Xerox Trivor 2400 At 100 metres a minute, Usain Bolt it ain’t. But then the Jamaican sprinter wouldn’t be much good at dashing off 36,000 A4 sheets in an hour, unlike the Trivor 2400. Like Bolt, the Xerox inkjet press is keen on setting records, and that’s partly because of the involvement of the appropriately named First Move Direct Marketing.
The personalisation specialist became the first user of the 508mm-wide digital web press late last summer, having placed its order at Drupa, and the machine is now thrumming away in its 2,800m2 base in Buckinghamshire. But it was only last week managing director David Amor felt confident enough to start “our first proper job at 100m per minute and see it for the first time running at speed”.
First Move, a strategic partner with Royal Mail, has the capability to produce 39 million images a month and offers services such as data cleansing, sorting and mail enclosing as well as all that volume digital print. The 63-staff business, spread over four business units on an industrial estate in High Wycombe, turns over £8m from clients including insurance companies, clubs and charities.
“We may live in a digital world,” says Amor, “but a good direct mail service has never had a greater role to play in effective direct marketing, with response rates 30 times that of email. It gives you the ability to rapidly expand your marketing, make a greater return on investment and enjoy increased profit. But the machinery has to be up to date and up to speed.”
Amor had been itching to make this move for a while: “I’d been watching inkjet technology for at least 10 years and was always impressed by its potential: everything we do is personalised and inkjet’s ability to leverage volume, cost and quality was wonderful. Sadly it was beyond my affordability at a time when we weren’t big enough to warrant such an investment. But I kept watching the technology.”
So as kit costs came down and turnover went up at First Move Direct Marketing, Amor started to revisit inkjets. First was the Xerox Rialto 900, which Amor quickly discounted, not on grounds of technology, but size. Almost all the work he tackled was sized A3 – even A4 jobs were done two-up – and it was the SRA3 capability that really defined his choice.
His company, already a Xerox house boasting an iGen4, four Nuvera 314 laser printers, a Nuvera 120 production system and a Versant, was introduced to the very latest inkjet gadgetry about 18 months ago by Phil Tucker, managing director of Advanced Business Equipment, a Xerox platinum partner.
“When Phil told me Xerox did an inkjet I didn’t believe it: I didn’t associate Xerox with inkjet technology; it was all toner-based.” The Xerox brand was of course built on toner technology, but the company’s acquisition of French manufacturer Impika in 2013, gave it a foothold in inkjet, and gave Amor and Tucker an opportunity to jet off to the south of France.
In the convivial atmosphere of a Marseilles cafe, and assisted with a glass of wine, Amor’s scepticism was laid to rest as an Impika rep pulled sample sheets from his brief case.
“But what I didn’t know was this new technology was still very much under development and not yet available. Being in the right place at the right time, I became part of the project, which led to us being the first company to put in the machine. I wanted to run not just variable data but variable imagery unfettered by computing constraints.”
When it arrived at First Move’s High Wycombe premises on 16 September, the Trivor 2400 boasted two firsts: not only was it a world debut installation, it had the most powerful EFI Fiery RIP ever developed, according to Amor. Two firsts apart, the direct marketing company took delivery of an “investment running to seven figures” without testing it.
“When I saw it in its finished state at Drupa it was different to what I had seen eight weeks before. The technology is so fast moving, so this is very much an ongoing development, which makes it fun and challenging – when you are the first, nobody has written a practical handbook on how to do it.
“We knew how to plug it together but we had to spend three to four months testing, running and understanding the machine. Working through the odd teething problem we built up our knowledge of inkjet to understand profiling of the machine, profiling of the job and what speeds and what pixel levels you need to get the quality that balances cost.”
Before plugging in and playing with the Trivor 2400, Amor’s team had to spend £80,000 refurbishing an empty 350m2 room to create an environmentally controlled space, in order to manage heat, humidity and dust, and upgrading software. At one end, the press is fed from a half-tonne reel of paper, while at the other a Hunkeler finishing system churns out printed cut sheets.
