Sydney’s Megacolour is a textbook example of an SME successful business surviving and prospering in one of the most competitive and changing markets –high quality general commercial printing. Nestled in the thriving industrial hub of Camperdown, just off busy Parramatta Road; Megacolour services clients from all over Sydney, NSW and nationally.

The building exterior is modest but a hive of industry as pallets of paper and board are delivered for just-in-time production, with some taking up parking bays at the front. The twenty-four staff average two shifts per day for five, sometimes six days a week. Inside it’s another story, with a clean and well laid out modern printery, offering both digital and offset production, fully digital prepress and extensive in-house finishing. Little if any work is sent out – it all happens inside at Megacolour.

“We have actually switched back to Fujifilm plates after five years with another type.” Michael Fang, Megacolour.

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary in business, having been established in 1992, Megacolour is privately-owned and headed by Michael Fang and supported by a team of very experienced print industry people. Colour is managed throughout and certified to ISO 12647-2 standard by Mellow Colour.

“We have a very close association with Heidelberg,” says Michael Fang,” we are almost completely a Heidelberg-supplied shop and have recently adopted the resource-saving Fujifilm SUPERIA system using LH-PJE plates and lo-chem “ZAC” intelligent plate processing, supplied by Heidelberg.”

Heidelberg one-stop shop

The spacious press hall at Megacolour features a B1 Heidelberg Speedmaster CD102-six colour press, a Speedmaster SM52-five colour B3 format press plus, for die-cutting, a trusty 1970s ‘S’ cylinder press with a 540 x 720mm sheet size and kept in perfect running order. Over in the bindery is a two-guillotine Polar cutting line, Heidelberg Stahlfolder, Muller Martini saddle stitcher and a PUR perfect binder and also a saddle stitcher from Horizon.

Digital printing is housed upstairs in the prepress department, with three Konica Minolta A3 colour bizhubs, a C1085, C1070 and a C1060. In this same area, the plates are made for the offset presses, using a Screen PlateRite HD 8900E with automated plate loading and unloading into a newly-installed Fujifilm ZAC plate processor.

Michael Fang notes: “We have actually switched back to Fujifilm plates after five years with another type. What attracted us back was the ZAC lo-chem system for the LH-PJE plates. The SUPERIA lo-chem system represents a considerable cost saving in chemicals, water and power and is a much cleaner working system. Being supplied by our partner Heidelberg was also a big factor.”

Megacolour’s Prepress manager Brett Denning takes up the story: “The first thing we noticed after changing to the lo-chem system with the SUPERIA FLH-Z plate processor was that clogging in the processor virtually ceased. Where we once had a technician out cleaning and servicing the processor every month, we have only just had our first routine service call after three months and no down-time due to the processor malfunctioning, it’s been hassle-free.”

…clogging in the processor virtually ceased,” Brett Denning, Megacolour prepress manager with Michael Fang.

Chemical usage plummets

The reason why Fujifilm’s ZAC lo-chem system is so economical and reliable is in how it uses sensors and software to monitor the pH and conductivity of the developer bath. In doing so, ZAC technology constantly monitors target and actual conductivity while the software calculates just the right amount of replenisher to use, matched to plate throughput and image area processed. “Our chemistry costs have reduced significantly,” says Denning. Fujifilm has measured average savings of up to 75% in chemistry use across its worldwide installed base of ZAC lo-chem customers.

The SUPERIA LH-PJE plates supplied by Heidelberg are thermal and positive-working, with a suitability for print runs up to around 300,000 and compatibility with UV inks. “Like everyone, we are finding our print runs are shorter and more frequent,” says Fang. “Magazine catalogue inserts can be over 100,000, up to 250,000 but much of our work is under 100,000, changed regularly. We need fast turn-around in the plate department and the new plate/processor combination has delivered this.”

Proofing is carried out on an Epson Spectroproofer with in-built X-Rite i1 spectrophotometer and PDF files imported from Screen Equios workflow’s LabProof. Profiles are calibrated to ISO 12647, with Megacolour being the first Australian printer to upgrade to 12647-2:2013 – a revised characterization that takes into account the optical brighteners used in modern coated and uncoated papers.

Managing the change

The whole change process was project managed by Heidelberg Australia’s Northern Region Branch & Sales Manager Savas Mystakidis, who says: “Heidelberg and Megacolour have built a very strong partnership over several years through a mutual respect and trust of one another. From press supply and service to bindery and finishing. We have now completed the ‘one-stop’ loop by adding plate supply in partnership with Fujifilm.”

“The benefits are real and measurable in reduced chemical use, less downtime and higher efficiency. It’s all part of Heidelberg’s value offering to our customers by assisting them to get the most out of their equipment and production.  We would like to congratulate Michael and his team for taking such an important step for both day-to-day quality in his work and also the environmental benefits that Fujifilm’s ZAC lo-chem system brings.”