Ashford Colour Press invests £2m in second digital book line


Ashford Colour Press has invested around £2m in a second digital book production line, comprising HP and Hunkeler technology, just two years after ordering its first.

The print and finishing equipment, which is due for installation in April, will replicate Ashford's 2013 investment in an HP T230 colour inkjet web press and Hunkeler glued book block line.

Ashford Colour Press operations director Allan Gray said: "We've had the HP for almost two years and it's performed very well - it delivers consistent production with very little outside interference.

"We also looked at the new products from Ricoh and Canon but my feeling is the HP is the most robust device in the market at the moment - you simply queue the jobs up and change the reels and it will do the rest.

"When we put the first HP T230 in two years ago digital was around 8%-9% of the business; on a busier month now it's 25%-30% and that's just with the current machine. I can see it going to 60% in the next two years."

Gray added that the Hunkeler glued book block line was already a good product that had been "made even better", partly through feedback from Ashford, which was one of the first printers to install the device.

"They've made it a bit more robust in places - there's a few bits that we found we needed access to that they didn't anticipate on the original product and there's also been some software upgrades - part of the deal is that they're upgrading our existing line to the new spec."

Robin Brown, national sales manager, digital solutions division at Hunkeler's UK distributor Friedheim, said: "The new lines have had some further upgrades to make them more operator friendly, which is down to some of the feedback we had from Ashford, but the base line is basically the same.

"It's a 200m/min line and it will take up to a 30" web so although Ashford's current HP presses are 20" it's fairly future proof. It runs 4pp, 6pp and 8pp sections and produces folded book blocks ready for binding - it runs so fast that it has a double stacker to accommodate the speed of the line."

Brown added that the original installation had been inline but that Ashford had then split the printer and book line to enable offline finishing of the printed reels because it enables both the HP and the Hunkeler to run "at full speed all the time".

"For some jobs we can run 30% faster than the press, while for others where we have a tricky stock such as a lightweight paper the press is faster," he said.

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