Finishing capabilities up to date

Aquatint awakens potential with double Duplo install

Severn: Aquatint is now very much in the 21st Century
Severn: Aquatint is now very much in the 21st Century

London-based digital printer Aquatint has rejuvenated its finishing lineup with a double Duplo install, with a DBM-700 bookletmaker and DC-618 slitter-cutter-creaser arriving in late June.

Replacing an aged DB5000 stitcher, the DBM-700 has helped clear Aquatint’s bidery bottleneck as a clear upgrade to the hand-fed 5000, and is now allowing the firm to convert more of its litho work – run through sister firm College Hill Press’ five-colour B2 Komori – into digital.

“The 5000 was really on its last legs,” said Roger Severn, CEO of Aquatint, speaking to Printweek.

“I guess we hadn’t realised how far behind we had slipped [in finishing], because it was taking us a hell of a long time to finish work that was taking just a few minutes on the presses.”

Severn added that the old DB5000 had been so reliable that the company had been happy to keep fixing it up, rather than look for something new.

“Duplo kit has always been very good, and a little bit more robust. But eventually, the parts were no longer available, and we got shaken out of our stupor – it had been so robust, and so reliable, but eventually we had a look and realised we had a bigger bottleneck than we had thought with the finishing,” he said.

“What swung it was the fact that we were also getting in [the DC-618], which we knew was fantastic. So we did a bit of a package deal, and it has made a fantastic difference – we’re very much up in the 21st Century at last.”

Aquatint, which employs 12 at its 465sqm Wimbledon site, runs most of its work through its Xerox iGen5, which replaced a Ricoh Pro C9100 in 2022, as well as a Canon VarioPrint 180 for mono work – “that just never stops” – and a Ricoh 5000-series laser printer as back-up.

The iGen was brought in to help Aquatint break into the photobook market – now, two years later, the latest investments will help the firm pursue that growth more aggressively, according to Severn.

“We’re seeing big growth in photobooks,” he said.

“Quite a lot of photobooks are now done with soft cover, centre-fold stitch and trim, so that’s very much part of the reason we put the new [DBM-700] in, to automate that and push the work through quicker.”

The firm’s bread-and-butter work, however, is largely in events and publishing, with fast turnarounds being a priority.

“All of that work requires a quick turnaround, and the speed and flexibility of these machines is a big help. More and more, the market is changing – quite rapidly – and customers want more personalised print, and lots of versioning, where the job might be large, but it’s full of short runs,” explained Severn.

Aquatint turns over around £2.4m annually.