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Jul 1, 2013 12:00 AM

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Our PRINT 13 issue is the perfect opportunity to profile some Chicago-area printers that have earned national reputations in their respective fields. Each company moved at its own pace—one is well-known digital pioneer, one held out on stepping up its inkjet game until it could cost justify the investment. We hope you’ll enjoy their stories—and don’t miss our bonus coverage on page 54.


In 1963, Frank Defino Sr. started his business as a 5,000-sq.-ft. operation offering prepress and plate-making services. Over the next 50 years, the company morphed into a $35-million marketing services production company that sprawls across more than 175,000 sq. ft. spread across eight buildings. Earlier this year, the company unveiled a new tagline: “50 Years & Forward.”

“We’re continually reinvesting in software and hardware,” says Frank Defino Jr., Vice President and Managing Director. “You have to take smart risks.”


In 1993, Tukaiz was among the first printers in the country to install an Indigo press at its Franklin Park, Illinois, production facility. “We had a close partnership with Benny Landa,” says Defino. “His passion as well as his belief in the technology convinced us to become early adopters. Looking back, I’m so glad we made that decision.”

Two decades later, Tukaiz’s relationship with Landa remains strong. It will be among the first companies in North America to act as a beta site for Landa’s Nanographic technology.

The company currently has six HP large-format printers as well as eight HP Indigo presses: five HP Indigo 5000 presses, two HP Indigo 5500 presses, and an HP Indigo s2000 press. “HP has been a good partner to us,” says Defino. “We try to create an inspirational atmosphere, and HP is right there with us. With Scodix, it feels the same way; it’s been wonderful working with them.”


In January 2012, Tukaiz became one of the first printers in the world to install a Scodix S74 digital enhancement press. Defino says potential applications include point-of-purchase, point-of-service and direct mail. “It allows you to create spot UV-type gloss,” he explains. “The polymer is much thicker than you could get with an offset press. Beyond the texture, Scodix lets us bring a sense of touch, a different feel to a printed piece.”

A basketball, for example, could have a rough, pebbled surface. But each indentation can vary—some areas of the ball can be smoother than others. “Scodix can raise and lower the amount of polymer we want to put [down],” says Defino. “It can make an image very lifelike. You can use multiple versions of polymer textures anywhere you think it would look good—it’s almost a 3D effect.”

One image can have multiple textures. “We can do a very thick gloss polymer on a certain area and then come in with another screen textured effect. We all know what variable data printing is—well, this is like variable texture printing,” says Defino.


“The biggest advantage of the Scodix press is being able to offer something [unique],” adds Matt Giandonato, Digital Print Manager. “We can do Scodix enhancements on offset, digital, large-format, and we can do variable, too. The detail you can achieve with Scodix is way beyond anything else out there right now.”

While the effects are impressive, Defino cautions that the output is only as good as the artists, retouchers and prepress staff who created the original files. “You have to have a really solid artist,” he says. “We use one of the channels in the art file, usually a secondary black. Scodix will only put down whatever texture you indicate, so the file has to be manipulated properly upfront.”


The Scodix machine doesn’t run at blazing speeds—it’s not suited for quick-turn jobs or long-run work. It won’t replace conventional spot or UV coating or embossing. But for certain jobs, it can’t be beat.

“If you go into any one of 47,000 different post offices across the US, you can see a point-of-purchase display that can only be done with Scodix,” says John Misasi, Director of National Sales. “With Scodix, we gain a tremendous competitive advantage that not only differentiates us in the market but provides our customers with an obvious value-added solution, especially in the direct mail and POP segments. We’re simply winning and producing jobs that no one else in our market can.”


Tukaiz (pronounced “two kays”) was the original the name of the business Frank Defino Sr. purchased in 1963. The original owners were the Kirchners, a father-and-son team. Tukaiz is a play on “two Ks.” Now you know!


Founded in 1908, Suttle-Straus is located in Waunakee, WI. Waunakee is a 25-minute drive from Madison, WI, and a 2.5-hour drive from Chicago. It is famous for its family-like corporate culture—it’s a perennial winner in PIA’s annual Best Workplace in America competition.

Director of Imaging Brett Keene joined the company 17 years ago as an offset press feeder. “We’ve been in growth mode ever since,” he says. Prior to assuming his current responsibilities for Suttle-Straus’ digital and mailing services, Keene worked in customer service as well as estimating and job planning. It’s proven to be excellent preparation to help customers make maximum use of the company’s creative, data, mail, fulfillment and distribution services as well as its offset, digital and grand-format printing capabilities.


“We are a graphic communications solutions provider,” says Keene. “We’re driven to service clients that need multiple resources. Conventional printing remains 60% of our revenue, but our other services are growing. Our wide-format imaging has grown exponentially—we have grown about 200% .”

The 210-employee operation specializes in corporate communications, direct mail, and advertising materials. It developed its grand-format capabilities in response to requests from long-time customers. “Our growth has been organic,” says Keene. “Customers were asking us to do a banner or one or two posters for their trade shows.”

Suttle-Straus has been doing wide-format work since the1990s. It started with a modest investment in traditional prepress plotter/proofers. “Once we gained some experience and developed some expertise, our sales team started really promoting it,” Keene explains. “It really started to take off.”


