Chief Digital, located in Acworth, GA and a sister company to Chief Container, has established itself as a prominent corrugated post-print facility for more than a decade.
“We began with smaller flatbed machines such as the older McDermid UVR units and the HP 950 and HP 700 to cater to short production runs in the early 2000s,” said Aaron Hayes, Chief Digital’s Vice President . “If a project was in the low hundreds and we had ample time for delivery, digital printing became an option.”
He continued, “We acknowledged that digital printing may not always be the most cost-effective or efficient method, but we recognized the importance of exploring the potential of this technology.”
While many companies were just getting started with their first small flatbed printers, Chief Digital had already been delivering large digital production runs to their customers with their HP Scitex 7600 and HP Scitex 15500 multi-pass digital presses.
In August 2018, Chief Digital became the first company in the U.S. to install the HP PageWide C500 Corrugated Press. Despite being new to the field, and still unproven, the C500’s superior print quality, the water-based inks and compliance with primary and secondary food packaging requirements made it the ideal choice for Chief’s customers. Regular updates over the next four years were done incrementally to avoid disrupting production, and even with larger builds, ramp-up time was minimal as HP worked around Chief Digital’s production schedule.
In the summer of 2022, HP and Chief Digital collaborated on a plan to upgrade the C500 press to the new HP PageWide C550. Despite the potential risks and challenges of completely modifying a working production press, they recognized the opportunity for improvement.
As a G7 Master Facility with GMI qualifications for major retailers, Chief Digital was mindful of the impact on color calibration. To mitigate this, they chose to first upgrade to the newly developed ink set before proceeding with the full update, which involved changing the press’s speed and media handling.
In September 2022, the press was shut down on a Wednesday evening, and the necessary updates were made, including draining and replacing inks. By the following Monday morning, HP, Chief Digital, and color partner GMG were on site to recalibrate the color, and within hours the press was compliant with G7 Mastercolor. The new ink sets were proven successful by December, and the final phase of the conversion began during the holiday season. While most people were at home with family, the HP team was onsite modifying hardware, updating software, and fine-tuning the press to create the first production C550 worldwide, from the feeder to the stacker.
After the speedy ramp-up, the crew quickly took care of the backlog from the holiday shutdown. With the press speed increased to 295 lf/m and faster changeovers, Chief Digital’s productivity during opening hours increased by over 20%.
The new C550 retains all the best qualities of the original C500 press, such as water-based food-compliant inks, impressive 1200dpi print quality, the ability to print variable data and imagery, and exceptional service. Hayes added, “The update to the C550 format has given us the confidence to convert even the most critical projects and maximize production space.”
Hayes summarized, “We are grateful for our skilled operators and experienced employees, innovative sales force, and loyal customers who entrust us with their brand and message. With the new HP C550, we are ready to tackle any new challenge that comes our way.”