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Standing Alone: Kirk-Rudy’s FireJet 4C #2

By July 2, 2023 No Comments

The printer with no true competitor.

Competition drives the world around us, if you’re not better than your competition you lose. You could be a multi-million-dollar business, a basketball team, a new graduate looking for a job, and if you don’t separate yourself from your competition in some noticeable way, you’ll lose. But what if you don’t have anyone to compete against? That is the unique position Kirk-Rudy found themselves in when they developed the FireJet 4C Printer.

The FireJet was far from the first inkjet envelope printer on the market, yet several segments of that market weren’t provided for as Jim Williams tells it. “You could buy a $20,000 machine or a $350,000 machine, if you had developed the market there was nothing in-between. Some people were running up to six small printers and killing themselves on production time. The FireJet was the answer people were waiting for, for years.”

Kirk-Rudy's FireJet 4C.

Kirk-Rudy’s FireJet 4C.

That “mid-volume” sweet spot was completely void of technology until Kirk-Rudy came along. Boasting production printing speeds upwards of 20,000 envelopes per hour, at either 1200 or 1600 DPI, the FireJet 4C quickly became the solution of choice for many companies, such as Directworx out of Hamilton, Ontario, who immediately noticed an uptick in production upon installation.

“We did a job yesterday that took 15 minutes,” noted Dan Schottlander, President of Directworx. “That job usually would take us two and a half hours. The quality is actually better than what we were getting before as well.”

Printers in Directworx’s area, who they had previous relations with, but for whom they didn’t previously print envelopes, have taken note of the speed and print quality as well. Many of them are now choosing to outsource their envelope printing to Directworx thanks to the FireJet 4C. The work won’t stop there though as Dan and the Directworx team seek out new opportunities to print on other substrates for other markets such as paper bags, coasters, and perhaps even letter sheets.

Directworx isn’t the only company seeking to expand the number of applications run on the FireJet. Jim Williams noted that customers across the United States are printing a variety of applications on the machine. “We know of one customer that runs 60,000 coffee sleeves every day across two FireJets. Other than that, we know of people printing napkins, paper bags, wine bags, letterheads, printing directly on to small cardboard boxes and much more.” It’s this type of flexibility that created such a demand for the machine late last year and early into 2023.

“We were overwhelmed by orders for FireJets, selling one a week and building them by hand, taking about a week and a half to build one” says Williams. The high demand was the kind of problem companies dream of, but it did create a problem that Kirk-Rudy now had to solve, how do you maximize production while still controlling quality?

To that end, Kirk-Rudy hired an outside manufacturing consultant who helped develop an assembly line for the FireJet. With this help Kirk-Rudy was able to continue building the FireJet by hand, maintaining their ability to produce high quality work, while simultaneously increasing productivity by roughly 400%.

While the success of the FireJet forced Kirk-Rudy to find new ways to maximize the limited time they had, it simultaneously left companies like International Graphics looking for ways to fill their newfound time.

According to International Graphic’s General Manager, Ashley Norman, “Increased productivity was instant, compared to our previous solution we immediately increased our throughput, completing projects way ahead of deadline.”

With that extra time Norman set a challenge to his team. “I have challenged our team to explore napkins, coasters, bags, etc. Prior [to the FireJet], this was not possible due to the limitations of our previous Memjet device. We are now starting to market and open new doors as clients have been requesting solutions that meet their needs.”

Printing napkins, coasters or 20,000 envelopes an hour is great, but it would all be for nought if the high production speed was offset by a long or difficult setup. Luckily that isn’t the case when it comes to the FireJet, and it’s one of the main reasons International Graphics can work ahead of deadlines. “The one thing that stood out and made it very easy was the down time, it was almost zero, which is rare in an industry where you sometimes plan and adjust for things that could go wrong, which translates to having confidence in the printer.”

Another person with limitless confidence in the FireJet is Insource Corp’s Service Manager, Ian Tibbles, who has personally installed four of Kirk-Rudy’s FireJet 4C machines across Canada. “It’s one of the more straightforward machines we install, based on the number of installations and the number of service calls we receive, I’d have to say that it’s the most reliable machine we put in the field these days,” says Tibbles. “Beyond that, it’s very easy to use for the operator. The FireJet maintains itself regularly, so setup is pretty much as simple as setting the feeder up properly.”

Insource Corp's Director of Service, Doug Ferguson, seen testing the FireJet in preparation for the 2023 Graphics Canada Expo.

Insource Corp’s Director of Service, Doug Ferguson, seen testing the FireJet in preparation for the 2023 Graphics Canada Expo.

Next up for that installation and operator training from Insource Corp is Carrousel, a Canadian-owned packaging solutions company based in Boucherville, Quebec. Carrousel inventories over 5,000 items, with access to over 15,000 packaging solutions through more than 300 suppliers. With options like that, having a reliable printer with the ability to run a wide range of substrates and media sizes is necessary for Carrousel.

“We intend to print on boxes, shopping bags, grocery bags, hot cup sleeves and more,” says Yanick Martel, General Director for Carfabel, a division of Les Emballages Carrousel, whose paper bag manufacturing plant designs, manufactures and prints a wide range of bags, including bread bags, pastry bags, bags for cured sausage, pharmacy bags and more.

And though Carrousel is the largest independent distributor of packaging solutions in Canada, the FireJet is opening the door for smaller companies as well according to Mr. Martel. “We can work with clients that are not able to meet minimum run requirements from other suppliers.” Thanks, in combination to the high-production speeds, ease of use and lightning-fast set-up times, which is why the FireJet 4C is the solution of choice for Mr. Martel and Carrousel.

“We had a consultant guiding us regarding different digital printing suppliers. Our requirements for this project were age of the technology. Will it be available in a couple of years? Maximum printing speed. Printing quality on different substrates. Ease and versatility of the software, cost of the equipment and software, ink cost, time for set-up, and others. FireJet met our requirements on all the above.”

In time, there will surely be other technologies developed to meet those same requirements, and those companies will start wading into the waters in which Kirk-Rudy has been swimming alone for some time. In a free market, competition will always come forward, and when it does don’t be surprised to see Kirk-Rudy continuing to stand alone at the top. The FireJet was designed and built like a traditional printing press, one that can withstand the rigors of heavy daily production printing. Or as Jim Williams says, “Nothing is built like a Kirk-Rudy.”