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Empire‘s ‘game changing’ innovations recognized

Empire saves more than $33,000 annually by using UV LED curing technology instead of mercury bulbs!

May has been a month of well-deserved recognition for Empire Screen Printing of Onalaska. Within the space of four days, the company based on Marco Road received two major awards. On May 16, at the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation’s headquarters in Madison, Empire was announced as the winner of the Sustainable Process Award for large organizations.

Empire won that award for the technological advances it has pioneered in UV LED curing lamps and inks used in the screen printing process. In fact, Empire is the first screen printer in the entire world to successfully adapt UV LED technology. That innovation marks a big step forward — not only for the industry, but for the environment.

Operating expenses for a press with typical mercury vapor curing units — which generate plenty of heat — cost around $34,000 a year (and the mercury bulbs used eventually end up in a landfill).

However, the cost for the same press installed with UV LED curing units adds up to an energy efficient $658 per year.

According to Empire’s president, John Friesmuth, that’s why the company has invested $1.8 million in the new technology — a technology essentially created by its own employees.

The company’s “can do” attitude was also cited on May 12 when Empire was named Wisconsin Family Business of the Year for companies with more than 100 employees. The award program, now in its 13th year, is sponsored by Smith & Gesteland, LLP, a Madison-based CPA and business consulting firm, First Business Bank, and the Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek law firm.

The aim is to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of family businesses that make a positive impact on their communities  and on Wisconsin’s economy. A panel of independent judges looked at 15 companies nominated for the award before naming Empire the winner in the large company category.

Although it has nearly 300 employees, Empire definitely fits into the category of a family business, but the judges also had especially high praise for the company’s “game-changing” technological innovations, its willingness to share them openly with their peers in the industry and its commitment to social responsibility.

Meanwhile, it’s likely that further innovations await. Friesmuth said that his machine shop crew is currently working on perfecting a 12-color LED process for a large format press.