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Coldset Web Offset -- No Heat, No Sweat

August 2000

Gora believes regional demand will continue to drive the market. "As long as the cost per piece for web offset remains the most competitive print choice, coldset printers have a unique opportunity to recreate themselves by capitalizing on regional demands," she says.

Chuck Gath, vice president of sales at Web Press—manufacturers of the Quad-Stack, two-high UPM and the Quadra Color—recognizes five variables in coldset's battle to remain competitive with heatset:

  • Environmental restrictions on heatset operations increase the operating costs of these machines. The result: increased prices to the customer or reduced profit margins to the producer.

  • Production quality of coldset products is on the rise as press units with increased and improved features enter the market.

  • Changes in inks, papers and fountain solutions have enhanced coldset quality.

  • The initial investment in heatset equipment is more significant as opposed to coldset.

  • Demand in four-color product is constantly on the rise, while the cost of producing four-color heatset remains higher than coldset. Many products are featuring a heatset wrap or cover with a coldset package inside; thus the overall package is less expensive.

"The key to growth in the coldset market is color," Gath maintains. "Those presses capable of producing quality four-color at a good price will be the ones that get the work. Competition with heatset will always be there. Those operations that recognize that, and set their goals on producing quality color products at a fair price, will grow."

With production speeds of UV inks increasing to near heatset levels, less heat in the coldset process results in less web distortion, according to Andrew J. Fetherman, product amd national accounts manager, Muller Martini USA. He notes that coldset presses have greater color flexibility through the use of turn bars, while UV inks are more efficient with a generally faster makeready process. Press waste is reduced, resulting in higher productivity.

"With the introduction of new technologies—shaftless presses, flexo inserts, a vast array of in-line finishing options and variable-size signature folders—the coldset market is positioned well for growth," Fetherman remarks. "This will be most prevalent in the packaging industry and sheetfed-type applications, due to the ability of coldset machines to carefully handle a wide range of stocks and completely finish a product in one pass."

Muller Martini USA has been active in the coldset press market with its variable-size web press equipment, including its Concept, Concept-NT, A-Series and F-74 signature folder. The units range from 201⁄2˝ to 321⁄2˝ in width, with production speeds approaching 50,000 iph. More than 90 percent of its sales over the past two years have come from presses equipped with UV curing, including several features such as complete in-line finishing capabilities, sheeters with batcher stacker, in-line personalization, in-line flexo printing capabilities and variable-size signature folder.

With advances in inks, papers and prepress systems comes the requirement to invest in press technology, thus enhancing product quality at an affordable price, says Mark Levin, vice president of sales for Heidelberg Web Systems. He notes that the successful non-heatset printers are those who have taken the care to remain in step with the technology curve.

"The days of people running old and tired non-heatset presses and not making investments in technology are in the past," he states. "Printers are taking the necessary steps in prepress, press and postpress to present the high-quality product that will compete fairly with the heatset market."

Heidelberg Web Systems addresses the newspaper end with the Mainstream 80, a 1x4 press that utilizes the same gapless technology that can be found on its commercial Sunday Presses, and a press that customers are looking at for non-heatset applications beyond just newspaper printing. Enhancements have been made to the Mercury and V30 presses, which can run as either heatset or non-heatset, while the M-130—a full-fledged commercial press—boasts the same flexibility and is a favorite of the financial printing market.

One factor that will enable coldset presses to remain competitive, according to John Sillies, executive vice president for GSS Printing Equipment, is their ability to be converted to print UV-cured inks. While each drying process has its pros and cons, Sillies notes, UV drying has made the most technological progress in the past 10 years and demonstrates the most flexibility with the fewest environmental concerns. Understandably, the majority of presses GSS supplies for the direct mail, forms and commercial markets feature UV inter-staged dryers.

"Coldset is still a valid drying process for certain applications, but due to today's requirements for the printer to supply more high-density colors, the demand for presses without some type of dryer is low," Sillies remarks. "However, as a manufacturer, the integration of UV dryers is simple and can be done at the time of installation or years after the press has been in operation. Until inks and coatings are developed that can print high-density colors on coated and uncoated stocks at high production speeds, it is hard to beat the flexibility of the UV drying process."

GSS recently installed a five-color, 38˝ Commander press at a National Business Forms plant. The unit can print UV inks at 1,500 fpm on both coated and uncoated stocks.

The demand for improved quality, faster makeready, quick edition change, less waste, increased automation and higher speeds is causing a "blurring" of the differences between coldset semi-commercial presses and heatset commercial presses, according to Joe Abbott, MAN Roland's director of technical support. In many cases, he says, the only significant difference between the two is the absence of a dryer on coldset.

"This means that the coldset printer can enjoy the same speed, fold, color and register quality that the heatset printer has to keep his costs down, while using the lower-cost substrates that reduce the overall costs," Abbott states. "It can be argued that the quality improvement for the coldset printer is far larger than for the heatset, so the new technology allows coldset to narrow the gap significantly compared to the installed base.

"With improved quality, coldset can be the better choice on many substrates for many buyers, providing the opportunity for growth," he adds. "A quality improvement also frequently allows penetration into areas not previously addressed and almost always fosters the development of new applications."

