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The Conquest of the Hickey

From Graphic Arts Monthly – July 1996

For years, the number on enemy of printers the hickey, has been considered an inescapable, if unfortunate part of printing. This scourge of the pressroom has dodged whole crews of press operators, defied hickey picker rollers and wreaked havoc on quality and productivity. But to day, printers like Graphics Illustrated have discovered a technology designed to conquer this long-standing foe.

The second largest sheetfed printer in South Florida, Graphic Illustrated is $20 million company providing commercial printed materials for Fortune 500 customers. Since its founding in 1979, adaptability has been key in the company’s continued growth, leading it over the years into multicolor printing and, more recently, DocuTech and disk replication. But until last year, even as the company embraced new technologies, the old problem of hickeys remained.

The existence of even on hickey in a job represented a concern for Graphics Illustrated. According to Press Manager Robert Scott, “With our customers, one hickey is considered an unacceptable defect.”

When hickeys began to stand in the way of meeting high-end customer requirements in a productive manner, the company knew it had to find a way to eliminate them.

Explains Scott, “Recently, a prominent greeting card customer gave us the parameter of printing hickey-free. Yet all the methods we had explored until then (using hickey picker rollers, purchasing better paper stock, trying low-tack inks) were like putting a band-aid on the problem. “We still had to stop the press regularly to remove hickeys, which drained productivity and caused excessive waste.”

In searching for a solution, the company read about a system called the Epic Delta Print Quality System, manufactured Epic Products. Employing a continuous dampening technology that sweeps away the particles that cause hickeys during printing, the Epic Delta System has provided 99.93% hickey-free performance in printing environments around the world, according to the company.

“This was the type of performance we were looking for,” says Scott. “But what sold us was the cost survey worksheet Epic gave us. The worksheet asked us about our shifts per day, average hickey stops per shift, average paper costs, and more. It showed that the Epic Delta System would pay for itself in less than a year.”

The system was installed on all six units of Graphics Illustrated’s six-color Heidelberg Speedmaster in November 1995. Operators quickly became proficient in the use of the system by attending Epic’s Technical Training Center in Arlington, Texas.

Company President Roger Butler reports that the new technology has solved the hickey problem. Scott agrees, “We haven’t had one hickey problem since the system was installed. We haven’t had to rerun even one job. We now know that we don’t have to live with hickeys anymore.”

Operators spend far less time looking for samples to pull off the press. “Anything we pull is likely to be good,” Scott attests. The Epic Delta System has tremendously reduced waste, interruptions to printing runs, and product inspection times. Butler adds, “The system maintains good color and fidelity through each print run.”

As the company plans for the future, Butler says, it is striving to be a “total solutions” company. Delta technology will be an important part of the picture, he notes, as the company prepares to add another Epic Delta Print Quality System on its five-color Speedmaster in 1996.

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The War on Pressroom Waste

Graphics Arts Monthly – September 1995

A recent nationwide survey of managers in 7,500 printing companies provides insight into the most persistent and costly quality control problems in the pressroom.

Our old nemeses-hickeys and color variation-are still with us. Together, these two problems are seen as the most troublesome by nearly a 10-to-1 margin over other problems such as ghosting and density of solids.

Hickeys are #1 problem reported by folding carton printers (color variation is second) and the #2 problem reported by commercial printers (color variation is first). In addition, the are the top problem on recycled paper, the survey shows.

For all types of printing operations surveyed, presses on average are stopped more than six times per shift because of problems with hickeys. Typically, the amount of final output this wastes is estimated at anywhere between 5% and 20%.

Efforts to reduce pressroom waste traditionally focused on a variety of procedures. However, when it comes to actually eliminating hickeys and reducing color variation, one technology that has been around for some time but is just now gaining widespread use is the Delta Print Quality System manufactured by Epic Products, Arlington, Texas.

In its PQS product, Epic utilizes a unique technology called the Delta Effect. This patented process runs the dampening form roller slower than plate speed, which causes a wiping action across the plate that removes particles that are the cause of most hickeys. An ink-receptive roller running in contact with the form roller reduces ghosting and provides better control of emulsification.

By not having to stop and restart the press to remove hickeys, and by having more control over water, the press operator will find it easier to maintain color consistency.

The ability of the Delta system to eliminate hickeys and reduce color variation has caught the attention of several major press manufacturers, which are now licensed to use the system on their new presses. The system can also be retrofitted to any existing sheetfed or web press.

