Ellipsis goes big with B2

When you think of an early adopter of a major piece of printing kit, there’s a typical type of operation: mid-to-large size player, generally servicing a market greater than the local area, with a track record of making substantial investments.

Ellipsis Media, the printing house of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), has blown away those assumptions by bringing the fastest digital inkjet B2 device in Australia to Toowoomba, a town with a population under 150,000, located some 125km from Brisbane. They’ve followed the business plan of fellow regional printer Revolution Print: make a major investment, offer trade services, and allow everyone in the region to have access to the best that money can buy in the digital world.

For Ellipsis Media, it is a perfect fit, especially when considering that the University owned business operates on a competitive neutrality model, so as to support local businesses. The goal is not to take work away from other printers in Southern Queensland, but to add to their capacity, quality, and offerings. In this case, a rising tide raises all ships.

By operating commercially, Ellipsis also offsets the cost of the University’s print work.

In explaining why he made the choice to go with the JetPress 750s, Ellipsis director Rob Keanalley noted, “There are a lot of printeries in the area that operate A2 offsets, we use A3. By investing in an A2 offset press, we would have been cannibalising existing market share, lowering the value of everyone’s work.

“We looked at other options, national trends, and saw that long runs were decreasing in size and market share, but short-run personalised digital was increasing.

“So, what is an asset that no-one has, that gives greater share for the market at whole? This pushed us to two-sided digital inkjet, we looked at what was on the market, and decided the Jet Press was the one for us.

“We did an awful lot of research on it, but we have been amazed by the sheer quality of the output. In many cases, it is better than offset.

“I looked at Revolution Print’s setup a while ago; they were bigger than we are now when they did their investment. They grew astronomically in the trade print area. We are regionally based, a safe printer to partner with, bindery focused, and doing similar things.

“We already operate perfect binders, and the only company in Toowoomba that does. We will look at other finishing capabilities that can support it and supplement it.

“We also picked up a die-cutting cylinder so we can do presentation folders in-house.

“For the University itself, there are a lot of publications that go out domestically and internationally, which require a high-quality to recognise and support the brand. For student thesis and research papers, the highest quality in print is a fitting accompaniment to their quality work.

“As students have jobs that come up, they can take advantage of it.”

Improving productivity

The installation began in July, with the press delivered July 6.

It was commissioned on July 26, and operational on the 29th of that month, with Ellipsis now having been in production for a little over a month.

Now pumping out at the press’s full speed, 3600 B2 sheets per hour, Keanalley has essentially been using the Jet Press as an alternative to the Ellipsis offset presses.

The removal of makeready, set up times, and the costs associated have already given the company massive productivity gains.

Combined with its ability to handle either coated or uncoated offset stocks, it has been a straightforward change for the company.

As he explained, “Jobs on an offset press that may have taken two days to do, have gone through the Jet Press in two to three hours.

“The output, speed, quality, and consistency have amazed us. It is something you do not take for granted. When you hold up a sample, it is amazing. People want offset, but for short- runs of a couple of thousand, that quality is there, but it is far cheaper for them to run on the Jet Press.

“On our side, we save on operator time without constant oversight. The extra investment in time on prepress with the Jet Press saves us time in the bindery later, as the product comes out collated. It also frees up our o set and other digital assets to focus on work that is better suited for them.

“It is the third point in the triangle in terms of capability.”

That quality is achieved by a combination of improvements from Fujifilm’s previous model, the 720 S, and new automated quality control measures introduced for the 750 S.

Drying is carried out via a combination of the heated belt and hot air applied from above. As well as operating at higher speeds, this new system allows greater control and fine-tuning of temperatures, extending the range of substrates that can be printed.

The Jet Press 750S also features the same extended colour gamut called ‘MaxGamut’ which, depending on the media used, allows up to 90 per cent of the Pantone library of 1,872 colours to be printed within a Delta E of 3 or less, providing an exceptional colour match on a four colour press.

Finally, in addition to the In-Line Scanning (ILS) system also found in the Jet Press 720S, the Jet Press 750S incorporates a new optional ImageConfidence scanning system as further reassurance. This uses a proprietary AI algorithm to evaluate the full print area of a B2 sheet on-the-fly, ensuring every sheet matches a pre-approved image.

