Broadcast: How LED UV Changed the Game for Atlanta's Tucker Castleberry
(upbeat music) - Hello everyone and welcome to Baldwin's "Unlocking Potential" podcast series. I'm your host Tyler Kern. Welcome to another episode.
We are pleased to have you along with us. Now, today, we are talking about LED UV curing. LED UV curing has emerged over the past decade as the gold standard in printing for the significant process and quality improvement that it delivers. The technology provides all of the advantages of traditional UV curing while providing solutions to many of the problems printers encounter with heat set drying.
From a cooler, cleaner, cure to faster and more consistent output, energy savings, and a reduced environmental footprint. Its advantages are numerous and immeasurable in both the finished product and the bottom line. Atlanta based printer Tucker Castleberry has been knocking it out of the park since partnering with Baldwin Technology's, AMS Spectral UV to provide LED UV curing technology to retrofit its sheet fed process last year and upgrade its new Komori GL 840 perfector this year. These upgrades proved more crucial than the business could have predicted in many ways, including for its time critical turnaround of 2 million programs for the Atlanta Braves in the lead up to its recent World Series win. Congratulations guys.
So with me here today, are Father and Son printers, Tuck and Kent Tucker, the second and third generation owners of Atlanta based Tucker Castleberry. Also joining me is Grieg Heimbuch. He is Baldwin Technology's Director of Strategic Accounts, who is instrumental in the process of their upgrade to LED UV.
Guys, thank you so much for joining me here on the podcast today. I'm excited to dive in. - Thanks, Tyler. - Great to be here. - Thanks Tyler. Glad to be here.
- Good stuff, so Kent or Tucker, just start off by giving us a brief snapshot of your business and a little bit of the history and the types of customers that you serve and the kind of work that you do. Just give us an all around all encompassing kind of background into who you are at Tucker Castleberry. - Our company started in 1949, so we've been in business 72 years. We started as a general commercial printer and we're in a building now, we've been here for 25 years, just maybe 10 miles away from Downtown Atlanta. We currently have 60 full-time employees, 10 to 15 part-time people at all time. We run our plant 24 hours a day, five days a week.
Lot of weekends are used for overloads and making up for some other things that we have to do. Most of our customers are here in Atlanta or the surrounding area. However, we do have a lot across the country and we have a couple of them that are actually in Europe. So luckily these days with the internet and where things have been going we're able to do business just about anywhere in the world. The type of customers that we have are, we work with colleges, universities, sports teams, supply and distribution companies, manufacturers, real estate, utilities, and we do a lot of work when the political season comes around every year. What type of work do we do? We do a lot of catalogs, medium run magazines, sports programs.
We do a tremendous amount of direct mail, which would be postcards or tabbed booklets or letter packs, or a lot of variable data stuff. So during the 2020 political season, which was about a two and a half month period, we produced over a hundred million pieces that we printed, trimmed, fold, ink jet, and mailed out. And the fact that we had the LED UV, which enabled us to go from press to the binder in one minute and start cutting or trimming and folding really allowed us to get the work out on time. - That's some excellent stuff and some fantastic work that you're doing there and important work obviously getting things done quickly and efficiently. So Grieg, you're a resident expert at Baldwin on LED UV.
Can you explain why printers are upgrading to LED UV and what its advantages are over conventional LED and heat set drying? - Sure, Kent said it pretty well right there, someone like Tucker Castleberry, they're looking to get work through their plant faster, looking to get work into the binder quicker, off of the press quicker, or turn it over and run it back through the press quicker and LED curing allows you to do all those things. And I like to, I kind of coined a new term, the work is quicker to revenue, you're gonna be able to build that job quicker than you would if you didn't have LED UV on the press. And as far as printers with UV systems or heat set systems, there's really a lot of reasons that they convert to LED. One of the major ones is environmental. The, LED curing technology is a very clean technology. I always talk about becoming a green printer and using that terminology in your marketing because it really is much cleaner than both heat set in UV.
With LED there's gonna be a tremendous amount of energy savings versus both heat set and UV. Both of those are in kind of a rude term, but energy hogs. And if you can use less energy, you're gonna be a more efficient operation. The other thing about UV is you're gonna put a lamp between every unit. Typically with doing that you're going to build up a lot of heat in the process, heat in the stack, LED on Tucker Castleberry is a color press.
They only have two lamps, very little heat into the process. They able to run substrates, maybe plastics and not have any melting or disruption of the substrate and less heat build up into the stack so you can take it off the press and handle it right away. As far as heat set, I mean, it's just a whole different operation. Heat set is a very energy hog type operation.
