Me & my: Komori Enthrone E29

Jez Abbott
Friday, June 7, 2013

The old machine is in India and "that's where it will stay", quips Ray Thistleton, looking at his new press in south London, which is where it will stay.

The five-colour Komori Enthrone E29 is in for the duration at Capital Group on Brixton Hill, not least because taking delivery of the press was a small logistical feat. Thistleton, the firm’s print production manager, oversaw a job involving trucks weaving through the streets of a tight urban site, before techies squeezed the kit into its new home.

There are good reasons why it was chosen to replace the old four-colour Komori Lithrone 426, which was boxed up, shipped out, and now trundles away somewhere on the subcontinent. First off, is the quality of the print, a particularly key requirement in Capital Group’s line of work. The 35-staff company started life as a specialist photography business more than 25 years ago, and still has an in-house team of photographers and designers, along with floor-plan specialists, who create house plans to meet exacting professional surveying standards.

But a large part of the business now is printing brochures for estate agents, including Savills, Knight Frank and John D Wood. And so it’s crucial to deliver the best first impression of a home, where roaring fires coexist in picture-perfect harmony with blue skies, with solid blocks of colour and shimmering tints on printed materials looking their unblemished best.

But the Enthrone E29 delivers more than just the quality of its print, says Thistleton. The new machine was bought at the end of 2011 to improve not only on the quality, but also the performance of the old Lithrone, which Thistleton says was "old-school spanners and bolts".

The new press is anything but, featuring automated pre-inking and plate changing. The company saw the Enthrone E29 at Ipex 2010 and its ability to handle heavyweight stock day in, day out, was one of several things that made it an attractive proposition. Most of Capital Group’s work is on 350gsm stock or 220gsm for multi-page work.

"We design all our own work and needed corresponding printability," says Thistleton. "We needed very high standards to keep up with the demand for this kind of work. The old machine was a 1996 model and couldn’t work with solids and tinted backgrounds. All our work is for estate agents, and we were sending more work out than we were printing."

The new press "has changed all that", and enabled the company to expand into B2 work. Occasionally a client will ring up for 10,000 high-quality folders, but the bulk of jobs are for anything from two-page A4 portrait leaflets to larger 60-page bound brochures, all in runs of 100 to 500 copies.

Testing times
Before these live orders, however, came many trials and tests. Capital Group’s investment, which was around £450,000, was not a rushed decision. Although the machine went in at the end of 2011, as long ago as before the credit crunch the team had been doing a "bit of homework".

Capital Group looked at three machines, but the one that took the Komori Enthrone E29 up to the wire was a five-colour Ryobi 750W series machine from supplier Apex Digital Graphics. Thistleton lined up five demo jobs to test the presses with and included some difficult elements, such as print involving dark green. The Komori came out on top, but only just. What swung it was cost: a brand new Ryobi was around £60,000 more than the ex-demo Komori Enthrone. "To be fair to Ryobi, it was a fantastic demo, but it came down to price," recalls Thistleton.

Although delivery of the machine was always going to be challenging in a busy inner-city location such as Brixton, preparing the factory floor was relatively straightforward. No structural changes were required to floors or walls, as has been the case with other kit, reports Thistleton.

Then it was a case of getting down to the training included by Komori in the deal, which Thistleton reports was pretty straightforward for him and his brother Terry, as both are experienced minders who learned their skills on older, conventional equipment before touchscreen controls became the norm.

A highly automated system still has huge benefits though, says Thistleton. "Instead of two minders, the new Komori needs only one, so the company has saved on one salary," he says. "We make plates in-house, the file is ripped and goes to the press; it’s all pre-set – there’s no trouble."

"Fit-up for the first 20 sheets takes only five minutes, while makereadies take 10 minutes, this represents a 50% cut in makeready times," he adds of how quick the machine is to turn work around. He points out, however, that the maximum speed needed for runs of 400 or 500 is only 8,500sph rather than the Komori’s maximium speed of 13,000sph.

Despite its impressive quality and productivity, using the new machine hasn’t been completely without problems for Capital Group. The biggest issue the firm encountered has been with the ink duct, where instead of turning over smoothly, it juddered and produced a stop-start flow of colour.  

"There was an issue with that particular machine before delivery," confirms Komori UK director of sheetfed sales Steve Turner. "It somehow got exposed to a little damp and there was a bit of rust on the ink duct. This happened in transit, but is highly unusual and was easy to fix. There have been no ongoing issues."

"At the time of installation, the machine at Capital Group was the first in the UK; we have since sold three more and several on mainland Europe," he adds.

Thistleton says he is well-satisfied with this diagnosis. He was also very impressed with the speed with which engineers were onsite to replace this part, and the speed with which phone support was given to resolve small software glitches that occurred early on. Komori engineers giving out their mobile phone numbers, has also really impressed Thistleton.

Dryer costs
The only other gripe Thistleton has had is with the machine’s infrared dryer – or lack of it. This was ruled out on the machine because Capital deemed it too expensive, although Komori’s Turner says the vendor buys the system from a third-party supplier and has no influence on pricing, and that Komori puts very little mark-up on this.

Either way, this is only a minor annoyance for Thistleton, who would not only recommend the machine, but has recommended it in demonstrations on Brixton Hill. A firm brought an Enthrone E29 a few months ago on the strength of a visit to south London, while a printer in Scotland has lined up a visit in a few months.

Thistleton’s summary to that printer may echo his for PrintWeek: "There is nothing you can’t print on the machine. We are taking on work we couldn’t take on before and as far as quality goes it’s a vast improvement. I would say 50% of the work we are doing now we would not have been able to do if we had stuck with our old press, and that statistic alone tells a story."


Max speed 13,000sph
Max sheet size 530x750mm
Stock thickness range 0.04-0.6mm
Max printing area 520x736mm
Guide price £450,000
Contact Komori UK 0113 823 9200

Company profile
Capital Group has more than 25 years of experience producing photography, floor plans, bespoke design for brochures, advertising and corporate branding. Everything, says print production manager Ray Thistleton, is produced in-house and under one roof for estate agents including Savills, Knight Frank and John D Wood.

Why it was bought…
The company wanted to bolster its short-run, fast-turnaround service specialising in high-quality brochures and leaflets. In searching for a new press to replace the existing 16-year-old Komori, Capital Group needed to ensure it could handle increasingly sophisticated designs with added-value heavy solids, reversals, graduated tints and knock-backs.

How it has performed…
Thistleton says there are "no real negatives", while positives include a reduction in waste, fast makeready and turnaround and good quality of print. He adds: "There is nothing you can’t print on the machine, whereas before we were restricted to certain jobs and the bigger solids had to go out. It’s B2 so we can print oversize, which we couldn’t before."


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