Carbon8, Sydney’s renowned digital print company, has truly come of age and owners Peter Musarra and Kenneth Beck are proudly steering the course in the increasingly competitive print industry.
From humble beginnings in a tiny shared office in Sydney’s Neutral Bay in 2002 that Beck would move into in 2005, the business has grown from being the ‘go to’ for fine quality digital print and bespoke marketing material into a full-service commercial printer in both short and long run print work and quality wide format.
Carbon8 was one of the first Sydney printers to ride the HP Indigo digital printing wave in the early 2000s, in fact its genesis came from a decision to buy a second hand 3050 in 2007 to improve the quality and variety of work that could be done.
“There was a new machine in town called the Indigo that could deliver a purer, closer to offset-like print,” Musarra told ProPrint from Carbon8’s newly refurbished 1500 square metre factory in Sydney’s Marrickville.
“We loved the Indigo as here was a digital print finally that began to look like offset. We kept running the numbers and when Ken offered to train as an operator, we felt confident that it was a plunge worth taking.
“Ken is a switched-on guy. You couldn’t want for a better business partner than what I have with Ken. He pushes me out of my comfort zone and I try to rationalise things.”
A $25,000 job with Macquarie Bank was the kickstart they needed once the purchase decision was made with the pair working day and night for three days over a weekend to get the job out on time.
It is this commitment to deliver on the most difficult of jobs and in ridiculous timeframes that has given Carbon8 the point of difference and allowed it to stand out from the crowd, particularly in the demanding but lucrative creative agency space.
Marking its latest step in the journey, Carbon8 has invested in the B2-sized HP Indigo 12000 Digital Press, becoming the first printer in New South Wales to do so.
“It’s an amazing machine,” Musarra said of the Indigo 12000, supplied through Currie Group.
“It was installed and up and running like a dream. It’s a robust amazing machine. It is insane when you see it in full stride.”
The decision to add the B2 Indigo to its current HP Indigo 7900 Digital Press not only massively increased capacity at Carbon8 but also necessitated the need to find a bigger home.
After a long search the decision was finally made to take out a 10-year lease on the former site of traditional offset printer Blake and Hargreaves and refurbished it to suit the needs of a modern printer.
The two-level site has a dedicated prepress, account management and design area upstairs while downstairs individual rooms have been built.
One room houses the two Indigos while another is dedicated to the 3.2m wide swissQprint LED UV, Epson solvent and other wide format printers.
The bulk of the factory floor is devoted to the multitude of binding, embellishing, finishing of every product that comes through their doors.
Finishing is handled on the main floor with a host of Horizon machines, PUR perfect binder, Singer sewing machines, Zünd G3 3XL-2500 laser cutters and almost every possible embellishment and fine finishing machine a commercial printer could dream of.
With a full loading dock and 450 square metres of space for the next expansion ready and waiting, the pair have ambition in spades.
Now, Beck and Musarra are ready to increase the amount of work being put through the Indigo 12000 and say they are open to forming ongoing relationships with offset and digital printers interested in working with them to fulfil their digital print needs.
“We’re already printing for a lot of other printers who want the quality and options we can provide. We just want to expand our services and concentrate on the quality and supporting other printers or brokers works well as it suits our business mix,” explains Beck.
Musarra said they are now in the process of monitoring growth, managing staff levels and volumes with a view to growing revenue by 50 per cent over the next two years.
“It’s delicate, any business is. You’ve got to fund it, either Ken and I or have the business fund its own growth,” Musarra said.
The addition of the B2 sized HP Indigo 12000 has also enabled Carbon8 to move into the short run soft packaging space, which is growing exponentially as more boutique products are launched into the market in short but variable runs.
“We are broadening our offering with the B2 so we can now offer more products at a quality and speed that our customers demand of us, we are not just adding another machine for the machine’s sake,” Musarra said.
“The new Indigo has allowed us to be competitive in the short run packaging space. It’s allowed us to have a very formidable product which seems to suit agencies and start-ups keen to test product lines and to understand which design resonates with customers.
“We can incorporate security like UV fluorescent inks, augmented reality embedded elements and variable barcoding or QR codes too. Small boutique food brands might want to do a run of 5,000 but with 12 different SKUs so we can run that off the Indigo 12000 and we can also run it off the 7900 where necessary.”
While Carbon8 is grateful for its roots as a premium digital printer, Beck and Musarra want to make it clear they are not just an Indigo digital site focused on premium jobs anymore.
Their previous major investment was just two years ago with the purchase of the swissQprint and Zünd marking their transition to a truly full-service commercial printer. Now with the B2 Indigo onboard, the transition is complete.
Carbon8 recognised some years ago that in order to truly support their broad range of clients, a strong wide format capability was needed. They knew this would allow them to handle everything a major print campaign requires like window displays, backlits and contour cut rigid boards.
It’s this ability to draw on industry-leading equipment, with staff that are invested in their company’s success and the drive and know-how that has kept Carbon8 growing in an increasingly challenging market.
“Our core values and our commitment to and our experiences of supplying a demanding space apply that same philosophy in a cost-effective way,” Musarra said.
At the 2019 NSW Printing Industry Creativity Awards in which Carbon8 collected a number of gold medals, Beck, when accepting the awards made some broad statements about the printing industry and how it must value itself.
He called for an end to the race to the bottom when it came to price, saying it benefits no one. He asked printing companies to sell the value of their printed products so clients would in turn value the printed piece as a part of their marketing mix.
For Carbon8, business is about relationships and Beck and Musarra have staked their livelihoods on that belief.
Going forward they remain committed to forming long lasting relationships with other printers and their broader client base to ensure the success not only of Carbon8 but the health of the industry as a whole.
For more info contact Pete and Ken at www.carbon8.com.au
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at [email protected]
Sign up to the Sprinter newsletter