Three years ago, Suttle-Straus installed a six-color EFI VUTEk QS3200 UV printer. Earlier this year, it installed an eight-color VUTEk GS3250 LX LED UV printer, supplied and serviced by Heidelberg. Both machines are hybrid devices—operators can switch from roll-to-roll to rigid output in minutes.

Applications range from temporary and permanent POP display graphics, to indoor and outdoor banners, to interior architecture, especially wall coverings featuring dimensional lettering and other specialty effects.


Recent projects include a major rebranding/rebuilding of the Kid Zone at Miller Park in Milwaukee. “It included everything from vinyl banners to unique cut-out lettering to stadium-seat graphics,” says Keene. “In addition to the manufacturing, we coordinated the three-day installation to meet a tight deadline.”

Although grand-format printing substrates—which can include everything from thin plastics to rigid boards—can impose some printing hurdles, Keene says the real challenge is the post-print process. “The printing is the easiest part,” he says. “The hardest part is finishing and then the installation.” Packaging and shipping costs can sometimes exceed printing expenses, depending on the weight and size of the finished piece and its final destination. Acrylic work, which can be easily scratched, requires special protective packaging.

Finishing equipment includes an Esko Kongsberg I-Cut Digital Cutting table as well as grommet and sewing machines. The manufacturer provided training on the software package for the cutting table/router; mastering the other machinery was fairly straightforward. “Sewing is sewing,” says Keene. “We bought an industrial sewing machine, and fortunately a few folks had sewn as a hobby.”


Keene has attended PRINT 13 or Graph Expo for the past decade. “I typically go for a couple of days,” he says. “I schedule demos for some products I specifically want to see. Every year, the wide-format exhibits have gotten progressively stronger—we haven’t felt the need to go to [wide-format shows] in Los Angeles; we think we can get [equal] value in Chicago. It’s very convenient for us.” 


If you’ve visited a doctor or hospital, you’re probably familiar with Sebis Direct’s work—it produces about one-third of all hospital bills in the US and Canada. “We do primarily document production and document management,” says Wes Sanders, President. In addition to the healthcare sector, the company also serves insurance, financial, government and utility clients.

Sebis Direct was incorporated in 1989 from an earlier corporation called Sebis Inc. It was originally located in downtown Chicago, but a condo boom and attendant escalating rents prompted the company to move its headquarters to nearby Bedford Park. In addition to that 70,000-sq.-ft. production and fulfillment facility, the company also has a 65,000-sq.-ft. location in Cleveland.


Sebis has printers from virtually all of the leading manufacturers, including Kodak, Konica Minolta, Océ and Xerox. Last year, at an open house held at Screen USA’s headquarters in Rolling Meadows, IL, Sanders explained why the company installed the Truepress Jet520 at its Bedford Park location.

He said the company had taken photoreceptor technology to its practical limitations. “Sebis saw inkjet as the way to go,” he said. “But when? We’ve seen some machines come and go at trade shows, and boy, are we glad we didn’t jump on the bandwagon too early. I think we waited as long as anyone could.”


Prior to adopting Screen’s continuous inkjet device, the company relied on monochrome cutsheet machines. It was an early adopter of highlight color, but it wanted to go beyond those restrictions. Full-color digital, however, was deemed too expensive for general use in its high-volume transaction applications. Perforations posed another hurdle—checks, receipts, forms and payment stubs often required certain pages to be perforated.

Screen’s Truepress fit Sebis’ budget and configuration constraints. The machine’s significant installed base also gave Sebis confidence. “The Screen 520 and its variations have more than 380 installations worldwide,” Sanders noted. “Some are branded as IBM/Infoprint or Ricoh. There is no other full-color inkjet press with this installed base.”


The Truepress Jet520 prints on treated papers, standard papers and uncoated stocks up to 20.5 inches wide. Sebis Direct’s Truepress is configured as a dual-engine duplex system. A Lasermax paper handling line supplies paper tension, rotary cutting, dynamic perforating and precision stacking. Sebis recently announced it had equipped its Cleveland facility with a Truepress Jet 520 identical to the first press’ configuration.

While Sebis didn’t have to change its environmental controls to accommodate the new press, it did have to do some remodeling. “We had to make our space larger,” says Sanders. “It has a larger footprint vs. a cutsheet machine, but we’re also doing a larger process. With a cutsheet machine, you could stuff it in a closet anywhere or knock a closet down, but we had to do a little bit more than that.”


One other challenge: unlike a cutsheet machine, where one device handles the whole job, a continuous inkjet press configuration includes an unwinder, the output engine and post-processing devices. “This requires integration and cooperation among several vendors,” says Saunders. “It’s a complex installation process, and it went quite well. There was no finger pointing—obviously everyone’s got some skin in the game.”

Transitioning to inkjet required getting buy-in from customers who were accustomed to the prior process. “In the end, advantages outweighed any potential objections,” said Sanders. “We’ve always gotten approval.”

Before installing the Truepress Jet520, color images, callouts and logos appearing on documents that Sebis produces had to be static and part of preprinted forms. The Truepress Jet520 prints variable data and graphics along with static document content in one pass directly onto blank paper rolls.


In addition to eliminating the potential for waste or shortages with preprinted forms, the new press gives customers greater flexibility. “The Truepress offers higher volumes at full color and expands our capabilities in the transactional and print-on-demand segments,” Sanders noted. “Color elements can be entirely dynamic. They can change from document to document and page to page.”