26 Oct 2021

Print On Cheadle moves up a gear with new premises and Mimaki kit

Hybrid Cheadle PrintOn LFR

Cheshire-based printers, Print On, has really graduated to a different league in recent months with a move to impressive new 6,000 sq. ft. premises on Lawnhurst Industrial Park in Cheadle. The company’s future ambitions are evident as you walk through the front door past a well-appointed boardroom and customer meeting room, to be faced with a large modern reception area, beyond which stretches a very impressive open-plan print hall.

The first thing that strikes you is the tidiness of the whole place – open plan work areas can certainly expose a company’s weaknesses to visitors, but not here;  Print On is more than happy to lay its soul bare and proud to let its customers see exactly how the company operates.

With a core staff of just 8 people, it’s obvious that efficiency is the name of the game, with each member of the team having clear focus and direction and being more than capable of multi-tasking, including the family directors of the business, who are remarkably hands-on. As Managing Director, Alex Oldfield explains, “We’re a tight-knit family business. I get amazing support from my father and mother in their respective roles of Marketing Director and Financial Director and none of us shy away from getting our hands dirty – we take real pride in what we do and get involved on a daily basis in every aspect of the operation.”

The impressive premises suggest that the business is prospering in what many still consider to be a challenging economy, so how has Print On managed to develop so successfully? Alex’s father Keith is confident in his response: “We’ve always believed our two key assets to be our staff and the equipment we use and there’s been no shortage of investment in either.”

Print On has traditionally based much of its production capability around its impressive arsenal of four Xerox Versant digital printers, but became increasingly aware that the ability to offer a more diverse range of print services would be crucial to retaining existing customers and also developing new revenue streams. As Alex explains: “Some of our larger retail customers with whom we have really close relationships were placing their PoS or other wide format print requirements with other print providers. We really needed to equip ourselves to meet what seemed to be a growing demand in the sector. Investment in a Mimaki JFX200 flatbed and a brace of Mimaki JV300 production solvent printers sourced through our long-standing relationship with Mimaki reseller Granthams of Preston has really enabled us to stretch our legs and start producing a much wider range of products for our customers.”

Alex cites this significant upturn in business as the catalyst for the move to new premises in January of this year. “We spent a couple of months at the end of last year decorating and refitting the premises to meet our specific requirements and this included a dedicated wide-format area in a separate part of the building to house the array of new Mimaki kit.”

The team’s wide-format specialist, Matt Peters can’t speak highly enough of his new charges as his experience of working with them expands. “I’ve previously worked with other wide-format flatbeds which I’d always felt to be perfectly adequate. But the more I use the Mimakis, the more impressed I am with their performance – the print quality and the speed just blows me away! We hardly ever need to use the highest quality setting on the JFX200, as even in fast production mode the quality is really quite exceptional. I’m regularly printing 8’ x 4’ rigid boards with full ink coverage in around 20 minutes, at a highly acceptable print quality.”

As for the JV300s, Matt enthusiastically describes them as “real workhorses and ultra-reliable.” These two machines have obviously been earning their keep at Print On as evidenced by the fact that under the ink cartridge re-cycling scheme operated by Mimaki’s UK and Ireland distributor, Hybrid Services, over 400 empty 440ml solvent ink cartridges have been re-cycled in less than 12 months operation.

There’s a real buzz about the new premises as everyone seems to be focused on maximising the potential of the heady blend of a mighty impressive kit list and a comfortable and spacious working environment. Customers seem equally impressed, with increased levels of business coming from longstanding clients including many major multi store retailers, as well as a number of new high-profile clients.

As a large printed sign in the Press Hall declares: “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is Nothing.”  … great words from the great Muhammad Ali. Clearly the small and enthusiastic team at Print On is more than up for a challenge with the confidence that new equipment and premises has brought them.

Further information about Print On's services can be found at www.printonuk.com.

Mimaki's full product range can be found via its UK and Irish distributor, Hybrid Services at www.hybridservices.co.uk.

[Photo caption: The Print On team with directors Keith and Alex Oldfield pictured centre]

Out soon: 3rd Drupa Global Trends Report 2016


With just weeks to go before Drupa 2016 opens, the results of the 3rd Drupa Global Trends report have been published.

Editor's comment: ‘The Inventor’s Dilemma’ and the genius of Joseph Gerber

Gerber 5 EDGE

[GerberEDGE thermal printer for outdoor signs, ca. 1990. Credit: Courtesy Gerber Technology, Inc.]

