Me & my... Ricoh Pro C751

By Jon Severs, Wednesday 11 July 2012

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Commercial printer Crossprint has undergone a transformation over the past few years. Its new digital press will keep the firm moving ahead

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You may not think there would be much of an audience for a digital production press wobbling around precariously on a small platform 6m above the ground, but Isle of Wight commercial printer Crossprint’s video of just that has racked up a commendable 700 hits on video sharing portal YouTube (just type in Crossprint on the website and it’s the first video that pops up).

"When the new press arrived, they discovered that it would not go up the stairs at our factory and so that presented the installation team with a problem," reveals managing director Tim Sell. "The solution was to borrow a fork lift truck capable of lifting 6m and to bring the press through my office window on the second story. It only just squeezed through the hole…"

Sell was very grateful it did, as the company’s new Ricoh Pro C751 was an integral next step in his transformation of the island printer he joined in 2003. Back then, the company was using outdated kit and his job was to transform the company into a modern outfit. Over the years since, he has patiently done exactly that so as to better serve a client base that is 70% based on the island and 30% based on the mainland, the latter group predominantly coming from London.

"Finding customers away from the island can be tricky to start with. There is an initial barrier, because people assume it is more costly to manufacture on the island – but it isn’t," he explains. "The price of a stamp is the same on the island as it is on the mainland."

Extensive investments
Two years ago, despite extensive investments already having been made, Sell realised that to serve his customers properly, Crossprint would also need some digital capacity and to facilitate this he acquired a local business that had two older Xerox machines in its arsenal.

"We quickly found ourselves shifting a lot of work onto these new machines, but discovered they weren’t up to the production quality we needed," explains Sell. "So this year we decided to research the market to see what the best options were to replace those machines."

Sell toured the print exhibitions looking for suitable machines, but eventually decided only to pursue the Ricoh Pro C751 to the testing stage. The Canon machines, he says, were a little too expensive, and while he was impressed with the Konica Minolta options, he felt Ricoh just edged into the lead.

"Ricoh really won us over," he explains. "What really tipped it for me personally, however, was the fact that Heidelberg has taken the technology on as its own, and so they have obviously got a lot of confidence in the product to do that."

The C751 can print at up to 75ppm at a resolution of up to 4,800dpi using its Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser (VCSEL). It can handle a broad range of substrates up to 330.2x487.7mm in size and to weights of up to 256gsm. Ricoh says it has a 180,000-page monthly volume and that a new liquid cooling system ensures maximum uptime. The manufacturer adds that the machine will warm up ready for printing in less than five minutes.

Sell, though, is not a man to take things at face value. Having settled on the Ricoh, he put it through some extensive testing before he fully committed.

"We put the machine through a lot of testing and it came through those tests easily," he explains. "We found it could do everything they said it could do and everything we wanted it to do. We put the hardest jobs we had on it and it performed really well."

As described above, the installation earlier this year was eventually just as successful – be it with a few precarious moments. All in all, the process of getting the press into the factory took only around three hours, which meant that training could begin that same day. Initially, Sell trained just the two operators from the Xerox machines on the new Ricoh kit, but he extended this recently to reflect the importance of the new capacity.

 "We had two people trained on the machine, and they have learned the ropes really well," says Sell. "We have now also trained two of the litho machine minders on the C751, as print really is coming away from the litho and moving to the digital machines."

Since installation, Sell says the machine has not caused Crossprint any problems at all. If it did, then he is confident of the problem being fixed promptly, as he says Ricoh is the only company he knows of that has engineers posted permanently on the Isle of Wight.

"This gives us real peace of mind because if we did encounter any problems, I would want the machine to be fixed straight away," says Sell.

Performance-wise, Crossprint has been extremely pleased with the purchase. In terms of quality, with the old Xerox machines – one of which it retains as a back up – Sell says the quality could be a little inconsistent, but he reveals that the Ricoh machine gives outstanding quality for every single sheet that it prints.

"Unless you are told beforehand, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the sheets coming off the digital press and those coming off our litho presses," he explains. "The quality is exceptional and incredibly consistent. What really impressed us was also the duplex – when the paper is turned the print is within half a millimetre of the other side. That is critical for us. From what we saw of the others, the Ricoh machine is better in this area, as for some it was as much as a 3mm difference."

Sell says this reliability of quality means that when the company’s MIS says it is more economical to print on the digital machine than the litho kit, Crossprint has no hesitation in putting the job on that machine, whereas before they would have had second thoughts.

"We have the confidence to abide by that decision and not fear the end result," says Sell.

As for speed, Sell describes it as "adequate". "You don’t need high speed for this type of work," he explains. "If you are only doing a run of 300, increasing the speed by ten sheets per hour makes no real difference."

What has made a difference is the press’ flexibility. Ricoh is keen to stress the breadth or substrates that can be put through the C751 and Sell confirms that the range of paper he can print is a real bonus.

"Whether it is brochure work, or leaflets or other work such as orders of service, the machine can process any paper we want to put through it and that has been a real benefit to us," he reveals.

Also of benefit, says Sell, has been the variable data capacity the machine has given. Ricoh supplied the C751 with EFI Fiery Controller variable data software and Crossprint has used it extensively.

"We can go to clients now and offer them bespoke variable services," explains Sell. "Hotels, for example, do not like spending money on litho brochures as it is a bulk commitment. Now we can offer them print on demand essentially, as well as variable print that means they can send out bespoke offers to previous clients that are personalised. Without this capability we may have started to lose these clients."

Ongoing strategy
Overall, then, the press has had a massive impact on the company. However, Sell is not done yet – the Ricoh machine is just the start of a strategy that takes the company up until 2021.

"We want to provide an integrated total service, including a web and design department and also expanding the different types of print we can offer," says Sell. "The Ricoh was a crucial step in the process and we expect to make another digital press purchase in two years as part of it too."

Whether that purchase will be another Ricoh machine remains to be seen – the digital market is fast-moving and two years is a long time. However, if nothing comes along to beat it, then Sell is certain he has got the best deal for what he needs his digital machine to do. So sure, in fact, that he has recommend the press widely resu
lting in two sales. So if he does opt for Ricoh again, he will no doubt be expecting some form of discount.


SPECIFICATIONS

Max speed
75ppm
Resolution 4,800x1,200dpi
Max paper size
330.2x487.7mm
Max printable area
323x480mm
Max stock weight
256gsm
Price
List price for a basic Pro C751 unit is £70,000. With an EFI Fiery controller, stapler, large capacity paper tray, operator replaceable units, Impose dongle, ES-1000 spectrophotometer and Fiery Furniture bundle, the list price is £138, 995
Contact
Ricoh UK www.ricoh.co.uk 0800 904090


COMPANY PROFILE

Crossprint is based on the Isle of Wight and owned by the Isle of Wight County Press Group. As well as digital and litho print capabilities, it also offer design services for both print and online. Established in 1971, it produces marketing and commercial print work for both customers on th

Why it was bought...
Managing director Tim Sell explains that the press was bought to fulfil a growing need for shorter runs from Crossprint clients, as well as to fulfil a need for variable data capability. The company did have two older Xerox presses, but needed a more reliable and quality consistent modern digital press.

How it has performed…
Sell says that the quality of the press is exceptional and that the flexibility it is capable of in terms of substrates has been a massive benefit. He credits the machine for playing a big part in the retention of existing customers as well as the acquisition of new customers.

 

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