Over 80 Years of Print Finishing Technology
A History of Innovation
While most will recognize the leadership role of Brandtjen & Kluge Inc. in today's graphic arts finishing industry, the historical roots of the company has fostered many significant developments in the printing industry itself.
Though many companies lay claim to humble beginnings, the formation of Brandtjen & Kluge can be traced to something as innocuous as paper lint-and an innovation that changed the face of printing worldwide.
In 1907, when John Brandtjen convinced two young machinists from Oslo, Norway named Abel and Eneval Kluge to service and install presses for his fledgling printing equipment firm, it is unlikely they could have anticipated the contribution they would make to the printing industry. In fact, it was nearly twelve years later that John Brandtjen's son, Henry (Sr.), who would often visit his father's office, would chance upon an innovation that would set a new company in motion. During one such visit, the Kluge brothers had just returned from a press installation in South Dakota. Abel complained that the sticky gum used to feed paper into current presses was in need of constant replacement due to paper lint. The problem was so persistent, Abel said that an operator could feed the paper faster by hand, and he proceeded to demonstrate.
Henry was intrigued. Being the owner of an automotive sales and service company, he was familiar with the vacuum process and told the brothers if they could develop the mechanical aspects of the feeder, he could develop the technology to provide the necessary suction to eliminate both hand feeding and the sticky gum. Together the Brandtjen's and the Kluge brothers developed the world's first successful automatic feeder for printing presses, and in November of 1919, Brandtjen & Kluge was formed in St. Paul, Minnesota to manufacture and sell the feeder.
From Faster Feeders to Faster Presses - The KLUGE Platen Press
Over the next twelve years, automatic paper feeders using the vacuum principle were built to adapt to different popular presses. With their innovation, Brandtjen & Kluge Inc. became very successful, and by 1929, the company had moved to a three-story building in St. Paul, which would become its home for the next fifty years.
Although feeders provided the company its primary business, the real interest among the brothers Kluge and the Brandtjen's was to create a faster printing press that would incorporate their feeder technology. In 1931, the company introduced its own 10 X 15 Model "M" and 12 X 18 Model "N" sheet-fed automatic platen printing presses. With speeds of up to 4,000 impressions per hour, improved inking and greater impressional strength, the KLUGE Automatics represented another quantum leap for the industry.
The Model M and N presses proved an overnight success. During the balance of the thirties, the company was producing 50 to 60 presses per month, and opened branch offices in many cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Detroit, also taking their first venture into the foreign market with exports of KLUGE presses to India, the Philippines and Australia.The Dominant Industry Force
Through the thirties, forties and early fifties, KLUGE Automatic platen presses dominated the industry. In fact, during World War II, there were KLUGEs operating on almost every U.S. armed forces base, and on many sea-going vessels and warships where they played an important role in wartime communications.
Following the war, the booming economy created an unprecedented demand for KLUGE Automatic Presses that was met by assembly line production of over 300 feeders per month from the St. Paul facility. By 1946, significant improvements in inking and registration led to the development of "MA" and "NA" models, which were in turn replaced by the enhanced "MB" and "NB" models just two years later.
Brandtjen & Kluge continued to exercise its dominance by expanding its international business, particularly in the western hemisphere where KLUGE presses were recognized as the leader in printing technology. In 1948, John Brandtjen passed away, and he was succeeded by his son Henry, Sr. who served as president until 1958 when he passed the torch to the third family generation, Henry Brandtjen, Jr.The Changing Industry
By the mid-1950's, offset printing technology was slowly beginning to take hold. The company's heir-apparent Henry Brandtjen, Jr., had a crucial decision to make. Should the company exploit its considerable foothold in the industry by diversifying into offset? After due consideration, Brandtjen decided the company would charge headlong into the role for which it was destined and has since realized-the premier manufacturer of platen press technology.