You've got the EPA know, kind of knocking under your door, looking how you do things. With LED, that's not the case. There's no environmental restrictions at all with LED so all in all there's just a lot of reasons and most of them are very specific to the customer that we're dealing with. Tucker Castleberry is a perfect example of guys that, took it and ran with it. - And Grieg, one more thing I'd like to add is that it prints a lot cleaner just because the ink dries immediately upon once it hits the photo initiators hit that light, it's dry, so there there's a lot less dot gain so we've seen a cleaner print from our dots. And to your point also about the heat, I mean, we were running three offset presses in the summertime in Atlanta.
You walk out in the press room, it could be in the high 80s, low 90s, even with the AC running, and now we're full LED UV. In this summer, we had no issues. It was 72, and our guys loved it. The heat emission coming out of the press is really, it's really been a big difference. - Yeah, that's typical. Tyler, when we put our systems on presses, we do get a lot of input back from customers on improvements that we as suppliers don't see.
I mean, when we first started the system up on, when we did the retrofit on the first press, we talked about gaining some speed on the press, but I think we went from 10,000 an hour to about 15,000 an hour. And that's a significant improvement on production for these guys. Allows them to do that, 1.1 million or however many millions of direct mail pieces they did for the election. - Yeah, but we retrofitted a 13 year old press and so we were just kind of juggling along at 10,000 an hour on most jobs.
And then all of a sudden we went out there and they were running wide open 15,000 an hour. And they said, if we could run 18, we would, but they weren't worried about marking in the delivery and everything was stacking up perfectly. And they said, as long as we can feed it, we are not worried about it getting through the press 'cause as soon as that light hit those photo initiators, the ink was dry and there's no marking in the delivery. I mean we increased productivity by 33% just by adding the lamp.
I guess it's almost 50%, but it was a big game changer for us. - That's huge, So going into it did you know it would have that kind of impact for you and how did that kind of help impact your decision making process? - It really didn't and Grieg knows the story, but we didn't really know much about LED at all. We started shopping for a press, I would say probably somewhere in the summer of 2019. - Yeah.
- And so we were kicking the tires and this technology is completely different than anything we'd ever seen. It was, most printers would look at a four color, or a five color, six color with a coder, but the LED it's so different and the technology is completely different. So we had a lot of educating to do amongst ourselves, me and Tuck, just to understand what was going on. And luckily I'm in a peer group with a bunch of guys and Bob and John, John Dahlke up in Chicago at VISOgraphic, they had just bought a press that had one of Baldwin's lamps and they were raving about it.
So we took a trip up there. We went to see the lamp. We went to figure out, "What kind of lamp do we want? What kind of configuration do we want in our new press?" And then we ended up having to put the press on hold, just because we didn't feel like it was the best time for us. And so we said, "Well, what's the next best thing?" And we decided we would retrofit our 2007 Manroland and then we were off and running.
And of course, when we decided we were gonna buy a new press, there was no doubt that it was gonna have at least two Baldwin lamps in there for our Perfector. - Well, let me say this. The biggest surprise was, all this new technology on top of having to change inks and you know how pressmen run the same ink for 20 years, they don't like anything new. So we were expecting this is gonna be a real mess try to get this squared away. By day two, maybe day three, they were in love with it.
We were running full speed ahead. And our pressmen, their comments were, "Oh my God, where has this been all our lives." So we just, we backed into this. And it just, all of a sudden, like Kent said, production went through the roof. Nobody expected that.
So it was just nothing, nothing but great news. And the fact that we were up and running in in two and three days and everybody was happy and we had no issues whatsoever seemed like a miracle. - Yeah, I mean really from installation to... - Yep, there it is. - From installation
to everything, it was really, really quick. And another benefit that I didn't really think about was, the ink doesn't cure until it hits that light. So there's no buildup on the rollers. And so I mean, knock on wood.
We haven't had a hickie issue in two and a half years. We would fight hickies all the time and it would be from the ink drying up and whatever, getting in the rollers and we haven't had that. We haven't had a hickie. I mean, again, I'm knocking on wood for two years so that's been a huge benefit and these guys, I mean, once you get your pressman to buy into it even without donuts, when you don't even bring them food and they still love it, that's when you know you got a winner. - I did buy him dinner.
I bought 'em subs at night so I think that was the best. - Okay, well, there you go. Those subs they're still paying off. - Yeah. - Yeah. - I held this up, this is the first job that they ran on the press.
