Sapphire Curtains and Graphics, part of the Don-Bur group, have invested £750,000 in a new EFI VUTEk Q3r UV LED Printer which has improved efficiency and increased throughput by 700%.
A key feature is the ability to print white onto a wide variety of substrates. This means that Sapphire can now apply a full pallet of intense colours onto any colour background; an effect only previously achievable with ink signwriting.
Mark Wayman, General Manager at Sapphire commented “In simple terms, our older solvent-based printers behaved more like domestic printers. ‘White’ used to be just an omission of any colour print so you used to rely on the brightness of the material you were printing onto. As soon as the print material started to darken, so too did the brightness of the imagery. The new printer actually prints white as part of the colour set so you always get bright, high intensity colours on any colour background; even metallics.”
The older printers at Sapphire could only print about 2 sets of curtains per day and still require 24 hours de-gassing time before clearcoating. In addition, traditional, labour-intensive signwritten inks used to take between 2 to 6 pairs of curtains per day with a 4-strong team.
Today, the new cool LED curing printer can print all requirements at a rate of 14 curtain sets per day with no extra drying time. Sapphire can now process printed trailer curtain orders in one day in comparison to the previous 3-4 day turnover cycle.
Clearcoating is another critical feature that Sapphire specified. Clearcoating is a process of applying a clear, protective film over the printed surface which gives the finished artwork a glossy, deep colour appearance which will remain protected against the elements for many years. Normally, clearcoat is applied after the ink has fully dried which means a printed curtain would need to be stored in a suitable location for up to 24 hours. The new EFI VUTEk lays down and cures a clearcoat as part of the printing process which again reduces processing time.
Energy consumption was also high on the list of considerations and the new EFI printer uses just 2.9 kW in comparison to the 10 kW older machines. The 71% energy reduction helps reduce costs and the environmental impact.
The significant investment was in response to the ever-increasing demand for improved vehicle livery aesthetics. Mark adds “Years ago, it was just plain curtains but everyone wants livery on their curtainsiders and not just the back doors now. A good 90% of my production is livery on curtainsiders. Nothing plain really goes out the door now.”
“With the installation of the EFI VUTEk Q3r, we’ve improved production and aligned high quality with speed. It’s fantastic. It really is.”
Published: Wed 04 Jan 2023
Updated: Fri 23 Feb 2024
Author: Richard Owens
Published by: Don-Bur