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By Editor Morten B. Reitoft 

Not every day do I visit one of Europe's big online printers, but recently Ziga Kovac (INKISH filmer) and I (Editor) found ourselves in a car heading to Saxoprint in Dresden. Saxoprint is a successful online printing company in the former DDR (Eastern Germany). All their production takes place in one location, and not far from the city center. Richard Müller tells me that this is a considerable advantage when recruiting staff as the tram literally stops in front of Saxoprint. 

We are here because Horizon International became a supplier to Saxoprint in 2016. This is great, as it allows me and my team to share some of the findings from Saxoprint, and it is a truly amazing printing company!

Saxoprint is a bit more secretive than most printing companies we visit, but online printing is a growing segment. It's a competitive segment, so I am totally OK with everything! When you enter the company, you are welcomed into what could be seen as a showroom with product samples and a kind of lounge area. 

Dresden

Saxoprint is, as mentioned, located in Dresden. This is one of the loveliest cities you can think of. Historical buildings, great restaurants, and culture are everywhere, from street art to fine culture. Ziga and I are staying at a hotel next to the dome Frauenkirche, rebuilt in the early '90s with bricks from WWII to newly carved stones. The church and the surrounding buildings are built precisely to the past historical glory. It's simply amazing and for sure worth a visit!

But let's get back to Saxoprint. When entering the production, the first that meets you is the two giant offset machines. The two roll-fed (cut into sheets) 162 cm format 8-color offset machines are enormous and surrounded by rolls and pallets of paper; you soon realize this company is beyond the normal. Following the two 162 machines, you get to another line of Heidelberg offset machines in various formats. Saxoprint is a front runner as the first of many machines is equipped with a Heidelberg automatic plate changing system. All the machines run at 17000-18000 sheets per hour. While looking at the machines, I realized that the highly automated machines typically run 1500-2000 sheets in a few minutes, change the plates, run 30 sheets for setting up the next job, and only minutes after again run at full speed. Amazing to see, and with about 20 machines on site, you realize the incredible amount of sheets being produced. 

The layout of Saxoprint is excellent, and with these many printing machines, you can easily understand how extensive the bindery must be, and you won't be disappointed. With numerous Heidelberg Stahl Folders, Baumann, Horizon, etc., you understand the complexity of the operation, and what's interesting is the level of automation you experience. Robots are guillotining sheets, and where a robot can support the process, you'll find it! The amount of work produced at Saxoprint is almost impossible to realize, but let me try anyway. We are at Saxoprint because of a filming job for Horizon. One of the three Stitchliners MK III has produced 48 million saddle-stitched products, just one out of three!

As mentioned, automation is essential, and as Horizon has delivered a BQ480 perfect binding machine, I now take a closer look at the setup. 

The perfect binding line has a robot arm installed and is fully autonomous. It produces 500 books an hour, and the only thing an operator does is load the signatures and covers and remove the finished books after the HT-1000V three-knife. With a robot capable of handling various formats, spine sizes, etc., Saxoprint has a fully self-operating binding line producing books of high quality.

Saxoprint is, as I have already mentioned, a bit more secretive than most companies we have visited, and I always respect this. However, I experienced a company with uniform processes, a focus on efficiency, and a willingness to invest in new and innovative products - but also a company with a clear vision to reduce human touch points. An example is semi-automated processes for venting the paper, bringing it to the guillotine, and using a Yaskawa robot instead of an operator. Impressive to see how robots support the labor side, and I can't help but think that even Saxoprint most experience lower job runs, and that makes SO much sense to use robots for repetitive work. I can't help but think that the automated venting and cutting solutions can easily be used to minimize the foldings and, well, guessing that signature foldings sees an expiration date?

The people at Saxoprint are friendly, and I hope we have made some new friends. Next - in just a short time, you will be able to see the film we have made from Saxoprint.

-- add on ---
our friends from Printmedianieuws found inspiration in the article above and the film published on INKISH.TV, and wrote this follow-up article in Dutch - you can read it here, requires a premium subscription!

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