The accidental printers
Harberson Ltd wasn’t always Harberson, and it wasn’t always a printing company. The business started life more than 20 years ago and in its initial incarnation it was called Chemi-Clean. Established by Eric Hargreaves, Karl’s father-in-law, the company supplied bed linen to care homes and hospitals. When customers began asking for branded linen, investing in a printer seemed the obvious thing to do and gradually fabric printing became the mainstay of the business.
In 2010, when Eric retired, his two daughters, Caroline and Lisa, joined forces with Karl to take on the business, incorporating it and changing its name to Harberson Ltd. Since then, the operation has grown and evolved – now the lion’s share of the work is in printing branded tablecloths for exhibitions and trade shows for clients across the UK and Europe. As well as these, Harberson supplies pop-up stands, roller banners, promotional work wear, pavement signs and bespoke large print and fabric printing.
A bad experience turned good
As business built to over 3,000 customers, Harberson needed to expand its capacity. “We knew we wanted a hybrid printer that would allow us to print both rigid and roll media,” explains Karl. “We needed something that could quickly take care of UV banners and pop-ups, freeing up our dye sublimation printers for fabric orders.” However, the first hybrid they invested in didn’t live up to expectations – the print quality simply wasn’t of the high standards demanded by the company’s clients.
“When we started to look for an alternative, Colourgen put us in touch with SEDO, who supplied us with a Mutoh VJ-1638UH,” says Karl. “That was a couple of months ago, and it’s already made a difference to our production turnaround times.” The advantage of using UV inks is that the print comes out of the printer already dry. “This fact alone saves a lot of time. We used to have to wait 24 hours for prints to dry before we could laminate them. Now, we can laminate them immediately and get things back to our clients far quicker. It’s enabled us to keep production in-house, freeing up our dye sublimation printers for more fabric work as it takes on all the banner and pop-up orders.”
A world of new opportunities
The Mutoh is nothing if not versatile, which is important to a small business such as Harberson. It’s given them the capability to print on board and a range of other media. Prior to having it, if a client wanted a rigid print, they would have to print a vinyl sticker and apply it to a board before laminating it. Now, with the ability to print directly on board, the company has expanded their capacity for taking signage orders.
Karl sees the new printer as an integral element in the forward development of the business. “In effect, having the Mutoh is allowing us to add new product ranges onto our website – and the more diverse our product range, the less need our clients have to look elsewhere. It’s giving us the ability to handle all of their printing needs in-house.”
The new ValueJet VJ-1638UH is 64” wide and is Mutoh’s first release of a dual head LED UV printer. It has been designed exactly for this type of circumstance – offering a versatile workhorse to an expanding business with a variety of needs. It can accommodate 1625 mm roll media as well as rigid boards up to 15mm thick. As well as CMYK LED UV inks, it can also take white ink and varnish, allowing for transparent or non-white substrates. This means it can handle practically anything you might throw at it – from trade show graphics to POP and retail signage, from wallpaper to backlit banners, and from small lot packaging to posters.
For Harberson, the Mutoh’s flexibility is giving rise to new opportunities in all sorts of areas. “We’re now able to print customised flooring, which could be a good area to expand into,” says Karl. “It involves printing onto the back of clear lino – and would complement the other exhibition and promotional printing we offer.”
SEDO made it easy
With a bad taste in their mouth from the experience with their previous hybrid, Harberson couldn’t afford another disappointment. “SEDO couldn’t have been more helpful,” says Karl. “They loaded the machine with the specific print profile that we’d want to use, and then sent us sample printouts to compare with our own. They were also excellent when it came to the installation. Steve [surname] came and gave us a couple of days training on the features and the software and we were able to start using it straight away.”