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Mixing small batches of ink in-house

Jan 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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Press Room

During its 30-year history, Mercury Print Productions (Rochester, NY) has grown from one $400 printing press in founder Valerie Mannix's basement to a custom-designed 70,000-sq. -ft. facility. Mercury's latest innovations include the recent installation of an Offset Paste Litho (OPL) series paste ink dispenser from INX International Ink Co. (Elk Grove Village, IL).

"Whether it's printing on a range of substrates or customizing ink colors, we're driven to offer the best alternatives for clients," explains plant manager Paul Robistow.

The new ink dispenser fits right in with Mercury's ongoing, multi-faceted quality management initiatives which encourage employees to connect processes, understand capacities, and make practical changes that give clients what they need more quickly and efficiently.

Compact unit without the costly pumps
The unit is a self-contained, advanced technology dispensing system that eliminates costly traditional-system pumps, complex installation and huge space requirements. The OPL series offers speed and accuracy benefits that, until recently, were available only to liquid ink users or for paste inks using traditional dispensing systems.

Joe DelVecchio, Mercury's press room manager, notes that the INX OPL Series ink dispenser enables employees to handle customer requests quickly and efficiently.

"Mixing small batches of special-mix colors is labor-intensive," says DelVecchio, "and at some point, we had to absorb the higher prices rather than pass them on to customers. We began looking for a solution that would enable us to mix these small batches in-plant."

DelVecchio worked closely with Ed Hart, plant manager of the Rochester INX Operations, to identify the new dispenser as a viable alternative. Mercury became the first customer-based installation of the INX OPL Dispenser; it enables the operator to prep special-mix colors or routine blends quickly and accurately. It takes four "clicks":

  1. Select the formula.
  2. Pick the container (such as a 31⁄2 gal. bucket).
  3. Decide the quantity, as small as a 1-lb. batch or as large as 30 to 35-lb. quantities.
  4. Click on "Mix" and the machine does the rest.

"Once we've put in a formula, any operator can call it back up at a later time—the repeatability factor helps eliminate inconsistencies," DelVecchio explains. "We know we always add extra yellow to get the right Pantone 354 green; now, it's automatically programmed into the dispenser. Mixing ink on a table by hand always has a margin of error."

'75 percent more efficient'
"It's extremely user-friendly and about 75 percent more efficient for our operators," DelVecchio adds. "They no longer have to pull all the inks, skin them, weigh them, blend them on a slab and clean up the slab and knives—after each color.

"After the first batch is in the sonic mixer, the operator can call up a second batch recipe and be multi-tasking on yet another function not related to the dispenser," explains DelVecchio. "And the best part: Operators love eliminating the tedious job of cleaning up!"

The system automatically dispenses up to 16 color components in individual formula amounts as small as 5 grams. DelVecchio estimates that Mercury will achieve a 40 percent savings on larger batch orders that it now completes in-house. Along with labor savings from streamlining the intensive hand-mixing process, the company has seen a marked reduction in consumables costs such as rags and solvents that are no longer required. The ink dispenses at a 99.6 percent rate of accuracy —more accurate than an operator can do, according to Mercury's analysis.

The self-contained unit fits almost anywhere with its 11 x 4-ft. footprint. Its PacSac bag system that holds 30 lbs. of ink makes handling press-ready ink easier while also reducing ink waste and disposal costs. Inventory can be simplified and reduced while overall output is increased.

"After our first six months using the OPL Dispenser, we can't imagine how we worked without it. INX's solutions team and its local branch have bent over backwards to answer any questions and provide the on-site support we need to make the most of this new system," concludes DelVecchio. "Our operators are spending minutes at the machine instead of hours at a mixing table. That's productivity!"