Me & my... Konica Minolta AccurioPress C14000

KM had a very efficient install and set-up
KM had a very efficient install and set-up

Since weathering the Covid storm, Spingold has invested in new machinery to keep up with the increased growth in the card game

Set up in 1994, Spingold has evolved over the years into a company that specialises in digital printing of playing cards. This now forms some 80% of its business, with the remaining 20% being a combination of other small-format digital work, such as booklets, business stationery, invitations, greetings cards etc; and large-format printing.

In recent years, Spingold has invested in a sequence of digital production presses, most recently in summer 2021 with a Konica Minolta AccurioPress C14000 long-SRA3 format sheetfed toner press, subject of this Me & My… story. This replaced a Ricoh Pro C7100 installed in 2015.

Spingold also runs a pair of Xerox Versant 180 SRA3 toner presses. Wide-format is handled by an Epson SureColor SC-P9500 supplied by Colourbyte, used for fine art work, plus two roll-fed HP latex printers, a Latex 360 and a Latex 370, used for signage, POS and exhibition graphics. These are supported by a respectable range of finishing equipment.

Spingold’s original founders, Ed and Anna Oakes, still run the company almost 30 years on, overseeing its progress from the original presentation graphics work to doing more general print, such as leaflets, business cards and booklets. “This was until 2012 when we realised we could produce playing cards,” says Chris Hynard, production manager. “Since then, the playing card production has grown and grown until now it is the primary work that we do.”

In 2019, Spingold launched a website that lets customers order personalised print, including playing and trump cards, calendars, canvas wraps and outdoor banners.

The company is based in Nayland, about 6km north of Colchester in Essex, where over the years it has increased its factory size from 32sqm to today’s 600sqm. Ten people work there at present.

Covid-19 proved a challenge and initially everyone except Hynard and Ed Oakes were furloughed. However, as business started coming back, staff were returned to the site and, by August 2020, the work was more than the original staff could handle. “We employed three new people, all of whom had lost their jobs within the print industry due to Covid,” says Hynard.

“Since then, the growth has been exponential, mainly fuelled by the playing card side of the business. In September 2021, we employed two more people temporarily until Christmas, but as the workload didn’t slow down, both were kept on. By April this year, we had a pre-production manager/office manager starting to work alongside me.”

What is the AccurioPress C14000?
It’s the flagship model in Konica Minolta’s range of SRA3 format digital toner production presses, introducing new levels of automation and self-calibration, plus plenty of configuration options including a lot of inline finishing modules. Announced in October 2019, it has a top speed of 140 A4 ppm (or 80 A3 ppm) with a duty cycle of 2.5 million images per month. This is 40% more than the previous fastest model – there’s also a 120ppm C12000 model.

Spingold’s press is configured to take sheets up to 900mm long, fed from three drawers which can have different stocks, delivering to a long stacker and trolley. There’s a 1,300mm option too, although that cannot be duplexed in the same pass.

Paper weights range from 52gsm to a robust 450gsm, while textured or embossed sheets up to 300gsm can be handled.

KM’s optional IQ-501 Intelligent Quality Optimiser system controls precise registration and verifies print quality.

The C14000 can be driven by KM’s own controller or third-party front ends such as EFI’s Fiery, which is what Spingold uses.

Why choose the C14000?
“The Ricoh C7100 was a brilliant, reliable machine,” says Hynard. “But we needed a press that had increased productivity to keep up with the increasing volume of work we do. The need to replace it was also exacerbated by the increasing click charge on the C7100. We are now able to push through 30,000 clicks per day on the KM and alongside the Versants, we now have the ability to run half a million clicks per month.”

Although the Ricoh had a fifth colour unit, it wasn’t used much, says Hynard, so the C14000’s CMYK is fine.

The new KM press was purchased via digital press specialist ASL Commercial & Industrial Printing Systems, which also supplied Spingold’s earlier pair of Xerox Versants.

“Our sales representative at ASL, Paul Stead, has known Ed Oakes for a number of years,” says Hynard.

When the C14000 first came to the UK market, Paul approached us about it, knowing we were looking for a replacement for the Ricoh C7100. We then organised a demo with Paul and from there, purchased the KM.”

