When Kevin Hart, production director at Manchester-based print house Aspen visited the Sign & Digital UK show last year, he wasn’t attending with a specific purchase in mind.
However, while doing the rounds of the exhibition halls the long-time Océ customer came across Canon’s Océ Colorado 1640. As soon as he saw it in action he was hooked.
“I took a quick look at the Colorado and the speed was really impressive,” says Hart. “We were running four machines at the time and I thought that potentially we could just go down to one. We were pushed for space so having just one machine would give us more space. Plus when it came down to the cost of inks and the service contract it worked out cheaper just having the one machine. It would get our carbon footprint down because we would be going from four machines using all of that electricity down to just a single machine.”
So even though Hart wasn’t at the show looking for a new machine, when he started putting all of the different factors down on paper and weighed up the benefits of acquiring a Colorado it was ultimately as he says a “no-brainer”.
The company, which is part of the DCB Group and shares a site with subsidiaries Caspa and PrintSearch, churns out a vast array of different printed collateral such as posters, brochures and letterheads for a wide range of clients, including PrintSearch, pub chains and Manchester United Football Club. But it was the sign and display market that Hart had in mind with this particular investment. He knew that swapping out the company’s existing HP DesignJet Z6100, two Océ ColorWaves and a solvent printer for the Colorado, would significantly boost the company’s ability to take on sign and display jobs, which was a growing business area.
That’s not to say that Hart didn’t shop around before taking the Colorado. “We had a close look at the HP Latex, which is a lot cheaper, however, speed wise and power wise – because it is heat related it takes a lot of power – we would end up having five machines to produce the same volume of work, so we didn’t want to go down that road.”
Since Hart scoured the market for alternatives he says that the likes of EFI and other manufacturers have brought out machines capable of matching the Colorado’s speed and quality, but after trialing the Canon Océ device at the manufacturer’s Birmingham site he was smitten.
“We did a full demo on the machine on all of the different stocks it handles so that we could look at the speed,” says Hart. “It’s alright a manufacturer telling you that it runs at 159m²/hr, but in reality when it comes to doing a commercial job you have to look at the actual speeds it’s capable of running at.”
He was clearly impressed because not long after the Sign & Display UK show last year Aspen took delivery of the Colorado 1640. The company had already got rid of the old kit to make space for the new machine and as a result the installation ran relatively smoothly. After a few days training Hart says the Aspen team was able to get up to speed on the machine thanks to their familiarity with the Onyx RIP.
The 1.6m roll-fed inkjet printer, which has an easy-to-use touchscreen panel, employs Canon UV gel piezoelectric inkjet heads to print resolutions up to 1,800dpi at speeds up to 159m²/hr.
The Colorado was the first printer to use Canon’s UVgel ink, which is cured by LED lamps. The machine’s head units incorporate a heater that warms the ink and lowers its viscosity before it reaches the ink chamber and nozzles. The ink is then jetted as drops in the normal way. The UVgel ink formulation is odourless, making it perfect for indoor applications and is instant drying so it can be laminated, finished or delivered immediately.
Since installation Aspen has used it on a number of different jobs, from posters through to window graphics and Hart says he’s generally pleased with how the machine has operated. The main benefit of the Colorado is its high speed although Aspen tends to run it at between 40-56m²/hr, significantly below the top-rated speed. Hart says the machine offers good value for money and he’s been impressed by the level of support offered. However, he admits that not everything has been plain sailing.
The company has been dogged by issues with the Onyx 5 software it bought to run the Colorado. “When they made the machine they brought out Onyx 5, version 12.2 and you had to obviously buy that as well,” says Hart. “However, it was quite flawed when it first came out and it was very glitchy. Since then they’ve done upgrades on the Onyx 5 software to counteract the issues, but I’m still having conversations with Océ about it because it’s still crashing a lot. There’s no point having a productive machine if the RIP is stopping it from being productive.”
In response, Derek Joys, product business developer at Canon UK says: “We are aware of the concerns Aspen has raised and have been working closely with their team to resolve them. We will continue to monitor the solutions put in place.”
Software issues aside Hart says that he’s really pleased that he bought the Colorado 1640 as it’s given the company a host of different benefits.
“We’re no longer running three machines now that take quite a lot of power and heat because previously we had two machines that were thermal and one was solvent so it had a heating platen,” he explains. “This machine is UVgel therefore it’s not using heat, it is light reactive. So the impact on power and going from four machines to one means we’re clearly saving money on that. Also we’re not using the same amount of ink that we were using before because of the way it lays it down. When it comes to the speed of the machine and blasting through jobs quicker, we don’t seem to be late on anything so therefore we don’t have people driving around all the time trying to get jobs delivered.”
As a result of these factors he says he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone else. “If someone is looking to do similar work to what we do – so banners, posters, window graphics, etc – the Colorado is ideal. We’re doing more and more work and a lot of this stuff is new work for us as well.”
The machine is so productive that the main issue Hart and his team face at the moment is keeping pace with the company’s new workhorse. “It’s a greedy machine and we’ve got to the point now where the machine is doing so much that we can’t keep up on the finishing front, so we’re in the process of buying an Esko Kongsberg, which will do all of the cutting for us. We’re looking to do that investment in the next couple of weeks.”
Although the teething problems with the software clearly rankles with Hart, he struggles to find fault with the machine itself and even he admits that what it’s brought to the company in just over a year outweighs these issues.
Max media width 1,640mm
Max print width 1,630mm
Max media thickness 0.8mm
Process Piezo-electric inkjet with UVgel ink
Ink drop size 10 picolitres (binary)
Curing lamps LED-UV
Speed 40, 57, 117, 159sqm/hr, depending on quality setting
Digital front-end Onyx Thrive
Price €55,000 (about £48,000)
Ink price €135 per litre (about £117)
Contact Canon 020 8588 8000 www.canon.co.uk
Aspen employs 12 members of staff in its 1,860m2 facility in Manchester that’s on the same site as fellow DCB Group subsidiaries Caspa and PrintSearch. The company does a lot of work for PrintSearch in addition to lots of high-street brands, pub chains, local authorities and Manchester United Football Club. It produces a vast array of different printed collateral – from signage and display, through to brochures, letterheads and comp slips. It has an annual turnover of £1.4m, but hopes to take this up to £1.5m by the end of the year.
Why it was bought...
Hart took his team to the Sign & Display UK show last year and says that he wasn’t there to look at anything specific. “I just wanted to keep my head in the game to see what was available,” he explains. While doing the rounds he saw the Colorado and was impressed by its speed. After doing the maths he realised that he could swap out four existing machines and replace them with a single Océ Colorado 1640 that was more productive, cost-efficient and would reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
How it has performed...
Hart says it’s lived up to the manufacturer’s billing. “It’s quick and efficient,” he says. To underline his point he says the company intends to invest in finishing equipment shortly to keep up to pace with the machine.