Me & my... Heidelberg Speedmaster SX 74

By Jon Severs, Wednesday 12 December 2012

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Sold on the reliability and performance it has experienced from Heidelberg presses, EVC knew where to go when it needed an upgrade


Raymond Curtis, owner of EVC Graphic Design and Print, is not a man to mince his words. Give him a topic and he gives you an honest opinion. Ask him, say, about the debate between digital and litho printing and he replies with the following: "The digital versus litho debate has been going on for at least 10 years and for that long people have been saying the litho market will be completely obstructed by the digital market – I have found that to be completely untrue. We are able to compete with the digital market very successfully."

True to his word, Curtis runs an all-litho operation and has done since he added print services to the design company he has owned and run since 1977. He says that around 30% of the business the print operation wins comes from customers whose first experience of the company was as a design enterprise. He adds that the company’s line-up of printing and finishing kit can handle almost every job that comes through the door.

That line-up was bolstered in August with the installation of one of Heidelberg’s Drupa-launched Speedmaster SX 74s. And Curtis is as direct about his reasons for opting for the six-colour version of this new press as he is about everything else.

"We have had Heidelberg’s before and as far as we are concerned they are like the Mercedes Benz of printers," he explains. "We were looking for something that was going to be faster, more versatile, and was able to print heavier or lighter materials with faster makeready than our existing CD 74. The SX 74 was recommended to us and it fit those specifications."

Heidelberg’s Speedmaster SX range was announced at the pre-Drupa International Media Conference in February and launched at the show itself in May.  Heidelberg says that the range forms its "performance class" of sheetfed presses, positioned between the standard SM range and its top-end XL machines.

A third way
The SX range comprises the SX 52, SX 74 and SX 102, covering everything from B3 format up to a B1 sheet size. Stephan Plenz, board member for Heidelberg equipment, said at the time that the move into this middle ground followed the success of the CX 102 press and that Speedmaster SX presses would offer productivity improvements of up to 30% over their SM counterparts, but at a lower price point than their XL cousins.

The SX 74 configuration and equipment can be individually customised, ranging from two to 10 printing units, with perfecting device or coating unit as optional. The press has a top speed of 15,000sph and takes sheets of up to 530x740mm. The maximum substrate thickness is 0.6mm.

The EVC SX is a six-colour model and the firm was fortunate enough to get a early look at the press ahead of its Drupa launch.

"Two of our staff went out to Germany before Drupa to see the press – so we actually had a sneak preview of the machine," says Curtis. "We liked what we saw and we placed an order straightaway, back in April, for the machine to be delivered in August. And fortunately it arrived on time."

Indeed, come August, a buyer had been found for EVC’s existing nine-year-old CD 74 and it was ready to be shipped off to its new home (Curtis says the company got a very good price for it), while the new SX 74 was ready to be installed. The only problem was actually making the swap.

"Installation was interesting," remembers Curtis. "It was a straight swap: old for new. But to get the old press out and the new one in, we had to use a crane to lift them over the roof of our building.

"Thankfully we managed it. The old press took a day to disassemble and a day to get out. It was roughly the same time to install the new SX, although getting it running obviously took longer as it is a substantial bit of kit with a lot of technology."

Part of that new technology is Heidelberg’s Prinect Pressroom Manager software, which essentially controls every operation in the pressroom and manages the relevant job information and production data all in one central place. Curtis says it has been an excellent addition.

"It enables us to see what the SX is printing, how fast it is running, how many sheets of paper it needed to makeready, whether it is idle and for what reason – it means at any stage we can manage the machine from the office," he says. "From the studio area, too, the staff can check progress of the job, whether it ran to the quote, for example – it gives us a lot of information we can use."

Because of the new technology and because of some other differences on the new press compared with the old press, EVC’s press minder did have some training on the machine. Fortunately for the company, this took place prior to installation.

"Heidelberg was very good to us on the training front," says Curtis. "They took our machine minder to the showroom at Brentford and he was running the SX there. So when our press came in he was already fully clued-up on the machine and we were able to hit the ground running."

And run it certainly has. There have been very few issues with the new machine, despite EVC being one of the first in the UK to install it. The only issue that did occur also came at a fortuitous time.

"We have had no real issues; there was only one point where we had a minor problem with the lays on the press, but Heidelberg came in very quickly to fix it after the issue occurred and the problem occured during downtime anyway so we were not disrupted," says Curtis.

Impressive performer
As for the performance of the new press, Curtis couldn’t be happier. He says speed, quality and production have all been very impressive.

"The machine has enabled us to pitch things a little cheaper when we need to, and also it puts more sheets through than before, so we are able to take more work on than we could have done with the old machine," says Curtis. "This means we are now hoping to run the SX 74 on a double day shift."

He adds that initial statistics coming from the machine have been exceptional.

"In October, for instance, we were able to print 1m more impressions over the month than we have been able to previously," he says.

Speed is all very well, of course, but quality is also a key consideration. Thankfully, Curtis says the machine more than matches the company’s high standards in this area as well, aiding it in its continued effort to meet ISO 12647.

"In terms of quality, it is superb," says Curtis. "We are an ISO 12647 company so the print quality is the best it can be and we needed to maintain that. The machine more than performs – we are able to hit the standard much easier now with the SX."

The SX runs alongside two GTO 52s, a five-colour and a two-colour, and work is finished on a range of machines, including folders and inline stitching kit. The idea is to be able to complete as much of the work in-house as possible. 

The SX certainly helps EVC achieve that aim and Curtis is happy to recommend the press to others. He says that though the press has only been installed a relatively short time, he has nothing but praise for it thus far.

"I would recommend the press to anyone looking to maintain quality of results for their clients," he says. "We have been really happy with it."


Max speed
Max sheet size 530x740mm
Max substrate thickness
Heidelberg UK 0844 892 2010


EVC Graphic Design and Print is a design and litho print operation set up and owned by Raymond Curtis. Based just outside Reading, it aims to print and finish as much work as possible in-house, and so has a press line up of a Heidelberg Speedmaster SX 74, two Heidelberg GTO 52s and a range of finishing kit. 

Why it was bought…
The company’s existing CD 74 was nine years old and Curtis felt he needed a faster, higher-quality and more efficient machine. Having been a Heidelberg house for some time and being impressed with their reliability, performance and residual value, Curtis says he did not looks elsewhere. Heidelberg recommended its new SX 74 and Curtis felt it fit the bill perfectly.

How it has performed...
Curtis has been really happy with the machine since it was installed in August. He says the high quality has made it easier for the company to hit ISO 12647 and the speed has meant 1m more impressions during October than the company had managed in previous months with the old machine. He adds that Prinect Pressroom.

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