A spokesperson from Fujifilm said, “The combination of a larger sheet size (increased from 750mm x 532mm to 750mm x 585mm), even better up- time, a 33 per cent faster press speed, and quicker finishing mean the overall ability of this new press to print longer runs and improve job turnaround times still further is significant.”

Leading the integration: Sue Hills (supervisor) and Rob Keanalley (director)

Perfect for packaging

The company says it is perfect for packaging, with a third of all current European Jet Press customers already producing some form of packaging on the press. With its 33 per cent speed boost and variable data printing at full speed, the new Jet Press 750S is ideally suited to printing versioned and short run packaging to coincide with specific events, localities or store promotions, according to Fujifilm.

The 750S can be modified to accommodate heavier weight folding carton stock up to 0.6mm in thickness, and printed sheets from the press have been tested and found to be compatible with a wide range of analogue and digital coating, foiling, lamination and cutting solutions. An automatic bridge is also available to connect to online coating solutions.

Fujifilm is now also able to offer a food safe ink, making the Jet Press 750S the first B2 digital press approved to print primary food packaging. This new, low migration, aqueous food safe ink complies with stringent regulations, including Swiss Ordinance 817.023.21 and European Commission Regulation 1935/2004, and has been specially formulated for coatings to be applied inline (via a bridge) or near line.

This is keenly noted by Keanalley, who said, “It has the capacity for light packaging, and A2 Canvas sheets, so we can o er work to photographers, giving us the capability to tap into that whole industry.

“This is the third generation of the JetPress, it has an incremental improvement in technology, and is something we can take advantage of.”

Growing the business

When any print shops make investments, they are chasing growth. Ellipsis set out to chase new markets, offer higher-quality services for the current business, and target work throughout the state of Queensland.

But the installation has already outpaced its expectations. After attending PrintEx, with a 3D printed model of the Jet Press, produced by Ellipsis in-house, Keanalley has been inundated with calls and requests for quotes for companies beyond the state.

“We have been contacted by a number of printers around the country since the articles have come out. We have done quotes for companies in Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Brisbane, there is a lot of interest in utilising this asset’s capabilities,” he said.

“That was the whole reason that we bought it. There has been great interest from our local printers as well. The feedback is great, they are excited about it, keen to use it. They are talking about jobs they have already won as a result, and they want to use it.

“I was surprised when people from out of state came to us. The client from Melbourne is a book publishing company, and for their customers in Queensland it makes sense for them to call us.

“We can now compete with the big players, offering pricing that is competitive.

“I don’t think they were expecting a player like us to take it up. Once they saw our operation, what we wanted to achieve, and where we wanted to be, they were on board from the beginning. They understood our objectives and how the Jet Press would deliver on those.

“We are not too different from Revolution when they put their KM-1 in. The benefits they got from that are what we are looking for in this. We also want to support the local market.

“Since the installation, we have seen that there is a lot of interest in B2 inkjet around the country. We have seen that at PrintEx too.

“We have had interest from printers, wanting to see ours as they are looking to install it.”

Dual vendors

Fuji Xerox will be also be selling the Fujifilm-built press. For both companies, it allows their customers to leverage their relationship with either Fuji Xerox or Fujifilm, ensuring the best outcome.

Roger Labrum, senior marketing manager, Graphic Communication Services, Fuji Xerox, said, “There is a strong commitment by the companies to ensure customers come first and have the flexibility of vendor choice when making their investments.”

Fujifilm said, “It lets the buyer utilise the better relationship, giving them more flexibility. Is it Fujifilm, where they can leverage their analogue plate business, or Fuji Xerox which can leverage its digital business. It is a great thing for the customer.”

The announcement of the twin sales strategy was made at PrintEx, on the shared Fujifilm/Fuji Xerox stand.

While it was impractical for the 7.3m press to be on stand, Ellipsis produced the 3D printed model shown in its place.

Most universities run their 3D printers out of engineering areas, not the printing departments. Ellipsis is the exception to the rule.

Keanalley explained, “We run one of Australia’s most advanced full-colour binder jet 3D printers, and have won awards both in Queensland and nationally.

“We are not adverse to taking on new technology and working to make it successful. The Jet Press is the latest example of that.

“Our early adoption is paying off, this is the direction the market is wanting to move in. Getting in front with one of the first B2 inkjet printers in the country is going to help us in the long-run.”

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