How to get the most out of your used or refurbished commercial printing equipment

Gus Hawko.
Gus Hawko.

Author Gus Hawco, President of Sherbrand Industries of Glen Morris, Ontario, has been buying and selling used printing equipment since he founded his company in 1992. Here, he gives printers of all types – small and medium digital and offset printers, packaging printers, quick-print shops, print brokers, mailing & fulfillment houses, print finishing businesses and others – sound advice on buying, selling and operating used and refurbished printing equipment.

Basics of buying and selling

Buying or selling used printing equipment represents a major investment. The first step is to contact a reputable advisor and discuss your requirements – one who has knowledge and exposure in the industry. Factors to consider:

  • Does the individual have a wide network of trusted connections?
  • Is he/she aware of availability locally, nationally and worldwide?
  • Is the advisor up to date on current market pricing of various printer models?

Discuss your production requirements, specifics of size, age, condition, features and availability. You’ll soon discover that “one size does NOT fit all.” For example, buying over-sized equipment may reduce productivity. Once, a customer of mine insisted on a 50” x 80” platen press even though 85% of his jobs were under 28” x 41.” His operators spent extra time on set-ups and that slowed down production. They were struggling for six months. Luckily, I was able to find a customer for the large press without loosing any money. Another client was ready to purchase an expensive, fully automatic laminator/mounter. However, his production volumes didn’t justify the expenditure. I was able to recommend a semi-automatic one at a fraction of the cost that would do just as good a job. Reducing production costs and increasing capabilities with used or refurbished printing or finishing equipment should be your ultimate goal.

hawkousedequipment1-inTips for buying

  • Always buy from a reputable firm that knows the equipment inside-out and can perform mechanical inspections.
  • Avoid Internet-only websites and re-sellers who advertise solely online – along with machines advertised via mobile phone numbers or web mail addresses.
  • Personally inspect the equipment. Ask questions about performance and maintenance? What types of work has it been doing? How many hours or impressions has it run? Check maintenance records for breakdowns and repairs.
  • Be sure you record serial numbers, then check the year and model online or from the OEM.
  • Make sure the operator’s and parts manual accompanies the purchase. OEM manuals change regularly and your machine’s serial number will determine what version of the manual you’ll need.
  • Never make a deposit until you’re 100% satisfied.
  • Know specifically which parts have been refurbished and/or replaced.
  • Make especially sure that all moving parts are in good shape. Get a pro to make a mechanical inspection on-site.
  • Don’t worry too much about impression counts or age of the equipment. Mechanical condition is more important. Well-maintained equipment will generally give you longer, trouble-free production.
  • For digital or electronic equipment, your first question should be: Does the equipment have a service contract? If yes, it’s more likely to be in good condition.
  • Make sure that you can take over the maintenance contract. The cost of maintenance and replacement parts would be higher without a contract.
  • Know the range of the OEM’s equipment for its particular category. Knowing the model and serial number is helpful, but buying upgradeable machines is ideal.
  • Be careful if you buy directly from an end-user. Market prices fluctuate. You may be paying more than the equipment is worth. Some machinery is sold because it doesn’t work properly, or replacement parts are no longer available.

Tips for operating

  • Your used or refurbished equipment should perform as if it were brand new.
  • Your maintenance program should ensure trouble-free production and long-term performance.
  • Properly trained operators will reduce downtime and maximize productivity.
  • Use the recommended plates, blankets, pressroom chemicals and substrates. For example, don’t ask your plate specialist to recommend chemistry. If in doubt, check your OEM manuals and seek out independent suppliers whose products are used for similar equipment from several OEM’s.
  • To gauge productivity, always check your clicks against the recommended speed in your manual. Running equipment at top speed may not give you the best results. You might produce more at lower speeds with fewer stops.
  • If your machine adds to your existing workflow, make certain your staffers know how to operate it and connect it seamlessly to all hardware and software.



Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.