I mean, we went into this thinking, "Oh man, they're gonna run this job the first night." And typically they'd run this, they'd run one side of the sheet, they'd let it sit for a day or a half, a day or a couple days, let it dry, and then they'd turn it over and run it back through. We left at four, five o'clock in the evening, walked in the next morning, they handed me this sample finished through the bindery already.
And that's just something that Tucker Castleberry or anybody else wouldn't be able to do unless he had curing on the press. - That's right. - Awesome stuff. Well, we talked a little bit and previewed discussing a little bit more about the role that you played for the Braves, for printing the programs for the Braves for the World Series. Tell me a little bit more about the role that LED UV played in facilitating and expediting that job 'cause obviously those are quick turnouts.
You don't know if a team is gonna win the next game and go to the World Series and that sort of thing. So tell me about how quickly you were able to turn that around and the role that LED UV played in it. - Yeah, it's always this very last minute like you said. The dates and times are all planned, you don't know who you're gonna play, and if it goes out to six or seven games, then you got a really fast turnaround and you've gotta get stories written based on the team you're gonna play. So all that came into it.
So anyway, so this... Here's a copy. Everybody see that? That's a copy of what the World Series program looked like. - Awesome. - So we had to print 150,000 of them, they're 20 pages.
So that'd be printed, trimmed and bound, in less than a day, I'd say 16 to 18 hours. So what happened is our wonderful new press being able to print a Perfector print on both sides at the same time, allowed us to get through the press in just 10 hours. And on the old press, it had been 18, 19, 20 hours.
And also the fact that soon as those first sheets came off printed, I'm talking the first five or 10,000, they hit the folder machine. So the press was able to stay ahead of the folder machine. So we were actually folding, trimming, and printing within 15 or 20 minutes of one from the other. So we got to do everything. We didn't have let anything sit and dry for an hour or two, we got right on it and it allowed us to get the programs for the game the next day.
- Oh, that's huge and really, really cool to get to be a part of your team winning a World Series title and that sort of thing. Man, that's really cool to be a part of and a fun thing to say that you were able to participate in. And as well as that, you were also part of a time critical record breaking political mailer job for Georgia's 2021 US Senate runoff elections.
Tell us a little bit more about that. And it sounds like it might be kind of a similar story. Just again, showing how quickly LED can turn around some of these jobs. - Yeah, I mean, most of these jobs, we don't get a whole lot of time. The campaign will end up with some extra funds and they'll try to squeeze in a last minute postcard there's so many jobs and it's just almost like a tidal wave.
and we really are flying by the seat of our pants, come really busy political season and so being able to have a job on press and then trim it within an hour and these guys they use the whole of the sheet so it's not like there's a lot of white area, it's full. They paint the sheet with ink and so not having any drying time is really critical for us because in fact I remember there was a, I mean, it wasn't a big job, but there was a small job that a client just forgot about and they said, "We forgot to send it to you. We're gonna be in big trouble. Is there anything you can do? We gotta get it out today." And it was about 25,000 postcards, not a big deal.
We put it on press, to Tuck's point, we're cutting within 15 minutes, we're straight to the inkjet machine and we got it out the same day. So being able to not have to worry about any offset when you're cutting is really important. And being able to just have that ability and the option to be in the binder as soon as the sheets come out of the delivery it really is a game changer.
- I got a great story for you, this might be fun to add. Or Kent. why don't you tell the story of the fly sheets that we printed and we left the license.
- I thought about that. So it it's-- - Tell that story. - It's a kind of a funny anecdote. We had the machine for... We'd had the retrofit for about two weeks and we're doing this really, really high end, it was some sort of booklet, or it was a program for a college graduation and we were starting to bind the job and it had a fly sheet printed on a UV ultra too.
And our saddle binder operator called our production manager over and said, it's not dry. And we thought, "Oh man, what's going on? Something's wrong with the lamp? Maybe it's the ink. Maybe it's the stock.
We couldn't figure it out." And so finally I figured out, I said, "Okay, what time did it print?" And I went back and I checked the cameras. Well, sure enough we had had a power surge in our building, which we have all the time and it knocked all of our electricity out. So then the cameras come back up, I look at the press and guess what? The light's not on. And our guy starts running and he didn't realize the light wasn't on.
So we ran the entire job and without the lamp. Well, so it wasn't drying. So we figured out... Actually, John Dahlke is the one who suggested it. He said, "Well, don't you have some UV inkjet machines?" So we sent the folded pieces back through the UV ink jet and it cured immediately and we were able to go straight to the saddle binder and finish out the job. - That's awesome.