Stead says: “I’ve been working with Ed, Anna and their team for a number of years and one thing that sticks out is the energy at Spingold. They need equipment that can keep up with them: not an easy task, but one we were happy to approach. The KM C14000 ticks more boxes for Spingold than any other device.”

How did the installation go?
“KM had a very efficient install and set-up,” says Hynard. “It took about two days to have it up and running, with training a couple of days later. The press went in where the Ricoh C7100 had been located. However, because the KM is quite a bit longer than the Ricoh, we had to move both the Versants to allow space for it.”

How has it been in practise?
“Without a doubt it has fulfilled its task,” Hynard says. “About nine months on from the install date, we reached just over two million impressions. One thing we immediately noticed was how quickly it starts a print job, from pressing print on the Fiery controller to the first sheet coming out. It is much faster than any digital printer we have had before.”

Hynard says the C14000 scores on accuracy and productivity in particular. “The C14000 does all of our playing card work, whereas the Versants tend to do the majority of the other small-format digital printing such as booklets and stationery, etc,” he explains. “The main reason behind this is that the C14000 has the optional in-line IQ-501 unit, which intelligently scans every printed sheet to ensure not only colour consistency, but also automatically adjusts front-to-back position of the image to ensure that registration is second to none. This is imperative for our playing cards to ensure that every sheet is cut out consistently when we come to die cut the flat sheets.

“With the C14000 being approximately 50% faster than the previous Ricoh C7100, jobs can be processed and fulfilled much quicker. While the C14000 doesn’t do much more than the C7100, everything it does do is better, from colour management to registration. The C14000 can take a max sheet size of 330x900mm and duplex it. Longer sheets have amazing registration also, partly because of the purpose-built paper trays to handle bigger sheet sizes and also the IQ-501 to monitor the position of the image on each sheet.”

Anything to watch out for?
“This is a tricky question for me because it really has been a great press so far,” says Hynard. “One thing I have to monitor is image quality. As with all digital printers, parts wear over time and usage. The KM is no different. However, I went on an ORU (Operator Replaceable Units) course with KM for the C14000 and this has proved to be invaluable. This enables me to replace parts within the press to fix the majority of image quality problems I encounter over time. This in turn reduces downtime.”

Final conclusions?
“The C14000 has exceeded our expectations,” Hynard says. “With this being our first press from Konica Minolta, we honestly didn’t know if we were making the right decision, but we soon found out we had. It has been a workhorse and considering the amount of work we have put through it, it has been incredibly reliable, with minimal downtime and great service support from KM themselves. This is a great all-rounder and we would certainly recommend it. As for buying again, watch this space ¬ if our workload keeps increasing, we will need a second machine!

Process Digital dry toner
Colours CMYK
Resolution “2,400x3,600dpi equivalent,” 8-bit depth
Paper formats Envelopes, A4, A3, SRA3, banners up to 900mm and 1,300mm length
Paper weights Up to 450gsm (300gsm textured)
Max speeds 140 A4ppm, 80 A3ppm
Front end options EFI Fiery IC-319, EFI Fiery IC-318, Creo IC-316, Konica Minolta IC-610
Inline finishing options Stapling, saddle stitching, punch, post inserter, bookletmaker, perfect binding, long sheet feed/output support, banner stacking
Price About £150,000 depending on specification
Contact Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) 01268 534444 / 07518 604611

Company profile
Spingold Design and Print was set up in 1994 by Ed Oakes and Anna Oakes, who are still the directors of the company. Based just outside Colchester, it now employs 10 people and is steadily expanding, with over 25% growth per year in the past two years. Currently, 80% of the work it produces is playing cards and card games. The Konica Minolta AccurioPress C14000 installed in 2021 has increased productivity, while decreasing running costs.

What has it brought to the company?
“The C14000 has not only increased the volume of work that we can produce, but also at a much lower click rate than the Ricoh Pro C7100,” says Spingold’s production manager Chris Hynard. “It has made life easier with finishing too. Knowing that the registration is consistent not only throughout a run, but from job-to-job, also enables us to reduce setup and makeready time when it comes
to finishing.”