Me & my: Durst Rho 512R

By Jez Abbott, Monday 19 February 2018

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Matt Tydeman is going large again. The managing director of an Essex-based large-format printer was looking for another – better – machine than his existing line-up that included models from Rastergraphics, NUR and HP Scitex. He chose the 5m-wide Durst Rho 512R.


Tydeman: “We expect it to be here for a good few years”

His company, Imaginators, provides print services for events, sports and music industries, as well as property, outdoor and retail sectors, and each type of client has differing needs. Retail work, for example, requires super-hot graphics, whereas the quality for a giant mesh building wrap is not quite so stringent. Tydeman’s new machine had to tackle all-comers.

The company in Nazeing celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016, but Tydeman joined in 1985 as a scanner operator when the business was a reprographics setup before moving into pre-press. It has always, however, specialised in large-format jobs and in the mid 1990s became an early adopter of inkjet technology, first with a 60in-wide Rastergraphics PP5000, then NUR, then HP Scitex gear.

Gradually the HP machines gave way to Dursts including a P10 four years ago and, most recently, the 512R, which arrived last April. Fortunately, Imaginators’ staff were already primed on colour management, file formats and other pre-press processes that would serve them so well when choosing new kit of such a high spec. 

The company’s Durst P10 was an “eye-opener” that convinced Tydeman the technology had become the “Rolls-Royce of printing” on engineering, speed and build quality. Tydeman recalls: “I never thought I’d be lucky enough to own one, and now I have two”. But the decision to purchase was not a forgone conclusion.

Imaginators looked at the burgeoning wide-format sector and also considered EFI as a potential supplier. Tydeman had followed with interest the growth of EFI – its acquisition of Matan in 2015 and the much-vaunted release of the Quantum. The latest big thing from EFI was the 5r, a worthy rival to the Durst 512R, with “not much between them on output”.

The 5r was a little more expensive, but when quality, speed and durability are part of the equation, cost becomes secondary. But if he had done his homework on the EFI 5r, he had also sharpened his critical focus on Durst. Tydeman is a well-travelled veteran of Drupa and Fespa and had watched Durst with mounting awe. There was only one thing to do.

He grabbed job files and flew to EFI in Belgium and then Durst in Italy. The latter blew him away, with its high-tech R&D facilities, manufacturing plant and super-sleek demonstration hub. It was, felt Tydeman, “leagues ahead of EFI”, but he nevertheless spent six months evaluating both machines and running test jobs on those files.

What helped swing it for Durst as much as the test jobs was the team behind the technology. Back-up from the manufacturer was “exceptional”. He placed an order for just under £400,000 in December 2016 and the machine was painstakingly dismantled, crated and trucked from Italy to the firm’s loading bay in Essex. It arrived last April. 

Crates were craned off and wheeled into the 2,000m² premises, with a first floor of offices and studio spaces supported by several pillars in the ground-floor production area. This caused problems for accommodating the new arrival that cost over £20,000 to put right.

“The machine is huge, a real beast. So before it arrived we had to structurally change the building to make space, which involved removing three pillars and underpinning the first floor. With the machine reassembled we hooked it up to the Onyx Thrive RIP platform that operates all our machines and is the backbone of our colour management.”

Passing the test

Installation complete, the Durst engineers unfurled the test prints of a few months before in Italy and re-ran the jobs. Only when the print matched perfectly did the engineers sign off the machine as of acceptable quality. Three operators were trained over three days.

And a typical job for any one of them involves a 5m roll of perforated mesh printed from the front of the machine, with ink that passes through the perforations tidily collected. The substrate is then conveyed to an inline finishing unit for trimming, with everything controlled by a large touchscreen display, enabling users to input, run and monitor jobs as well as control maintenance tasks.

One such task could involve damage to soft signage, which is the most challenging substrate due to the potential abrasive- ness of some conventional inks, says Tydeman. He uses Durst’s Quadro Array 12M printhead, Variodrop technology and Rho Roll UV-curing inks. He then slows down the machine to prevent substrate damage. Job done.

