Subtle Impressions doubles down on hybrid with Mark Andy Digital Pro upgrade

Alternative solutions for longer lead times with flexo production

Mark Andy
Mark Andy Digital Pro

North Carolina converter Subtle Impressions installed a Mark Andy Digital One in January 2019 to fulfill a need for a digital label solution, providing an alternative solution for the longer lead times typical with flexographic production.

After a year of production with the Mark Andy digital machine under his belt, Chris Brown, co-owner of Subtle Impressions, reflects that prior to 2019 their production mix lacked an asset that kept them profitable on low volume orders. These types of orders in the Subtle Impressions shop average 1,000 to 2,500 labels per run and vary across end use segments.

Brown noted, “All of the existing business that prompted us to buy the Digital One initially, we have absorbed and done business above and beyond that. It’s been a great stop gap for us when our flexo press has been too busy.” After experiencing success with the Digital One firsthand, Brown learned of the engine upgrade for their press. With easily identifiable avenues for additional growth given the features of the upgrade, the option to further enhance their digital business was of interest to the Subtle Impressions team.

At a regional Mark Andy event in Atlanta, Brown was pleased to find out that the new Digital Pro product line offered more than standalone press solutions. In addition to the two press models, Digital Pro 1 and Digital Pro 3, an engine upgrade was launched to enhance existing Digital One customers machines. Engine upgrade benefits are numerous, delivering higher speeds, lower cost to print, and life expectancy extensions of digital assets.

The engine upgrade enables speeds of 77 feet a minute, a 70% increase over its predecessor as well as a 30% lower cost to print. Lower cost to print stems from toner consumption efficiencies of the new engine as well as higher yield on certain consumables native to the new platform.When weighing a new press acquisition against an upgrade to his Digital One, ultimately it came down to speed. “We looked at a few other digital machines that were just way too slow,” Brown stated. “The new digital print engine is great from a quality standpoint, does not take up additional space on our floor, and has increased our capacity tremendously.”

On the benefits of the engine enhancement in a real-time production setting, Melanie Hunt, Press Operator, recounts specific instances of time savings as a result of higher speeds and improved functionality:

We have a customer who typically runs 14,000 labels that are three across and with the old engine I’d have to run in three batches because of the recalibration and diameter of the roll. Now I can get that produced in two batches. Not only does that have double the speed because it runs twice as fast, but it probably saves 20 minutes of changeover time between stopping and changing out material and laminate between batches.”

When discussing why digital hybrid technology makes sense for Subtle Impressions, Brown explains “What’s nice about Mark Andy digital is that it is all inline. Faster throughput, less set up and clean up times and a bridge transferable skillset and training of the existing workforce are all benefits we see in digital hybrid technology.”

The Digital Pro engine upgrade is one piece of the Digital Pro production label press product line, which consists of two models. Digital Pro 1, a base roll-to-roll solution designed for converters with a strong offline finishing workflows as well as Digital Pro 3, a true hybrid label solution enabling converters to print value-add labels for their customers. Both Digital Pro 1 & 3 are overprint enabled, meaning the platforms can identify and register to pre-printed media. Both share a common future-proof platform design, with field integration of new advancements being compatible and accessible to existing installations now and into the future.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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