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Dotting the i's.

FOR Linx Printing Technologies, 1992 has been a very good year indeed. In June this specialist manufacturer of continuous ink jet printers was declared the winner of the 1992 Prince of Wales Award for Innovation on BBC TV's Tommorrow's World. The following month the company's Managing Director Mike Keeling accepted The Queen's Award for Export Achievement. On a less visible level, but equally significant, Linx was this year accredited by the British Standards Institute with BS 5750 Part I at its first attempt.

Together these three awards sum up a success story in British manufacturing. Formed only six years ago, with venture capital funding and a team of four, Linx has grown quickly but steadily to become one of the leading suppliers of ink jet printers worldwide. In 1991 its turnover of over |pounds~8m. represented an increase of 93% over the previous year and it now has a workforce of over 150 at its expanded premises in St Ives, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

Individually, the awards underline the different strengths that have contributed to this success. The Prince of Wales Award for Innovation highlights the importance Linx has placed, from the beginning, on research and development. As recently as the 1980's Continuous Ink-Jet (CIJ) printing was still seen a marginal, rather unreliable means of marketing goods.

Its widespread use today can be attributed very largely to the intensive r & d carried out by Linx in order to be able to produce a range of printers that could overcome the problems initially associated with the technology, making it attractive and acceptable to businesses. The first Linx machines, which were put on the market within two years of the company being formed, offered considerable benefits over other similar equipment available, incorporating some radical new features. The key to their superiority was a unique printhead which enabled the printing process to be controlled very accurately, ensuring that consistent quality was achieved. Together with another innovation known as an automodulation system, this provided a fully automatic means of continuously monitoring and controlling the key requirements of the ink jet printing process, making the printer into a machine that was as easy to use as a photo-copier and which required minimal maintenance.

These features have remained vital elements in the Linx range of printers and have played a crucial role in the growing popularity of the equipment. But there has been no resting on laurels. Committed to improving its products and extending their range of applications, Linx has continued to invest substantial time, manpower and financial resources in r & d, providing the market with a versatile family of printers including the 4,000 and 5000 and, most recently, the highly advanced 6000 series.

In the last few years, Linx has also put considerable effort into developing new inks designed to open up new markets or solve specific printing problems and users now have a wide variety of high quality inks available to them for all types of substrate.

Among those of particular interest to the food industry are a water displacing ink designed for use in the dairy, canning and bottling industries and a food grade ink with an ethanol base and constituents such as dyes and binders made from edible ingredients.

Hand in hand with Linx's policy of ongoing development has been its commitment to the highest standards of production and quality control, essential elements in overcoming the aura of unreliability that hung over CIJ printing in its infancy. The BS 5750 accreditation, as the recognised standard for quality of manufacturing practice, confirms that commitment and enhances the reputation of Linx printers as a reliable and consistent means of on-line marking in a variety of production environments and applications.

Technologically advanced and operationally reliable, Linx machines have grown steadily in popularity, particularly in the UK food industry where they have been able to provide a highly efficient solution to the increasing requirement for printed information on food products. The Manchester-based Ashby Dairy is a good example of how the capabilities of the machines are being comprehensively tested in the marketplace.

Here six Linx CIJ printers are being used to print product data and "Best Before" dates onto cardboard cartons and labels on polypropylene bottles of milk, enabling the dairy to meet EC legislation for labelling of milk products. The machines are capable of withstanding the dairy's rigorous cleaning routines and are fast enough to allow the milk to remain at the required temperature during coding. They are also able to cope with the large number of different codes which have to be used.

Another requirement which often has to be met within the food industry is reliability over long running periods.

At Treats Ice-Cream factory in Leeds, where they are used to print "Best Before" dates and product codes onto paper wrappers, cardboard cartons and plastics containers at speeds of up to 8000 items per machine per hour, Linx printers have to run for 24 hours, seven days a week during the peak demand months between April and September.

While UK sales have been growing steadily, however, it is -- as the Queen's Award suggests--export sales which have provided the bulk of Linx's turnover, in the last three years accounting for 80% of it. The ability of Linx machines to print the exact characters used in a host of languages, using keyboards with a variety of formats, has enabled the company to tailor its systems to suit the needs of individual markets. Linx now exports to 21 countries world-wide through a network of 17 specialist distributors and it is estimated that it currently holds around 10% of the world market for Continuous Ink-Jet printers.

With the company's commitment to the underlying philosophies which have served it so well still as strong as ever, the Linx success story looks like being a long one. 1992 may indeed have been a very good year but there is every chance that 1993 will be an even better one.

More technical and sales information can be obtained from Vicki McCabe at Linx Printing Technologies Plc, Burrel Road, St. Ives, Hungtingdon, Cambs PE17 4LE, tel: (0480) 300755 or fax: (0480) 495093.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Food Trade Press Ltd.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Linx Printing Technologies PLC, maker of continuous ink jet printers, garners 1992 Prince of Wales Award for Innovation
Publication:Food Trade Review
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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