Wide-format printing

Me & My: Xenons 180

Bryan: “Leap of faith” has paid off for PDS

Chinese built machinery is now very common in the printing sector, though it’s not always obvious because some of it carries reassuringly familiar European or Japanese brands, which lend it a feeling of quality assurance.

Buying from a less well-known Chinese name still feels slightly more adventurous, so it’s here that the support of an established UK dealer can make all the difference. In the last issue we looked at Chinese-made rigid box-making machines at KSP in Banbury; here by more or less coincidence we are talking to a user of a Chinese Xenons 180 hybrid flatbed/roll inkjet printer and Ameida CNC Technology B8-2513 flatbed cutting table.

Disclosure time: your author here bought a Chinese-made MG4 electric car last year. Quick review: good value, great to drive, decent mechanicals, dodgy software.

When PDS Print in Plymouth found itself in the market for a UV flatbed printer last year, it was its owners’ trust in their local Service Offset Supplies representative Duncan MacDonald that persuaded them to try the unfamiliar Chinese maker Xenons. This was helped by a deal that included the Ameida cutting table for a total cost that was about the same as buying just a flatbed from a more familiar brand.

“We have dealt with SOS for many years and Duncan in particular, and they sold us our original Roland roll-to-roll inkjet,” says director Gordon Bryan. He and his wife Tracy took over the business from his parents in 2000, and their son Richard now runs the wide format side of the business.

“Initially we were sceptical of the Xenons and Ameida, as they aren’t well-known brands in the marketplace, but Duncan persuaded Richard and I to have a demo of both in a couple of very different environments, one a smaller copyshop and one in a large company printing for many household names. Both gave very positive feedback. To be honest it was the relationship with Duncan that gave us the confidence to consider these two machines as we knew we would be looked after during and after installation.”

50 years in Plymouth

Bryan says: “The company was started by my parents in 1974 when my father was working in Fleet Street as a printer on the newspapers – mainly the Express – and became disillusioned with the rat race and commuting from Kent. They moved to Plymouth and started Baron Jay Ltd, trading as PDS Print.

Originally PDS stood for Plymouth Duplicating Services, and it mostly dealt with local industries that were more common then. The company’s first premises were humble, Bryan recalls. “The business was originally in an old house on a high street a few miles away from the industrial park we are now on. The offices were upstairs, finishing, etc, on the middle floor and the printing in the basement. It probably wouldn’t be allowed with health and safety today!”

PDS Print is now based in the Newnham Industrial estate in Plympton on the outskirts of Plymouth, where it employs eight staff. The litho side serves local and national clients with a mix of general litho printing, leaflets, letterheads and the like. Bryan says “We also specialise in local interest magazine printing, mainly in A5 size for various publishers around the area, Ivybridge Imag, the Saltash Cramleigh magazine, Totnes magazine, and also nationally which are shipped to distribution companies. We also print the matchday programmes for Plymouth Argyle.”

The main litho press is a Komori five-colour sheetfed B2, with finishing handled by two B2 folders, a Horizon fully automatic model and an MBO, together with a Muller Martini E90 stitch/trim line. “We also have in-house form cutting on a Heidelberg cylinder for folders, etc and laminating,” says Bryan.

Wide-format printing was introduced six years ago with a Roland VG640 eco-solvent rollfed inkjet and a Vivid Easymount laminator. Bryan says this was bought initially to serve an existing large national client for postcards and leaflets, that also wanted A0 indoor and outdoor posters and signage.

“We have a mix of roll-to-roll work, mainly posters both indoor on gloss poster paper and outdoor. We specialise in waterproof posters printed on polyprop for longer-term and outdoor use, and pull-up banners. We ship these nationally. We also print on Correx and Foamex boards for internal displays together with aluminium composite panels for external signs. Most of the Foamex and ACP is laminated on the Easymount.”

What’s a Xenons 180?