I think that's a great example of just the power of what this can provide and how it can be so beneficial. And I'm curious just from y'all's perspective, have you seen this and the added the capabilities that you have now, have you seen this open up the doors to potentially new customers, new types of jobs, things along those lines because of what LED can do and what that allows for you guys? - Absolutely, now we could always print on a fly sheet and this is again another true story. I had a customer, this was probably 15 years ago, they had this really beautiful high end brochure for this resort in the Caribbean and we printed a fly sheet for it, it was in the middle of the summer which in Atlanta means a 101% humidity and it never dried. We couldn't get it to dry. We fanned it out every day for a month and it just wouldn't dry.
It's so different now 'cause it dries. You can print on plastics, you can print on these flash sheets, anything that you could feed through the press is essentially what we say we can cure on. So plastics, those flash sheets, synthetic papers, anything like that. We've started doing some work, we've started printing some magnets that we weren't able to do before.
But yeah, it really is, as long as my production manager says, it's okay to feed through the press, we feel comfortable that'll cure. And that's really how it works, plastic door hangers, and we're able to coat in line with a high gloss LED coating. In fact we did some bold programs this year that have that coating on there. So really, anything we could feed through the press, we feel comfortable it's gonna cure especially after that first anecdote with the flash sheet from the program back in January, 2020, right after we installed the lamp.
I mean, we know that something's wrong, it wasn't the lamp, the lamp's been perfect, anything that will cure, anything that we can get through the press will cure. - Isn't this where you're supposed to mention the University of Georgia program or something like that Kent? I mean, come on. - No, I wish, maybe one day, but not yet.
- Yeah, that's awesome. Maybe one day and maybe they'll see this podcast and that'll be the thing that pushes them over the line. - There you go. - Hope so.
- I hope so as well. So Grieg, from what you're seeing with many OEMs and printers, is the pace of LED UV adoption starting to pick up? Are they starting to kind of see how companies like Tucker Castleberry are able to kind of pull off some of these jobs and has it become more the norm than the exception for OEMs to incorporate the technology onto new presses, just right out of the box? - It's really applications specific. The traditional commercial printer is really accepting of LED right now.
And so the OEMs and I have the luxury of working with Komori so in the most recent press that Tucker Castleberry purchased was a Komori and it had our LED on it. So the commercial printing market is really accepting of the LED technology because the advantages that we talked about earlier, there are still some people, the packaging space, specialty printers, still using some UV technologies. They're still curing technologies. They're still drying ink on the sheet, but they don't quite have the efficiencies that the LED do, but the OEMs are definitely moving towards LED, it's becoming a standard in the North American marketplace and with the success of people like Tucker Castleberry just improves a lot.
- Excellent, excellent stuff. This has been just a really exciting and really great conversation just about the benefits and getting to see some of the use cases with Tucker Castleberry. I think has been really enlightening and really interesting just to get to see those firsthand and hear some of these stories.
Guys, Kent and tuck, do you have any exciting new plans on the horizon that you'd like to kinda share with the audience to kind of tell everyone what's going on with you guys and what the future holds? - Yeah, so honestly today, I think if you interviewed any printer, they would say what's their biggest challenge today and maybe this is for another podcast, but it's paper and the supply chain and so that's really taken up a lot of our time so we're trying to buy as much paper as we can, but beyond the horizons, I mean, obviously this is a political year and in here in Georgia, I know we'll be servicing a gubernatorial race, a Senate race, a Lieutenant governor's race, and then of course there's a lot of neighboring states that also have races and so we're anticipating a busy primary season and we're anticipating a busy fall. We're hoping the baseball season comes around. We've got our fingers crossed that they're gonna make some headway and negotiations today.
So we're really focused on organically growing our business and we're trying a few different things. We've really upped our marketing game so we're trying to have more of an online presence. Our sales people are out there, and honestly it's no different than it really has been for the last 22, 23 months, people are still working from home. So it's still hard for us to grow and get those meetings with new prospects unless of course it's via a zoom meeting or whatever, but we love to be face-to-face, but we haven't had that opportunity. So we're looking at different avenues to kind of try to grow our business and have more of an online presence and get recognized and anyway we're excited. We've had some good years the last few years and we continue to grow from a revenue standpoint and so we're trying to at attract new talent, we're always hiring, looking for good people, so it's exciting.
We're excited for the next nine months for sure. - Let me add to that. We noticed as we were going out checking out the right printing press for us to buy, and we went and saw a lot of Komori 4/4 Perfectors with the LED UV technology.
