Speedprint’s support for “high-mileage” examples of its printers could be the ultimate assurance of long-term commitment and value.

You might expect capital equipment brands to prefer selling their newest models rather than fixing ageing machines in the field. Upgrading also lets owners and operators benefit from the improvements built into the latest equipment. Sometimes, however, a machine of pensionable age finds a niche within the owner’s organisation that is just so perfect that replacing it would be inconvenient for the company and in some cases even an emotional loss for the staff who use it.

Older Speedprint printers are a perfect example. They can run and run for two decades and more, thanks to a depth of supplier support that often surprises their owners. Inspired Energy LLC, the Newberry, Florida-based Portable Power Solutions expert, discovered this recently when the gearbox of its SP100 semi-automatic printer finally expired after 19 hard years’ service.

Inspired Energy was formed in 2002 following the management buyout of the Smart Battery business from Moltech Power Systems. The company builds smart battery packs that combine advanced Battery-Management Systems circuitry with high-quality lithium cells in standard sizes. Usually tailored for industrial and medical instruments that demand long recharge intervals, long operating lifetime, and dependable reliability, Inspired Energy battery packs are chosen for a wide variety of professional-grade equipment. They can even be found powering RFID systems on-board the International Space Station (ISS).

The go-to machine for prototyping

Battery technology is moving quickly right now, with demand for greater energy density, higher power delivery, faster charging, and longer runtimes driving development of new chemistries and BMS innovations to control them. As a leader in the field, Inspired Energy is committed to intensive R&D, and it’s here that the Speedprint SP100 has become highly valued in its senior years. Having provided the mainstay of daily BMS circuit assembly dating back to before the buyout in 2002, producing hundreds of thousands of units annually, it is now the go-to machine for prototypes and small batches.

Fully automated inline equipment now handles the bulk of the main production volume but, as Process Engineer Mike Thompson explains, “The SP100 is easy and quick to set up for runs that can be as small as a handful of boards or even just one or two. It also provides valuable production backup. We use it every couple of weeks and our operators love it like a family member.”

There was concern all round when the trusty printer’s gearbox failed after a more than respectable innings – it had powered many hundreds of thousands of cycles during its lifetime – so Mike set about finding a replacement. Despite searching online and among industry contacts, the task proved tougher than he thought.

As a last resort, and expecting to hear that a new machine was his only option, he discussed the issue with Brad Peters of Technical Resource Corp, Speedprint’s regional representative, when he visited the Florida factory.

Renowned for award-winning customer support

What Brad knew, that Mike didn’t, is that Speedprint is committed to supporting machines in the field for as long as is practically possible. This extends to maintaining stocks of new and used parts for obsolete printer models, as well as keeping historical software releases, so that machines can be recovered from a wide variety of failures both mechanical and electronic. It’s no coincidence that Speedprint has claimed the prestigious Service Excellence industry award six times in the past seven years.

Why does Speedprint support superseded machines for so much longer than many others would consider to be worthwhile? “It builds trust,” explains Phil Payne, Customer Support Manager at Speedprint headquarters in Poole, Dorset, UK. “Our customers value the fact that that we put their needs before our immediate commercial goals. That’s best for everyone in the long term.”

At Inspired Energy, all Mike Thomson had to do was send a digital photograph of the gearbox assembly to help Speedprint’s UK team identify the correct part. A suitable replacement was retrieved from stock and despatched to Florida straight away. Inspired’s own in-house technicians quickly fitted the new unit and the SP100 was back up and running.

Mike appreciates that Speedprint let him handle the refit and did not insist on sending a service team at extra cost, adding, “Getting such great support for a nearly 20-year-old machine was unexpected. Our operators are delighted to have the SP100 back and it would be difficult to replace in its current role.” He concludes, “Economically and practically, this was much the best solution for us, and we are delighted with the service we received.”