Fretwell takes on Versafire to boost digital post-MBO

By Rhys Handley, Friday 22 February 2019

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Fretwell Print & Design is eyeing continued growth following an MBO with the installation of a new Versafire EV digital printer from Heidelberg.

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The Versafire EV has been installed at Fretwell in four-colour configuration

Delivered in mid-January, the machine replaced a Ricoh Pro C651EX system. As an OEM of the Ricoh Pro C7200, the Versafire EV is a direct upgrade to its predecessor by Keighley-based Fretwell, which it intends to incorporate it into its pre-existing Heidelberg workflow.

Enhancements Fretwell hopes to bring to its services with the new machine include the capability to take a larger 6pp A4 format, as well as handling heavier stocks.

In September, the company was bought out by Andy Gillett and Gareth Pociecha when its owners Des and Graeme Fretwell, and Peter Denton chose to retire. Gillett had worked for Fretwell for 24 years and Pociecha for 16.

Gillett said: “We are a Heidelberg house and they were very keen to support us in taking on this new Versafire. It was chosen to replace the Ricoh because of all the time they have spent in R&D to make it integrate with the digital front-end (DFE) system.

“It folds perfectly into our workflow, which includes two litho presses, a Stahlfolder and a Polar guillotine. Heidelberg is a consistent manufacturer whose products do what they say on the tin.

“Since the MBO, things have been going pretty well; we are slightly ahead of where we were aiming to be when our financial year ends in March and the transition from the old management has gone very smoothly, allowing us to tweak the technology base and reequip out digital side.”

Fretwell has installed the Versafire EV in its four-colour configuration, though Gillett suggested that the company could add the fifth colour unit, which allows for special inks such as white, gold and silver, in “12 to 18 months”.

The EV prints at speeds from 85-95ppm at A4 size with a resolution up to 4,800x2,400dpi and the capability to run at full rated speed on all stock weighing up to 360gsm. It also makes use of automatic inline calibration and inline register to increase stability, precision and quality.

In addition to its digital printing portfolio, Fretwell has two Heidelberg B2 Speedmasters, a five-colour XL 75 with Inpress Control and a four-colour perfector SM 74, and a full range of finishing kit.

With a headcount of 50 staff turning over £6.2m, Gillett said his and Pociecha’s aim was to see sales reach £8m in the next two-to-three years. The firm also hired a new addition to its sales team in January, with a plan to continue hiring in the near future.

“Hopefully we are a success story in an industry that has taken a lot of knocks recently,” said Gillett.

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