By Barney Cox, Monday 23 October 2017
Spingold director Ed Oakes came to be the proud owner of Europe’s first Duplo PFi Di-Cut 300 by an interesting route.
“I found the machine on the internet but at the time it was only available in the US,” he explains. “I told Peter Jolly at Duplo UK that I wanted one as soon as it was available in the UK. We ordered it in May 2016 and it was installed in September that year.”
Oakes and the company he founded in 1994, have their roots in design, which included buying a lot of print. He noticed that it was hard to find suppliers for some client needs, notably in finishing. So the firm began to offer its own finishing as needed, while still buying in litho print. The advent of digital presses led Oakes to reconsider his stance, and the firm added printing to its range of services.
“We got into digital print 10 years ago,” he says. “I never wanted to get into litho printing, so we went from design, to design and finish (outsourcing the print) to design, print and finish.”
The six-staff firm is based in Nayland on the Essex/Suffolk border between Colchester and Sudbury. Its print output is purely digital, combining cut-sheet and wide-format machines to cover the market from business cards to banners and outdoor displays. It runs three digital presses, including a Ricoh C7100 and three large-format machines, and produces 95% of work in house.
“We try not to specialise in any product, sector or geography to ensure we keep a broad mixture of work,” he says. “Customers range from local individuals who want some stationery through to national businesses. We’re service-driven whether it’s a two-person business or a 200. For our design customers we offer a service from concept to completion. We also print for other designers and agencies. “
The Duplo PFi Di-Cut 300 is a small-format rotary die cutter that uses laser-etched steel dies that are mounted onto a magnetic cylinder. It cuts at 50 sheets per minute (6,000sph) handling stocks between 0.22-0.4mm thick with a maximum sheet size of 364x515mm. It uses a suction feeder to take sheets automatically from a pile of up to 200mm deep enabling unattended operation. It also uses a separator station to remove the cut waste, eliminating the need for manual stripping after cutting. Like many Duplo devices it uses X and Y registration sensors to ensure accurate cutting to the printed image.
Round-cornered playing cards and business cards are two specialities of the firm. Before buying the Di-Cut 300 it was using a manual punch to produce round corners, which was time consuming and didn’t produce the best possible finish. Oakes wanted to streamline the process and improve the quality and decided a die-cutter was the way to achieve that. But not just any old machine would do, he rejected the industry stalwart of a converted cylinder or platen in favour of something better suited to his requirements.
“We’re 100% digital, everything is SRA3 and a lot is collated sets,” he says. “We know that what comes off the Duplo is ready to pack and despatch. For us it was about time, and the Duplo is the fastest way of doing it. Yes, it cost five times more than a platen but the time saving is huge and more important for us than the up-front cost.”
Before settling in the Duplo he looked at other machines, including the Horizon RD-4055 from IFS and also something similar from Caslon.
“There was nothing wrong with those machines but we’ve been a Duplo customer for 15 years and they are always my first port of call. I know I’ll be looked after.” He says. “We’ve got other Duplo kit, which we love, and worked with for a number of years, so when it came to a die-cutter they were our first choice.”
He was also confident that if for any reason the machine didn’t meet his expectations things would be worked out, adding that: “Knowing Duplo, we knew that if it did turn out not to be right that they would have taken it back.”
The installation went smoothly: “We had a few teething problems, as you would expect, it was a new machine and we’d never done any die-cutting before. We had to learn how to feed it and also it took practice to mount the magnetic dies squarely onto the cylinder. While there is a couple of millimetres of tolerance, if you get it on square it is quicker to set up.”
Duplo advised the firm to get its dies made up by a specialist called Holfeld. It takes about 48 hours to get the laser-etched dies back, which was important to be able to turn jobs around as quickly as possible.
He has been very pleased with the supplied dies: “We’ve made 15-20 dies in the year we’ve had it and not a single one has been wrong. One is going strong after 100,000 impressions.”
To die for
“The die firm is superb. Even if another supplier came along and offered dies for half the price I wouldn’t be interested.”
While originally bought to produce round-cornered cards the machine has also opened up a new application for the firm in the form of gift boxes.
“We use it hand in hand with our Duplo DC 745, using the 745 to crease and score and the Di-Cut to die cut. None of the rotary cutters can produce a true crease – they can only slit score – which we couldn’t use that as we’d get cracking.”
While the round-cornered cards the company produces only require a couple of different dies to handle the various sizes, Spingold has needed a wider range of dies to meet the need for different shapes and sizes of gift boxes.
“We’ve had a range made as clients have requested them,” he says. “If a customer wants a custom sized box we ask them to pay for the cost of the die, which is typically £170-£200. It’s not a horrendous amount, especially as most are for ongoing work.”
One of the big plusses of the machine is that it strips the waste carcass from the job after cutting, including for the gift boxes.
“On an old platen you’d have to pop everything out by hand. It is a big time saving and because we run digital print we know if we run a collated set it will remain in order so there is no need to recollate by hand after cutting.”
For Oakes the Duplo PFi Di-Cut 300 has improved on existing processes and enabled it to take on new business.
“It cuts jobs we had before, but better. When we produced round-cornered cards using a hand machine the results were okay, not brilliant, and it was slow.
“It has also opened up a new market to us in gift boxes. Before we couldn’t do that without outsourcing and, because we’re digital, the need for quick turnaround and the low volumes meant that wasn’t worth doing.”
Speed 50 sheets/min (6,000sph)
Technology Rotary die-cutter using steel dies attached to a magnetic cylinder
Min sheet size 297x210mm
Max sheet size 364x515mm
Stock thickness 0.22-0.4mm
Feed 200mm pile height with suction feeder
Contact Duplo UK 01932 263900 www.duplouk.com
Spingold was founded in 1994,as a design agency. Director Ed Oakes noticed that it was hard to find suppliers for some finishing and so brought some post press in house. With the advent of digital technology it decided to bring digital print in house too 10 years ago. Its print output is purely digital combining cut sheet and wide format machines to cover the market from business cards to banners and outdoor displays. It runs three digital presses, including a Ricoh C7100 and three large format machines and produces 95% of work in house. The six-staff firm is based in Nayland on the Essex/Suffolk border between Colchester and Sudbury.
Why it was bought…
The Di-Cut 300 was chosen streamline the process and improve the quality of producing round cornered cards, The option to use a converted cylinder or platen was rejected in favour of something better suited to digital print. Director Ed Oakes says: “It cost five times more than a platen but the time saving is huge and more important for us than the upfront cost.”
How has it performed…
“It cuts jobs we had before, but better. And it has also opened up a new markets to us in gift boxes,” says Oakes.