11 April 2019 Analogue Printing Technologies

Ending the plate bottleneck: Antilope leaps ahead with Kodak

Antilope De Bie has installed new Kodak platesetters to cope with demand from a six-press line up, including two new UV presses.

Antilope de Bie is one of the leading sheetfed printers in Belgium with a strong reputation of quality and for its progressive outlook. It operates from the town of Duffel (famous for the coats) close to Antwerp in the Flemish speaking part of the country and has an office across the border in the Netherlands.

The De Bie family owned business consolidated three acquisitions made in 2017, including Antilope, and has subsequently invested in updating production facilities at the factory in Duffel. It has invested in new generation UV Heidelbergs, an eight-colour perfector and five-colour plus coater. Both are equipped with LED UV drying.

These join four other Heidelberg presses in both B2 and B1 formats four- and five-colour plus coating models to give six offset presses in all. There is also a Kodak Nexpress SX2500 digital press with five-colour printing.

Along with these, the company runs an ERP level MIS, running an automated workflow that allows the business to cope with 100 jobs a day. Its prepress workflow is Kodak Prinergy as are its plates. With the investment in the new presses and growth in the number of jobs needed each day, it has also upgraded plate production to cope.

The company has installed two Trendsetter Q800 B1 platesetters replacing the B2 format machines it had used before the press investment. “We had great experience with the Kodak Magnus Q800, so we were very confident that bringing in two new Trendsetter platesetters would be a safe move,” says Bart De Bie. The business has retained the B2 presses to support the new Speedmaster XL106s.

“Our relationship with Kodak goes back over ten years, and over this period they’ve become a very trusted partner. We’ve always appreciated their solutions oriented approach. We were impressed with the machine’s superior quality, reliability, small footprint, and low energy consumption. It was also very easy to integrate our plate sorting line with bending capabilities, which creates the perfect solution for our needs.”

The platesetters are handling around 700 plates a day, double the level of production in 2017 before De Bie’s acquisition of Antilope. The Trendsetter 800W is the high speed version, able to image 62 plates an hour. The company has one of these and a standard eight-up machine. If required, the combined output can reach 110 plates an hour.

Both machines are fed from Kodak’s multi-cassette unit. There are four trays per MCU giving a combined capacity of 480 plates in each platesetter, enough to run unattended overnight if need be. “The Trendsetter platesetters with MCU give us the right flexibility to organise our offset plate production efficiently. We’re now able to produce about 110 plates per hour in three different plates sizes. As a result, the press downtime during job changes is kept to an absolute minimum,” he says.

Antilope is imaging the Trillian SP thermal plate. This is currently more robust than the Sonora plates, especially with LED UV inks. The company will also require print runs into hundreds of thousands for some of the top end catalogues that are printed at the Duffel factory.

“The Trillian SP has excellent ink/water balance on conventional and LED UV sheetfed offset presses, allowing us to produce with very low alcohol percentages. The plates are also extremely stable across different applications, and they use a minimum amount of chemistry, he explains.

“We use the plate on both our conventional and UV presses and have no issue with print runs of 100,000 impressions on our LED UV presses. Low chemistry is nice, but, once we are comfortable with the new presses and platesetters, we are intent on testing the Sonora X process-free technology and taking advantage of the benefits of eliminating all chemistry that this plate brings.”

The company has been working with the squarest imaging on the Magnus platesetter previously, so is comfortable with handling a 20 micron spot size and Staccato screening. That can give the rendition of high end design and prepress that customers in furniture, fashion and from Antwerp’s design community are aiming for. It will also produce variable data mailings, exploiting the Nexpress, and is also printing cartonboard, installing a Brausse 105 platen to cut and crease faster than the Heidelberg Cylinders it has been using.

Antilope can trace its past to 1922, the same year that the BBC was founded. Its future lies as part of the consolidation of the industry that is in full swing. After its acquisition spree two years ago, Antilope De Brie has attracted the attention of the larger Graphius group. Graphius has taken a minority stake in Antilope de Bie as part of a strategic partnership where the extra production capacity can be shared to hit deadlines on larger projects, especially with the investment in LED UV and Kodak plates.

The ongoing investment is a key part of the strategy. Two decades ago, it was one of the first printer in Belgium to invest in cap. “We always strive to be ahead of the market to deliver products that help our customers’ needs by continually innovating. It’s a core part of our operating philosophy,” says De Bie.

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Kristof Vanden Bussche, Kodak account manager, in Kodak Belgium's print systems division, with Bart De Bie, CEO of Antilope de Bie, with the two new platesetters that produce 700 plates a day for the business in Duffel, near Antwerp.

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