In a special study of a single printing plant, the Epic system installed on a 55”, six-color press was shown to have reduced the incidence of hickeys to just over 40 sheets per 10,000 produced, down from an average of 374 sheets per 10,000. For some jobs the study showed, the system eliminated hickeys altogether.

At the user level, Hart Graphics, Austin, Texas, reports 99.5% of all hickeys have been eliminated and incidences of color variation have been reduced by 85%.

Simkins Industries, Trenton, New Jersey, has achieved 99.6% hickey-free performance in its folding carton operations. Harry Pierce, printing supervisor says, “The Delta System not only took care of our hickeys, but it also vastly improved the overall productivity of our Komori press. It gives us greater control over colors and reduces the possibility of color-related errors.”

Similar gains have been made in pressrooms at Eastman Kodak, Rochester, New York; Crown, Cork & Seal, Philadelphia; Packaging Corporation of America, Denver; AGI, Chicago; and Jefferson Smurfit, Kansas City.

Such gains significantly affect the bottom line. By tackling hickey and color variation problems many of these companies have reduced pressroom waste by 99%. In other words, every $100 previously lost to pressroom waste now amounts to only $1. For a typical mid-size pressroom, this could result in monthly savings of between $5,000 and $25,000, figures that are not surprising if press time and lost production potential accounted for in the calculation.

An effective was on pressroom waste should also include reducing makeready times and amount of stock used, eliminating web breaks, improving platemaking and reducing the need to rerun jobs because of design and prepress errors.

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Certifying Quality

From Graphic Arts Monthly- March 1998

A growing trend in print supplier certification is placing pressure on today’s printers to deliver perfect quality-so perfect, in fact, that the goal of many print buyers is to downsize their inspection departments.

“By appointing certified printers, print buyers are establishing an agreement with their printers that basically says they can rely on the quality those printers will provide, without the need to check the product,” explains Larry Butts, Director of Quality Assurance for Creative Press, Evansville, Indiana, a certified printer for the Walt Disney Company.

Creative Press, a 51-year old commercial printing company that serves the advertising and packaging needs of the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries, achieved certification with Disney through a combination of strict quality control standards, ongoing employee training, and the installation of a print quality system that eliminates hickeys and color variation. Furthermore, floor graphics springdale oh is also available in adverting a service or product. It is a combination of Magik-Stik base film laminated with either DCM’s scuff-resistant textured or gloss-clear laminating film.

“The purchase of the print quality system was critical in that it was one of the pivotal reasons we became certified,” Butts stresses. Of 40 printers evaluated by Disney, Creative Press was one of just three that was awarded certification.

Because appointing certified print suppliers is becoming common within large corporations, especially pharmaceutical companies, Creative Press recently began to prepare for the certification evaluations process. “Qualifying for certification involves a long process in which the print buyer typically looks at every aspect of a printer’s equipment and procedures,” says Butts.

Creative Press already had strong quality standards in place. It had been operating under ISO 9002 standards for some time, and expects to be ISO-certified within the next year. A comprehensive inspection process ensures product quality, from the examination of raw materials to thorough reviews of proofs and finished products.

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One quality issue familiar to many printers concerned Creative Press. Hickeys were occurring on press, particularly with the use of board, offset, and enamel stock. Creative Press was spending a significant amount of time controlling them with hickey pickers, but with limited success.

Jim Henton, pressroom supervisor, began to search for a more efficient way to control hickeys. He evaluated the Epic Delta Print Quality System, which the manufacturer claims is able to eliminate 99.93% of all plate caused hickeys during printing, without the need to stop the press.

The system operates as a continuous dampener, yet features a patented wiping action in which the dampening form roller is driven at a slower surface speed than the plate cylinder. This differential action sweeps away foreign particles that cause hickeys, while continually allowing a fress charge of ink to the plate.

The benefits were immediately apparent. “We were able to run entire jobs hickey-free, without stopping the press,” Henton reports. “In the first seven months, we had to stop the press only once to remove a hickey.”

Other advantages of the system include the minimization of ghosting, the laydown of stronger and righter colors, and greatly reduced color variation. Henton adds that the company has reduced waste by 90% by eliminating the need to stop and restart the press during runs.

Most important, the system’s effectiveness, combined with the printer’s excellent quality control practices, convinced Disney that Creative Press could provide the superior products and services it sought in a certified supplier. Creative Press also is now being considered as a certified supplier for several pharmaceutical customers and a major electronics customer.

“There’s no doubt that our clientele is increasing because of the level of quality we can provide,” says Butts. Increasingly, as customers seek certified suppliers, Creative Press is confident it will continue to be among those chosen.

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