Halstan in multimillion strategic spend for book growth

Darryl Danielli
Thursday, May 6, 2021

Halstan has upgraded its production firepower with a circa £2.5m spend to be "best in class”, with a new sheetfed inkjet press and automated book line taking centre stage in its diversification strategy.

Canon VarioPrint iX3200, centrepiece of strategic spend
Canon VarioPrint iX3200, centrepiece of strategic spend

The Amersham, Bucks-based business installed a Canon VarioPrint iX3200 B3 sheetfed inkjet last month.

“Pre-pandemic we identified that we wanted to modernise the factory, put in a highly automated workflow and during Covid we did it, and the iX is an important part of that,” said Halstan CEO Rupert Smith.

“It’s part of a full-on strategic investment plan, which also involved an overhaul of our bindery.”

Halstan, which celebrated its centenary in 2019, has historically specialised in mono music publishing, but one of the goals of the investment strategy is to further expand into full-colour journal and book printing and broaden its work mix.

Smith said that while it was early days, the signs were good, with a significant rise in client enquiries.

“We’ve always been in one core market, and that’s a fairly mature market that wasn’t really growing, so as a result of all this [investment] we’re breaking out into a few new ones,” he said.

The iX3200 is the flagship machine in Canon’s iX series of B3 single-pass inkjet, which was unveiled a little over a year ago.

Targeted at a broad range of applications, from commercial and marcomms to DM and publishing, the 1,200dpi iX3200 has a top speed of 320 A4 ipm (9,000 SRA3 iph) and can handle stock weights from 60gsm for uncoated and 90gsm for coated up to 350gsm.

It joins another B3 inkjet at the business, a Canon VarioPrint i300 inkjet press that was installed in the summer of 2019.

As result, a number of Halstan's clients have already converted to inkjet, which Smith said would only accelerate with the arrival of the new press, which can handle a wider range of offset stocks.

As well as the second inkjet, the business rolled out a new PrintIQ MIS just over a year ago, which Smith said was the first in the UK and “has been a game-changer for us”.

“It really has changed our business beyond belief, it’s a phenomenal system,” he added.
“We think it’s of a different level to anything on the market at the moment. We actually use it to actively sell to customers.”

It has also installed a highly automated bookletmaker, a Horizon Stitchliner Mark III from IFS, which also supplied a new laminator.

The company is also in the process of installing a Meccanotecnica automated book line from Kolbus UK. The configuration, which is a UK first, consists of a Meccanotecnica Universe digital book sewing machine, Inline binder and Trimming three-knife trimmer.

The Meccanotecnica Inline binder is capable of producing sewn and unsewn digital or conventionally printed books and can be automatically fed from the linked sewing machine or via an additional infeed for collated signatures or loose sheets.

The Trimmer unit, meanwhile, can produce conventional print runs or book of one, with the ability to change trim size on the fly via data input or barcode reader.

Greg Bird, managing director of Meccanotecnica’s sole UK agent for Kolbus UK said: “It provides a unique inline solution, providing the ability to produce digital or conventional products being sewn or unsewn, softcover or lined book blocks, plus the unique opportunity to produce ota-bound (layflat) products and softcovers with 8pp gatefolds inline.”

“So, we can now offer short-run, thread-sewn and ota-bound books, which is one of our core products and one that not many people can do,” added Halstan’s Smith.

“The goal of the pretty much £2.5m investment is to revamp our facilities to be best in class for what we want to do in the short to medium run book space.

“Publishers only want to print what they know they can sell, so if they know they can sell 20,000 they will want 20,000, but a lot of publishers, especially for back lists, might only want a few copies, and that’s what we’re working with them on.”

The combination of expanding its digital print and highly automated finishing capabilities means the business can offer faster turnarounds, shorter runs on products that are identical to traditionally printed and bound items.

As well as cut-sheet digital colour, Halstan runs B1 litho and has a full in-house bindery.

Smith said the VarioPrint iX3200 was signed off last month and one of the first live jobs to run on its latest investment was Canon-sponsored cover wrap of the current issue of Printweek.

Canon UK & Ireland head of Commercial Print, Production Printing Products Stuart Rising said: “We have worked with Halstan for a number of years and its latest purchase of the varioPrint iX3200 is a testament to this partnership.

“It really is the perfect choice for customers looking for a strong inkjet device that offers not only incredible quality, but also increased flexibility.”

As well as its main Amersham site, Halstan also has offices in Mainz, Germany and New York and owns map specialist Pindar Creative, which it acquired in 2011.

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