Operators send data to the RIP as a compressed PDF VT file to prevent the same image being sent time after time. Within the Trivor 2400 is the technology that squirts thousands of pixels of ink at speeds of up to 150m/min. The computing required, says Amor, is “considerable”.
“Provided the sheet of paper is the same size, I can run two or three creatives with completely unique data for each one and a different image for each sheet in a single computing-to-production process. The kit runs at different speeds for different DPIs.”
At its highest-quality colour mode of 1,200x600dpi the Trivor 2400 rolls along at 50m/min, but at 600dpi the kit hammers out 100m/min. Using less ink enables operators to hit speeds of 150m per minute or 200m in mono mode. And so far the technology has “done everything it said it would”, says Amor.
At 1,200dpi his operators can produce 36,000 A4 images or 18,000 A4 duplex; at 600dpi production doubles to 36,000 A4 duplex and at 300dpi production shoots up to 54,000 A4 duplex. The “trick” advises Amor, is to use the right level of pixels for the right quality of image specified by your client. And though the Xerox does what it says on tin, it has limitations.
“I would not like to produce A4 sheets of solid blue with white-out tones because that’s a job for an iGen. However, for illustrations or photographs I believe the quality is certainly comparable with litho.”
And those “teething problems”? Since the Trivor 2400’s launch three or four machines have been sold, with one in Canada and one in Germany. Amor explains: “Everyone working these new machines is on a learning curve, unlike an iGen of which there are hundreds, and hundreds of people who have used them for several years and can give you a precise set of instructions to follow.”
The learning curve was perhaps made steeper by geography, he says: “The RIP was developed in San Francisco and the inkjet printer in Marseilles. If you have a machine made in France and a computing system made in the States, there are issues of communication, but we have overcome them. The machine is running well and we are delighted with the quality and the running.”
Service and back-up is undertaken by Continua, part of the Xerox organisation. but it’s too early either to rate the back up or recommend the machine, he says.
“Being the lead installation in the world we’ve been at the sharp end of a huge investment by Xerox, which involved people flying in from California, France and Germany when needed to clear up minor confusions on operation. It’s too early to recommend the machine; after all, we have just run our first job at 100m per minute.”
Amor is in the early stages of talks with two cataloguing organisations about using the machine to deliver personalisation, but he is happy to play the long game: “I didn’t do this to make pots of money from day one; it was more a desire and an ambition to improve the relevancy of our personalisation.
“It’s not there yet, it’s a work in progress, but it is happening. And I’m on a high. It’s a journey and one I’m excited to be part of, especially for a fairly small company hidden away in High Wycombe. I just happened to be in right place at the right time with the right glass of wine.”
Inkjet technology Aqueous, drop-on-demand piezoelectric
Format Single-tower, single-pass two-up duplex, mono or colour
Max resolution 1,200x600dpi
Max print speed Colour: 168m/min; mono: 200m/min
Max print width 474mm
Max duty cycle 57 million colour or 68 million mono A4 impressions per month
Stock weight range 52-160gsm
Paper width range 152-510mm
Price From around £875,000
Contact Xerox UK 0330 123 3245 www.xerox.com/inkjet
First Move Direct Marketing, based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, is a 63-staff specialist in personalisation, notching up an annual turnover of £8m by supplying direct mail to more than 200 clients including local authorities, housing associations, insurance companies, clubs, charities and healthcare groups. The Xerox house runs an iGen, Nuvera printers, a Versant and the Trivor 2400.
Why it was bought…
First Move invested in the Trivor 2400 to continue its annual 25% growth by delivering a broader spectrum of marketing materials to its customer base. The company wanted to leverage the kit’s digital capabilities to create more highly personalised direct mail, from marketing concept through to postal delivery to improve what Amor call its “relevancy”.
How it has performed…
Apart from the “odd teething problem” the machine has “done everything it said it would,” says Amor. “The Trivor 2400 is running well and we are delighted with the quality of the product we are creating. As our knowledge and confidence grows it will get even better. The technology improves personalisation and therefore relevancy of marketing material to improve return on investment.”