The decision to focus on its existing platen press knowledge and expand the product's potential energized the company with a keen sense of direction, and by 1959, Brandtjen & Kluge introduced the Model "C" Automatic with innovative sealed ball bearings that increased maintenance intervals and a constant speed motor drive system. This was the forerunner of KLUGE's most popular presses-the 11 X 17 and 13 X 19 "D" Series sheetfed printing presses. The company's decision to pursue its traditional stronghold would prove sound, as it soon became apparent that the emergence of foil stamping and embossing would again expand the markets for the company.The Transition to Graphic Finishing
With the retirement of the last founding members of the company, Henry, Sr. in 1958, and Abel Kluge in 1960, the transition to new management was accompanied by a shift in the printing industry. Seizing the opportunity to surge ahead of would-be competitors, in 1963 KLUGE introduced the "HD" a 13 X 19 press that would specifically fulfill the strength and capabilities demanded by the emerging foil stamping industry. The new, eye-catching techniques of foil and embossing were gaining acceptance, and KLUGE's new press met the need with a three-draw leafer, die heating plate and extraordinary impressional strength.
Having demonstrated a 1500% increase in overseas exports from 1960-1963, confirmation of the company's business strategy did not take long. Following these impressive numbers, in 1964 Brandtjen & Kluge was recognized by President Lyndon Johnson's "E Award", followed by the "E-Star Award" in 1971 for excellence in developing export markets and contributing to the U.S. economy.
With the call for larger dies and more detailed work, the demand for an even stronger press was satisfied by KLUGE in 1967 with the 14 X 22 "EHD". The economical EHD turned out to be exactly what the fledgling industry needed. The use of foil stamping jumped dramatically, as did sales of the KLUGE EHD, whose popularity and reliable performance earned it a singular distinction among the graphic arts community-"the workhorse of the industry" and the leading foil stamping, embossing and die cutting press over the past 30 years.
While enjoying an enviable position among foil stamping, embossing and die cutting press manufacturers, Brandtjen & Kluge did not stand still. In 1982, the company introduced its heaviest and most sophisticated press to date with the KLUGE EHE. With over 50 tons of impressional strength, precision positive registration system, and KLUGE's patented Delayed Dwell technology, the EHE quickly became the leading press in the market for detailed stamping and die cutting work.
In the mid-eighties, KLUGE introduced a hologram registration system
With the growing influence of hologram foils for decorative and security applications, the KLUGE EHD and EHE presses have evolved to meet the needs of a growing market.The Continuous Growth of Continuous Forms
While sheet-fed presses remain the cornerstone of the KLUGE product line, the company has kept pace with customer needs through an early involvement in continuous forms equipment. The first KLUGE continuous forms press, a modified "D" series machine known as the WFD, debuted in 1961. Today the WFD Series Press comes in a variety of configurations incorporating printing, foil stamping, die cutting, embossing and combinations thereof.
Subsequent development of of roll unwind and rewind equipment, line hole punching, perforating, fan folding and waste stripping units, became known as the KLUGE Web-Flow Line. Today, this configuration is widely used in the production of pressure sensitive labels. Japan alone, at last count, had over 200 KLUGE Web-Flow Presses in use for label production.
For extended versatility, subsequent modifications were made to the WFD allowing two, sometimes three, units to be tied together for in-line printing, foil stamping, embossing and die cutting with tight registration, as each unit possessed its own electronic feed control device. By 1983, the market demanded a way to foil stamp or die cut on a web at higher speeds than the WFD was capable of. KLUGE responded by developing the "WFE" Series press, capable of foil stamping and embossing at speeds of up to 8,000 impressions per hour.
Sensing the need for fan-folded computer paper as the personal computer revolution took hold, KLUGE introduced the RP-155 Paper Processing System in 1984. The RP-155 is an economical system to produce variable-sized, fan-folded continuous forms from roll stock. In 1988, a two-color version of the RP-155 that initially used offset rotary technology was released which offers single-pass, two-sided "one over one" color printing. 1988 was also the year KLUGE introduced the RP-155E. With its extended processor, the RP-155E accommodates intermediate cross-perforation, or lets users run two different perforation lengths without changing cylinders.
