The Bristol company takes delivery of a six-colour plus coater Speedmaster XL106 on 5 August, replacing its older XL105 and an XL75. This is part of a Subscription Plus Partnership that includes service, parts, consumables, Prinect workflow and consultancy support from Heidelberg.
Conversations about the decision began in October. “My honest thoughts then were that with a slow and largely negative marketplace, our discussion may be something better suited to future years,” says Mike Malpas, Hampton managing director.
“But the more we talked about it and thought about the importance of the consumables that we were using. We want consistency. I remember that it was 6.30pm on Christmas Eve when I was the last in the factory I decided it was right for us.”
The company has won numerous awards for the quality of its printing, which has attracted high profile customer base in fashion, automotive, retail and lifestyle. Malpas puts this down to the quality of artwork received, and the control that it has over the print process, frequently running stochastic or hybrid screening on uncoated substrates. This starts with its air conditioned 9750m2 factory. Consistent consumables, matched to the press and the company’s settings become a crucial part of the approach.
“I have a repro background, starting out with a seven year apprenticeship in Slade. Repro is key to everything,” he says. “The artwork has to work on all substrates, whether coated or uncoated, and to give the same result. We have to understand and be in control of the process, which is why we are good at what we do.”
The company uses Agfa’s process-free plates to ensure that repeatability and consistency is maintained at the point of imaging a plate and this relationship continues under the Heidelberg contract.
Malpas, who had been sales director, took over as managing director from Chris Cooper three and a half years ago. He remembers the conversations with Heidelberg. “The more we discussed Heidelberg’s idea of a flexible ‘subscription’ model, the more we came to understand the benefits and realisation of this being a largely viable and progressive option for our particular business.
“It’s not just about printing what someone gives you. It’s about looking at the network, understanding what the substrate is and print. For me Heidelberg makes the best machines to help us achieve those differences. And thanks also to the skills of the staff we have been achieving things that we didn’t think were possible.”
The appeal is not in the running speed of the press but in the time to get into good sheets and reduction in spend on maintenance and in waste sheets. The B1 press being replaced is 14 years old and lacks the Impress colour that both the new machine and the seven year old XL105 that is being retained.
“The old press still produces excellent quality, but it was costing in terms of buying new rollers and grippers, so felt we were wasting money on maintenance that would be included in the subscription.”