being managed by Nohara, who joined the company two years ago. Nohara and Okazaki, who operate both conventional and UV machines, are just 20 years old, relatively young compared to other operators.
“Waterless printing doesn’t leave any water stain and, therefore, we don’t have to deal with the toning issue. That’s why we can operate the machines without worries. It has made our job much easier,” said Nohara. It has improved our efficiency in regular maintenance work, too, by simplifying the glazing process.
Hama, section chief of manufacturing, also speaks highly of the waterless generating less toning issues. “We don’t have to worry about toning when doing a job over a long length of time, so there is less pressure on us. We are able to print at least 30,000 sheets without facing any issues. The wet offset left toning issues after printing several thousand sheets, so every time it happened, we had to stop the machine and readjust the balance. It’s not suitable for executing an order with a tight deadline.”
The consistent work process, available now with waterless printing, will help the company speed up its production further.
Komori LS440 H-UV
Standardized Operation through Database
Kawaguchi points to the construction of an objective system based on data as a future challenge. “We introduced waterless UV printing over a year ago. Since then, we’ve continuously conducted experiments on the method by working with machinery and material manufacturers. We will continue to use products of good quality. I believe that UV machines will be sold more to become a standard of the industry. We need to keep accumulating expertise. In this regard, we need to make our system ‘visible” so that we can analyze and compare data collected from the production lines every day. We’d also like to decipher the data so that we can standardize the work process throughout the company and improve job performance.”
This year, Kitanihon placed PCs on the ground dedicated to data collection. It will help build a database to identify items such as optimal conditions for printing or problem areas. The Japanese printer will pursue accurate production through an objective analysis of the data.
Waterless printing, which does not involve volatile elements, has strengthened the business foundation of Kitanihon and become its essential strategic measure.