LFR Editor Derek Pearson takes a close look at Joseph Gerber, the man who pioneered CAD and launched modern sign making, with biographer and son David Gerber:

It is the early 1980s and a young man in a smart double-breasted suit sporting padded shoulders and an eye watering tie is walking through the draughtsmen’s office of a UK sign making studio. He is carrying a bulky briefcase. He looks at the highly trained men working at their drawing boards and realises that every single one of them is about to be made redundant thanks to the new technology he is carrying in his case, the Gerber Signmaker IVB.

Launched around 1983 the IVB (known as the Grafix 4) was the successful derivative of the Signmaker III and had been brought back from the USA by Charlie Dobson, the founder of the noted signage materials and hardware specialist, Spandex. It was the first digital sign making system in the UK, and its story starts with an elasticated pyjama cord and a young man both behind and bored with his repetitious homework.

Or perhaps it starts in Nazi-occupied Europe when a 15-year old boy convinced his father to jump with him from the train carrying them toward Dachau concentration camp. Heinz Joseph Gerber had been born in Vienna on 17 April 1924 to Jewish parents. In 1939 he was arrested and interned in the Mauer bei Wein labour camp. A few weeks later he was released, only to be rearrested and placed with his father on a train headed toward one of the most notorious death camps established during the Nazi regime.

Joseph Gerber

[H Joseph Gerber, circa. 1938. Credit: Courtesy Family of H. Joseph Gerber]

After their escape they finally made it back to Vienna where they were reunited with the boy’s mother. Gerber’s father was recaptured but thanks to his mother’s tireless efforts she and her son were finally able to board a ship for America and in 1940 they began a new life in Hartford, Connecticut. Joseph would never see his father again.

Something of his mother’s indomitable spirit burned in young Joseph’s veins. He worked in tobacco fields, bakeries and hotels, anywhere that a teenager could earn money while also learning the language and completing his education at Weaver High School.

His natural brilliance carried the day and after two years he earned a scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from which he graduated with a BSc in aeronautical engineering. One night, while working through repeated, tedious calculations for a homework assignment, Gerber decided to create a shortcut. He came up with a calibrated expandable scale, a computing device and an alternative to the slide rule that obviated the need for repetitious maths.

He used the elastic of his pyjamas to create the first version of what would later become the Gerber Variable Scale. His revolutionary invention allowed designers and engineers to quickly calculate graphical numerical equations. It would lead him to develop seminal products for what we now call computer aided design and laid the foundations for modern digital workflow.

Gerber scale

[Gerber Variable Scale with pyjama elastic and patent drawings by HJG. Credit: Courtesy Family of H. Joseph Gerber and Gerber Technology, Inc.]

The Inventor’s Dilemma

His son David, celebrated author of his father’s authorised biography ‘The Inventor’s Dilemma’, says: “My dad developed a line of graphical numerical computing devices, and data reduction products such as scanners and digitisers. Then he introduced the first digitally controlled plotter for plotting graphics. This machine was used by the military to plot enemy troop placements in the battlefield, but he had bigger plans for it and that’s how digital plotting first started.

“Once my dad’s company had developed the ability to move a tool such as a pen under precise computer control he and his team could set out to automate any number of skill-intensive processes in order to enhance productivity.
They introduced the first plotters that automated drafting and the first plotter that wrote with light on photographic film, the Photoplotter, which became the world’s most accurate printing system and was the first image setter. There were also many other first-of-a-kind machines that cut, routed, engraved, machined, painted, picked and placed objects.

“The Signmaker III grew out of this technology when my dad formed a division called Gerber Scientific Products to find new applications for his innovations. The GSP marketing person noticed that there were a lot of sign shops in the phone book and a local sign maker suggested using a plotter to cut vinyl. It was a perfect fit and history has amply proved its success.”

The Gerber team grew to over 2,000 personnel and the young man who had arrived in the United States without a word of the language came to be feted by presidents and was even described as the 'Thomas Edison of Manufacturing'. His digitised systems took a leading role in such diverse manufacturing sectors as aircraft design, cartography and television screens. It even helped produce the original Universal Product Code or barcode.

Most widely used computer controlled systems in the world

His methodology of creating 'matched technology systems' around inventions predated the similar philosophy expounded by Apple’s Steve Jobs and was very successful. However, his automated production systems were initially reviled in certain sectors. David explains, “The story of how automation impacted labourers is an interesting one with many dimensions. In the apparel industry, for example, the 417,000 strong Cutters’ Union threatened to send tens of thousands of its members to protest in front of retailers who sold clothes made on automated machinery.”

David continues: “My dad believed his concept for automating the apparel factory would actually bring a host of benefits to factories and workers.”  

He was right. In 1995, the head of the industry’s largest apparel labour union reported that Gerber’s advanced technology was 'one of the keys to maintaining … a global industry built around productivity and a living wage, rather than antiquated methods and intolerable wages and conditions'.

