Built for Speed
“The Tau prints 14˝ wide and can do runs of half a million labels,” says McJury. “For long runs the flexo presses can run much faster—300 or 400 feet per minute—but those runs are somewhat less common because of the trend to shorter run lengths and the need to accommodate more SKUs. Together, these facts make the practical speed of a flexo press between 80 and 200 feet per minute, while we get about 150 on the Tau, so it’s often more practical to run jobs on the digital press.”
According to McJury, digital printing accounts for some 30 percent of the company’s business, up from just 5 percent just five years ago. This has come from new and existing customers but also from other printers who look to TLF to handle the short-run jobs. And those aren’t just coming from small shops. Knowing about the Tau 330, a large commercial printer recently singled out TLF, because they knew the Tau would be able to deliver a job within a tight print window.
“Our primary market is industrial labeling,” says McJury. “We think the lightfastness and durability provided by the Tau is going to help expand the amount of digital work we do. The key to that market is durability, followed closely by image quality and speed, and we can reliably and consistently provide those with this press. The image quality falls between flexo and screen in terms of durability, and the ink laydown is much better than on our other digital presses.”
The speed and productivity of the Tau go beyond its ability to handle some of the shorter runs that come in. It is opening up capacity on the six flexo presses to run longer jobs, including some that TLF might have turned away just a few months ago. “The long flexo runs are still around and there are jobs we can run now—4 to 6 million labels—that we wouldn’t have had the capacity to handle before because of shorter jobs taking up press time,” says McJury.
This is hardly unique to TLF. Such press optimization is becoming increasingly common in shops that have added digital presses. In many shops, jobs using the same substrate are