Me & My: Fujifilm EM Setter

Simon Creasey
Friday, October 22, 2021

Investing in a new setter and new plates has cut waste, downtime and cost, and increased productivity for Hickling & Squires.

Gilbert: “It’s saving us quite a lot of money”
Gilbert: “It’s saving us quite a lot of money”

They don’t make ’em like they used to. Just ask Jamie Gilbert production director at commercial printer Hickling & Squires, based in Newthorpe, Nottinghamshire. Around 20 years ago the business bought a Heidelberg Suprasetter platemaker to feed its Heidelberg Speedmaster presses.

Today, the company still owns the machine, however, since March it’s taken the back seat to a processless Fujifilm 8-up EM Setter thermal CTP unit. 

Despite the sheer resilience of the Heidelberg machine Gilbert says that it was starting to show some signs of wear and tear and the company was having to call out an engineer to fix it on a semi-regular basis. These call-outs cost money and resulted in unproductive downtime.

So, in late 2019 Gilbert started looking for alternatives. He considered buying the latest incarnation of the Suprasetter, but this was ruled out due to cost more than anything else. Instead, he switched his attention to Fujifilm’s offering. He was already using the company’s plates so it made sense to opt for a platesetter built by the same company and the EM Setter ticked all the right boxes.

“Fuji have been pushing for us to buy one of their machines because we use their plates anyway and they had just brought the machine out, which price-wise was what we were looking for,” says Gilbert.

The deal made so much sense to him that  he was confident enough to buy without doing a test run on the new machine.

“I basically bought it unseen, and I had my fingers crossed that it would fall into place, because we moved to the new processless Superia ZD plate at the same time. Literally, it was new machine in, new plates in – now it’s got to work,” he recalls.

Despite the speed at which he made the decision things didn’t go according to plan. Gilbert was all set to push the button on the deal in early 2020 and then the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and the purchase was pushed onto the back burner. However, earlier this year the plans were revived as business started picking up and more plates needed making, so in March the Fujifilm EM Setter was installed at the company’s factory with the old Suprasetter kept as a backup machine just in case its replacement ever went down. Gilbert admits he had some reservations about making the switch to processless.

“I was always kind of reluctant to move to processless because I did some trials on the machines when they first brought them out and I didn’t like the quality. But processless technology has come on leaps and bounds over the years so we were happy to make the switch,” he says.

The EM Setter is fully automated and capable of producing up to 55 B1 plates per hour. It has a maximum plate size of 1,163x940 of 0.3mm and is compatible with most 8-up and 4-up presses. The machine is equipped with a four-cassette autoloader system with automatic interleaf removal and each cassette can hold up to 100 0.3mm-thick plates. Fujifilm claims the system has a low cost of ownership thanks in part to its long-life clamp design which reduces machine downtime. 

For a company like Hickling & Squires, which was experiencing lots of downtime on its old Heidelberg Suprasetter, this latter feature was particularly appealing. 

Gilbert says the installation went smoothly and even though the new machine is larger than the company’s existing platemaker that didn’t present a challenge. “We had another room next to where we keep the Suprasetter that used to be for repro, so we moved repro upstairs and fitted the Fujifilm in there.”

He says the company got up to speed quickly on the new machine and plate combination and operationally had to adjust very little. Although the machine was installed without any hiccups and the Hickling & Squires team were able to get up to scratch on the new technology pretty quickly, Gilbert says there have been a few teething issues, now resolved.

“The problem was plates through the machine. It would run for about 50 plates and then it would error,” says Gilbert. “Fujifilm have been really helpful and responsive. I think it was a case of changing various parts – the machine is quite new to them so I think it was a process of elimination.” 

Other than this issue Gilbert says he can’t find fault with the EM Setter and the “quality has been really good”. In addition to the high quality the machine can produce he’s also really happy with the speed and levels of automation it offers. 

“Before [with the Suprasetter] we used to need an extra person in the studio, but we no longer have that. The Fujifilm will literally fly through the plates, so it’s taken a person out of the equation and it does the job that we need  it to do.”

That’s not the only cost saving the company is enjoying because of switching to processless of course. “We’ve got a cheaper plate price, because we’ve gone to the Platesense deal,” says Gilbert. “Obviously we’ve got less waste, it’s faster than the old one was and we’re not paying for chemicals anymore. And then you’ve got the cost of call-outs on the old processor. If that ever went down they would come in and clean it and do whatever they needed to do to get it up and running again.   So, yeah, it’s saving us quite a lot of money.”

He’s been so impressed by the benefits the Fujilfim EM Setter has offered the company that he says he’s already recommended it to a few prospective buyers. Gilbert anticipates the company will enjoy even more benefits from its new addition over the coming months with business activity bouncing back strongly and the company’s workload increasing all the time. And the good news is if things ever get too busy he’s still got the old Heidelberg Suprasetter ready to kick into action.   

“I’ve got it as a backup and we can use it as a hand feed machine if we ever need to, but we haven’t needed to use it so far,” says Gilbert. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Plate size max 1,163x940mm; min: 400x300mm

Plate thickness Max 0.3mm; min: 0.15mm

Light source Thermal laser 256 channel

Resolution 1,200 & 2,400dpi or 1,270 & 2,540dpi

Productivity 55 plates per hour

Footprint 1.9x3.3m

Price Around £90,000

Contact Fujifilm UK 01234 572 000 www.fujifilm.eu


COMPANY PROFILE

Nottinghamshire-based commercial printer Hickling & Squires employs 30 members of staff. The company was established in 1953 and serves a wide range of customers, from the leisure and hospitality sectors to retail, higher education and the public sector. It operates three B2 Heidelberg Speedmaster presses and various Xerox digital printers including an Iridesse.

Why it was bought...

The company’s ageing Heidelberg  Suprasetter platesetter was breaking down on a regular basis. The machine was costing Hickling & Squires money, both in terms of repairs and maintenance, and in terms of downtime. So, the company started looking around for a modern machine that offered greater levels of automation and cost savings. Production director Jamie Gilbert had previously been unimpressed by the quality offered by earlier iterations of processless plates, but he was won over by the latest offering from Fujifilm.

How it has performed... 

It has saved the company time and money. It no longer needs to pay expensive repair and maintenance bills to keep its old machine ticking over. The greater levels of automation offered by the EM Setter frees up a member of staff, plus Hickling & Squires is saving money on chemicals and waste disposal costs. Moreover, Gilbert says the quality of the new machine is top notch.

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