In fact, Gerber automation would go on to help create thousands of jobs worldwide across many industries, its impact touching just about every facet of modern life; not least graphics provision and sign making. In 1995 the US Department of Commerce had this to say: “The technologies first invented by Gerber for the drafting and electronics industries have now changed sign making forever from a skill-driven craft to a mass production industry. No longer are letters and designs sketched then painted or carved by hand. Under Gerber’s guidance in the early 1980s [the company] invented and developed Gerber Signmakers and related technologies, the most widely used computer controlled systems in the world for sign making and graphic arts.”

Gerber’s first grand-format digital printer went into production in 1978 and transformed billboard production and outdoor advertising. The advertising industry magnate John W Kluge said: “The product is of such quality of colour and fidelity to underlying artwork that a universal demand for our company to produce advertising displays throughout the world was created.”

Gerber 4 Billboard printer

[First billboard printer, ca. 1982. Credit: Courtesy Gerber Technology, Inc.]

His numerically controlled router technology was developed in the 1950s and early computerised routing machines appeared in the 1970s. The Gerber EDGE digital printer enabled graphics providers to print and cut short-run durable labels.

"The most extraordinary thing about my dad's company and his legacy is the breadth of innovation," David Gerber says. "It's just innovation, innovation, innovation." Even after suffering a stroke late in life, Gerber's incredibly inventive mind didn't slow down. His son remembers shuttling between his father's hospital room and the company’s offices with his father’s latest innovations. The hospital bed was surrounded by prototypes for brand new innovations.

David concludes: “My dad was so proud of the United States and the opportunity it gave to an émigré from a war-torn land, who was prepared to work hard and make things happen. His early life was the subject of a Broadway play in 1950. Called ‘Young Man in a Hurry’, it was written by Morton Wishengrad and starred Cornel Wilde, a big star of the time. In 1953 J Robert Oppenheimer and other judges selected my dad as one of the US Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Ten Most Outstanding Young Men in America’.

“But despite all he achieved and his many awards and accolades my dad was most proud of the one thing that meant he could hold his head high in his adopted homeland, and that was that he was first and foremost a decent man.”

Joseph Gerber died on 8th August 1996.

David Gerber’s five-star rated book ‘The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber’ (Yale University Press) is available online, from

•    Amazon at http://amzn.com/0300123507 and http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?k=9780300123500.

The Inventors dilemma

It will be reviewed in a future issue of LFR.

Whilst you’re over at the Amazon website, you may also like to check out LFR editor Derek Pearson’s latest works at http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01BY3U9PM

ArtSystems provides London fun without the commute

ArtSystems Egg Hunt LFR

Easter is coming early this year and to celebrate, Nottingham-based graphics materials and hardware distributor, ArtSystems, will be running a fun, online promotional activity for its resellers. In March and during the run up to Easter Sunday, resellers simply register and then pick a station from the promotional site when they place their first order of the week to see if they have found a chocolate egg (or rabbit).

Paul Tarry, ArtSystems’ Consumables Sales Divisional Manager, explained, “Our resellers work hard all year round and we know they also have a lively sense of humour. We feel that giving them the chance to win a chocolate egg for doing what they will doing anyway will tickle their funny bones. And it’s not just about chocolate! We’ll also be giving away Red Letter Days on some stations, so some lucky people will get the chance to win a very special day out.”

Paul continued, “The hunt will be run each week in March until the Easter weekend. There will be no chance for duplications. Once resellers have picked their station we will ‘close’ them and then ‘reopen’ them the following week. We’ll keep registered resellers updated so they can see how everyone is performing, but they’ll only see the winning station names so everyone playing will remain anonymous. It’s just a bit of fun but it’s also our way of letting resellers know how much we value them.”

For more information, please visit www.artsystems.co.uk.

Screen accelerates expansion into Chinese digital press market with Truepress Jet520HD order

Screen Screen deal LFR

A deal that includes an order for eight digital printing systems and an ongoing partnership agreement has been signed by Screen Graphic and Precision Solutions Co., Ltd. (Screen) with the Chinese CNPIEC Digital Printing Co., Ltd (CNPIEC Digital Printing).

The two companies have also concluded a partnership agreement that will form the basis for a mutually beneficial strategic relationship. Under the terms of the agreement, Screen will initially provide CNPIEC Digital Printing with technical support as it expands its digital printing business. Screen will also use CNPIEC Digital Printing’s facilities to develop promotional campaigns to accelerate its sales strategies for China and the rest of Asia.

Commenting on the machinery order, Pod. Guo, President of CNPIEC Digital Printing Co., Ltd said; “CNPIEC handles a wide variety of publications that require high-quality printing, including many well-known foreign books. However, for many years, we have struggled to find a system that is capable of producing the appropriate number of copies in a timely fashion without compromising on quality.

