Me & my: Duplo DBMi saddle stitcher

By Jon Severs, Thursday 14 June 2012

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As well as handling a wider range of exciting formats with 60 seconds' makeready, this device runs fast and is simple to use.


Buckingham: The operators have given great feedback

Printers have always been an active part of their local business community, tying together disparate professions by being the common supplier to all. However, consolidation in the print industry and rock bottom pricing by the bigger, national printing companies that can afford to make a loss has threatened the fragile bonds in these local hubs.  It's something Artisan Litho owner Neil Buckingham has witnessed at first hand.

"I wanted the company to provide a good, friendly and reliable service, I wanted it to be approachable and I wanted it to support local business and in turn be supported by them," he explains. "The trouble is that people are still more loyal to the pound than anything else and that puts a lot of pressure on us as we want to continue to offer the service we built the company on and to do that we have to be very sensible about our pricing. There is only so far we can go, so we have to be creative in the way we produce the jobs and how we work in house."

Buckingham established the Oxfordshire company in 1995, fulfilling a long-held ambition to set up his own business. Boasting litho, digital, large-format and fulfilment services, the company serves a diverse mix of local business clients. The broad range of services are, says Buckingham, essential, as "you can’t just be one type of printer any more; clients want a single source for all their needs".

As Buckingham said above, though, serving those clients at the right price point means having the right kit at your disposal in house. To that end, the company recently became the first UK printer to install the Duplo DBMi saddle stitcher.

"We needed to make our bookletmaking processes more efficient, and we needed more flexibility in how we produced booklets," says Buckingham. "We have had Duplo machines for a long time now and so we knew relatively early on about the new machine – when we saw what it was capable of we realised that it was perfect for us."

The machine was launched in February. Duplo UK managing director Tony Lock says that right from the start, versatility was key to the design.

 "When developing the DBMi, it was important for us to utilise our expertise in automated precision technology, while harnessing the advantages of a saddle stitching system," he explains. "The result is a machine capable of producing a wide variety of flat books, with in-line scoring and trimming, which has a makeready time of less than 60 seconds with absolutely no tooling required."

He adds that the machine is perfect for those long-term Duplo customers looking to upgrade from the Duplo System 5000 or, like Artisan Press, the System 4000.

 "Until now, the System 5000 was the upper limit to our bookletmaking range," he says. "Having listened to the needs of our customers, we developed the DBMi."

The DBMi is capable of a one-up production speed of 4,5000bph and a two-up production speed of 9,000bph. It has the ability to change from an A4 landscape book, all the way down to a 75x90mm booklet within 60 seconds with no tooling required, and can handle book thicknesses up to 120 pages. It has up to four stitching heads for two-up book production, and two-hole punching, together with three-knife trimming.

Most versatile machine
Buckingham did consider other machines on the market but felt that the majority were focussing on the wrong areas to impress potential buyers.

"We felt the Duplo machine was the most versatile option out there," he reveals. "The other products just concentrate on speed, but there is only so fast you can run a bookletmaker – it may be able to run at 10,000bph but you will never run it that fast. What we were more interested in was the fact the DBMi can score inline and process landscape A4."

Installation occurred when most people were gearing up for Drupa in April. Buckingham says the press was up and running in around four days, which included a period of extensive training. Considering it was the first installation in the UK of the machine, Buckingham was pleasantly surprised there were no hiccups.

The company’s old Duplo System 4000 was sold to a dealer so the cost of the new machine was cushioned somewhat by the strong residual value Buckingham says Duplo machines command.

"That is another reason we go with Duplo; the resale values remain relatively good," he explains. "That said, we aim to get 10 years out of this machine. It has the capacity for us to grow into it. I would say that we could easily double our current workload on the machine with no issues."

Since installation, Artisan has not had to call on the full service package it took out with Duplo for any mechanical issues, but they have from time to time called for advice on how to do certain processes or how to get round particular tricky production tasks.

"We are finding our way still, working out how to get around certain things and how to do certain things," says Buckingham. "Duplo has been great at giving us the guidance we need."

You’d have thought that with a new machine – one full of unknowns, meaning that the pride-crushing call for help has to be made – the operators would be cursing their new toy. The reality, though, is quite the opposite, according to Buckingham. 

"The operators have given great feedback and believe me they would tell me if they were not happy. They haven’t moaned once," he reveals. "Once you get used to it, it is a very simple machine to use, and it really is push a green button and go, once you have programmed in the jobs."

Buckingham is equally happy, as the machine has had a very positive impact on his business. For starters, he says the Duplo 4000 would only do booklets of 40 pages, whereas with the DBMi he has been doing 80 pages and more.

Time savings and more capability
"In addition," he continues, "it will score in line, whereas before we were having to score everything separately. We do a lot of bookletwork so the machine gives us massive time savings and more capability."

In terms of quality, he says the System 4000 was already a very high-quality machine, so the aim was for the new machine to manage that quality with the added bonus of the time savings, as well as offering more varied formats. 

"Our clients like a good finish, and the machine’s three-knife trim makes sure they get one," he reveals. "Though stocks vary constantly, and are mixed between digital and litho work, the machine can cope. It will also go from A6 right up to landscape A4 so that is a major bonus for us and our clients."

That ability to do landscape A4 has meant Artisan could provide existing clients with product diversity while attracting new clients as well. Buckingham adds that the efficiencies gained have meant more security for the business as profitability thus far looks as if it will be upped significantly.

That "thus far" is a caveat born from the fact the machine is brand new to the UK and Artisan has only had it for a couple of months, so it is still early days. Andy Pike, marketing manager at Duplo UK, certainly appreciates that Artisan Litho took the risk in being the first to purchase the machine.

"The Artisan installation was great," he says. "Being a forward-thinking business this machine really suited their needs, with landscape A4 being an ever-more-popular book size. When adopting a new piece of technology like this, change can be difficult; however, Artisan’s team was incredibly switched on and the machine is running very well."

Buckingham hopes the machine will grow with the company over the next year as it makes further pressroom investments, and he is more than happy to talk to any printer considering a DBMi purchase – though he says he can sum it up in a single sentence: "It has the overall package: it has the quality, the speed and the versatility.


Maximum speed (dependent on page numbers) One-up production speed 4,500bph
Two-up production speed
Maximum book thickness
Up to 120 pages or 6mmx80gsm paper
Maximum flat sheet size
Minimum flat sheet size
Maximum scoring thickness
£145,000 for a 10-station system Contact Duplo 01932 263900


Artisan Litho is an Oxfordshire commercial printer set up by Neil Buckingham in 1995. It serves a diverse mix of local businesses with digital, litho and large-format kit, while also offering fulfilment services.

Why it was bought…
Buckingham says the company needed to be more efficient and more creative to cope with a demanding market and that this included having better tools at its disposal in house. The DBMi gave those efficiencies but also offered versatility that would expand Artisan’s services.

How it has performed…
"Our clients like a good finish, and the machine’s three-knife trim makes sure they get one," says Buckingham. "Though stocks vary constantly, and are mixed between digital and litho work, the machine can cope with all of those variations. It will also go from A6 right up to landscape A4 so that is a major bonus for us and our clients."

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