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Probo Print enters label market with Screen Truepress

Probo Print, a wide format digital print pioneer based in Dokkum, Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands, has installed a Screen Truepress Jet L350UV for entry into the label market.

The company produces a huge variety of printed products – exclusively for resellers, and with all orders taken online – including signs, banners, textiles and corrugated boxes. All production is digitally printed and features high levels of personalization. Customers can upload their own designs through the company’s app and orders are delivered within 24-48 hours.

Probo Print is the biggest employer in Dokkum, a town of 13,000 inhabitants, and this year won an award for best company in the province of Friesland, voted for by local businesses. It has grown at 40 percent per annum over the last two years, and has employed 60 new people in the last 12 months, taking it to a staff of 180. ‘We are pioneers,’ says Mirko Vrielink, head of process engineering. ‘When we see something new on the market, we buy it.’

In short, this is not a normal digital press installation at a standard label converter. For Screen, it is a landmark sale. ‘We are very proud that Probo Print has chosen our machine for its entry into the label market,’ says Martijn van den Broek, European product manager, wide format, at Screen. ‘They looked very closely at the technical specifications of the press. The sale is a great reference for us and their feedback is that the press has been working well for them. Their digital philosophy matches our own, and the recent award win shows what an impressive company it is.’

‘We are seeing interest from wide web converters looking at moving into label production, but Probo Print is unique in its profile as a company who has bought a Screen press,’ echoes Yui Yamada, sales manager and operation coordinator at Screen. ‘Our other customers are label converters.’

Exponential growth
Probo Sign – as it was called before rebranding as Probo Print in 2014 – was founded in 2001 by Erwin Postma, who remains in charge. It was initially dedicated to signage production and mounting, though this latter part of the business was sold in 2007 to allow exclusive focus on printing.

Since then, the scope of Probo Print’s production has grown exponentially: banners are its top-selling product, representing around 20 percent of output, while it also prints textiles, fabrics, sheets, panels, frames, displays, flags, posters, interior products, corrugated boxes and, thanks to the Screen Truepress, labels. All products are sold to resellers and it outsources nothing.

The figures involved are impressive. Every day, Probo Print receives 2,000 unique orders, processes 14,000 images and prints 10,000 sqm of materials. It has a portfolio of 1,500 products, with a development team charged with producing new ranges every two weeks. It attracts 100 to 150 new customers every month, through online marketing and word of mouth.

Since 2012, all orders take place online – part of the company’s philosophy of automating processes and increasing efficiency. English, French and German versions of Probo Print’s website have all come online in the recent months. While 80 percent of production is for its local market, 15 percent is sent to Belgium and five percent to the UK and Germany. In the latter country, the company has formed a new sales team to increase its presence.

On the production floor, a conveyor belt carries printed products to the logistics department. By the end of this year, this conveyor will be fitted with a sensor which will read a code on the product and send instructions for the automated production of – and packaging into – a suitably sized cardboard box, ready for shipping. Probo Print offers a 24-hour delivery service; all products that the reseller chooses to receive in 24 hours arrive in that time frame. In all, 40 percent of products – including labels – are delivered within 24 hours.

The company’s app allows designers to upload designs, so customers can select from thousands of options and have them printed on the product of their choosing. Designers take a cut from each sale.

Many of Probo Print’s production lines operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Different jobs are nested on the same line in order to minimize waste and machine downtime. An MIS developed in-house links all the departments and processes together.

The company moved from one production shift to two last year, and two new production halls – each of 2,500 sqm – were opened in 2015. These initiatives have greatly increased capacity and helped to drive Probo Print’s explosive growth of 40 percent per annum for the last two years. A further new hall will be added next year.

In a further expansion, Probo Print will open in late 2017 a new facility in Charlotte, North Carolina for textile printing.

Probo uses a fleet of wide format Durst machines for the production of signs, posters and banners. Textile printing, which began in 2016, is also handled by equipment from the digital press manufacturer: last year, Probo became the first user worldwide of Durst’s Alpha textile printer, which can produce curtains and bed sheets.

The move into label production also took place last year, with the installation of a Screen Truepress Jet L350UV digital press and SEI Labelmaster laser cutting system. Since then, an AB Graphic Omega SRI slitter has also been added.

Erwin Postma visited UK-based converter Springfield Solutions, which recently installed its third Screen Truepress, before making the decision to invest.

The Screen Truepress Jet L350UV features a special Vivid Mode, which allows it to match 85 percent of spot colors with just CMYK. It prints CMYK plus White, with no need for a primer.

The press is equipped with corona treatment from Vetaphone. ‘The Screen Truepress prints with a droplet size of 3 picoliters, which results in high quality.’

Inks are supplied by Screen and materials by Avery Dennison. The SEI laser cutter, meanwhile, operates two laser heads and is fitted with a GEW UV curing system.

‘Labels are a new product for us, so we are still learning the process. But we are selling more and more every day. We sell to existing customers and we are also attracting new ones now that we have this capability,’ reports Dirk Kwakkel, commercial manager and product development/marketing.

Among the company’s existing client base, the move into label production has proved popular, with 60-70 percent ordering labels as well as other products. ‘The Screen Truepress fits with the company’s philosophy of short runs, personalization and automation,’ continues Kwakkel. ‘We have automated the system to nest different jobs together within the web. We can offer very competitive prices for orders of up to 500,000 labels.’ The retail sector takes 75 percent of label production so far, while craft beers are also proving a popular destination. A recent development is ultra-destructible labels for anti-counterfeiting applications.

Following its move into label printing, Probo Print will attend Labelexpo Europe for the first time this year, with additional finishing equipment a potential purchase. ‘Label printing requires a different way of thinking,’ says Mirko Vrielink. Thus far, the combination of the Screen Truepress and Probo Print’s digital philosophy seems to have bridged the gap.


James Quirk is outgoing editor of Labels & Labeling.

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