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Features Profiles
Spotlight: Derek Brown of Heron Printing


October 29, 2019
By PrintAction Staff

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Heron Printing, a printing company based in Edmonton, Alta., recently announced the acquisition of its first HP Indigo 7900. The fully configured seven-colour HP Indigo 7900 is equipped with a range of capabilities, such as raised/textured print, One Shot printing on synthetics, and specialty inks white, silver, clear, fluorescents, invisible and Pantone spot colours.

“For us, purchasing the Indigo was two-fold; to ensure we have the capability to offer our existing customers the highest quality short-run printing available, and to introduce exciting new products to our marketplace,” Derek Brown, Director of Heron Printing, explains. “For years we’ve pushed the limitations of dry toner technology. We’ve simply come to a time in our business where we’ve outgrown dry toner.”

Established in 1982, Heron Printing produces stationery, marketing materials, booklets and newsletters, point-of-purchase materials, direct mail pieces, tickets and forms, and offers kitting and fulfilment services. In this Q&A, Brown discusses the new installation, print technology trends, and his thoughts on the future of the industry.

PA: Why did Heron Printing opt for the HP Indigo 7900?
DB: We simply outgrew the limitations of dry toner technology. Having our roots in sheetfed offset production for the past 35 years, we always felt that our dry toner offering came at a compromise in quality, colour consistency and uptime reliability. Dry toner devices are great for printing on coated sheets day in and day out. However, once you start playing outside the realm of the standard coated sheet, the technology starts to show its weakness. Textured sheets, uncoated stocks, synthetics, foiled board — this is where the HP Indigo really shines and excels above dry toner. With the HP Indigo, we are producing sheets that rival our offset offering with all the benefits of digital production.

PA: What applications will the new press be used for?
DB: In addition to our everyday 4/4 output, we are also experimenting with white ink, invisible ink, spot coating, and many textured and specialty stocks. We print about 54 percent of our full-colour digital commodity work without black ink. Using EPM [Enhanced Productivity Mode], we can rip a CMYK job into CMY, no K. Removing black ink saves us money, while making the press run about 25 percent faster. The results are amazing. The CMYK sheet and its CMY counterpart is almost identical. We print a fair volume of repositionable vinyl and synthetics. The press has One Shot technology that lays down all four colours of ink on one pass on the blanket. It works well on soft vinyls, which can distort from heat and multiple passes through the impression cylinder.

We are eagerly awaiting the release of metallic silver. We have several clients that demand short-run metallic ink printing which we currently do via offset. Being able to offer the spectrum of metallic colour digitally will be a game changer for us.

PA: How has the new press performed so far?
DB: The press has performed fantastically. Its learning curve is definitely steeper than dry toner production, it’s a true digital offset press. Our operators did their training at HP’s learning centre in Alpharetta, Georgia. Their support network and followup is top notch. We are particularly impressed with the Print OS integrated software. Print OS gives us instant feedback on the press’s performance, print volume, availability and supplies status, among other features.

PA: What are some challenges you see in the print industry?
DB: E-commerce has made the world a smaller place. We can now source almost anything from anywhere. This is not unique to our industry; it’s a real hurdle for all shops in all industries. We must get our shops online or deliver value that cannot be offered in that space. Heron Printing has faced this head on and developed its own e-commerce storefront: Impactica.ca.

PA: How does Heron Printing continue to innovate after nearly 40 years of business?
DB: We don’t listen to the “doom and gloom” culture of our wonderful industry. We continue to innovate, offer new and exciting products to our clients and deliver on what we promise. We have to offer value beyond the “4/4, 100-lb gloss cover” job. Everyone is pushing commodity print and chasing slim profit margins. We try our best to engage our clients in a meaningful way and show them what print can do for their businesses.

PA: Where does digital fit in the future of print?
DB: Simply put — digital is the future of print.

This Q&A was originally published in the October 2019 issue of PrintAction, now available online.