Engineered Printing Solutions is a US based company who have grown over the years into a leading developer and integrator of specialised industrial printing machinery. Initially a pad-printing specialist, increasingly the company is developing inkjet solutions in line with the new demand for digital, flexible production. We caught up with Scott Einsig, InPrint 2016 and InPrint USA exhibitor, to discover more.
How did the company get into industrial print?
“EPS really fell into industrial inkjet largely through our experience in pad-printing which we still develop and integrate. We have sold automated pad-printing devices for industrial print market for 30 years. In 1994 the company moved to Vermont and started Pad Print Machinery of Vermont with the support of the Italian company Comec, based near Milan in Italy. Until 2006 analog printing was our main focus, however the demand for digital solutions to product decoration began to shift around 2007 and at that point we decided to develop our first single pass inkjet machine. This was the beginning of our entry into industrial inkjet.”
How many people are in the team?
“EPS now employs over 60 people including a full engineering staff, technical service, production, sales and customer service. With a population of just over 600,000 people, Vermont is hardly a metropolitan capital of industrial inkjet, so finding talented and experienced employees can be a challenge. Vermonters are known for being independent thinkers and very self-reliant, and these values are at the core of our culture at EPS.”
How long have you been at EPS yourself?
“I have been here for 5 years. I started within the graphics department. Then I moved into the pad-printing department, then to digital and finally to marketing. This has given me a really good all round knowledge of the business and the technology. Every day is different; it’s a dynamic business and industry to work in.”
Who owns the company?
“Our CEO is Julian Joffe. Originally from South Africa, Julian moved to the states in the 1980’s. His background was supplying industrial equipment to the textile industry, and this is how he became acquainted with Comec. Soon after his arrival to the US, he became the US distributor of Comec out of his apartment in NY. He slowly added sales people, engineers and started growing the business. Julian has an engineering mind that is able to distil a complicated problem into a solution that is quite simple. He constantly pushes our team for innovations by testing the limits of our abilities. This approach can be risky, but has paid off as this fiscal year will be our one of best years ever.”
Obviously for industrial inkjet, single pass is a key technology. Has it helped having a background understanding from your experience with pad printing?
“Yes of course. The pad-printing experience really built up a knowledge bank of expertise in terms of automation and production for our design engineers, mechanical engineers and software engineers. Having this kind of knowledge helped us to develop a lot of the components of the inkjet system ourselves and has enriched the business in a major way.”
So much of the development was and is done by yourself, you don’t outsource it?
“Our single pass printers are purpose-built, and for this reason we design and assemble them in house to ensure we create the best possible product. We are fortunate to have a very talented engineering group that has been with EPS from the start of our inkjet development. Building on our parts handling experience, we’ve been able to invest R&D money towards ink delivery systems and unique software packages to meet the demands of our customers. As OEM integrators, our goal is to offer our customers a one stop shop for their printing solutions. In the digital space, that may consist of adding inkjet to an analog production line as a “bolt on” solution, or a complete digital solution with automated loading/unloading and packaging systems in line with the pre-treatment and print stations. This is the reason we rebranded in 2014 from Pad Printing Machinery of Vermont to Engineered Printing Solutions, because we wanted to give a more accurate representation of our offerings.”
What are the application areas that you tend to cover with the machinery development?
“We service a wide range of industries which makes this technology segment truly unique in that it is an industry that encompasses many sectors. Our customer base covers automotive, medical, promotional products, end-user products like smart phones, appliances and packaging.
Pad-printing still has a huge hold in the industrial print market, specifically for medical devices. Pad-printing really remains a very core part of our business and this is likely to continue to grow as we use our experience with pad-printing and put it to good use when we build digital systems.Our primary focus has been in the direct to shape product decoration; we see this as an important market.”
So is direct to shape growing in your experience?
“Yes it is. The largest growth is coming from the packaging and manufacturing sectors in the US. Shorter production runs, just in time printing, the ability to hold less inventory and personalization are all areas that industrial inkjet can offer a solution with direct to shape printing. While these markets are excited about the advances in technologies, naturally there are limitations.
It is important to educate our customers; both to manage expectations as well as optimize performance. We found that once the limitations of inkjet are understood, the dialogue changes the way that customers are thinking about how they manufacture their products to better suit a digital solution. This open dialog requires a significant investment from the customer, as they must partner with a company that can offer them not only the right solution, but can continue to be a resource in the future.”