“Following a recent evaluation of various cutting-edge digital systems, we have decided to install Screen’s Truepress Jet520HD. No other model comes close to matching its exceptional print quality. We were also impressed by the technical support provided and have every confidence Screen is an ideal partner for our planned expansion into on-demand publishing.”

He concluded: “Our new systems will certainly provide us with the ability to handle publications for both the domestic and international markets. They will also allow us to utilize applications that target individual consumers with variable and small lot printing, as we work to expand our overall printing business.”

In recent years, the rapid adoption of the Internet and digital devices has had a significant impact on the printing industry. These changes have caused a transition from high-volume runs of uniform materials to specialized production of small lot and personalized items.

The Chinese print market has also been experiencing the effects of the country's swift economic development and changing consumption patterns. Further diversification of print media and an increasing requirement for on-demand publishing are anticipated, and this expansion is expected to increase distribution of digitally printed materials by 10.4%* between 2014 to 2019.

Based on these trends, Screen has intensified its efforts to increase sales of digital presses in the Chinese market. This expansion is led by the Truepress Jet520HD, a high-speed inkjet web press that delivers colour quality approaching offset printing.

The strategic relationship with CNPIEC Digital Printing will also provide a springboard for Screen to pursue its planned business expansion into the Chinese and wider Asian markets. Screen will continue to focus on the development of solutions that meet the diverse needs of the printing and publishing industries and, through these efforts, contribute to their future growth.

In explaining the partnership agreement with CNPIEC, Katsuhiko Aoki, President of Screen Graphic and Precision Solutions said: “We intend to progressively strengthen the strategic partnership agreement signed with CNPIEC Digital Printing as we expand our print on demand business in the Chinese market. As always, our wider goal is to contribute to the development of the publishing industry and overall printing industry.

[Image caption: Signing ceremony to conclude the agreement between Screen and CNPIEC Digital Printing Co., Ltd]

SmartLF SG voted SGIA’s “Scanning Product of the year”

ArtSystems Colortrac SmartLF SG SGIA award LFR

Colortrac’s innovative SmartLF SG wide format scanner beats the field at SGIA awards in Atlanta USA

UK distributor, ArtSystems, has proudly announced that the Speciality Graphic Imaging Association’s (SGIA) prestigious Product of the Year Competition for Scanning Product of the Year was awarded to Colortrac’s SmartLF SG.

A total of 141 entries were submitted for this exclusive competition which was conducted during the 2015 SGIA Expo in November. Judges said this year’s event was “one of the most challenging in recent history”.

Held in Atlanta, USA, the award was announced to some of the leaders of the specialty imaging industry. ArtSystems’ Sales Divisional Manager, Ted Freer, was enthusiastic about the award, which he said was very well deserved.

“We believe the Colortrac SmartLF SG is the best wide format scanner in its field and this award proves that the SGIA agrees with us. The range offers superior graphics, crystal clear lines and the fastest thick media adjustment on the market, we have every reason to be very proud of this product.”

Ray Weiss, SGIA’s Digital Specialist, said, “We are really thrilled with the participation from exhibiting companies, and we even doubled the product categories to correctly acknowledge all of the possible technical accomplishments honoured in this competition. The award winners have been extremely enthusiastic about their wins, understanding just how competitive the field was this year.”

Fastest ever Colortrac CCD HD wide format scanner

The SmartLF SG series of large format scanners uses the same charge-coupled device (CCD) sensor technology found in professional quality cameras. It will scan thick media in HD up to 1200 DPI and up to 36 or even 44 inches wide.

Instant-on LED lights mean no warm up and no waiting around, and the SmartLF SG range scans all types of paper and mounted documents. It provides super-easy adjustment for different media thicknesses up to 15 mm, and is suitable for:
•             Hi-Fidelity colour reproduction for scanning and reprographics service professionals
•             High Speed Technical Imaging within AEC, CAD, Mapping and GIS
•             Electronic Document Capture (TWAIN)

There are three SmartLF SG high definition large format scanner models in each size (36in or 44in) with performance levels and features optimised for different applications.

If operator requirements change, the m (monochrome/greyscale) and c (colour) models can be easily remotely upgraded to a higher level using a simple emailed scanner upgrade tool. The e (enhanced) upgrade offers the highest colour scanning speed. Monochrome/greyscale scan speeds are identical across all upgrades.

Ted Freer concluded: “Colortrac has created an instant classic with the SmartLF SG series by providing these scanners with a range of specifications that set the benchmark in their marketplace. The SGIA judges reinforced everything we have been saying about these machines, they are simply world beating technology.”