Subsequent refinements have been added to the RP-155 that have brought the press from a simple paper processor into a full-fledged forms system--now known as the KLUGE Short Run Forms Press. Available in one to four-color config-urations, the Short Run Forms Press offers considerable versatility, including perforating, file hole punching, in-line sequential numbering, bar coding, label die cutting, and roll-to-roll, sheet or fold finishes.
Finally, in 1994, the KLUGE Pack-To-Pack press made its debut as the most affordable pack-to-pack offset imprinter utilizing a microprocessor registration system. This imprinter was designed using the same variable-size technology as the KLUGE Forms Press, and used the same interchangable plate and blanket cartridges and removable ink fountains for quicker changeover.The Next Generation
In 1993, Henry Brandtjen, Jr. stepped down as president of Brandtjen & Kluge. As his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had before him, Hank Brandtjen III assumed the leadership of a proud, now nearly 75 years old family-owned company. As the next generation Brandtjen took the helm, Brandtjen & Kluge prepared to unveil the formidable new flagship of the KLUGE line. Over four years in development, the arrival of the VS2028 large-format sheet-fed foil stamping and embossing press has been heralded by the industry as the next generation of finishing presses. With a full 21" X 29" live impression area, two-position load level indicators, and a remarkable 200 tons of impression strength, the KLUGE VS2028 handles the most detailed foil stamping, embossing and die cutting with ease, on sheet sizes up to 24" X 30".
Capable of operating at speeds up to 5,000 impressions per hour and more impression strength than any press in its class, the VS2028 also features microprocessor-control, electronic foil drive, on-the-run adjustable front and side lays, an off-press foil pre-load station, a 30" non-stop feeder, and stock handling capacities from 18 lb. to .150 board.
Like the KLUGE Automatic Feeder nearly three-quarters of a century years prior, the KLUGE VS2028 represents a significant advance in the graphic arts finishing industry. An advance certain to again mark the way to greater possibilities.The Test of Time is a Testament to Quality
In 1983, Henry Brandtjen, Jr., had the distinct pleasure of attending a unique retirement party near Melbourne, Australia. After 50 years of continuous service, a KLUGE automatic press was being replaced with a new KLUGE. The printing company now displays the KLUGE in its corporate offices. As the president of that company stated at the ceremony, "We proudly display this press, for from it, we have grown to our present size."
Fifty years is a long, long time for any piece of equipment, let alone one subject to the rigorous demands placed upon printing presses day-after-day. Yet, this story typifies how KLUGE products were, and are, made.
Our largest user, by the way, is a company called Williamhouse-Regency who specializes in greeting cards, social and wedding stationary. They have close to 100 KLUGE Automatics in use today, with some of them dating back to the 1940's and still running well.
While the dedication to quality is seemingly a recent realization for most companies, it's simply the way we've always done business. For over 80 years, KLUGE presses have always been truly "world-class".
One at a Time
We have found that when a press is the sole responsibility of an individual, it is no surprise that the product is constructed with the highest degree of quality and integrity-levels of which are surpassed only by our workforce's personal satisfaction in knowing that KLUGE presses regularly achieve the highest standards of industry reliability.
KLUGE presses are carefully finished one at a time, by a single craftsman. Every person who builds KLUGE presses is, in essence, an expert at KLUGE presses from top to bottom. They know how every part should fit, how every cam should turn. And the parts do fit. Because unlike some other manufacturers, we individually assemble each press from parts machined on our own, state-of-the-art, precision CNC equipment. Finally, at the point that the builder feels comfortable that the machine is complete, it is then turned over to be inspected.
Every press is checked, re-checked, tested-and ran. And ran. And ran. The press is then checked again and re-tested before it is crated and shipped. Upon arrival at its destination, KLUGE presses are set-up and tested thoroughly by a KLUGE technician.
The result of this considerable energy is a press that is built to surpass KLUGE's rigid benchmarks of quality-standards of which, after 80 years, we are quite comfortable with. Standards that also seem to give the purchasers of KLUGE presses a great deal of comfort as well. It's this kind of dedication and attention to detail that makes KLUGE presses what they are-quite simply the most dependable, most reliable foil stamping/embossing and forms presses manufactured anywhere in the world.