Case History

Stencil Ease Invests in SEI Laser Paperone 3500 True Digital Finishing System

Stencil Ease of Old Saybrook, Conn., has purchased a PaperOne 3500, an advanced sheetfed laser cutting system manufactured by SEI Laser. The  PaperOne 3500 will help Stencil Ease regain a competitive edge by providing ultrafast, precision, true digital finishing for small to large projects on demand. Sold and serviced by North American distributor Matik, Inc., the SEI Laser will help Stencil Ease open new, profitable markets for orders that were being manufactured in China. “To be competitive with Chinese manufacturers, we needed a higher throughput without sacrificing quality,” says Jim Randolph, CEO and co-owner. “Speed, quality of cut and flexibility were important buying criteria as some of our stencils are extremely complex and require precise cutting. And we wanted a system that provided a fast return on our investment. We have a few laser systems that are slower and couldn’t deliver the efficiency we need.

About 90 percent of smaller craft stencils are currently produced in China. Stencil Ease has a large craft retail customer that would prefer United States-made stencils, and regularly asks for price quotes on private-label stencils, but it was difficult to compete on price. Randolph considered a similar yet different laser system to meet the customer’s need, but it was cost prohibitive. A neighboring label vendor suggested he talk to Matik, who recommended the PaperOne 3500, which delivered a significantly better proposition, costing half as much as the other system.

Founded in 1980, Stencil Ease has 24 employees who manufacture stencils from a Mylar material ranging in thickness from 0.004″ (0.20 mm) to 0.125″ (1.54 mm), plus stencils with an adhesive back and release liner. PaperOne 3500’s standard laser wasn’t suitable for cutting Mylar materials. However, SEI Laser performed testing on one of their lab systems using the most complex patterns that Stencil Ease manufactures. Not only did the customized solution prove ideal for the Mylar substrate, it also cut product in just one minute that would have taken 20 minutes with the old alternative.

When our large retail customer ordered from China, they needed to place a big order a few times a year to minimize shipping costs, and it could take three months for it to arrive,” says Randolph. “With PaperOne 3500 we can compete on price and the customer will get more diverse product in two weeks or less. A different technology than we have used before, it improves yield and production rates, and reduces costs. It will also open new craft/retail markets for us due to its ultrafast cutting speed.

The PaperOne 3500 gives Stencil Ease more flexibility, such as recently tested tattoo stencils. Stencil Ease sells custom stencils in very small quantities and standard stencils in larger quantities. PaperOne 3500 can handle orders from one to 10,000 and larger, including extremely complex stencils that require precision cutting. The company plans to use the PaperOne 3500 for 20 percent of their current business and 80 percent of new business. This will include expansion of their e-commerce standard and custom stencil products in quantities as low as one.

Stencil Ease manufactures custom and stock stencils for a wide range of applications, including grounds maintenance, basketball courts, playgrounds, parking lot identification, shipping crate marking, crafting, interior design, safety and more. The SEI laser Paperone 3500 has a fast and accurate feeder that can feed sheet sizes up to 14.7″x41.3″ (375×1,050 mm) or extended B3 and thicknesses from 6 to 16 point. This advanced laser system performs at speeds up to 2,500 sheets per hour.

The Paperone 3500 provides rapid setup and offers on-the-fly cutting without the need for dies, which greatly reduces finishing make-ready-time,” adds Randolph. “It also eliminates tooling cost and inventory, provides maximum design flexibility and quick delivery of short-to large-run orders. Job parameters can be set by the prepress department and memorized for each job and substrate, improving efficiency and reducing waste.”

We look forward to installing the PaperOne 3500 system at Stencil Ease, which will help them increase profits and gain a competitive edge,” says Uli Kretzschmar, vice president of SEI laser sales at Matik, Inc. “We will also provide training, support and preventive maintenance as needed.

(Originally published on What They Think-north America Edition Magazine)

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