Synergie Photo chooses the SureLab SL-D3000

Synergie Photo chooses the SureLab SL-D3000

Synergie Photo chooses the SureLab SL-D3000

Three photographers from Parthenay near Poitiers in France (Isabelle and Philippe Gaudin, together with André Viollier since 2008) set up Synergie Photo in 2010 in a retail area attached to the town's Leclerc supermarket.

Three photographers in love with digital printing

"Customers come to us and drop off their photos for high-quality processing. We offer an added-value service, because we check each order and make any corrections to any images that need them. If someone thinks that the standard setting results in too much contrast, we can make the final result softer. For these reasons, our starting price is 55 cents (45 pence) per photo. This price is even more appealing because customers don't need to change anything at the print ordering station," explains André Viollier, one of the partners of Synergie Photo.

 The original photo studio, which focuses primarily on taking professional portraits of families and children, as well as publicity photos, is located in the town centre.

Synergie Photo, where the young photographer Rachel also works, is dedicated to the general public. Already being long-standing Epson customers with a large-format Stylus Pro 9900 printer installed at their photography studio, they bought a second large-format printer for Synergie Photo, as well as the SureLab SL-D3000 digital lab. This was used to produce more than 7,000 photos per month in the recent winter season, of which just 2% were in formats other than 10 x 15 cm.

Going digital

Synergie Photo was created by replacing a photo shop with a traditional printing lab. Over time, the company acquired digital equipment: a Stylus Pro 7890 large-format printer, which is connected to a print ordering station (incorporating a USB and memory card reader), a photocopier, a small dye sublimation printer and a thermal print station for producing personalised items such as mugs, T-shirts etc., as well as a small printer for producing passport photos and a station for producing hardback photo books.

The latest arrival was the SureLab SL-D3000 digital photo lab in November 2012, which is also connected to the print ordering station. All this equipment enables them to meet the constant demands of customers, as well as process some of the professional work carried out by the photography studio in the centre of Parthenay during the busy wedding season.

The SureLab choice

"We spent a long time looking at what's happening in digital printing before making a decision," says André Viollier. "Through Tetenal, the company that supplied the chemicals for the traditional print lab, we discovered Epson's digital printing solutions, which it also distributes." After investing in a Stylus Pro 7890 large-format printer, Synergie Photo began searching for a high-speed photo production system – a productive minilab.

"A normal printer or model producing 100 prints per hour wasn't enough for us. The SureLab SL-D3000's ability to print 600 to 700 photos per hour really appealed to us, however," says André Viollier.

After testing several competitors' machines at the same time as Epson's SureLab, the managers of Synergie Photo decided on the latter. "The main reasons for this choice were the production quality, the level of productivity, the purchase price and Epson's reputation, which is well known to all photographers," André Viollier says.

In addition, the ecological production of Epson's SureLab meant that Synergie Photo could benefit from financial assistance from ADEME (the French Agency for the Environment and Energy Management) to help with purchasing it.

Three days to get up and running

Once the machine had been delivered, two technicians from Tetenal came to install it over a few days. Synergie Photo closed for two days, but customers' orders could be managed with the technician's help from day three. By the end of the week, the system was fully operational. The three-year maintenance contract includes technician call-out the day after a call is made. In the event of a problem, they can first take a look remotely to identify the cause of the malfunction and correct it.

The machine regularly carries out head cleaning, which takes very little time and does not prevent print orders from being taken, as they are simply added to the queue to be printed afterwards. "We know that the print heads are reliable, and we haven't had any unpleasant surprises since it was brought into service," Mr Viollier adds. As well as Level 1 maintenance for the minilab, Tetenal supplies paper and 700 ml ink cartridges for the SureLab.

"The machine works out twice as cheap as the others, because consumables are more expensive than they used to be. A traditional print used to work out at 2 cents (less than 2 pence), but now it's about 10 cents (8 pence). However, this one is more economical to maintain, doesn't cause pollution and we can change the paper in broad daylight," Mr Viollier comments.

A simple-to-use minilab

"Operating and managing the machine is simple, and as with any new product, you just need to get used to the interface," Mr Viollier says. Especially since at the same time we had to learn the workings of new equipment like the machine for producing photo books, with professional cutting.

Photo files are sent very quickly from the ordering station to the computer that controls the minilab. The operator can correct images on the fly before validating the order, then the software puts the job into the queue on the SureLab server. The machine is connected to an internal server, which itself is controlled by a computer. This isolates it from any problems that might occur (e.g. viruses).

The SureLab machine at Synergie Photo is equipped with two spools of two different formats, for 10 x 15 cm and medium size. The 10 x 15 cm format accounts for more than 95% of the prints ordered. The SureLab also prints medium-size professional jobs sent by the photography studio in Parthenay.

The SureLab installed at Synergie Photo is also equipped with a sorting tray for keeping small format prints in the right order, while medium formats come out of the left side of the machine and larger formats come out of the top.

The SureLab SL-D3000 has been operational since November 2012 – without a single problem.

A machine that generates savings

While operations take place as before – orders are managed, files are sent for printing, the form is checked and so on – there is no longer any need to sort the waste for it to be collected by a specialist company. That's the first saving. Now, the used cartridges are simply dropped off in the dedicated recycling bins provided by the Leclerc supermarket – just opposite the shop. And there is no more of the chemical flooding that used to occasionally occur while the attendant was in the middle of serving a customer and the machine required assistance.

In addition to these are energy savings and reduced water consumption (more than 100 litres used per week previously).  "If there's an increase in orders, we'll add a second ordering station, because the SureLab could easily cope with that," André Viollier concludes.