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Article Me & my : Oce Colorwave 600
Me & my : Oce Colorwave 600And while the pressroom is not on the upper floors of a tower block, the business name does tenuously link back to the iconic Trotter residence. But most suggestive of your transportation to the set of the popular BBC sitcom is the fact that when you walk into one of the many units at the company’s HQ, you are greeted by the full cast of the show. Sort of.

"We named our wide-format machines after the cast," says director Gavin Jones. "We have seven wide-format machines – five of which are HP machines – and to make it simpler for us to communicate which one we were talking about we decided to call them by nicknames and we opted for Only Fools and Horses characters. So we have Del Boy and Rodney and the rest of the cast. Even HP uses the nicknames on its service database!"

Confusion over naming wide-format kit was not a problem the 30-year-old company had until seven years ago. Up until that point, wide-format had not been a service it offered. However, the purchase of a single solvent machine in 2005 has blossomed into a seven-strong fleet, making up 55% of the company’s turnover. These machines now service high-profile customers such as Bluewater shopping centre, Clinique and Estée Lauder.

"We do litho and wide-format for them as well as design (both from concept and design tweaking) – they want a one-stop shop," says Jones. "We have two full-time installation vans on the road too, as that service is expected now as well."

To better serve these clients and another big customer, Odeon, Tower added a further wide-format character to its cast list just before Christmas in the form of an Océ ColorWave 600 poster printer – christened Trigger on arrival.

"We have a certain product where the ColorWave perfectly fits the bill – poster work for theatres and cinemas," says Jones. "For posters on backlit and blue-back substrates and for printing on lower-cost substrates, we needed the ColorWave. What we were doing before was printing these jobs on the Océ Arizona, which is fine, but it ties up the machine and the speed is not great for that application on that machine. So we needed something that could take the backlog off the Arizona, and the ColorWave fits that bill."

The ColorWave 600 has a maximum print speed of 106sqm/hr in Express mode, 48sqm/hr in production mode and 22sqm/hr in quality mode. It can print on to substrates between 279mm and 1,067mm wide and 3,000mm long. Maximum resolution is 1,200dpi.

Cut-sheet finishing
The ColorWave can be configured with up to six rolls of media online on the machine and ready to print. Océ says it does not have to slow down for drying either, as there’s instant drying of the toner on the media, so the prints can be handled as soon as they are printed. The system also offers cut-sheet finishing, which works well with the instant dry output.

The 600 is also the first Océ machine to use the new Océ CrystalPoint technology, which converts coloured TonerPearls into a gel. Toner gel is jetted and crystallised on to any type of paper, which can include plain, blueback, recycled paper, vellum and Tyvek. Océ says this technique produces crisp, water-fast, high-quality images with "eye-popping graphics" on plain paper at 1,200dpi. It can knock out A0 prints in full colour in as little as 30 seconds, according to the manufacturer, and is competitive for runs of up to 500.

For Jones, there was nothing that could compare to the Océ ColorWave 600 on the market for the specific application he was after.

"There wasn’t really anything that fitted the bill as perfectly as this machine," he explains. "Its low cost made it even more out on its own. Also, we have had a long relationship with Océ: the Arizona has been a wonderful machine for us – reliable, solid and excellent quality. That meant we had a lot of trust in Océ too."

The machine was installed in October 2012 and was up and running within two and a half hours, according to Jones. With a small footprint and with front-end software already installed, he did not expect there to be any issues and he was proved right.

"It was almost just a case of unpacking it and plugging it in," he reveals. "We had some basic training, but to be honest, it is a relatively simple machine. It also comes with its own RIP software, Publisher Select, which makes it even easier. We were up and running extremely quickly."

The benefits of the machine were instantaneous. Jones says the company could suddenly print on low-cost uncoated papers at high quality and at high speeds – a must for the extensive work it produces for Odeon and theatres across the UK.

In terms of speed, Jones says Tower tends to use the machine in quality mode rather than the faster production mode.
"It is very, very quick so we have been really happy with the speed," he says. "We tend to run in quality mode, around 28m2/hr, as that is fast enough without having to put it in production mode."

While run lengths vary, Jones says an average job is around 150 A0 copies and that a job of that length can be completed in less than three hours. He adds that the quality of this job, even on low-cost papers, is extremely good.

Exceptional accuracy
"The accuracy is exceptional," he says. "One of the big benefits is that it can print on low-cost materials – but still at high quality. That is what our clients demand."

The clients also demand quick turnaround and that means the machine needs to be reliable, as well as quick. Thankfully for Jones, the ColorWave 600 delivers.

"Reliability has been very good," he explains. "Since installation, we have put 18,500m through it and we have not had any issues. As for maintenance, there is nothing we really need to do with it. It just runs and runs, and you can change the toner while you are running it. There is no downtime and that is essential."

Just as essential, says Jones, is the ability to quote accurately for the work. With a click charge giving a set price per square metre, Jones says the margin of error at the quoting stage is much narrower than with other wide-format machines.

"One of the big benefits of the ColorWave is that you are paying a fixed click charge per square metre, so you know when you quote a job you are certain of your costs," he explains. "That is really important for us as a business."

Of course, the high-profile client list Tower Printing serves has more complex demands than mere efficient printing and cost effectiveness. CSR reports are now the norm at big companies and obligations to conform are sneaking up the supply chain. Thankfully, the ColorWave fits the bill here, too.

"It is a very green machine, there is no ozone and no VOCs, and you are not printing on photograde papers that cannot be recycled – that is an attraction for our customers," he says.
Overall, then, as Jones said originally, the Océ ColorWave 600 really does fulfil the application Tower Printing needed it for perfectly. He says that other printers doing similar work would be wise to invest – and adds that those doing CAD work might want to take a look, too.

"I think the machine is best suited as a poster printer for the POS market – if you do that work then you should buy this machine. That said, we have done some CAD drawings on it, so it could suit that work too," he explains.
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