Over its more than 35-year history ImageData Group has continuously invested in the latest technology to ensure it offers its customer as broad a range of services as possible. And this technology continuously needs refreshing as older machines come to the end of their natural life.

This was the case last year when the company’s existing Duplo 350 bookletmaker started playing up. The company, which operates from three different locations across the UK,  had had the machine for around seven years and had produced more than 6 million books on it, according to Jason Vivian, operations director at ImageData’s Brighton site.

“The machine had well exceeded its typical lifespan,” says Vivian. “It was starting to get really challenging to use and was showing signs of fatigue, which was reflected in the finished product.”

ImageData’s Brighton operation typically deals with small-format digital jobs and the on-demand, short-run nature of this type of work meant the old machine was no longer up to the task in hand.  

“We’re frequently changing from one job to another and the job setup on the Duplo 350 was time consuming,” says Vivian. “It would also struggle with certain substrates like coated stocks, so we were having to hand feed work and the operation was becoming less productive. At the same time we were able to print A4 landscape on our iGens and this work was becoming much more popular, but the old Duplo 350 couldn’t finish them so we were either having to outsource work or finish them by hand. We needed something that was faster, robust, more heavy duty and could do A4 books.”

As a result, the company started scouring the market for alternatives last summer. The search was narrowed down to a bookletmaker from IFS or from Duplo. Fortuitously for ImageData its search coincided with Duplo offering a refurbished DBM600i for sale.

“The timing was perfect,” says Vivian. “We were cursing our luck with the old machine and we had started to explore alternative options and then this machine came along which was less than 12 months old and had around 500,000 books on the meter. So we went to Duplo’s showroom to see it in action. It looked all-singing and all- dancing to us so we did the deal with Duplo and installed it last summer.”

He adds that Duplo did a “fantastic job” on the refurb. Some of the parts were replaced and Vivian says no one would have known it was secondhand because it looked as good as new. As the machine was a refurb it also meant that it ran out “considerably cheaper” than other options so signing on the dotted line was a no-brainer. The fact that ImageData is a long-standing user of Duplo kit also helped.

“We’ve been a customer of Duplo for near on 30 years so we have a long established relationship,” says Vivian. “We’ve got perfect binders, folders and creasers from Duplo.”

Installation ran smoothly. “It was delivered on day one, installed on day two and then we were training on the afternoon of day two. It only took a couple of hours to train the operators up on it.” 

Familiar technology

Although the machine is radically different in many ways to the model it replaced at ImageData, fundamentally underpinning it is the same tried and trusted technology with a number of modern twists that increase productivity. The DBM600i is a fully automated stitching, folding and trimming device that uses ultrasonic technology combining the DSC-10/60i Collator Towers and the DBM-600 bookletmaker and trimmer. It has more than 25 configurations that can combine suction, collators, sheet feeders and slit, cut, crease, squarefold and three-knife trimming operations.

The DBM600i features a touchscreen PC controller that’s user friendly and allows jobs to be set up in seconds rather than minutes. It can run at a maximum speed of 5,200 booklets per hour on paper stocks from 64-300gsm. It takes a maximum sheet size of either 350x508mm or 230x610mm. ImageData installed it with additional DBM600 fore-edge trimmer and DSF6000 digital sheet feeder modules.

“The machine is fully automated,” says Vivian. “The operator-friendly touchscreen control means the job set up time is quick so there is less downtime. It can handle most types of media; I don’t think we’ve come across a piece of stock that we can’t run through it. It’s very accurate and the finished product is of a high quality. It’s faster, more robust and it’s saved us money. In addition we’re now able to produce A4 landscape books on it.”

Since installation Vivian says the DBM600i has run like a dream and even when there were some minor teething issues these were quickly ironed out by Duplo. “They offer a brilliant, first class service,” he says. “Nine out of ten times if you put in a call in the morning they will get an engineer out to you later the same day or if not then first thing the next morning, not that we’ve had to put in many calls for this machine. Compared to the Duplo 350 the amount of downtime and engineer activity has significantly reduced.”

As a result he struggles to find any flaws with the new machine. “I really can’t think of anything,” says Vivian. “We are really happy with it. You have to understand what we were dealing with beforehand where we were literally pulling our hair out. It’s a luxury to have what we’ve got now.”

The only minor snag he can find with the machine, which he admits is something that Duplo can’t really do anything about, is the paper curling issue associated with digital printing. 

“Our digital presses run at high speeds and hot temperatures, which crucifies paper,” says Vivian. “Because of paper curling we have had some issues with feeding, but I couldn’t pinpoint a particular application or stock and say ‘yes, that’s going to give us problems’ and I have to say that compared to what we had before this is an absolute dream.”

As for what he particularly likes about the new machine he rattles off a long list of attributes including reliability, quality of work produced, speed, reduced downtime, ease of use and flexibility.

“We do all types of different stuff on it – brochures, financial reports, magazines, menus – in a variety of formats and sizes, from A6 up to A4. It’s incredibly versatile.”

Thanks to this lengthy list of attributes Vivian says he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the machine to other printers and should the need ever arise he would definitely buy another DBM600i, thanks to the transformative impact it has had on the company’s finishing capabilities.