Me & my: Mosca SoniXs

By Simon Eccles, Monday 22 February 2016

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Magazine and catalogue specialist Precision Colour Printing (PCP) has been investing heavily in production kit in recent years.


Hamilton: “A reliable strapper is worth two hours on a shift”

Major spends have included a second Komori web in 2013 and a Kolbus perfect-binding line in 2015. Its installation of ultrasonic strapping machines may have been overshadowed by all the heavy metal, but it’s an interesting piece of technology all the same. 

The company currently has six ultrasonic strappers, a mix of SoniXs TR-6 Base and SoniXs TRI-6 Base, all installed on either perfect-binding or saddle-stitching lines. An order for four additional machines will be installed over the next month, and these will be table-top machines on castors that can be moved to wherever they are needed.

The clever bit is indicated by the name, SoniXs. Instead of using heat to seal the ends of the plastic straps, this system uses high-frequency sound waves to transfer energy to the overlapped strap ends, which welds them together. According to Mosca, the result is stronger than heat sealing, with faster response and less energy use. 

Mick Hamilton is bindery manager at PCP, having joined 16 months ago. “At the time the Kolbus was about to be installed and the SoniXs strappers were already ordered to go on the line,” he says. “I wasn’t involved in the decision, but we’d had so much success with the Moscas already that it was a no-brainer. They were very, very reliable. I was involved with Mosca in my previous company, and I was glad that we chose to go with it here.”

PCP was founded more than 30 years ago and now operates 24/7 on its 56,000m2 site. The company has a turnover of around £38m and employs 215 staff. PCP is part of the Claverley Group, which owns a raft of regional newspapers and online media brands.

It handles more than 400 magazines across the board of consumer, B2B and technical titles. Customers include Trinity Mirror, Syon Publishing, Stream Publishing, Brightminds and John Wiley & Sons. 

Printing is carried out on a mixture of web and sheetfed offset presses. There are two 32pp webs, a Manroland Rotoman and a Komori System 38, plus a 16pp Komori 38. The B1 sheetfed presses include a 10-unit Heidelberg SM 102 perfector and a six-colour Mitsubishi 3H convertible. There’s also a Xerox Colour 1000 sheetfed SRA3 digital colour press. 

The pre-press system uses three Fujifilm Luxel V8 platesetters driven by an XMF workflow front-end. 

Perfect-binding and saddle-stitching lines are used. The bindery was extended with a new 2,800m2 unit early last year. This was added to house a 12-station Kolbus 412C line as part of a £1.5m spend that doubled PCP’s perfect binding capacity. The original Muller Martini Bolero B8 perfect-binding line was moved into the new unit too. Saddle-stitching is also handled by Muller Martini with a mix of gather-stitch-trim lines – eight-station Prima/S and Prima Plus lines and a seven-station 321/7, and a four-station-plus-cover E140. 

Handling the digital print from the Xerox press is a Duplo System 5000 collating and bookletmaking system. There are two five-station Buhrs mailing lines.

Mosca Direct was founded in 2000 as a UK-based subsidiary of the German strapping manufacturer. Its premises are in Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire. The German parent today manufactures a range of modular automated strapping machines that fit onto existing production lines, or can be integrated into new projects. It also makes PET strapping material. In addition to its German factories it also has two Asian manufacturing sites. 

Ultrasonic technology

The company makes conventional heat-sealing strappers, but also developed and patented the ultrasonic sealing technology that is used in the SoniXs machines. A special ‘sonotrode’ produces very strong and consistent sealing. The system is suitable for PET and polypropylene straps and creates a seal that is much stronger and far more resistant to tearing than heat methods, according to Mosca. 

The tensile strength at the SoniXs sealing position represents up to 90% of the tensile strength of the strap used, whereas conventional heat-welding reaches hardly 65%. Because of this high strength, it is possible to use thinner and/or narrower, and therefore more economical, straps in many applications with the SoniXs. Considerable savings can be made by changing the strap width, which could mean that in a high usage application a machine might pay for itself within one year of purchase.

Also important is that the operating temperature of the converter unit is only about 70°C (instead of 270°C required by heat-welding systems). This allows for immediate operation without waiting for the system to heat up. Reducing the sealing time and cutting the heating time leads to a strapping speed that is increased by 50%, says Mosca. No fumes or smells are produced and there are no scraps of molten strap to dispose of.

The ultrasonic sealing head operates almost wear-free and is easy to maintain. The sealing head can also be easily dismantled without tools for servicing.

Mosca develops strapping systems for all sorts of industries. The SoniXs TR Base models used by PCP were developed especially for the graphics sector, says Gaye Tate, UK managing director of Mosca Direct. “It is an automated strapping machine that has been designed to work in conjunction with binding systems,” she says. “From our point of view, SoniXs offers a perfect solution for this industry. It is clean technology because no residue is created from melted strap. A very efficient machine, it is able to run at the high speeds dictated by the line. The exceptionally durable head is a simple single unit, making the machine very reliable with minimum maintenance.”

The most recent installation of a SoniXs system at PCP was with the Kolbus line in March 2015, which Hamilton was there to see. “Mosca worked very closely with Kolbus. When the back-end was due, Mosca came in and over one day they installed it, trained our guys on it and signed off on it.”

While the company had been pretty confident that it would opt for the SoniXs machines, it didn’t ignore the other manufacturers’ options: “We looked at Strapex and Ferag,” says Hamilton. “But with SoniXs there is no waste, and you get more straps per minute. We have an older Mosca that’s four or five years old, and it has been so much more reliable than the others.” 

Could anything be done better? “I’m trying to think of a negative, but no, there’s nothing negative to say. SoniXs is definitely more low maintenance,” Hamilton says. “There are few moving parts, no heating element to wear out, it’s a lot easier to maintain. We’ve had the latest ones since March last year. We’ve had no callouts, only scheduled regular service engineers coming, it’s been very reliable and service quality has been absolutely fine.” 


Performance Up to 35 packages per minute (600x600mm)

Straps Standard machine-grade 5-12mm wide polypropylene straps

Strap coil dispenser Core diameter: 200mm Core width: 190mm

Power requirement Single-phase

Power consumption 0.30 kW

Weight 385 kg

Price Starting from £16,000

Contact Mosca Direct 0115 989 0209


Precision Colour Printing (PCP) was founded more than 30 years ago and is part of the Claverley Group. It’s a specialist magazine and catalogue printer. It runs three web offset presses: 32pp and 16pp Komori System 38s, a 32pp Manroland Rotoman, as well as six- and 10-colour sheetfed presses. There are perfect-binding and saddle-stitching lines. It also has mailing facilities. 

PCP has a turnover of around £38m and employs 215 staff. Clients include a variety of consumer, B2B and scientific and technical publishers, with about 400 titles being produced regularly. 

Why it was bought...

Strapping is used to secure bundles of printed matter prior to dispatch. PCP has a range of older, heat-seal machines of various makes, including Mosca and Strapex. It has bought six of the ultrasonic SoniXs models since 2013, originally all running inline with perfect- or saddle-stitch binding lines, but it has recently ordered four table-top SoniXs models that can be moved around as needed.

How it has performed...

Asked to identify the SoniXs’ key benefits, Hamilton says: “Definitely reliability. A reliable strapper is worth two hours on a shift. The new mobile strapper helped that too. It’s also helped morale. The new mobiles were an early Christmas present! Operators are fed up of engineer callouts for the older machines. Also, if the strapper is down, you are not making books on the Kolbus. If you can’t strap a pallet you’ve got nowhere to go with it. It’s an integral part of the process.”

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