UK manufacturer of darts and accessories, Retriever Sports, has installed the UK’s first Mark Andy Evolution 5 press to its production facility in Slough.

The six-colour flexo press replaces one of two Mark Andy Scouts that have been in use at Retriever Sports since shortly after the millennium.

The company is renowned worldwide for its dart products, which it supplies to both the leisure and professional markets.  Founded by husband-and-wife Tom and Katie Pope in 1978, Retriever Sports remains under family ownership and is run today by Ian and Marc Bennett, along with Jacqueline Bennett and Geraldine Osborne. Together with a staff of 35, they manufacture around 10 million sets of dart flights each year in their 20,000sqft factory.  In addition to the printing technology onsite, they also have CNC, injection moulding, vacuum forming, laser marking, pad printing and automated bagging machines.

Ian Bennett explained, ‘We consistently apply high standards of manufacturing to our dart products and build technical innovation into each and every component that we produce.  Our commitment to providing a superior product and outstanding service to our customers has seen the company grow into one of the largest manufacturer of darts and accessories in the World.’

It was into this high-quality engineering environment that Mark Andy sold two 10” Scout presses in the early 2000s.  Used to print the variety of colourful dart flights that Retriever manufactures, the Scouts have given great service to the company over the past 20 years, so for Ian Bennett it was a combination of reliability and Mark Andy’s reputation and support over the years that steered him towards the new Evolution 5 when the time came to upgrade capacity.

Phil Baldwin, Mark Andy’s UK & Ireland sales manager, said, ‘The new Evolution press is a fully servo-driven 13” six-colour flexo line, with full UV curing and an overhead rail system for moveable cold foil application.’

According to Mr Bennett, most dart flights are six colours, or five plus varnish, and the moveable cold foil system allows for the greater degree of creativity in decoration that the market now demands.  The new press also features pacing rollers that are the same size as the impression rollers, which improves tension control for superior register whether in manual or auto mode.

Since full commissioning in April, and two-weeks of training from Steve Bull, Mark Andy UK’s print instructor, the new Evolution 5 has added 50% to Retriever’s output.  From typically 130,000 sets per week beforehand, the company is now manufacturing in excess of 200,000 sets of 75 – 180-micron PE that is used.  Crucially, in addition to extra volume the new Mark Andy has reduced delivery times at a time when higher demand would normally have extended them.