Me & my... Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600

Jordan Bassett
Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Producing proofs for packaging clients has never been so profitable for Glossop Cartons, thanks to a chance encounter at Drupa

Glossop Cartons director Jacky Sidebottom claims to not be much of a gambler. The firm she runs with her husband, Brian, operates from an old cotton mill in the Derbyshire countryside, which she describes as "quaint". Of her approach to business, Sidebottom says: "We’ve taken it easy over the years. We don’t over-stretch ourselves. Everything’s very systematic and worked through – we don’t buy kit and hope for the best, which we’ve seen some people do."

But four months ago, Glossop Cartons acted a little out of character, splashing out on a Fujifilm Acuity LED 1600 without assessing the alternatives. The Sidebottoms were so confident about the product and the manufacturer responsible for it that they even went on holiday while the machine was installed.

This departure from standard practice coincides with the company’s 30th year. Launched in 1982 with three employees, it has steadily grown to a team of 49. With a turnover of £5m, Glossop focuses on manufacturing packaging, specialising in cartons for household products.

For years, if a client required a mock-up, they would receive a proof spray-mounted onto a substrate sample. Then Sidebottom went to Drupa and spotted the Acuity.

"When we went out there, I had it in my mind that there was a need for this type of machine," she says, "because until then our method of making mock-ups was a bit Mickey Mouse, a bit Blue Peter. We’d only gone to Fujifilm’s stand to be polite and say hello. We had no plans to buy anything and we squeezed it in between other appointments. Then I saw the machine and it was like love at first sight; I knew that’s what I had in my mind. We didn’t have the time slots at Drupa to look at the Acuity’s competitors, so it was the first one we saw and we decided we’d have it."

It was obviously meant to be: Fujifilm was demonstrating the Acuity on cartonboard when Sidebottom approached the stand. "It was a very visually pleasing demonstration," she says. "If they had been printing a bog-standard carton, it wouldn’t have been as eye-catching, but it had a UV pattern on top, which caught my eye."

Glossop Cartons snapped up the first Acuity to enter the UK and it was installed in late July. Over three days, the machine was integrated into the firm’s pre-press studio and when the Sidebottoms returned from their holiday, they were ready to have three employees trained up on it. Sidebottom says the installation process was "very professional and very comprehensive".

Proof positive
After training on the Acuity, the firm was able to offer clients pack mock-ups without requiring them to commit to an expensive litho run. Sidebottom describes the production process: "You start off with a plain mock-up sample and once the style is approved, you get a designer to put the graphics on it for you. Then we’d normally run out a flat proof or we’d PDF it for the client’s approval. Once they’re happy with that, we’ll use the Acuity to put it on the substrate that we’re going to produce the manufactured run on. We send it the clients with the cut-ups actually made up, so what they see is what they get."

It is important to Glossop Cartons that clients can see their products at their highest possible quality, so they can assess their designs clearly and make changes if necessary. In this respect, the Acuity LED 1600 has been ideal, says Sidebottom.

The machine prints at 1,200dpi at a speed of 20m2 per hour and its one-pass system allows users to print a single run in two or three layers of colour, white and clear inks. This density and clarity is just what Sidebottom had in mind when she wanted to update the company’s mock-up service.

The firm will generally print between three and 12 of these mock-ups per job, at a cost of approximately £100 each. Sidebottom says the investment is already starting to show a return, with existing customers taking advantage of the service. A major high-street retailer has used it to create a dozen samples for packaging for nail care products, in three different styles, to trial in its flagship store. Sidebottom also notes that clients pleased with the quality of their samples are often more likely to stick around for the full production run.

Many clients share Glossop’s penchant for playing it safe (when not making impulse buys at Drupa, that is), according to Sidebottom. As companies find themselves working with tighter and tighter budgets, they are ever-more reluctant to commit to a longer litho run without seeing their product in a tangible form first. The mock-up service enables them to see exactly what their pack will look like, for a modest outlay, before taking the leap.

"Buyers use this service because they don’t like to leave as much to the imagination as they used to," she says. "They have to see what they’re going to get. They like to put the product in the pack and stand back and look at it, examine it from every angle and then perhaps even take it away and show it to their customers. I don’t think anyone’s prepared to gamble any more."

The Acuity LED 1600’s ability to provide this high-quality service at low cost perhaps explains the success it has already had in its four-month life at Glossop Cartons: since installation, Sidebottom says the Acuity has brought in "at least a couple of hundred" jobs for the firm.

Quality output
Sidebottom says the machine has lived up to its stated speed specifications too, although she points out that the kind of services that Glossop uses it for do not require a particularly speedy turnarounds as the runs are so short. The company has also been impressed by the quality of the machine’s output, which Sidebottom says almost equals that of offset litho. She also predicts that, given time, Fujifilm could well have the Acuity achieving the quality clients expect of final production processes. For a "tiny" run, she says, it could even be used to create finished products in its current incarnation.

Aside from packaging, Gary Barnes, marketing manager for digital systems at Fujifilm Europe (Graphic Division), says the Acuity is also ideal for displays, signs, labels, stickers, wallpaper and window graphics. He adds that its chief competitors would be the Roland LEJ640 and the Mimaki UJV 160.

But for Glossop Cartons, it is packaging all the way with its Acuity. And while the firm may have kept a cool head and taken a steady approach to business through its history, in its 30th year it has proved the potential rewards of trusting your instincts when acquiring a new press. Still, Sidebottom is taking no risks when it comes to recommending the Acuity LED 1600 to rival firms. Asked if she would advise any other printers to buy the machine, she says: "Not to my competitors, no. It wouldn’t be in my interests!"


SPECIFICATIONS

Max print width 1,610 mm
Supported substrates Roll, sheet, rigid (up to 13mm thick) (Rigid substrates require the use of a support table)
Max print speed
20sqm/hr
Printhead
Fujifilm Dimatix Q-Class Emerald 256-jet head
Ink
LED UV-curing ink
Ink colours
Eight colours (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, light magenta, white, clear)
Max resolution
1,200dpi
Footprint
3,220x780mm
Weight
Printer: 280kg; tables: 50kg
Price
£66,500
Contact
Fujifilm UK 01234 245245 graphics.fujifilm.co.uk


COMPANY PROFILE

Glossop Cartons was founded in 1982 with three members of staff. Currently celebrating its 30th year in business, the firm now employs 49 people and has a turnover of £5m. It focuses on the packaging market and the majority of its work is printing cartons for household products. The company is run by husband-and-wife team Brian and Jacky Sidebottom from an old cotton mill in Glossop, a Derbyshire market town. The company has taken a level-headed approach to business through the years. "We don’t buy kit and hope for the best, which we’ve seen some people do," says director Jacky Sidebottom.

Why it was bought…
Prior to the investment, Glossop Cartons would produce mock-ups for clients by spray-mounting a proof to a substrate sample. This was all a bit "Blue Peter", for Sidebottom, who, after seeing the Acuity LED 1600 in action at Drupa, decided that this was what the company needed. In the four months since installation, the new machine has brought in around 200 jobs.

How it has performed…
Sidebottom has no complaints about the machine. She says the Acuity meets its speed specifications (although speed is not a key concern for the type of work Glossop uses it for) and that its quality almost matches that of offset litho. For a "tiny" run, she believe the machine could competently produce the finished product.




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