What do customers like about digital?
“Generally what is liked across the board is the ability for very quick artwork changeover including variable data and the ability to respond very quickly to demand. The UV LED inks we use require much less energy to cure and there is a cost savings over other processes as nearly 100% of the ink volume is utilized for the print. Our software calculates ink usage for each image, so ROI is easier to calculate and with full recirculation ink systems there is very little waste ink. The benefits of a digital solution come from understanding the entire process. Building a custom solution is more than just selecting an ink and print head combination for a given substrate; it is a collaborative effort between the customer, EPS and our vendors.”
So a collaborative package is key?
“Yes it is. We have seen a lot develop with inkjet in 10 years and during this time it has been collaboration which has led to the most successful implementation of industrial inkjet. So yes, for us the key is effective collaboration with elements within the technology mix such as print head manufacturers, ink suppliers, chemists, and software engineers and to build these relationships takes time. EPS has long standing working relationships with many suppliers to the print industry and we value those partnerships. Technology is constantly evolving and we find having our engineers in house puts us in a great position to adapt to changing market demands. We are very fortunate to have people within the team that have many years of experience, so we are able to draw upon that knowledge every single day.”
What has led to the growth for industrial inkjet?
“Overall, what has changed is that the demand is coming from customers now, not only from OEMs. The larger end-user companies have always kept an eye on new technology but now we see real growth possibilities and inkjet is really a key element of this growth. Industrial inkjet is still not as mature within the print industry as say, the sign and graphics market, so for customers to have confidence in any new technology there has to be proof and evidence that the technology is being widely used and it is therefore credible. I think there has been an increase in the awareness of inkjet technology and shows like InPrint have raised the bar for the industrial printing market which is why EPS decided to participate in Milan and Orlando. InPrint is bringing people together to showcase the possibilities and profile the innovation to end users. In my opinion the best shows are focused on engineering and manufacturing as opposed to traditional print, and this is where InPrint really scores.”
What is the key driver for digital?
“Customers like the fact that digital provides the options for economical, shorter runs, and an ability to reduce inventories. I’ve heard many people say personalization is a factor, but I think that while personalization is beneficial from a marketing perspective, it is not a key driver for the switch to digital. Generally, what is driving the change from analog to inkjet is the high throughput capabilities coupled with the quality of production and lower labor/maintenance costs. Direct to shape printing cuts out a secondary process therefore reducing cost. The economics have to stack up and this is driving change just like it has done in other sectors.”
What about the future?
“EPS is one of the few companies in the US who are focused on the industrial printing markets. Manufacturing is coming back to the US in a major way, we feel very confident about the future as we have an innovative culture coupled with engineering experience with both inkjet and pad-printing which puts us in a great position for the future.”
What is your main market?
“Obviously the US market is huge and we are very established here, but the growth of industrial print in Europe has not gone unnoticed. It can be challenging to sell and service equipment globally-based in the US, but we have many partners in Europe, and there are new opportunities coming in daily from EMEA countries.”
Is Europe ahead with the development and integration of inkjet?
“Yes, this is clear and for good reason. Europe is segmented and each country innovates in their industry based on their local economy, so you see many more schools of thought when it comes to designing and building equipment. As the European markets for industrial inkjet continue to grow, it’s natural to look to the US as the next place for expansion. I think over the next few years we will see the US industrial inkjet sector develop very quickly.”
Could a local market develop through shows such as InPrint USA?
“This is of course a possibility. InPrint USA will attract interest and accelerate growth, as many other big shows in the US have started to incorporate industrial inkjet in their offerings. It is our goal to establish EPS as the industry leader for custom inkjet solutions; tradeshows like Inprint USA will give us a platform for raising our profile in the industry. We have enjoyed a period of time where we are the number one player in the US and our motivation is to keep it this way. As the industrial print market grows, we will grow and benefit too.”
What is your main industry bugbear?
“Nearly all of the projects we work on are covered by NDAs. From a marketing perspective, my job would be a whole lot easier if we could openly discuss all of the innovative projects we’re delivering!”
EPS will exhibit at InPrint in Milan 15-17 November 2016 and at InPrint USA in Orlando 25-27 April 2017.
For more information: http://www.epsvt.com/