The new Durst Rho 512R replaced a 5m-wide HP Scitex XL 1500, which printed 300dpi at 35m²/hr. The Durst however prints 800dpi at 350m²/hr – almost three times the quality of the HP Scitex at 10 times the speed. The new printer has not only speeded up print but finishing, insists Tydeman. This is thanks to the optional inline finishing.

Also optional was multi-roll functionality, enabling Imaginators to run simultaneous jobs on adjacent rolls. Add-ons not taken up included a backlit function for image alignment and and eight-colour configuration with white ink. Instead the team chose a six-colour machine without white.

Though it is hard to fault the Durst Rho 512R, it needed a few tweaks by the engineers to personalise processes such as the way computer files were transported through the system. Durst has also been called on to replace folders that cannot be done by Imaginators’ operators.

“It’s early days and we’ve not yet had to replace a UV light, so if and when things crop up that’s when we will get a feel for Durst’s service. But the experience of our other machine tells us they are very smart. We bought the new Durst for output, speed and build quality, which comes at a cost. That is the only downside: the cost.” 

Smooth operator

That cost can be seen in pared-down, super-efficient technology that has helped keep teething problems to a minimum, he reckons. The head carriage for example has no gears or motors, so less chance of mechanical failure. A magnetic drive sends the carriage smoothly across the beam without vibration to ensure accuracy of ink droplet and perfect placement.

“The Durst’s quality and incredible print speed have already had a huge impact on time, shifting production from weeks to just days. We can now produce stage sets: a recent one was 90m wide and joined seamlessly, all within a week. In the past this would have taken at least two weeks due to the complexity of printing and finishing especially for multiple content.” 

Software is also highly intuitive, enabling remote operation of jobs and overnight running. It sends emails to production managers if there are faults and gives a prompt when maintenance checks are needed – a boon on busy days when it’s all too easy to forget a change of consumables, says Tydeman. 

The nearest Durst team, based an hour away, meanwhile can run remote analytics to act as an extra line of defence – or attack. For within eight weeks of the machine going in Imaginators had its best ever trading month, 20% up on the same month a year ago. It forced his company to switch emphasis from upping capacity – the company now has plenty – to sales to fill that capacity and has shifted bottlenecks away from print to the finishing department.

“Success is already opening further opportunities for high-resolution printing such as exhibition work as well for sports brands and their stadiums. We’re confident of at least a 20% turnover increase in our first year, plus a return on investment certainly within two years.

“Another plus is the Durst can be upgraded without buying another machine,” he says, eyeing up the 512R Plus, with a sprint speed of 500m²/hr up to 1,200dpi. “Our latest Durst is a big investment and we wanted it to be upgradeable without too much fuss – we expect it to be here for a good few years.”


Printing system Roll transport system with Quadro Array technology

Resolution Up to 1,200dpi 

Speed Up to 400sqm/hr; production mode 152sqm/hr

Colours CMYK; optional: light cyan, light magenta, light black, white

Inks Rho Roll UV-curing inks, co-branded Durst Rho Roll 3M premium UV inks 

Max print width 5m 

Max material width 5.2m; or three 1.6m rolls side by side

Max roll media diameter 350mm 

Max material thickness 2mm 

Max roll weight About 350kg

Options Low-maintenance cutting system, dual/triple roll, double-sided printing, textile printing 

Cost Just under £400,000

Contact Durst Image Technology UK 01372 388540 

Company profile 

Imaginators is an Essex-based large-format printer with 20 staff based in Nazeing. Managing director Matt Tydeman’s team makes £2m turnover and runs Durst and HP Scitex large-, wide- and superwide- format printers and finishing equipment including Esko Kongsberg cutting tables. The kit produces bespoke print for retail, exhibition, events, music, TV and outdoor advertising sectors. 

Why it was bought…

“We needed to improve quality and output; we sell ourselves on service and are only as good as our last job, With deadlines becoming much shorter we needed something that could take spikes in demand and throughput.”

How it has performed…

“It has performed brilliantly and apart from its cost is faultless. Production throughput has been significant and the quality of output incredible. It has changed the way we look at production – what used to take a week can be done in a day.”

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