Cavan-based Mel’s Signs recently agreed to be the sole Irish site for the beta testing of the latest inks from Sun Chemicals and their business is currently benefiting from the resulting improvements in quality and competitiveness. Earlier this month the ink manufacturer launched the Streamline ESL HPQ and the Streamline Ultima HPQ inks on the market, which are designed specifically for use in wide and super-wide format printers that are using high-quality solventbased inks. Mel’s Signs was the beta testing site for the Streamline ESL HPQ inks. ‘We are always looking to buy more competitively and our supplier Reprocentre Group in Dublin alerted us to the new inks that were being developed by Sun Chemicals,’ says Neil Doherty, managing director, Mel’s Signs, winners of the inaugural Commercial Vehicle Wraps category in the Irish Print Awards 2011.
Mel’s Signs had been using original Roland cartridges before beta testing and installing the new Sun Chemicals ink. ‘I had also used other types of third-party inks but I hadn’t used Sun Chemicals inks until I got involved in the beta testing,’ says Neil. ‘We offer a wide gamut of services, from vehicle branding and identification, to banner printing and short-term decals, so brand protection and quality is very important to us and to our customers. For example, we do a lot of work with the Fleadh Ceoil, which has been in Cavan for three successive years. We did all of the exterior signage, including banners, roll-ups, pop-ups, decals, vehicle wraps, and building drapes and we had to ensure that the brand integrity was retained throughout all of the material that we produced. The Sun Chemicals inks had to be as good as or better than the inks we used before and I can honestly say that they met all of my expectations. Most importantly, I didn’t have to change the existing profiles, which was vital. Reprocentre Group and Sun Chemicals assured us that it would be a flawless changeover and the Streamline ESL HPQ certainly ticked all the boxes for us. I found that there was no difference in terms of jetting properties with the Sun Chemicals ink and that meant that our full production was maintained and, more importantly, that the solvent odour was extremely low. The Reprocentre Group has provided great support to us in making the switch. They answered any queries we had and gave us excellent backup – nothing was too much trouble for them.’
Mel’s Signs operate two Roland Solijet Pro 3 XC 540 digital printers, one of which is currently using the Streamline ESL HPQ ink. Given that the new ink has worked so well for them, they will be converting the other Roland printer to it shortly. The Streamline ESL HPQ ink is being used on all jobs and on a variety of substrates, from wrapping material to PVC exterior banners, and on the full range of wallpapers and papers. Neil reports that the new ink has generated significant benefits for his business. ‘I’m buying the materials more competitively than I was with our previous inks so that has improved our margins and we are still holding the same superior print properties as the OEM inks,’ he says. Business is brisk at Mel’s Signs, with strong demand for vehicle wrapping work. ‘Exterior signage has fallen off a bit – people aren’t opening as many shops as they used to – but the tradesman and vehicle user are becoming increasingly aware of the van’s advertising potential,’ he says. ‘Gone are the days when you could get away with a simple graphic and a phone number. People want something more flamboyant and eye-catching and that is where the wrapping comes into play as the whole side of the vehicle is used as a canvas.’
Apart from the new inks, Mel’s Signs is planning to invest in flatbed technology in the last quarter of this year. ‘The exact brand and model needs to be investigated further but I believe that type of investment is the way forward if we are to speed up our production and further enhance the quality that we offer,’ says Neil. ‘If Sun Chemicals ink was recommended by the manufacturer of a machine that we were considering investing in, it would be the deciding factor for us. With the new flatbed technology I would be hoping to introduce more services for the trade next year. There are a lot of opportunities in the Point of Sale area and we would be looking at providing POS services to retailers, but mainly to the trade. If a sign company is looking for an economical way to produce graphics on boards we will have the flatbed technology they require.’
According to Tony Cox, Sun Chemical’s business manager for the digital market, the printing inks and pigment manufacturer has been offering inks for the wide format market for the past six years. ‘We continually look at new technology with our solventbased inks so we listen to comments from our customers and we look at the performance of the original inks and as opportunities arise we put resources into developing and improving the products we have,’ he says. ‘The beta testing programme for the new Streamline inks which Mel’s Signs participated in was three months long and the purpose of that was to confirm the results of our own tests in a commercial environment. We tested the inks in companies all over Europe. We normally identify 10 or 12 beta testing sites because we want a mix of companies and climates. The sites were a mix of sign companies and commercial printers.
The Streamline ESL HPQ and Ultima HPQ ranges, which were launched on the market on 2 July, have very high print quality that exceed OEM product performance in many cases and also feature excellent adhesion to a wide range of media commonly used in the sign and graphics markets such as: photo labs, digital print shops, exhibition IP July.indd 30 09/08/2012 11:59:44 Irish Printer July 2012 wide format 31 printers, graphic art bureaus, sign shops, screen printers, repro houses and commercial printers. The new additions to the Streamline range have been carefully matched to the original products for colour shade and strength as well as physical properties, enabling customers to continue to use all the existing settings when converting from the original inks.’
Sun Chemicals separate the market into super wide format and wide format. The Streamline ESL HPQ and Ultima HPQ products fall into the wide format sector. ‘The ESL HPQ product is designed for Mutoh printers (Valuejet, Spitfire, Rockhopper II, Falcon and Blizzard) and for Roland machines (Soljet Pro II/Pro III and Versacamm series), and for any printers fitted with an Epson 10000/DX4 print head,’ says Tony. ‘The Ultima HPQ ink is specifically targeted at Mimaki printers using the original SS21 Mimaki ink, which is mainly the JV33 and JV5 printers. In addition, all printers fitted with Epson DX5 print heads can use the Ultima HPQ inks.’
Tony says the solvent-based wide format sector is a growing market for Sun Chemicals. ‘Super wide format market is moving towards UV flatbed printers and water-based printers but it isn’t growing as quickly as the wide format market. In fact, the solvent-based part of the super wide format market is probably shrinking. I think the market in Ireland is very good – we don’t have a great share of the Irish market at the moment so it represents a significant opportunity for us. Reprocentre Group is our sole distributor in the Republic of Ireland and Belfastbased Digital Print Supplies is our distributor in Northern Ireland.’