Bell & Bain installs first of pandemic-delayed K&B presses

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, August 17, 2020

Bell & Bain has started the installation of the first of its two new Rapida 145 large-format presses from Koenig & Bauer – following a decision to delay the process due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The installation of Bell & Bain's first new K&B Rapida 145 began last week
The installation of Bell & Bain's first new K&B Rapida 145 began last week

The Glasgow-headquartered book printer first unveiled the latest stage of its ongoing £20m-plus investment programme last year.

Estimated to cost more than £7m for the pair by Bell & Bain group chairman Stephen Docherty, the highly specified new presses, both perfectors – an eight-colour and a four-colour, were originally both due to be installed this spring.

Docherty told Printweek the business decided to postpone the installations once the effects of the pandemic had become apparent.

“We had a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with Koenig & Bauer and between us we came to a compromise because you wouldn't like to cause anybody any harm or bring in and spread the disease. So we managed it between ourselves and have been listening to government instructions and we think that we've just got to a point where it's safe enough to do it. It's great seeing it getting here.”

He added the business had only furloughed a couple of staff at the start of the pandemic but has remained “extremely busy” and has “never stopped”.

“[Bell & Bain managing director] Karen Baillie was right on the case at the very beginning, so we had all of the PPE, everybody wears their masks, we keep everybody apart and we've got on with it.

“These presses were bought to make everybody's lives a little bit easier but what seems to happen here is that we just get busier!”

The new 1,060x1,450mm-format presses can print at speeds of up to 15,000sph and feature simultaneous plate changing, which enables them to change plates in 51 seconds, a 49% reduction from Bell & Bain’s existing Rapida 145 press. That press will be retained to run alongside the two new machines while a Rapida 142 will be sold on.

“The 145 compared to the 142 is a six-minute makeready compared to a 20-minute makeready. We also print double the size of sheet as most – you're using less energy doing that. You're also trying to use less people, so it gives us that flexibility, which helps everybody,” Docherty added.

The installation of the firm's first new Rapida 145 began on Friday (14 August) while the second will begin to be installed once the first press is up and running, which should be by the end of September, according to Docherty. Both should be fully commissioned by January at the latest, he said.

Bell & Bain was founded by James Bell and Andrew Bain in 1831. The group acquired commercial operations J Thomson around a year ago.

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