Case study

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Multi-lane imposition to feed a production giant



As a subsidiary and brand name of albumprinter BV, albelli represents one of the largest European photo book suppliers, active in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

At its facility in The Hague, production fulfilment for the entire market uses an arsenal of HP Indigo digital presses. These include B2 HP Indigo 12000 digital press models, as well as the HP Indigo W7250 and HP Indigo 6600p digital presses. In 2018, this facility also became home to Europe’s first HP Indigo 50000 digital press.

With the installation of the HP Indigo 50000 at albelli came a potentially overwhelming challenge. An oversized B1 duplex web press, the HP Indigo 50000 Digital Press is conceived and designed for productivity and efficiency. It offers digital print service providers economies of scale for high coverage creative designs on virtually any type of paper. With a 746 x 1120 mm (29.3 x 44-inch) image size and the capability to print up to 770 duplex color pages per minute or 2300 ppm in monochrome, it allows albelli a colossal throughput for photobooks, yearbooks, publications, direct mail and all kinds of marketing collateral. Feeding such a production giant with the volumes required to keep it running effectively and efficiently is no mean feat.

Whether photo books, calendars, or wall art, all print production at the facility is integrated into a single workflow, from artwork input through to shipping. “We have many different kinds of products, all needing different formats and requiring different procedures from the operators,” says Michael Koval, Software Engineer with albelli. “And the more types we have, then the more routes and procedures we have to build into the software. Supporting all that, of course, increases complexity.”

When it came to the HP Indigo 50000, the team had to tackle a unique situation. To integrate the printer into production in the easiest possible way, albelli wanted to be able to utilize all its existing finishing equipment with the 50000. Designed for handling rolls from the previousgeneration printers – 24 or 33 centimeters (9.4 or 13 inches) wide – this meant splitting the web into two or three lanes.

“Previously, we had always printed on either a single sheet or on a roll. Our existing imposition software was built in-house and was capable of automatically positioning everything in one lane, but we had never done it with two or three lanes,” explains Remco Beekhuizen, Production Engineer at albelli. “So that was the biggest challenge: to make the imposition as efficient as possible, in all different formats, different positions. And it should also fit within the rest of our software environment.” 

albelli met with several vendors, including Tilia Labs, to see if there was a quicker solution that could avoid months of work building the software in-house. The huge single PDF sample files for the HP Indigo 50000 were each more than 20 gigabytes in size. Tilia Phoenix processed the files around 15 times faster than any of the other technologies tested.

Another critical factor for Beekhuizen, Koval and colleagues was the system interface: “When we started looking, we knew we weren’t interested in a UI based solution. We wanted an API system because we automate things as much as possible here at albelli.” 

Tilia Phoenix automation was designed from the outset to be open API (Application Programming Interface), operating with an extensive REST-based web service. As well as providing interoperability between programs so that it can easily integrate with MIS and workflow systems, it also means that printers can adapt the API and customize it however they want using the power of Phoenix and its many tools.

“It has sped up the process of implementation,” says Beekhuizen. “Doing it ourselves would have been pretty intensive and it’s nice we were able to find some common ground and develop from there. Tilia Labs were open to our way of working.”

”We like the collaboration and communication with Tilia Labs. They’re very responsive, willing to accommodate our requests and very helpful, so that’s great,” adds Koval. “Performance-wise, Phoenix is better than anything else we have in house. It churns 10 gigabytes of PDFs per minute, which is quite fascinating. So far, we’ve been very happy,”