And we noticed that a lot of these plants were running 4/4 catalog or magazine work. Things that had to be folded and saddle stitched. So we thought, "That might be a good avenue for us." So we started calling on colleges and universities around the Southeast, and we've been very successful with that. And I think the reason has been 'cause of the LED UV inks. We're able to show these people that have never talked to us before that we can print sharper and cleaner than a conventional press using conventional inks.
And especially if it's gonna be on an uncoded stock, the dot gain is so much less than it is on a conventional press using conventional inks. And when we show 'em a sample of what we can print, we've actually had them send us some files and have printed a signature that might have gone into another book to show how much better our prints and our inks look than whoever they're using right now and it's opened up some eyes and it's opened some doors and gotten us some business. So we've kind of used it as a selling tool to that respect.
- Hmm, excellent, excellent stuff. Well, Kent, I will say that the longer that Major League Baseball is locked out, the longer the Braves stay the defending champions so there's-- - There you go. - I don't know, you might look on the bright side. The Braves might be defending champions for two years. You never know - That's not a bright side, Tyler.
- No, that's not a bright side. - No, we'd rather play baseball. - We'll take our chances. - You'd rather win it two years in a row than just be defending champs by default. - Hey, I'm a Tiger's fan and I wanna see baseball play.
Come on. (Tyler laughing) - Maybe you'll live long Grieg to see a World Series. There you go! There you go! (Tyler laughing) - Excellent stuff. Well, Kent and Tuck Tucker guys, thank you so much for joining us from Tucker Castleberry and sharing your perspective on LED UV.
It's been a pleasure having you guys on to give a little bit more of your perspective and share a little bit more about this. So thank you again so much for joining us. - Thanks. - Thank you Tyler. - Thank you for having us, we appreciate it. - Absolutely. Absolutely and Grieg, thank you for joining us and providing the Baldwin perspective as well. Is there a good way for people to reach out to people like you or to other folks at Baldwin, if they wanna get more information, if they have questions, anything along those lines? - Just Baldwin's, Larisa is our marketing person, I know she's listening to this.
She's done a great job of putting our website together and I think it's www.baldwintech.com and make sure that you visit there. There's a lot of information on LED, there's some success stories, there's best cases, and talk to your sales reps. We've got 9 or 10 sales reps throughout the country now talking about UV and LED and give them a call and we'll be happy to sit with you and talk about curing technologies. - And Grieg I'll tell you one place where I learned a lot was that the Print UV Conference-- - Oh yeah. - in Las Vegas, It's coming up in March.
I don't know if I'ma be able to make it this year, but before we had retrofitted our press, I did spend four days out at the Print UV Conference and it really is- - What we remember. - Yeah, no, it was really good. I mean, I learned a ton and if nothing else, it's a great spot to network with other LED UV printers and there's people that I still talk to that I've met out there that have been a great resource for us because there is a learning curve. So being able to bounce a technical question off of somebody who has the same press with the same lamps using the same inks is always helpful. So I would encourage anybody who's interested in retrofitting or buying a new press with LED to go to the Print UV Conference. - Yeah, that's coming up in March Tyler.
That's gonna be, I think March 16th through 18th in Las Vegas, it's held every year after a two year hiatus because of COVID so this should be a pretty good year this year. There's gonna be some sessions on packaging. We have the ink manufacturers talking about new and exciting applications so it's gonna be a pretty good show this year. - And a lot of maybe pent-up energy, having not been able to get out to there for two years. - Yeah, yeah, you think? (everyone laughing) - That's coming up March 16th through the 18th at the Wynn Encore in Las Vegas. If you have questions you can get out there and chat with these guys.
And I think it sounds like it should be a pretty good time fellas. - It does. - Usually is. - Good stuff, good stuff.
Well guys, thank you all so much again for joining us for another episode of Baldwin's "Unlocking potential" podcast series guys. It was a pleasure. - Thank you. - Thanks Tyler. - Thanks Tyler. - Take care.
- Absolutely, absolutely. And everyone thank you for tuning into another episode of the program. Like you heard Grieg mention, baldwintech.com
is the place to go if you have questions, if you wanna reach out to the folks at Baldwin to learn more, if you have questions or if you wanna check out previous episodes of the podcast, like Grieg was saying, it is all there on baldwintech.com so make sure to head to the website soon to get more information, to check out more episodes of the podcast if you wanna learn more about Baldwin's offerings and some of the things that they are able to do. And stay tuned, we'll be back soon with new episodes of the show.
But for this one, for the guys at Tucker Castleberry, and for Grieg, I've been your host Tyler Kern, thanks for joining us. (upbeat music)