In addition to its loyal regional customers, Bergisch Gladbach-based ICS’ client base also includes large nationwide corporations: “Our approach is to deliver a high level of quality print after offering our customers an excellent consultation service,” says Alois Palmer, founder and CEO. “Small-to-medium print runs with short production times, often with extensive personalisation, are our speciality.”
A key element of ICS’ strategy is to be a one-stop shop: “Our customers like being able to turn to a single partner for all their needs,” adds Palmer. For ICS this means acting as a general contractor, and collaborating with qualified partners for production elements that it can’t undertake in-house.
Investing in cutting-edge technology
Part of ICS’ strategy has always been to continually improve processes, and incorporate innovative technologies for in-house production at an early stage. For example, the company was a pioneer in the use of single-sheet digital printing systems, and is now printing on two digital sheet-fed and two digital web printing machines in black and white and full color.
The printer also has extensive experience in computer-to-plate for offset printing. In 1995, straight after the drupa trade fair, ICS invested in one of the first thermal CTP devices installed in Germany, back then from Scitex. A KODAK LOTEM 800 II QUANTUM Platesetter installed in 2008, represented the third-generation CTP system at ICS.
Step-by-step towards greater sustainability
Around five years ago ICS embarked in an initiative to reduce the environmental footprint of its production set-up, as customers increasingly wanted to partner with responsible suppliers.
The process began in the offset printing sector, with a switch to printing chemicals with less environmental impact. Today, two HEIDELBERG sheet offset presses, one dual-colour machine (3B format) and one six-colour machine (format 53 x 74cm), print with alcohol reduction. In addition, ICS, an FSC and PEFC-certified company, sends all packages carbon-neutral, and will shortly offer customers carbon-neutral printing.
In 2010, ICS did away with conventional chemical plate processing when producing print forms by adopting the KODAK THERMAL DIRECT Non Process Plate. “It wasn’t just for ecological reasons that we wanted to make the plate processing system and chemistry redundant,” explains Klaus Volmer, Commercial Plant Manager. “At the same time, the plate production process was shortened – in other words, we very quickly image plates that can go straight into the printing press. And it’s important to remember that removing plate processing means that a source of potential process fluctuations is eliminated.”
Following its positive experience with print form production with no chemical or water consumption, in 2011 ICS trialled the KODAK SONORA XP Process Free Plate as a beta test user. The new plate with offers the resolution and imaging precision of premium-quality thermal plates.
The SONORA XP Plate has a lower power requirement than THERMAL DIRECT Plates (by a factor of 2.2), enabling faster plate imaging: “Since it doesn’t come down to the minute here, we’re now running our CTP system using less power,” says Volmer. “Also, the print subject on the imaged plate is now far more visible. And in the printing press, the new plate is ready to use quicker –in our experience.”
Efficiency in print form production, with solid print quality
At ICS, a KODAK PRINERGY CONNECT Workflow System supplies the platesetter with output data. The CTP system automatically loads the two required formats of the process free plates (605 x 745mm and 790 x 1,030mm) from single cassettes that are docked alternately to the platesetter, as required. The smaller format accounts for around three-quarters of the maximum 1,700 plates produced every month.
For the vast majority of print orders, the SONORA XP Plate is imaged with an AM screen of 175lpi, and occasionally with a 200lpi screen resolution. ICS also satisfies customers’ requirements for printing with FM screening. Although capable of 20 µm FM screening, ICS uses 25µmKODAK STACCATO Screening with the SONORA XP Plate, which allows fine, detail-rich image structures to be printed without the visual negative effects of conventional screening processes.
Securing PSO certification
ICS was the first printer to attain Process Standard Offset certification (PSO, to ISO 12647-2). “It’s important to be able to offer customers consistency in colour reproduction for different print products. Standardisation also has a very positive internal effect on our business. The process chain within the print process is optimised, reproducible results are produced, and flawless documentation of production is attained.”
ICS got to grips with PSO certification using the SONORA XP Plate with support from experts at the Druck + Medien NRW printer association and plate specialists from Kodak. The certification process with the SONORA XP Plate was a first for everyone involved. On 28 March 2012, around one and a half months after the start of the ‘live’ project phase, ICS successfully completed certification.
On target for sustainable production
“We’ve experienced the full development of CTP and have used only KODAK Plates from the outset, to our full satisfaction” says Volmer. “The SONORA XP Plate is the only truly stable process free plate – there was no other choice for us.
“Compared with the previous plate with conventional processing, we’re saving around €3,000 a year on chemicals, we consume far less water and save on power. The SONORA XP Plate has a major role to play in helping us become a truly ‘green’ printer.”