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Versatile Card Technology Finds That The Roland 500 Lives Up To The Firm's Name

Press release from the issuing company

South Plainfield, New Jersey — A ROLAND 500 offset press is demonstrating its substrate versatility at one of the world’s leading manufacturers of plastic cards. Versatile Card Technology Inc. has begun running a six-color configuration of the MAN Roland press, complete with coater and full UV capabilities, at its VCT Qualteq Division here. The 29-inch three-quarter-size system was designed to provide a platform printers can use to expand their product range, capable of handing virtually any substrate ranging in thickness from 1 pt. to 40 pt. Versatile Card Technology is proving the point, producing a range of plastic cards on the system, including secure products carrying the MasterCard, Visa and Discover brands, as well as non-secure promotional and ID cards. At present 90% of the facility’s jobs are printed on 13 mil PVC plastic, reputedly one of the most challenging substrates a press can encounter. The 500 is also called on to handle 19 mil and 24 mil sheets and proprietary materials as well at VCT Qualteq. Ed Griffin, Printing Manager of the facility, describes the basic process: “We print 72 cards up on a sheet. Most jobs are printed with a separate front and back sheet that have overlay applied and are then laminated together. We run a specially formulated UV ink. We produce many multiple pass jobs which require tight registration from pass to pass.” Given those exacting parameters, it’s not surprising that VCT’s New Jersey facility is ISO tested and certified. And the new press has wasted no time in becoming part of the precision working environment. “The printing quality of the 500 falls right in line with our existing equipment,” Griffin says. “The benefit of the 500 is having Computer Controlled Inking (CCI) to help with color control on long runs.” The 500 also protects the integrity of the printed product by eliminating the roller coaster ride on which most presses subject their substrates. The 500’s infeed drum, impression cylinders, mark-free transferters and delivery drum are positioned in a straight line. That reduces sheet travel problems that result in marking, while raising production speeds. The paper path is further refined with an integrated AirTrack system that helps ensure no wet side contact all the way through to the press’ AirGlide delivery. That last innovation takes the sheet to the finishing stack along a gentle curve – eliminating the traditional gooseneck delivery and the bumps and grinds that go with it. In addition to running a range of plastic thicknesses on the 500, Versatile Card Technology is using the new machine to print on a patented full-face foil product that reputedly is very difficult to get through a press. “We have run numerous jobs with this material with minimal feed problems,” Griffin reports. Another quality plus: The 500’s 16-roller ink trains and integrated direct delta dampening units are purpose built to maximize offset performance. “Ink and water balance is critical when you’re printing on plastic,” Griffin says. “Unlike paper or board there is minimal absorption of water into our material. If your ink and water balance is not perfect, it’s real easy to waste expensive material.” The variety of run lengths a press has to contend with is another challenge at VCT. Here again, the ROLAND 500 is living up to its versatile image. Griffin says VCT Qualteq benefits at both ends of the job volume spectrum: “We run jobs as small as 25 sheets so the quicker makeready time on the 500 helps. The color control on larger runs is excellent for providing a high quality product to our customers.” The ROLAND 500 is equipped with MAN Roland’s PECOM press operating system, which automates set-up between jobs and streamlines production. VCT Qualteq utilizes the system’s JobPilot module to dial-in the next job while a current project is printing. That further minimizes makeready time. “Makereadies are getting progressively quicker as the operators get more comfortable with the 500,” according to Griffin. “I expect the makeready time will be much quicker than the older press, once we are completely up to speed with the new technology.” One of the primary reasons VCT Qualteq selected the 500 was because its parent company uses ROLAND 700s — MAN Roland’s 41-inch press — at its headquarters plant in Downers Grove, Illinois. However, the choice was a tough sell to VCT Qualteq’s press operators because they were used to working on Heidelberg presses. “Initially there was some resistance to the new technology,” Griffin says, “but the more they work on it, the more they realize how much this press can help them with quality and speed.” MAN Roland training has accelerated the acceptance process. After completing onsite instruction, Griffin and two of his pressmen traveled to Chicago to complete the PowerPrinter Certification Course. The week-long curriculum is designed to help press crews fully utilize the automated capabilities of their new equipment. Currently, VCT Qualteq is running two full shifts on the 500 and is gearing up to run the press around the clock. The one feature Versatile Card Technology can’t fully utilize, however, is the press’ industry-leading 18,000 sheet per hour top speed. “Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the curing times on our inks we can only top the press out at around 12,000 per hour,” Griffin notes. “Most jobs are being run at around 9,000 per hour, depending on the amount of ink coverage.” VCT is, however, making full use of the 500’s propensity for keeping the amount of non-saleable sheets to a minimum. “Waste is a major concern because our PVC material costs are much higher than printing on paper or board,” Griffin says. “The quicker the make-ready the less sheets of material we waste.”

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