Investing in a new press can often put the cat among the pigeons in a printer’s finishing department. With significant additional printing capacity often available after such a purchase, there is inevitably an instant knock-on effect down the production line.
This impact was amplified for Southwold, Suffolk-based commercial printer Micropress when it took delivery of two new Heidelberg Speedmasters – an eight-colour XL 106 perfector and a five-colour XL 106 – in a matter of months back in 2015. These machines joined an existing eight-colour XL 105 perfector, increasing its B1 press armoury to three, alongside other B2 and B3 presses.
At the time the firm, which produces general commercial print, magazines and perfect-bound books for customers ranging from SMEs through to print management companies and corporate print buyers, was already operating an MBO K800 folder and an M80 buckle folder.
“Our two perfecting presses are both perfecting around 13,000sph, but we didn’t have a folder that was capable of folding at that speed, so we were looking for a like-for-like speed machine so that we could handle all the sheets coming off the press,” explains production director Paul Coby.
The business, which now needed to alleviate its folding bottleneck, started its search for a suitable machine.
Coby recalls that while the firm had a quick look at the various options on the market, it didn’t deliberate for long over its final choice. It was already happy with its existing MBO kit and was keen to continue along the same path with the K8 RS, which it planned to use for section work.
The K8 RS is capable of speeds of up to 275m/min – or around 18,000sph – making it a good match for the Speedmasters. Key features of the machine include a pallet feeder, a suction head for quick separation of paper sheets, and extended infeed to facilitate improved sheet alignment and better fold quality. Additionally, a waste sheet ejector is included to minimise production interruptions.
“Our K800 was doing what we wanted it to do so that swayed our decision. The operators are also used to the platform of the K800. The K8 RS is slightly different but we knew it wouldn’t take a lot to train these people across,” says Coby.
Micropress contacted MBO agent Friedheim International, which had also supplied the firm’s existing MBO kit, to place an order. The machine was built to the company’s specification with six plates and the final model – the K8 RS/6 S-KTZ FP130 – was commissioned at the end of November 2015 and up and running by the following month.
The installation took around four to five days to complete. Coby says this adhered to the planned time frame and that it was a “relatively straightforward” process. The K8 RS replaced two Stahl folders, which were taken out at the same time, and the new machine fits seamlessly into the space created by their removal.
Training took a couple of days, Coby reports. “MBO and Friedheim trained two or three operators and our guys who were trained just passed it on to other people. We’ve got probably five or six people trained up on the machine now.”
The combination of the folder’s higher productivity and the pallet feeder immediately eased the bottleneck in the finishing department.
“Previously we never had a pallet feeder, we always had continuous feeders, so now we just take the pallet off the press after it’s dry and wheel it into the folder and then that runs at a consistent speed to match the presses. There’s now a lot more compatibility between the press and the folder speed-wise to get the work through the plant,” says Coby.
“If you ran the other machine at 12,000sph on a job then the operator wouldn’t be able to handle working at both ends. But with the K8 RS they are working at one end only because once the pallet feeder is in and it’s running at that end, you just have to take out of the other end. On other machines you’re feeding up and taking it out continuously.”
He adds: “We can run the machine with fewer staff or without an extra person at high speeds. Our other machines are only run with one person too but those we run at about 8,000sph whereas we run the K8 RS at 11,500 to 12,000 on a good day. You can run it faster but every time you change the pallet you do have to stop the machine, so your average drops a bit.”
Some of the firm’s folding work still requires additional operator intervention, so the K8 RS is not used for everything.
“Our buckle machine and our K800 are both continuous-feed machines which we have to pre-load and take out the other end, but we do quite a varied size of product – anything from A6 to A3 – so not all of the jobs that we do are suitable for a pallet feeder,” says Coby.
“Our K8 RS in the main probably does an A5 32-page and an A4 16-page because they are literally jobs you can just take off the press and onto the folder.”
The business operates on a 24/5 shift pattern during the week and 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday and the K8 RS is always scheduled to be running.
Makereadies are around twice as quick on this machine as on the firm’s other MBO kit thanks to its additional automation, taking around 10 minutes to change between different types of jobs.
“Makereadies are key to us with all the different sizes, small runs and variations of paper thickness we have so automation is the way forward with us,” says Coby.
“ Having self-setting plates and rollers is a key feature and we’ve got that on all of our folders; as much as we can get automation that is realistic, we will have.”
The company achieves around 25% more productivity with the K8 RS than its other folding machines, Coby reports.
“It’s allowed us to output more finished products because, in effect, we’ve now got the same amount of folders but more capacity because we’re getting the higher speeds.”
He adds: “I would say the quality is as good as the other machines. You can’t just run treble the speed because it won’t be the standard you’re looking for. We gauge the speed to match the quality of our other machines.”
Coby reports that the firm has only experienced a few teething problems with the K8 RS but that none caused any real bother. He says Friedheim has continued to deliver a high level of service and has usually come out by the next day when issues have arisen.
“Like any new technology, we had a few problems with software but there’s been nothing to worry about. We’ve had the guys over from Germany once or twice to keep an eye on the machine, but we’ve been running alongside that and doing stuff in the background.
“The machine is logged so they can dial in through the internet and look at it in Germany. As long as there’s someone here touching the buttons we can get around most problems usually.”
Overall, Coby is more than happy with the purchase and cites the fast makereadies and user-friendliness as his favourite features of the K8 RS.
He says that while the device wouldn’t necessarily suit everyone, it is ideal for big litho houses that deal with a lot of section work.
“We’ve got a range of machines with different specs because we realise there are limitations with all machines. The niche of this machine is for the sections and that’s what we purely keep it doing. It does exactly what we bought it for and everything we need it to do,” Coby concludes.
Max speed 275m/min – or up to 18,000sph
Max sheet size 780x1,200mm
Min folding length 60mm
Number of buckle plates 4-6
Other features Jam detector with auto-shutdown to prevent roller damage, sheet stop device to reject waste sheets, FP 800/120 palletised feeder with pile-lowering device, improved suction head for quick separation of paper sheets, twin suction belt feed heads for optimal transfer of paper sheets to the infeed table, extended infeed for improved sheet alignment and better fold quality, waste sheet ejector to minimise production interruptions, M1 control system technology
Price From £200,000-£300,000
Contact Friedheim International 01442 206100 www.friedheim.co.uk
Southwold, Suffolk-based Micropress is headed up by managing director Mike Cross, who oversees the day-to-day running of the business alongside three other directors. The firm, which produces a range of general commercial print, magazines and perfect bound books for customers ranging from SMEs through to print management companies and print buyers, has a turnover of around £15m and employs more than 150 staff at its 4,600sqm premises. It operates kit including four Heidelberg Speedmasters, two Komori Lithrones and a Hans Gronhi press as well as a Xerox iGen 150 and a raft of other digital machinery and finishing equipment. It runs two other MBO machines alongside the K8 RS – an M80 buckle folder and a fully-automated K800 folder.
Why it was bought…
The company invested in two new Heidelberg Speedmasters in 2015 but lacked a folder capable of matching the speeds the presses were producing. The decision was therefore made to invest in a high productivity folder and, as a long-term satisfied customer, the business opted once again for an MBO machine from Friedheim.
How it has performed…
The K8 RS, which the firm uses for section work, had an immediate impact and has achieved everything it was bought to do. “Folding is our main bottleneck within the plant and this machine has helped ease the pressure on that dramatically,” says production director Paul Coby.