This is a hybrid UV inkjet printer with roll-to-roll capabilities (including powered take-up) and removable front and rear roller tables to support rigid boards. It has a print width of 1,800mm and can take rigid sheets up to 45mm thick. It uses current Ricoh Gen5 inkjet piezo print heads to give variable dots from 7 to 35pl. The UV-cure ink is supplied in 1.5l bottles.

Xenons offers either CMYK only or CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta and white; PDS’ machine is CMYK. The twin LED curing lamps are air-cooled.

The UK importer for Xenons and Ameida is Repro Sales and Repairs (RSR). Service Offset Supplies is a reseller.

Why choose the Xenons?

A large customer needed a lot of printed board, says Bryan. “Before we installed the Xenons we would print on the Roland, wait for it to dry, mount on the board, laminate and then trim to finish, which was fine for the amount of work we initially had, but as the amount of work increased we needed a direct-to-substrate printer to reduce the amount of hand finishing. We still use the Roland for overflow work when needed.

“We started looking around for a direct-to-substrate printer in late 2022. Initially we considered a flatbed printer but quickly decided that, because we have a need for fast roll-to-roll printing for poster work, and also for rigid board for signage work, a hybrid was more suitable. We also needed a cutting table to automate poster work, sometimes up to 100-150 per order, and the Correx/Foamex cutting. Space was a consideration as a flatbed printer and a cutting table would require much more space than a hybrid.”

Once the Xenons-Ameida combo was
chosen and ordered, they were installed in August 2023. “It was a three-day install with training on the second and third day. We were printing and finishing work on the second day after initial setup and calibration was completed,” says Bryan.

How has it been in practise?

“It has surpassed our expectations and printed everything we have thrown at it,” says Bryan. “Because the Xenons is a UV printer we can print and then finish immediately, rather than have to wait for drying. Also although it’s a Chinese machine, it has the latest Ricoh printheads, so the quality is really good. After the initial colour calibration we are colour matching for some demanding clients with no problem at all. We can also print on larger 3,050x1,530mm boards that the smaller flatbeds can’t handle.”

The cutting table is also proving its worth, he says. There are several available; PDS chose 2.5x1.3m for standard 8x4ft boards, priced at just under £50,000. Its rolling bed means posters can automatically be trimmed from the roll, saving hours of work, says Bryan, while the standard tools can handle Correx/Foamex and other boards. “We can now offer clients any shape boards rather than just straight edges, which has opened up a whole new market for promotional boards, labels etc.”

There have been no major problems with either machine, he says: “SOS and RSR have both been very helpful whenever we’ve had any questions.”


So, would he buy the same again? “We’re very happy with both machines and glad we took the leap of faith buying a lesser-known brand,” says Bryan. We’re running both on a single shift daily at the moment but as demand is increasing who knows, we may look at installing another one alongside.”


Process UV-cure piezo inkjet

Colours CMYK or CMYK+lC+lM+W

Resolution 2,400dpi

Drop sizes 7-35pl

Width 1,800mm

Feed Roll-to-roll or sheet with roller tables

Max sheet thickness 45mm

Throughput 40sqm/hr (two-pass Production mode), 13sqm/hr (six-pass Fine Art)

Rip Onyx Rip Centre (SAi Photoprint optional)

Price About £65,000

Contact Service Offset Supplies 020 8502 4291 serviceoffsetsupplies.co.uk

Or Repro Sales and Repairs 01268 784999 reprosales.co.uk



PDS Print is a family-run business that’s been based in Plymouth since it was set up in 1974. It offers a mix of general litho print and local magazines with a five-colour B2 Komori press plus a range of finishing; and wide-format for posters, banners and boards using a roll-fed Roland VG640 eco-solvent inkjet, plus the Xenons 180 UV hybrid and accompanying Ameida D8-2513 flatbed cutting table.

Why it was bought...

The Xenons-Ameida combo was a cost-effective way to meet growing demand for printed boards and roll-to-roll poster work

How it has performed...

“The Xenons together with the Ameida cutting table has reduced our production times dramatically,” says director Gordon Bryan. “The wide-format side of the business is growing rapidly and without these two machines we just couldn’t keep up.”