DC Graphics, founded in 1994 by Kevin Brandon, is run today by Eugene Prohaske, President, and Cristine Brandon, Vice President, who have a long history in the engraving industry. Eugene is a passionate engraver who has over 30 years of experience in embossing die engraving for the packaging industry. He started at his father’s company, Styleart Engraving, back in 1983. After his father retired in 1994, Eugene started his own business, HAP Engraving, in Manhattan. In 2010, he came to DC Graphics and when founder and President, Kevin Brandon, passed away in 2012, Eugene succeeded him in leading the company.
Engraving Embossing Dies for the Packaging Industry
DC Graphics is an offset, flexographic pre-press die making and photoengraving facility that produces plates and dies from magnesium, brass, and copper. They specialize in engraving embossing dies and other engravings, as well as flat stamping and folding cards for the paper packaging and pre-press industry. They employ a staff of approximately 16 people.
Magnesium is a metal that can withstand high temperatures and is impact resistant, which makes it ideally suited to long press runs that include embossing and foil-stamping. Its durability provides the user with a long-lasting die or printable image. DC Graphics produces plates in various thicknesses including 16-gauge, 11-point, and 1/4 inch with the largest size being 18″x24″. Counters for their embossing and debossing dies are produced in both .030 and .060 thicknesses. DC Graphics also makes intricate copper plates and brass dies to their customers’ exact specifications and within tight timeframes.
Innovations for Embossing Die Engraving
Eugene Prohaske is constantly seeking new innovations and the company utilizes the most current technology in their industry for engraving embossing dies. Their state-of-the-art equipment allows them to provide their customers with high-quality products faster and less expensively than their competition … thereby giving them a competitive edge.
However, before the company purchased their first DATRON high-speed milling machine, everything was done by hand or gauging machines and etching. But, etching proved to be dirty and carried additional costs associated with disposal of the chemicals used in the process. They knew that they needed a change.
So, in 1996, DC Graphics purchased their first DATRON machine (an M4) and made the transition from everything being done by hand, gauging machines and etching to exclusively using CNC milling machines for engraving embossing dies. It was a big undertaking but proved to be a smart decision for DC Graphics to abandon chemical etching and “go green” with DATRON. Eugene says, “Once I saw these machines, I decided this was the wave of the future for us. If we didn’t make the change when we did, more than likely we wouldn’t be in business anymore.”
In 2008, DC Graphics purchased its first DATRON M8 high-speed milling machine. This was followed by two additional M8’s in 2012 and 2013 to add capacity for engraving embossing dies and to handle more business for their customers. The DATRON M8 features a 30” x 40” work area which allows it to accommodate large sheet material used to produce larger parts or batch machine many smaller ones in a single unattended process. Its integrated vacuum table and probe helped DC Graphics to reduce setup time and ensure the accuracy of their intricate workpieces. Additionally, the 60,000 RPM spindle on the M8 resulted in very impressive cycle times. Eugene reflects on the transition from handwork to machining, “In the beginning, it was a big learning curve because we needed to get the machines in and had to figure out how to run them. DATRON definitely walked us through it as a real partner would do.”
In fact, the initial DATRON investment served as a trial and a comparison to their experience owning a LANG engraving machine which was purchased around the same time. They took one year to evaluate the two machines and started weighing the pros and cons of both. Eugene felt that both were very reliable German-engineered machines that were great for engraving embossing dies. But, DATRON won the right to additional machine placements through exceptional service and support. He says, “DATRON has great support here in the States and whenever I have a problem, they help me and respond right away. Having a contact person and service over here is key because if I need a part, I can get it the next day; worst case scenario being two days. With LANG, sometimes it is very difficult to get an answer or a part and sometimes the machine is down for weeks.”
In 2017, DC Graphics continued to employ the latest technology and expanded their capacity for engraving embossing dies by purchasing DATRON’s “next generation” M8Cube. This machine differs from the M8 model in that it features a machine design with half as many parts, improved ergonomics, better accuracy, as well as faster rapids and feed rates. It is also structurally stronger than the legacy M8 model. The M8Cube has a new control system and uses direct-drive AC brushless motors. Additionally, the gantry was completely redesigned with a stronger Z-Axis to secure larger horsepower high-frequency spindles while providing more stiffness for the higher-power drive motors. This results in greater acceleration and deceleration rates that produce faster cycle times. The stronger design along with the new control software allowed DATRON to also develop an optimization filter they call “PerfectCut”. DC Graphics went with this optional software function because it creates a powerful look-ahead combined with sophisticated algorithm calculations that can improve three-dimensional contour machining by as much as 30% compared to the previous control software. In some sample parts, cycle times were cut almost in half compared to the already impressive M8 cycle times. Eugene says, “It is just a very nice machine to work on. I do a lot of programming for creative engraving and I am very familiar with DATRON technology. My engraving creativity combined with the capabilities a DATRON machine offers is a good melding and all these different factors come together make a product that comes out quick, clean and reliable.”
DC Graphics’ M8Cube also has a 30-station tool changer which satisfies Eugene’s penchant for using a lot of tools. This versatility helps him to achieve engraving effects he wouldn’t be able to produce if he didn’t have so many tools at his disposal. He has the engraving expertise and knowhow to apply the right tools for particular engraving challenges. He explains, “We really try to maintain good customer service through our engraving expertise. For certain types of engraving, you need to know what’s going work to get an effect and what it will take to make something look the way our customer wants it to look. When you do that, you build a good report with them because they know they can count on you. You are able to do something that other engravers can’t do. That is your edge! I never want to be known as the cheapest engraver … instead, I want to be known as the place to go when something is difficult. The reliability of DATRON machines and the fact that they provide me with such a versatile tool helps me provide a cutting-edge solution.”