Me & my: Inktec Jetrix LXi7

Simon Creasey
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Design Xpress found this easy to use and cost-effective flatbed has contributed hugely to a post-lockdown surge in demand for work.

Gerry: “We were like ‘are you sure that’s the right price for this machine?’”
Gerry: “We were like ‘are you sure that’s the right price for this machine?’”

When the government-imposed lockdown kicked in earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, work fell off a cliff overnight for County Durham-based Design Xpress. The company mainly supplies jobs to the entertainment and leisure industry who suffered the most stringent lockdown restrictions of any business sector.

However, when the government announced in June that it intended to ease restrictions on these sectors Design Xpress was suddenly inundated with print jobs, particularly from its theme park customers who wanted social distancing signage printed.

“People wanted things straight away because it was announced that things were going to start opening up, but they were only given five days to do it, so everybody said to us ‘look we need this – how quick can you get it to us?’,” recalls Carl Gerry, operations director at Design Xpress.

Thankfully for the company the answer was extremely quickly because in November last year it took delivery of the UK’s first Inktec Jetrix LXi7, supplied by Perfect Colours.

“Because of the Jetrix we were able to spit jobs out and have a really quick turnaround on things,” says Gerry.

“The machine is absolutely perfect for small-run board work like outdoor signage for the parks because we can put two boards on the bed at once for maximum output.”

Since installation of the CMYK-plus-white machine Gerry has been blown away by its performance, although he admits that initially he had some reservations about taking a printer that was at that point unproven in the UK marketplace.

“When we decided we were going to upgrade our flatbed printers we’d never even heard of Jetrix,” he says. “It was a bit of a risk because we didn’t know if it was going to be suitable for us and we were worried that if we got rid of our old flatbeds and went for another model that didn’t do what we expected it to do, it would be a massive mistake. We had a couple of demos on the machine and I spoke to some people who have got Jetrix flatbeds and we decided to go for it. It’s probably been the only printer we’ve installed that does exactly what it says on the tin.”

Gerry explains that initially the company had looked at upgrading its existing five-year old HP FB500 flatbeds. He says that when Design Xpress bought the machines they did so with a view to taking the updated version of the presses further down the line, but HP discontinued the model and went down the Latex route instead.

“With Latex technology there’s that many components and elements to it before it prints, whereas with the Jetrix, it literally just prints. There’s no warming up, there’s no curing, there’s no cooling, there’s no anything.”

The company also considered taking an Arizona flatbed from Océ – prior to installing the Jetrix it took delivery of an Océ Colorado 1650 – but after seeing the Jetrix in action Gerry was immediately won over.

“For the demo we took our own work to print and the quality was amazing. We were like ‘are you sure that’s the right price for this machine?’ because of the speed and the quality we were getting from it compared with other machines.”

Size matters

The machine was shipped from the manufacturer’s base in Korea and Gerry says that he was a bit nervous when it turned up as he wasn’t sure whether or not it was going to fit the space that company had allocated to it; the company got rid of an old cutting room so it could accommodate the press on the factory floor.

“When they wheeled it into the factory everybody was watching saying ‘you’ve messed this one up Carl’ because it looked too big, but there was about three foot of packaging around it so when we stripped it all down and got it in, it fitted exactly where we thought it would.”

He says the installation ran incredibly smoothly and he was blown away by the service, training and level of precision offered by the press manufacturer, which sent two of its top engineers over from Korea to set up the machine.

“They were levelling the bed with this gauge they placed on it and it would say if it was out by a thousandth of a millimetre. That’s how precise they were.”

Although Gerry says the the machine is incredibly precise and consistently churns out high-quality work it is also easy to operate.

“It’s really easy to use. You literally rip something in, send it across to the printer and it comes up on the touchscreen GUI unit, which is really user friendly. You put your board size on and your art work is ripped into size and you literally just touch it on the screen and place it on the board where you want it. You don’t need a degree to work it, it’s like using an iPad. The way it works is so simple – even I can use it.”

One of the key upsides of the Jetrix is due to the fact that multiple jobs can be nested wherever the operator chooses on the board, using the touchscreen display, and that helps cut down on wastage.

“Wherever you set a job on the board that’s where it prints, whereas previously on the older machines you didn’t know there was a mistake on the board until it came out,” says Gerry. “So we’ve got less waste. You can put two 8x4 boards on it and in one go we can print four or five jobs instead of having to place them through one at a time.”

The addition of white ink has also been a revelation. “We never used white ink before so they arranged to send somebody up to give us training on white ink. We always thought that printing white ink meant putting down lots of layers and would be time consuming, but it’s easy and it looks fantastic.”

In addition to increasing efficiencies and cutting down on waste Gerry says the company has also enjoyed significant ink cost savings. “It’s a bit like cars. If you’re driving a Ford Fiesta and then you go up to a Range Rover you expect all your insurance and fuel costs to be more expensive, but with the Jetrix the cost of running it is actually cheaper and that’s purely down to the technology and the speed and amount of ink it can put down. We worked out that over the first three years we will save quite a lot of money on ink plus it would give us more printing capacity, better quality and it fit our budget. So it was a no brainer.”

Although he’s been blown away by the machine’s performance since it was installed he says that there have been one or two teething issues, but he readily admits that any faults have been down to user error and had nothing to do with the machine.

“The good thing is that if I’ve got an issue with anything, or if something goes wrong, I can log a call with Inktec and within minutes I’ll get an email back and we’ll get on TeamViewer. So they’ll go on, look at what we’ve done and say ‘you need to do this’.”

Jetrix engineers also talked Gerry and his team through the process of replacing some filters on the machine during lockdown over video when site visits were not an option.

“The after care and response times of the service teams has been tip top. If I need to speak to someone from Jetrix they’re always incredibly responsive compared with other people.”

He’s been so blown away by the installation process, the after sale support and by the performance of the machine that he says he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to another company.

“In fact I already have done,” says Gerry. “There was a local company in the same situation as us who were looking at upgrading and were choosing between two or three different machines.

“I invited them over for a demo and I’m pretty sure they ordered one.”


SPECIFICATIONS

Ink UV LED

Bed size 3x2.5m

Max resolution 1,080x720dpi

Max rigid media thickness 100mm

Max rigid media size 2,500x3,060mm

Max speed 78sqm/hr

Price From £120,000 (complete with eight printheads)

Contact Inktec Europe 01993 862 770 www.inktec-europe.com


COMPANY PROFILE

Consett-based large format specialists Design Xpress has been trading since 1995 and services a wide range of customers including theme parks and pub and restaurant chain groups. The company currently employs 13 members of staff and has an annual turnover of circa £1.2m. The business has an impressive array of machines at its 335sqm site including a HP PageWide, a HP FB500 flatbed, a HP Latex 570, a Summa F-series flatbed cutter, plus various other pieces of finishing kit.

Why was it bought...

The company was looking to upgrade its existing five-year old HP FB500 flatbeds. It looked at a number of different options, but eventually plumped for the Inktec Jetrix LXi7. It kept one of its HP FB500’s as a contingency plan in case the new investment didn’t work out as envisaged.

How it has performed...

It’s done everything it said on the tin and more according to Gerry. He’s been blown away by the speed and quality offered by the machine. The company has also enjoyed significant ink and material savings. “It’s been amazing for us,” he says.

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