This was the first XL 106 in the UK to have the new features introduced at Drupa last year. It is also the first to have LE (low-energy) cool curing lamps for UV inks.
Based in Melksham, Wiltshire, about 10 miles east of Bath, Superior was set up in 1976. Over that time it has developed from a small graphic studio with a couple of offset presses into a large business employing 180 people with a turnover in excess of £20m. A management buyout in 2005 led to significant investment in technology and infrastructure. It occupies five sites on the Bowerhill Trading Estate and is one of the largest employers in the area.
Its operations range from small-format digital print, B1 sheetfed litho and B2 miniweb with inline inkjet personalisation, through to large-format high-speed flatbed printing. The company also handles a lot of point-of-sale work on both its sheetfed offset and the small- and large-format digital printers.
The Heidelberg XL 106 installed last year handles sheetfed B1 onto paper, heavyweight board and plastics, while a pair of Heidelberg Linoprint CP and CV models are used for short-run personalised documents. The Muller Martini Concepta 4/4 web press is used for longer-run documents, which are personalised by Kodak Prosper inkjet heads on the line. A pair of Inca Digital Onset S40 large-format high-speed flatbed inkjets can take paper and rigid media up to 3.1x1.6m, supported by a Goldline platen die-cutter and a Zünd digital cutting table. There is also a Fujifilm Uvistar 5m roll-fed UV inkjet.
Superior also has in-house finishing and direct mail facilities, supported by one of the largest design studios in south west England. The workflow and platesetter are Agfa, with Fujifilm plates used as part of a consumables package that also includes ink for the Onset inkjets.
Stewart Powell is production director and has worked with operations director Richard Blueitt to build up the company over the past 30 years. He says that the series of events that led to the purchase of the Heidelberg press started with the installation of the Concepta web offset press with inline inkjet personalisation to handle leaflet work, primarily for supermarkets.
This work used to be handled by a 10-unit B1 sheetfed Komori press, installed in about 2005, but that was starting to show its age, so Superior considered its future requirements for sheetfed offset.
“We took a big percentage of the perfecting work off and put it on the Muller, which left us the rest of the work to do the Komori,” says Powell. “It was not really suited to 600-micron board and things like that. The makeready times were long and it was quite tedious and hard work really for everyone. When we were doing the leaflets that press was brilliant, but when they went onto the Muller then the Komori become the wrong press for us.”
The result was the order for the Heidelberg press. Superior chose the B1 format Speedmaster XL 106 partly because it could be used with the existing platemaking and finishing systems. “We did have a look at going up in size, but the whole logistics become difficult then,” says Powell.
This press was the first in the UK with enhancements introduced at Drupa, including extensive automation. It has Prinect Press Center XL2, including wallscreen XL (a 54in, 4K status display screen), interactive pad and intuitive multi-view interface. It also has the latest Inpress Control 2, Autoplate Pro and Pressroom Manager software.
Heidelberg offers conventional high-energy UV curing, low-energy (LE) or LED-UV. Superior chose LE because of its cool running and the low replacement cost of the lamps (about £600 each). LEDs are supposed to last forever, but are expensive to replace if an array blows, says Powell. “Also we found that metallics and other special inks work better with LE than LED.”
Superior chose a five-unit configuration with an inline UV coater, partly because the instant drying of the UV inks means that there was less need for a perfector, says Powell. It was also because POS and the packaging work is mostly single-sided.
The company did consider equivalent models from both KBA and Komori, says Powell. “We did the same tests with all three suppliers. I won’t go into KBA much, but the Komori did a good job. However, it took the best part of 10 or 12 hours. The Heidelberg did it in four or five hours and made it look easy.
“That included multiple changeovers – probably 10 jobs – with spot colours lightweight papers, cartonboards, high-quality brochures. We did exactly the same test with all three presses.”
Installation went very smoothly, Powell says. After an unhappy experience with a previous Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 74 in around 1999, this time was completely different: “The guy who came in and did the planning was excellent, with good communications. We had to have the floor reinforced as they get a bit worried if you get any sort of vibration. The installation team was absolutely fantastic. They did everything on time, they didn’t make a mess, it was immaculate when it was finished and it was all to schedule. It took about a month and it was bang on.”
Servicing support has also impressed him. “We’ve only got one press so service was part of the reason that we went down the Heidelberg route. They have got enough engineers around and they’ve got them on shift. A couple of times we’ve phoned them and they’ve come in the evening and got it running again.”
In terms of real-world operation, Powell has been pretty pleased with speed, efficiency and versatility. “One of the main reasons to choose the XL 106 was the Inpress Control,” says Powell. “Off the back of that was the savings we make on makeready. We’ve gone down from 500-plus sheets to 100 to 250 tops. So we save at least 50% if not more on makeready.”
Heidelberg’s ‘push-to-stop’ concept really works, he says. “If you want to you don’t have to stop the machine at all. You program it, put the plates on, read the profiles, format it if needed, and then it will start. The only reason you stop is sometimes you’ve got to check the register, depending on what you’re printing. It is very, very clever.
“Quality is a given, we don’t worry about it now. We’ve done 1,000-micron jobs for a well-known printer company with inline UV varnishing. These used to be a real problem to get colour consistency, but now they are just run through like any other job. It takes the problems out of everything.”
The inline UV coater is also helping, he says. “We use it for gloss varnishing. Rather than having to send a job out, we can now do it inline, so then the job is finished and ready to go out of the door.” It has also allowed Superior to experiment with a new spot varnish effect called Drip-off that puts a gloss coating over clear satin spot UV. “We’ve printed up some samples and we’re showing them to customers.”
At present the XL 106 is not connected to a factory network or the Tharstern MIS, but this will come, he says. “We are looking at getting it tied up to feed back real time information into Tharstern. We’re getting used to it all to see what’s relevant for us as a business.”
Pros and cons? No real cons, says Powell. “I’d like it to have cost less, but you get what you pay for!” Would he buy it again? “Absolutely. Absolutely, no questions.”
Max speed 18,000sph
Max sheet size 750x1,060mm
Max print format 740x1,050mm
Media thickness range 0.03-1mm
Feeder capacity 1,320mm
Delivery capacity 1,295mm
Price Superior’s configuration cost £1.9m
Contact Heidelberg UK 020 8490 3500 www.uk.heidelberg.com
Superior Creative Services was founded in 1976 and today is a £20m-turnover company employing 180 people across five sites in Melksham, Wiltshire. It handles a mixture of point-of-sale graphics from small and large formats, plus personalised direct mail and retail leaflets. It is aiming to increase its quantity of packaging work, with the new Heidelberg playing a part.
Production equipment includes the Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 LE-UV B1 litho press, a pair of Linoprint SRA3 digital toner presses, a Muller Martini Concepta 8 miniweb, two Inca Digital Onset S40 fast large-format flatbed inkjets, and a Fujifilm Uvistar Pro8 5m inkjet. A full range of finishing equipment includes a Rollem Jetstream card finishing line and Goldline platen and Zünd digital cutting tables.
Why it was bought...
The installation of the Concepta press meant the company had to re-evaluate its sheetfed requirements, at the time provided by an ageing Komori press that was not well suited to the non-web jobs the company was producing.
What it has brought to the company...
“In the time we’ve had it we’ve gone from 80gsm offset to 1,000micron display board and everything in between,” production director Stewart Powell says. “Not many people can do that. We make use of the full range of everything the press does. We even print plastics on it now, without changing the inks. You chuck the plates on and off you go, which is incredible. It’s enabled us to move into packaging and look at more special finishes.”