French print shop Cartor in La Loupe works with a Speedmaster XL 75 press from Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg) with a configuration that is the only one of its kind in the world. The Speedmaster XL 75-6+L-D-X is tailored to the individual requirements of Cartor and is equipped with eight units - six inking units, a dispersion coating unit, and a die-cutting unit - and the CutStar sheeter. Founded in 1974, the company was taken over in 2004 by the UK-based ISP Group (International Security Printers), which is headquartered in Birmingham and specializes in postage stamp printing. Some 46 employees work at the plant in France designing, developing, and producing very high-quality and innovative commemorative stamps. More than 90 percent of these are earmarked for export and are delivered to over 200 core customers in around 100 countries. The stamps come in all shapes and sizes and feature flocking, scented coatings, holograms, embossing, and gold or silver inks. "One of the greatest strengths of the Speedmaster XL 75 is its ability to process a huge range of substrates, such as cork, metalized printing stocks, plastics, and silk. It handles everything from extremely thin grammages just 0.03 mm thick all the way through to extremely thick materials of up to 0.8 mm," confirms Ian Brigham, Managing Director of Cartor and co-shareholder of the ISP Group.
Sound expert knowledge and powerful cutting-edge technology are needed to meet the high quality requirements of stamp collectors. It is for this reason that the Cartor print shop has invested more than EUR 5 million in modernizing its equipment since 2004. These investments have boosted the company's sales from EUR 2.5 million in the past to EUR 10 million today with 10% staff increase. In 2009, Cartor took a seven-color Speedmaster SM 74 press with high-pile delivery into operation. The sixth printing unit of this customized press processes UV inks, while the seventh can accommodate dry offset technology and an integrated ink agitator to process phosphorescent inks.
Made-to-measure machine configuration
Ian Brigham is impressed with the technology from Heidelberg: "The Speedmaster XL 75 is robust, reliable, and delivers outstanding quality. Its enhanced printing speed and straightforward operation have enabled us to boost our productivity by 20 percent." The print shop works with an ultrafine screen of 600 lpi - or 236 lpcm - and can be used to print the very tiniest of details and the finest color vignettes. "The stamps are perforated inline after printing in the IDC-unit. With a given register tolerance between print and perforation of only 0.2 mm, we have a point which is normally hard to achieve, but with the Heidelberg Inline Die cutting-solution XL75 easy to make.
The high precision of the CutStar sheeter enabled us to eliminate the sheet trimming. The substrate is cut to the required format straight away, which reduces throughput times and paper waste," says Ian Brigham.
Another key feature in the machine is the ink agitator in the sixth printing unit, which makes it easier to process very high-viscosity inks. These inks comprise invisible, fluorescent, and phosphorescent pigments that are used as security features on stamps. The coating unit is equipped with a screen roller, a chambered blade system, and a coating supply unit that can be used to process strongly pigmented special coatings such as Iriodin, pearlescent, or photochromic coatings. "In some orders, the pigments are up to 120 μ in size. This technology makes it possible to apply larger amounts of coating than with dry offset printing," explains Ian Brigham.
The Speedmaster XL 75 supports alcohol-reduced (< 5%) production and the FilterStar Compact system ensures an enhanced ink/water balance. As a result, the replacement intervals for the dampening solution can be extended to up to three months, which saves time and, thanks to lower water consumption, protects the environment. Cartor also opted for spectrophotometric quality control of the ink with Prinect Axis Control. This way, the ink is added automatically to ensure a stable ink setting process. Prinect Axis Control is particularly suitable for spot colors and makes it possible to meet even the highest quality standards of discerning customers.
"Thanks to the CombiStar inking unit temperature control and dampening solution circulation system, color reproduction is even more stable and the ink/water balance truly exceptional. When we compared the systems available on the market, we noticed that the dot gain of the Speedmaster XL 75 was the best by some margin," confirms Ian Brigham. "Since 2009, we have cut the number of presses in our facility from three to two while increasing our production capacity by 50 percent at the same time. Heidelberg also provided first-rate support when it came to training the machine operators."