Me & my: Kodak NexPress SX3300


Sometimes the relationship between the sales and production sides of a business can be fraught due to conflicting priorities and many a mutual misunderstanding about exactly what the other does, how and why.

So, it’s a special thing when a new bit of kit keeps everyone happy. In Fuller Davies’ case its new NexPress is a crowd-pleaser that has everyone singing its praises.

Fuller Davies is a general commercial printer that specialises in complex projects and offers a full service including mailing via its in-house mailing division. Based in Ipswich the 26-staff firm has a turnover of £3.2m. 

“We specialise in the more wild and wacky work; we have a can-do attitude where we look for the added-value work where the market is less sensitive,” says managing director Neil Stones. 

It offers digital and litho printing in-house with a Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 74 producing B2 and a Manroland 705 handling its B1 output. All finishing bar perfect binding is handled in-house and it also outsources its wide-format to a firm on the same industrial estate. 

At the start of 2014 the firm expanded its digital department with the installation of a Kodak NexPress SX3300. 

The NexPress joined the firm’s first digital printer, a Xerox 700, to add capacity and capability to its digital department. The Xerox is now relegated to black and white work and a back-up duties.

“People questioned us jumping from a Xerox 700 to a NexPress rather than buying something in between, but we didn’t feel any of the intermediate machines offered enough, so we went for a full production digital press,” says Stones. “The NexPress has also got that pedigree of the Heidelberg involvement. It weighs four and a half tonnes – it’s not a photocopier.”

Strong performer

The robustness and precision of the machine that are a consequence of its heavy metal heritage were crucial. 

“The NexPress is the only digital machine that offers proper registration and accuracy, which makes a world of difference for finishing the work,” Stones says.

Using stocks that can also be handled by its offset presses was another benefit. 

“Kodak doesn’t care what you put through it,” he says. “Customers demand standard stocks, and in production the key is to take out variables. That has helped to give our minder – a die-hard litho printer – and our print finishers confidence in the NexPress.”

A key factor in Stones’ selection was the long sheet option, in particular the ability to duplex long sheets automatically. 

“We produce A4 landscape and 6pp A4 jobs every day,” he says. “Between 10%-20% of the work uses the long sheet option. For the 6pp A4s the NexPress duplexes automatically and stacks the sheets in the delivery rather than the proof tray. That recently enabled us to do a 10,000-sheet run.”

One pre-requisite Fuller Davies had for the press was the ability to assist in its mailing operations.

“As a mailing house we know how to handle data. We needed a press that would handle more variable data,” says Stones. “One of the deciding factors in favour of NexPress was that Kodak is always developing the front-end.”

Finally, the additional colours, finishes and effects possible using the fifth unit of the NexPress were decisive. “We use the extra unit a lot,” he says. “The major application is dimensional printing, it’s really good if used to add texture and is popular with our more creative customers,” he says. “We use the clear coat to protect mailers, which saves customers the additional cost of laminating. We also use light black most days to produce smoother tints and solids.”

“We couldn’t keep waiting for inkjet, the technology isn’t ready and you could buy four NexPresses for the price of one inkjet – it would be better to buy two NexPresses,” he says. “Toner technology is at its zenith. I don’t think it will get quicker, nor will it get much cheaper or higher quality. I’d rather go with the established technology.” 

While shopping around the company also looked at HP Indigos and Xerox iGens. The iGens were rejected because they didn’t offer the value-added features possible with the fifth unit or the litho-like robustness of the Kodak. 

“The Indigos felt too expensive for a new customer; it may be different if you are an existing HP customer, but we felt to make it stack up you’d need a base of work and an existing relationship with HP,” he says.

Prior to the arrival of the NexPress, Fuller Davies had an open-plan office-cum-studio-cum-digital print room but to make way for the new machine it installed a glass wall to separate the production equipment from the rest of the office.

“It’s not a quiet machine and it was an upheaval,” he says.

To support the long sheet option on the NexPress the firm had to fit an extension to its Morgana DigiFold Pro, but aside from that the press slotted in without incident. 

Since the installation Fuller Davies has doubled its digital revenues to around 14%-20% of sales, which has been mostly new business rather than cannibalising its litho print. A lot of that has been work using the longer sheet and or the fifth unit, which the firm has actively promoted. One of the first things it did after installation was to create its own marketing piece – a 6pp A4 mailer that included dimensional printing to showcase the press’s capabilities. 

“We’ve had to back-sell it,” he says. “Now people are designing with the new capabilities in mind, including a lot of 6pp A4s.”

One issue, which is a consequence of increasing digital production and nothing to do with the NexPress itself, is the extra vigilance needed in finishing. 

“Smaller jobs are harder to keep track of but they justify the extra attention,” he says. “A cultural shift has been needed to get the bindery staff on board.”

Stones has got nothing but praise for Kodak and its support.

“Kodak is very pragmatic about solving any problems,” he says. “If you sit down with them they listen, and our wish list has been taken on board for future developments. One of the deciding factors for Kodak is that it is always developing the machine, which is also modular. We talked to four NexPress users prior to buying one ourselves; one was running a seven-year-old machine that had been upgraded to the latest configuration.” 

Reassurance

Kodak’s well-publicised woes were of course a concern, but the firm was reassured by the manufacturer’s openness and approach; additionally Stones believes that “the product is so good that if Kodak did go someone would take it on”.

Overall Stones is delighted with the NexPress and the additional capabilities it has brought to Fuller Davies. The larger sheet size has opened up new formats, while the fifth unit has expanded the range of finishes and effects it can offer. There are more pragmatic benefits too. 

“There are some formats, such as an A5 8pp that are a nightmare,” he says. “But a slightly different format can be much more cost-effective. Now we produce samples that demonstrate the most economic products that help our customers play to the machine’s strength.”

If the firm’s digital work continues to increase as rapidly as it has since the NexPress went in it will be investing in a second within two years.

“It’s not a green button machine, you need an operator who understands printing,” he says. “If you’re looking for a four-colour box you might as well buy a Xerox.”

It has enabled the firm to do a lot of things it couldn’t previously do, including open up new channels of communication with customers.

“It turns customers on and leads to other conversations,” he says. “It’s a talking point, which is what a salesman is looking for.”

So the SX3300 is a talking point, a printer’s press and a salesman’s dream – for Fuller Davies there’s very little to dislike about it. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Max sheet size Standard: 356x520mm; optional: 356x914mm

Speed 100 A4 ppm (109ppm with long sheet option)

Number of colours 5

Stock weight range 60-350 gsm

Price Around £400,000 

Contact Kodak 0845 602 5991 www.kodak.com 


Company profile 

Fuller Davies is a general commercial printer that specialises in complex projects and offers a full service including mailing via its in-house mailing division. Based in Ipswich the 26-staff firm has a turnover of £3.2m. It offers digital and litho printing in-house with a Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 74 producing B2 and a Manroland 705 handling its B1 output. All finishing bar perfect binding is handled in-house and it also outsources its wide-format to a firm on the same industrial estate.  

Why it was bought…

The NexPress was bought to add capacity and new capabilities to its digital department. The firm wanted a modular and upgradable machine, and in particular one that could handle increasing volumes of variable data without tripping up the RIP.

How it has performed…

Since the installation Fuller Davies has doubled digital revenues. The firm’s operators like the machine’s precise register and ability to handle standard stocks. The larger sheet size has opened up new formats, while the fifth unit has expanded the range of finishes and effects it can offer. “It turns customers on and leads to other conversations,” says Stones.

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