Me & My... Océ Colorstream 10710 Flex

Tim Sheahan
Thursday, March 3, 2011

While primarily bought to boost the company's mono output, TJ International says having the option of digital colour extends its capabilities

Digital is by far the biggest growth market for book production," says Angus Clark, managing director of Padstow, Cornwall-based book manufacturer TJ International (TJI).

Perhaps it comes as no surprise then that when the £11m-turnover business was in the market for a new press, it was a digital machine that turned Clark’s head.

"We wanted to make an investment that was a big leap forward and, once again, put us at the forefront of digital book manufacturing," says Clark.

And when it came to picking a machine, it was long-time technology partner Océ that came up with the goods with its ColorStream machine. But the choice was by no means cut and dried; according to Clark, competitors for TJI’s investment included the Xerox 1300 simplex twin-engine continuous-feed press and Xerox’s Nuvera 288 cut-sheet machine. In the end, however, it came down to a choice between two Océ options. TJI could upgrade an existing VarioStream 9710 toner-based printer or invest in the ColorStream. Following extensive tests, the company opted for the latter.
"At higher speeds, the quality was excellent," says Clark.

Once he had signed on the dotted line for the ColorStream, installation and training was a fairly straightforward affair.
"There were a few delays with a software upgrade being installed, and some sensors on ancillary kit didn’t work quite as well as they should have," adds Clark. That aside, he says the process was a positive one.

TJI’s history with Océ began with the installation of the UK’s first DemandStream 8090 press in 1999. Since then, it has stuck with the manufacturer – securing another UK first with the installation of a VarioStream 9210 in 2004 and subsequent machines, including Europe’s first VarioPrint 6320 in 2009.

"Océ has been our digital partner for 11 years, so we’ve come a long way together. It’s a firm that offers superior technology with environmental benefits," says Clark.

According to Craig Nethercott, director of Océ UK’s production printing division, the launch of the latest ColorStream was in response to demands of long-term customers like TJI.

"More and more customers want the flexibility of having a mono machine, with the opportunity to use colour when appropriate," he explains. "The flexibility of the Océ ColorStream 10000 appeals and the ability to take on high-volume full-colour digital printing should it be needed has been welcomed by the market."

Fit for purpose
While it is targeted at customers in the transpromo, direct mail, manual and publishing markets, TJI obviously invested for its book production capabilties. Clark says it perfectly hits the production levels the sector currently demands.

"The ColorStream is ideal for short to medium-length runs," he says.

By short, Clark includes the rising trend of producing ultra-short runs of as little as 10 copies. This service is part of the company’s aim to help publishers reduce inventory costs and avoid titles going ‘out of print’. TJI has already produced millions of soft- and hard-cover academic and technical titles for specialist national and international publishers for this purpose.
Ability to produce short runs is not the only thing publishers are looking for, however, they are also demanding high quality. In recent years, digital has come a long way in this area, with even fine art book printers swearing by the quality digital is now capable of producing. For Clark, the Océ more than delivers.

"I particularly like the high-quality halftones and tints," he says.

He adds that the ease-of-use and reliability are also major draws for what is a fairly new concept on the market. That’s not to say it hasn’t been plain sailing all the way. Clark points out that the knife unit can be a bit temperamental on start-up and that in an ideal world, "a few more options for the print operators to chain jobs together for a better flow" would be appreciated.

As to how the business has been affected by the investment, Clark readily sings its praises. The machine runs at 60m/min in multilevel dot modulation mode and up to 106m/min in a bi-level mode. According to TJI, recent figures show an annual production output of 6.5m books, of which 500,000 are digital. If you step back 10 years, that figure was 4.5m, only 10,000 of which were digitally-printed. In 2011, nearly 10% of the company’s output is from digital sources. The fact that the ColorStream has allowed the 135-staff business to save time in production, has been a positive move.

"Work is streaming through and we no longer have a need for overtime," he says.

Nethercott adds that Océ was "proud" to have played its part in helping TJI move forward. He says: "With all early adoptions of new technologies, we appreciate feedback from users like TJI, which helps us shape our future development plans.

"Behind all the technology is the basic premise that this should be a press that can grow with its owner, and hence flexibility of configuration is at the heart of the product. The Océ ColorStream offers a way into digital colour, whether as a stepping stone or as a standalone."

Single-handed control
The flexibility of the firm’s latest investment has also enabled TJI to run its whole digital print department, including its VP6250, VP 6320 and CS10710 digital presses, with a single operator. According to Clark, that level of flexibility has greatly helped the business.

"Everybody can see that print runs are going down overall. As digital develops we see the crossover point getting closer. However, if I didn’t print litho, then digital quality – which is improving all the time – would have to be even better," he says.

While production capabilities are of course crucial, in today’s market eco credentials are just as important, both from an environmental point of view and because of the rising cost of energy. Fortunately, Clark says the ColorStream delivers in this area as well. He believes that it offered stronger environmental benefits than its competitors and that this was an important factor in the investment decision.

"Its unique printing technology means we uses less power, fewer consumables and emit less noise, without compromising on quality," he says.

As for the future, digitally printed book production has grown substantially over the past few years and Clark sees no sign of that slowing down anytime soon. "We believe digital book manufacturing will continue increasing at phenomenal rates," he concludes.

That suggests there may be more digital investments in the future, but whether the company chooses to continue its Océ partnership next time will depend on how the next generation of presses shape up. For now, Clark is confident that the ColorStream was the right press for the job this time around.

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TJ International was established in 1970. Employing 135 staff, the company has an annual turnover of £11m and provides a full, in-house book production service of monochrome soft- and hard-cover books, as well as large-print books for the sight impaired.

The Padstow, Cornwall-based business operates both digital and litho print production lines that encompass Océ, Heidelberg and KBA printing equipment as well as in-house finishing from Muller Martini, Horauf and MBO.
Why I bought it...
"Digital is our biggest growth market and we believe digital book manufacturing will continue increasing at phenomenal rates," says managing director Angus Clark. The ColorStream has enabled the company to extend its reach in the digital market. The company anticipates that digital production will rise to 25% in the coming years.

How it has performed...
According to Clark, the quality is excellent. The machine provides value for money and it has saved the firm a great deal of time. On reflection, Clark says he would definitely recommend the machine and would invest in another when volume dictates.

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