TLF specializes in industrial labels, product decoration and retail signage. While the company is equipped with five wide format signage machines, labels make up 75% of the overall business. Founded in 1980 as a flexographic and screen printer, TLF has expanded to more than 50,000 square feet of flexo, screen and digital print capacity.
With 114 employees, the company has grown to become a $21 million operation – $18 million coming from narrow web and screen printing. Flexographic capabilities consist of five presses up to eight colors and 10-inch web widths, with UV curing on two of the machines. The narrow web revenue split is $9 million from flexo, and $4.5 million each coming from both screen and digital printing technology.
Four years ago, TLF made its most significant digital label press investment to date with the addition of an HP Indigo WS4500. “We grew into digital as we became more successful and could afford the technology,” explains Bob McJury, TLF’s partner and VP of sales. The company also added an HP Indigo S2000 sheetfed press and most recently upgraded to the HP Indigo 5600.
The Indigo was a great complement to TLF’s flexo presses in facilitating short run label work. However, when McJury went to the 2014 Labelexpo in Chicago, he was specifically looking for equipment that could bridge the gap between screen printing and flexography. “We wanted to move some of our short run screen work to digital, provided the jobs didn’t require extreme outdoor use conditions,” recalls McJury.
After visiting several exhibitors, it was Durst technology that McJury was most impressed with, so much so that TLF bought its Tau 330 LFS off the Labelexpo show floor. “When we saw the Tau, we just said, ‘Wow – this is the tool to finally bridge that gap’,” McJury says.
Designed for labels and specialty packaging applications, the Tau 330 LFS is touted as being the only digital UV-inkjet system on the market with High Definition Print Mode, the Tau 330 can be configured wih Durst's new low migration/low odor inks, which are suitable for primary food packaging and meet requirements in food and pharmaceutical sectors for low odor printing. This capability expands the range of suitable applications, and opens new markets and growth opportunities for label and packaging printers. For finishing inline, a Spartanics 1000-watt laser delivers superior cut quality on a wide range of substrates, while keeping up with the Tau 330's 157 fpm print speed. And the press’ automatic job changeover means multiple jobs are handled in a single pass without stopping to change dies or find die files.
Purchased in September of 2014, the press was installed and up and running at TLF in January 2015. A year later, McJury points out that the Tau 330 LFS has done more than live up to its expectations in converting what were once screen label jobs. “In fact,” he says, “new business found us. Word got out about our new capabilities. The speed of the press, the laydown of the ink, and the white ink is second to none. We have never seen anything like it – it’s absolutely awesome.”
TLF’s Tau 330 excels at producing not only variable data and high quality labels, but also durable products – which is extremely important to TLF’s many industrial label customers. “We have customers that require both variable data and durability. You can print variable data on the Indigo, but it’s just no durable. This is where the Tau 330 has been ideal for our needs,” McJury says.
Durst technology is also opening up new markets for TLF. McJury explains, “We never spent a lot of time chasing food and beverage business, but with our ability to now print clear opaque white on PP, brand owners from these segments are now approaching us.”
McJury emphasizes that once TLF moved its screen work onto the Tau, the resulting savings and profit improvement have been something they could have never imagined.
“We had a 10,000 sheet job – a three color warning label – that we were screen printing. The requirements included that it had to be durable, so it couldn’t be run flexo. So we tried it on the Tau. By the time we set up and did everything, the difference between screen and the Tau was astounding.
“With our screen technology, this job was taking, from start to finish, 69 hours to complete. On the Tau, it’s only taking 16 hours,” McJury says.
TLF has also found savings in moving work from its HP Indigo S2000 sheetfed press onto the Tau. “A run of 2,500 11x17 units took 17 hours on the sheetfed Indigo, including all finishing. On the Tau, it took just three hours with inline lamination – it was a savings of 14 hours and $2,100.”
Over the course of its first year with the machinery, TLF ran 750 jobs on the Durst Tau 330. “With this workload, the Tau produced just under $800,000 in revenue. We believe that when we get it running two full shifts, it can handle $3 million in revenue per year,” McJury says.
At TLF, digital shipments are up more than 5% over the previous year. “Our world revolves around small quantity, quick-turn and highly competitive pricing. Prior to the Tau, we really didn’t have any equipment that set us apart – we were just fast. But with the speed of the press, opaqueness of the white and laser cutting on the back end, we now have a distinct competitive advantage in the industrial and durable marketplace,” McJury says, adding, “A year ago, we saw a device that we thought could bridge the gap between screen and flexo. The reality of what happened though, is that in addition moving jobs from screen to the Tau, new customers found us and we’re experiencing enormous savings in both time and costs.”
For more images of TLF Graphics' operation in Rochester, NY, check out the L&NW slideshow.