Pumping Iron In The Print Shop

Vacuum pumps are integral to print shops and bindery operations. Since pump failure can bring down mighty presses or bustling bindery lines, it is vital to have pump models that are easy to service as well as fast access to repair parts and replacement units as well as responsive service and technical support.

In the intensely demanding printing industry, with presses and bindery equipment running at full tilt, the continuous strain for productivity is often an open invitation to unplanned downtime.

While advancements in major printing and bindery equipment are enabling more impressions and increased output, it is often the little workhorses, such as vacuum pumps, that are integral to the process. A vacuum pump that is down for maintenance can bring down multi-million-dollar printing or bindery iron without notice, sometimes for days.

Of course, a sizable portion of the price of such problems is in lost production time, which is gone forever. But the biggest cost of all may be a missed deadline that results in the loss of a customer and perhaps millions of dollars in future revenues – all over a fairly inexpensive piece of support equipment.

“A vacuum pump that requires service can mean hours or days of downtime,” says Marco Gazares, a maintenance supervisor at Graphic Press in Los Angeles. “That is always the major consideration, since it affects scheduling in not only printing but also bindery operations. So, naturally it can create delivery issues.”

A premium-quality house, and the largest U.S. minority-owned printer, Graphic Press produces first-class work such as annual reports, catalogs, brochures and direct mail pieces for the automotive, travel, telecommunications, entertainment and financial industries as well as major advertising agencies and graphic design studios.

“Many of the projects of these clients are time critical,” Gazares says. “So, there is a delivery tight window with no room for mechanical problems.”

Graphic Press has invested heavily in multiple presses to ensure fast turnaround while maintaining highest quality. Equipment includes two large Heidelberg sheet-fed presses and two Goss rotary (web) presses. A full-service, on-site bindery provides stitching with optical signature recognition; folding, scoring and slitting of printed forms.

The firm considers it mission critical that technical capabilities are cutting edge at every stage of the process, from pre-press to final binding. Those standards also apply to smaller equipment and subassemblies such as the assortment of vacuum pumps used in the printing and bindery operations.

A diverse concept of quality

“I think there are several factors you need to consider when you are specifying or replacing a vacuum pump,” Gazares explains. “Quality is a major reason, but quality incorporates several elements: durability, ease of service and repair, access to replacement parts and pumps, and especially availability of quality technical support and repair service.”

Gazares says that while Graphic Press is likely to stay with the OEM spec on vacuum pumps and replacement parts, his preference among various pump lines is Becker. Since 1885 that company has been renowned for its line of pumps for vacuum and low-pressure compressed air.

While Becker is recognized as a highly durable brand of vacuum pumps, they do require service intervals as well as occasional repair and replacement.

“One of the most important reasons that we choose Becker vacuum pumps is because they have a strong local parts and service organization, such as LANS Company.” says Gazares.

LANS Company, a distribution, warranty and service center for several major vacuum pump lines has been in business in the Southern California area for 50 years.

“We also rely on the technical support of vendors such as LANS Company,” Gazares says. “Whether we need advice or parts or repair service, we often depend on their knowledge about the product. That also helps us stay as true as possible to OEM specs for whatever piece of equipment we’re running. LANS does a great job at that.”

The serviceability factor

“You have to pay attention to the filters, and watch for worn rotary vanes,” says Gazares. “With some pump designs the filters are not easily accessed. You may have to remove two or three different covers to service the filters. Same thing with the rotor. One of the reasons we like Becker is that the filters and rotor are very accessible, making it quicker for LANS Company to service our equipment. You just remove the end caps. And that helps us avoid unnecessary downtime.”

“Heat is not very friendly to vacuum pumps,” adds Steve Turley, Service Manager for the vacuum pump department at LANS Company. “The bindery or print shop floor can go through some dramatic heat rises. When that happens, it can strain a vacuum pump to the point where it can malfunction.”

Turley, a 20-year veteran of the pump industry, advises customers to keep close relationships with their service centers. LANS Company stocks a large parts department and maintains significant inventory to minimize any downtime that might occur as a result of pump leaks or other performance problems.

Although many print shops and binderies, including Graphic Press, keep some spare pump parts on hand, there are often instances when they need replacement parts or pump assemblies ASAP. That close relationship with LANS Company can really pay off.

He adds that in the case of a malfunctioning pump Graphic Press will definitely have a contingency plan. For example, they rely on LANS Company to supply either a loaner or rental pump, which can mean the difference between being down two or three days versus two or three hours to change a pump and get up to production speed again.

LANS Company is a leading compressed air equipment distributor with expertise in the complete air system including vacuum pumps, air compressors, dryers, filters and accessory equipment.