Most printed text-heavy books only need black and white printing for the main blocks. Digital presses are no exception and the new breed of monochrome inkjet presses have always outsold full-colour counterparts in the book sector: they cost less, take up less space and have fewer technical challenges, such as drying on standard papers or worries about colour management.
Such advantages help to explain why Ashford Colour Press installed the UK’s first Domino K630i web press last year, joining its existing pair of HP T230 full-colour inkjet web presses.
“The Domino press has taken up a lot of the mono work that used to go through the HPs,” says operations director Eddi Oliver. “We use it for printing books in runs from 20 up to 2,000. In the past we had a Sedona press to print mono work on, but that was before the days of the HP presses.”
Despite the name, Ashford Colour Press has always been based in Gosport, Hampshire – on the other side of Portsmouth Harbour from the main City of Portsmouth. It has been at its current site since 1999. The current directors took part in an MBO in September 2002 and have since become sole owners.
The company specialises in book printing, predominantly for the education and academic publications sector. Oliver says: “We also print books, journals, magazines and other bound work such as manuals, brochures and catalogues for a wide range of publishers, from major publishing groups to small independent publishers and self-publishers.”
Production is handled by a mix of litho and digital presses. Longer runs are handled by the litho presses, including a Heidelberg Speedmaster 102 ZP two-colour perfector, an SM 74 five-colour and a KBA Rapida 142 four-colour perfecting press. “We have binding lines suited to longer runs in-house, for perfect binding, PUR, saddle-stitching and wire-binding,” says Oliver.
Apart from the Domino, digital printing equipment includes the two full-colour HP T230s, one of which is the first in the UK to be retrofitted with HP’s new HDNA higher-resolution heads, for either higher speeds or more greyscales. There are also a couple of sheetfed Ricoh colour toner machines and a mono Xerox.
“In terms of finishing, we have the Domino K630i set inline with a Hunkeler bookline so that we produce folded book blocks off the back end from a blank reel going in to the press,” Oliver says. “We also have a Horizon perfect-binding line plus PUR, saddle-stitching, Wire-O and case-binding equipment specifically for short-run work.”
This press evolved from the MonoCube inkjet press that was originally developed for book and transactional print by Swiss firm Graph-Tech. After Domino acquired Graph-Tech in 2013 it continued to develop the technology but switched its focus to book production, particularly concentrating on inline finishing integration, and released it last year as the Domino K630i.
It’s very much designed for the volume book market, with dense black aqueous ink and a maximum reel with of 540mm. The printer is compact, with a main unit footprint of 1.9x2.2m, but it’s respectably fast at up to 150m/min.
According to Bryan Palphreyman, Domino’s product manager for digital print solutions, the outright speed is less important than the fact that the press produces consistent quality at any speed, allowing it to match inline finishing equipment.
Apart from inline integration, Domino also worked on ease of use plus automatic maintenance – the ‘i’ part of the K630i name stands for intelligence. Reliability is helped by continuous ink circulation through the machine even when it’s not printing, plus de-gassing to prevent bubbles that can stall the printheads. The heads are automatically cleaned and capped when needed, reducing manual cleaning requirements.
Ashford’s configuration is what Domino calls the “book block printing solution”, with inline Hunkeler unwinder, web buffer, double-plow fold, cutter and stacker, able to produce sections or complete book blocks.
The company runs standard 520mm width reels, says Oliver. Output at present is either folded book blocks or flat sheets depending on binding requirements, he says. Palphreyman says the double plow folder gives the potential to produce 2-up, 3-up or 4-up books from A4 down to pocket book sizes.
The Hunkeler system also has the potential for integrating a rewinder for offline/nearline finishing, but Ashford has not opted for this. “We may decide at some point to go reel-to-reel in the future, but we are not there at the moment,” says Oliver.
Having looked around the market, Ashford decided the K630i looked like the best fit for its needs.
“We looked at a number of different press options and we settled on the Domino offering because of the quality it produced, but also it suited our needs from a capacity perspective,” says Oliver. “It also has a compact footprint.”
And the press hasn’t disappointed. Oliver says: “The speed and quality of the press suit us very well.
“We’re not doing anything differently on the Domino that could not be done with the HPs, but having the Domino allows us to reserve the HP presses for colour work, therefore creating more shorter-run colour capacity, and also gives us additional capacity for mono work, which goes through the K630i press more cost-efficiently.
Work produced on the new press has been given the thumbs-up from customers too, Oliver says. “We have had great feedback from our customer base, who were all keen to see what the quality was like from this press, we had no issues on that front.
“The black is excellent and greyscales give pictures a clear quality. We have been really pleased overall.”
He adds that production has been pretty smooth and Ashford is keen to keep it that way: “We run a preventative maintenance programme on the press every week to give us the maximum amount of up-time.”
He also says Domino has been keen to keep Ashford happy, tweaking the press to improve the user experience. “Being new into the book printing marketplace, Domino has listened to us and improved the front-end interface, and if there have been grumbles then they have been minimal,” Oliver says.
“I think other buyers can take comfort in the fact that having worked with Domino for over a year now, we can definitely say that they are committed to giving us the after-sales service that is required to keep the press running and are keen to learn how to make improvements for the future.
“Domino are very supportive and committed to keeping us running. The engineers are knowledgeable and quick to work on issues as they arise.”
Overall, Oliver says, the company is very satisfied: “The print quality is great, we are very happy with this,” he says.
“If there are downsides to be discussed, then one might be that it is not JDF-compatible just yet, but we hope to resolve this soon.”
So, would Ashford buy Domino again, in the light of experience? “Yes,” says Oliver, “we would recommend this press to others. It has and will continue to work very well for us. We have been more than happy with our partnership with the Domino team!”
Speed Up to 150m/min
Inkjet technology Domino single-pass print bar with Kyocera piezo greyscale heads
Ink Aqueous pigment or UV-cure pigment, MICR
Print widths 333mm, 445mm or 540mm
Resolution 600x600dpi with four-level greyscale
Footprint Print unit: 1,930x 2,220mm; control unit 2,100x900m; ink supply unit 520x1,202mm
Price From £450,000 to £500,000 (engine and RIP)
Contact Domino UK 01954 782551 www.domino-printing.com
Ashford Colour Press has been established for more than 35 years in its home town of Gosport. Current turnover is in the region of £13m. It employs 125 people, with more than half of them having worked there for more than 10 years.
Products include books, magazines, journals, catalogues, manuals, inserts, self-published and personalised books, for a core market of core market of educational and academic publishers, together with other publishers and organisations.
Finishes include perfect- and PUR-bound, saddle-stitched, case- and wire-bound, and loose-leaf formats. Tailored client solutions such as online ordering and automatic stock replenishment are offered. The company is accredited to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and FSC certified.
A mix of digital and litho presses with associated finishing kit enable the company to offer anything from one-off books up to runs of around 20,000 copies. The company has also been shortlisted in this year’s PrintWeek Awards, in the Customer Service Team of the Year category.
Why it was bought...
“We chose the K630i to complement our existing litho, digital and colour inkjet presses, allowing us to provide a more cost-effective mono printing service for shorter run books and print on demand,” says operations director Eddi Oliver.
How it has performed...
“The K630i has brought much needed additional capacity. This has allowed us to take on more core work, and helped us in offering the automatic stock replenishment programmes that we run for a number of our major publishing clients,” says Oliver.