Autobond has World First with Laminator and In-line Inkjet Spot UV Machine

The world's first Autobond Mini 36 SD TPM laminator with in-line 36 SUV inkjet spot UV machine has been installed at UK printer Sense Creative. The combination of machinery gives the Darlington company the capability to produce single or double-sided thermal lamination in one pass with spot UV on one side of the sheet, and single-sided lamination with spot UV one side and a magnetic film on the reverse, for the creation of work such as fridge magnets.

Autobond caused a stir at Ipex 2010 with the announcement of its groundbreaking digital inkjet spot UV technology, which the company has been perfecting ever since. Sense Creative placed its deposit several months before trials on the first machine were completed and Autobond says it has since received orders from around the world.

The next 36 SUV to be built will leave Autobond's Derbyshire factory bound for RBC Ministries in Michigan, USA, which took delivery of a Mini 36 SDT laminator at the beginning of 2011. A printer in Ireland and two in Australia have also placed orders for the new maximum B3 portrait 36 SUV, while a company in England has ordered a B2 portrait version. The B2 machine should be available during the summer and a B1 portrait machine in the autumn.

Sense Creative, a family-run business, has expanded rapidly since 2004 when it was formed by Tim Thompson with little more than a computer in his bedroom at his parents' house. Today, the company's 11 employees work from a 10,000 sq ft industrial unit. A further 5,000 sq ft unit will be added during May. So far this year, investment has topped £400,000 and in addition to the Autobond equipment this includes a Kodak NexPress, a Rollem JetStream finishing system, a Zund die cutter and an Ashgate photobook system.

"A large proportion of our work consists of the production of business cards and we have set out to create an environment in which we can provide them faster, cheaper and with a greater variety of finishes than anyone else in the UK," said Tim Thompson. "Last year I was speaking to Autobond's MD, John Gilmore, about buying a laminator so that we could offer double-sided matt film lamination, when he told me about the development of the spot UV system.

"I was intrigued immediately because previously the cost of spot UV has made the process too expensive for digital print quantities, with the result that the demand in the market has been low. The new Autobond machine means we can provide, for example, 500 business cards, printed, matt laminated both side and with a spot UV varnish one side for less than £37.50 – and that includes VAT and courier charge!

"The launch of the 36 SUV means that a process which had been barred on price is now available to new sectors of print. It's a very exciting breakthrough and we will utilize this across a wide range of print."

Autobond's 36 SUV incorporates LED curable lamps, which do not produce ozone and use around 20 percent of the power required by conventional UV lamps. They also run cold, so the risk of fire is greatly reduced. Autobond estimates that approximately 95 percent of all spot UV in many countries is applied on top of matt film using traditional screen printing presses, making the process too expensive and slow for short run jobs. Autobond believes the new 36 SUV will appeal to digital and litho printers producing a wide range of work, from high quality brochures to short run book covers.

"We can cost effectively produce a business card order with a run as low as 25, and these can be matt laminated one side with a spot UV varnish, a magnetic film on the reverse, and they can even be cut to a specific shape," said Tim Thompson. "I don't believe we can be matched in the UK for the diversity of print we can create within the sector that we operate in, whilst the machinery we have invested in ensures first class quality.

"By adding a warm varnish to warm sheets on the Autobond line we can achieve a stunning gloss effect that is far superior to anything you can produce on a conventional screen printing press; the varnish simply flows like a dream. The speed is also phenomenal. Customers send us jobs in PDF format. We convert this to a BMP and send it to the 36 SUV in about ten seconds."

Following lamination on the Mini 36 TPM, sheets are bump-separated, side-registered, and fed into the 36 SUV, which uses a tick-mark on the print to ensure precise registration of the varnish. Make-ready can be carried out using only one sheet. Autobond has designed its new SUV machine to the same standards as its laminators, so it incorporates 22 mm thick steel side plates to ensure rigidity and accuracy.

The new Autobond 36 SUV can apply 1-7 dpd of varnish with accuracy so high that all seven drops could be printed exactly on to a full stop. This should provide the ability to produce text with a similar thickness to Braille, which may, says the company, lead it down another new path.

The Heidelberg Stahl feed head allows the laminator to run at up to 45 meters per minute, although when running with spot UV, output is determined by the resolution at which the inkjet heads are set. At 360 dpi, throughput is around 25 m/min, and at 720 dpi this is 13 m/min.

"At every stage of production we have strived for efficiency and productivity," said Tim Thompson. "For example, the 1.6 mm gutter requirement of the Rollem JetStream, which is used to slit the sheet, means that we can print 30 business cards on a B3 sheet. From the moment a job starts to be produced on our NexPress, we can print, laminate both sides, spot UV, slit, and box the complete order in about ten minutes!"