Me & my: Durst Rho P10 160

Simon Eccles
Monday, March 7, 2016

Mark Bartlett and Matthew Wilkins were pioneering digital signage even before there were proper wide-format digital printers. The pair originally worked at 3M in Bracknell in the 1980s and were tasked to investigate sources of self-adhesive vinyl.

Bartlett had trained as an architect and understood the potential of new technologies and materials to make signage inside and outside buildings. With the introduction of the Gerber Edge thermal transfer printer, digital signmaking became accessible. “Before that sign writing was a one-man profession,” says Bartlett. 

As a result in 1985 he and Wilkins left 3M and set up a business to do it themselves, Signbox, but retain links to the company they met at. “3M is an organisation we have remained loyal to not just as customers but also in ethos,” says Bartlett, who is today the managing director and majority shareholder. Wilkins is also still at Signbox, as a director. 

“We started in business with some of the first CAD-cut vinyl plotters, working from premises in Egham in Surrey. Our expansion since has seen the adoption of small-format printing on self-adhesive vinyls through to large-format in the past 15 years, accounting now for over 50% of our current output,” Bartlett adds.

The company doesn’t only deal with printed or cut vinyl signage, but also makes three dimensional signage from a variety of materials, all destined for the interior or exterior of buildings. 

“Our core business is architectural signage, predominately targeting the London commercial office market,” Bartlett explains. “Our reputation has been built with architects specifying the complete signage mix from base build statutory signage to client branding, way finding and environmental graphics. We’re normally successful at winning ‘day two’ business [ongoing work after the initial branding or fit out] direct, working with clients’ facilities management and marketing teams. 

Over the years the company progressed through the Gerber Edge and then Mutoh Rockhopper solvent printers, and worked its way to a couple of HP Latex printers for wall covering. And in 2011 it also adopted UV-cured inkjets in-house, made by Durst Phototechnik. 

“With manufacturing space at a premium, we were initially impressed by the size format of the Omega 1 and subsequently the UV LED Omega 2, but capacity was always an issue with large contracts increasing the pressure on production,” Bartlett says. 

He said he looked at other printers, but in the end Durst’s Rho P10 proved the best solution: “Nothing else ticked all our boxes. The P10 offers the same high quality with an acceptable speed and maintains our flexibility to print direct to surface on a range of substrates.

“An increasing volume of environmental graphics, from white ink printed manifestation films to Digimura wall coverings, led to our search for a quality production machine,” Bartlett says. 

“Our main production equipment has to be truly hybrid and with the best output quality, which is why we invested in the P10 160.”

The new printer was installed last autumn. Since then a lot of its work has been printing graduated white and other colours onto optically clear film from Lintec Graphic Films. This can be used for printable clear graphics, or one-way vision, privacy and view control. The film is often applied to glass-walled room dividers. 

“Glass decoration is a very interesting subject and I see a lot of our business going that way in future,” says Bartlett. 

What’s a Durst P10?

Durst is a company whose roots go back to photographic darkroom equipment, which in the 1990s developed the very successful Lambda and Theta family of digital colour film recorders. 

By the early 2000s it had turned its digital knowledge into producing some of the first high-quality flatbed UV inkjets, many of which are called Rho. Its range today occupies the high-end, high-productivity and high-priced sector of the market. 

The P10 series is a flatbed and roll-fed convertible press, featuring 10pl ink drops from its Durst Quadra grayscale printheads, with a resolution of 1,000dpi. The smallest model, the 160, has a 1.6m (62in) media width, but there are 2m and 2.5m widths available too. 

Durst pitches its P10 as a relatively affordable all-rounder that’s the entry level option in its range. ‘Relatively’, because Durst doesn’t do cheap – it has always gone for build and image quality in its inkjets, and this costs serious money. 

The Rho P10 10pl drop size is larger than the earlier Omegas 1 and 2’s 6pl (which could print at 1,768dpi), but this is a more production oriented machine, capable of 100m2/hr throughput, compared to 35m2/hr for the earlier machines, which were more aimed at the art and photographic market. 

In the industrial inkjet market 80pl is not uncommon, so 10pl is pretty fine by comparison. It may seem unimpressive if you’re used to the 4pl of Epson’s proofers, but Durst makes heavy-duty machines designed to hammer out large-format work day-in, day-out. The largest, fastest Epson is the new 1,625mm SC-P20000 that coincidentally is this week’s Star Product. This outputs at 17.5m2/hr at full 600dpi, but its price is a fraction of the P10’s. 

New baby

How quickly was it up and running? “Very quickly and we were back in production within three days,” Bartlett says. “A new operator was trained from day one and it is now his baby!”

According to Bartlett the P10 does everything the company has asked of it, helping to produce high-quality work at reduced costs as well as enabling the company to increase its products and services.

“The best thing about it is the flexibility to print different substrates, from roll-to-roll to individual rigid panels, and the white ink finish we get,” he says.

“It would be good to have some form of varnish for effects and we would really like to see a remote working app or CCTV set-up so that we can have peace of mind when we leave it running overnight.

“The really important decision for any prospective buyer is to check the level of service with other users so that you know back-up is there when you need it.” Fortunately, he says, the level of service has been “very good from Durst UK; not such a good experience with other suppliers.” 


SPECIFICATIONS

Speed Up to 110m2/hr continuous printing at full width

Printheads Durst Quadra greyscale

Ink type UV-curing for indoor and outdoor applications

Colours CMYK plus optional light cyan, light magenta, white, process colour addition 

Resolution 1,000dpi

Drop size 10pl

Max print width 1,600mm

Min sheet size A3

Max sheet thickness 40mm

Software/RIP Durst Linux software plus Caldera CopyRip external Rip-server

Footprint 1x3.9m 

Price P10 160 from £155,000

Contact Durst UK 01372 388540 www.durst.it


COMPANY PROFILE 

Signbox is a specialist signage business with over 30 years’ industry experience, having been set up in 1985. It currently employs around 40 staff in a modern 1,115m2 production facility in Egham. It has a turnover in excess of £4m. 

The company’s particular speciality is architectural signage, both interior and exterior, for a range of global brands. It says it delivers “visual communication strategies via traditional and pioneering signage methods, across a number of market sectors, including corporate, education, healthcare, retail, hotel and leisure”.

Signbox’s design team and installation specialists can create and execute bespoke installations for any environment. Beyond traditional signage applications the scope includes fabricated external structures, digitally printed glazing manifestations and wallpapers, way-finding signage, digital signage, LED infused glass structures, contemporary name plates, interactive print via near-field communication (NFC) and signposting, among others.

Why it was bought...

“We purchased the P10 and have invested in Durst as they are the best in the business, with innovative technology and Greenguard certified inks, says managing director Mark Bartlett. “The P10 160 has performed well and exceeded our expectations with the versatility of media it can handle.”

How it has performed...

The Durst Rho P1 160 is significantly faster than the outgoing Omega 2, while offering a slightly larger ink drop size it still delivers print quality that’s adequate for the company’s needs. “It has definitely boosted turnover and added in-house capabilities, allowing us to be more competitive and responsive,” says Bartlett.

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