MAN Roland has addressed these needs with the introduction of the Regioman press at DRUPA 2000. The unit features a one-around plate diameter (21˝, 211⁄2˝ or 22˝ circumference) and double-sized blanket cylinders with narrow gap, flexible jaw folder and full automation.

Scott Smith, CEO of the York Division of KBA North America, believes the cost per thousand for coldset as opposed to heatset products will enable the former to remain competitive in specific market segments. In terms of more national advertising, Smith sees customers turning to heatset for a high-quality look.

KBA is touting its 38˝ to 40˝ Comet single-width web, as well as the 50˝ Colora double-width web for newspaper applications. Smith is noticing inquiries for adding dryers to these presses for a broader application than just newspaper printing. Many of the new four-color telephone directory presses are being equipped with heatset capability.

Increased automation is a key factor, according to John Chabot, president of Miracle Press, citing remote inking and scanning, as well as better quality inks and paper. Miracle Press is offering its Model 2500, which features pin registration in the cylinders and offers a narrow gap with quick lockup. He notes that a number of Miracle presses run low-end heatset jobs without ovens, namely catalogs and brochures on 40-, 50- and 60-lb. offset.

"There will always be room for coldset," he notes. "A lot of the coldset jobs that compete with low-end heatset are more economical than the heatset and feature as much quality."

Jeff Fadness, vice president of Sanden USA, echoes Chabot's sentiments about coldset having a firm footing in the industry. He cites financial newsletters and direct mail solicitations as prime examples of coldset-positioned work.

Sanden offers the Quantum 1500 XP, its flagship pressline, and the Quantum 1250 SP. The 1250 SP is targeted toward the coldset market, though Fadness notes that either can be utilized in a coldset environment. About 95 percent of both units, however, are fitted with UV dryers, such as the recent sale of a 10-color, 27˝ wide 1500 XP to Pewaukee, WI-based Quad/Graphics.

"Our machines will perform standard coldset printing on offset stock better than other hard cylinder machines," he says. "The significant difference is that our machine was designed optimally for the demands of high-performance UV printing at speeds up to 2,000 feet per minute. Those design characteristics are a bonus for coldset, allowing the machine to run cooler at higher speeds with less ink misting."

In addition to using relatively inexpensive inks, savings from less waste and avoiding the costly drying process are several elements that benefit the coldset user, according to Brian Ivens, director of international marketing for RDP Marathon. Using coldset inks, he says, also enhances alternative web path capabilities, including multi-web processing, and can provide lower costs and more flexibility when retrofitting new features to existing equipment.

"Applications using coldset inks are abundant today," Ivens remarks. "Many of the sheetfed and some of the roll rewind products being used in postpress laser printing applications—a growth sector of the market—are on uncoated materials and, therefore, are logical coldset ink considerations where post-cure time allows. Items produced to be written on, such as day-planners and calendar pads, are good applications for coldset ink."

RDP Marathon offers its Maraflo V inker design, which boasts many of the features present in high-speed commercial inking systems. With its dual ink-split feature, the ink train can be altered to modify the distribution of ink to the plate, according to the type of job being run. The unit is used for coldset, heatset and UV-drying applications.

Hard cylinder webs boast the same state-of-the-art press controls and inking systems employed by heatset webs and most hard cylinder webs are being enhanced with UV curing systems for coated and uncoated applications, notes Dennis Stotts, marketing manager for Didde Web Press. With UV, these hard cylinder presses provide a more effective print production system than heatset webs because they offer increased flexibility and more in-line application options.

Considering that many of the same makeready and press control technologies on heatset can be found on coldset, in addition to their effectiveness on short or long runs, Stotts is optimistic about growth for open-web printing.

"The future for coldset is bright with the continued growth of specialty applications," Stotts notes. "Growth for coldset webs is driven by the need for printers to become very efficient in serving their niche markets. On many applications, the production economies and/or in-line process flexibility offered by the coldset web is required to gain a competitive position."

The BIC 315, Colortech and Viper are members of Didde's family of new generation presses, designed in light of factors such as technology integration, consistent print quality, in-line processing, job throughput, press operation and waste elimination. The result is a line of presses that provide printers with a competitive advantage in terms of cost per sheet, job turnaround time and print quality.

Achieving proper ink-water balance is an important coldset issue, notes Roger Kaughman, manager of marketing administration at King Press. The absorbency of uncoated paper stocks and the absence of a dryer are critical variables, and a press offering greater control of ink, water, color register and other functions will result in consistent quality at a lower operating cost.

Kaughman adds that selecting the appropriate press equipment for the coldset environment will augment performance, save labor and enable the printer to offer a high-quality alternative to heatset while maintaining a price advantage.

"As long as coldset satisfies the needs of a significant segment of the print buying market, coldset shops will continue to have a pricing edge over heatset printers," Kaughman says. "However, coldset printers will be challenged to provide even better color and paper quality, which means they will have to invest in presses and press upgrades, which will enable them to narrow the gap between coldset quality and heatset. They should also challenge the perception that coldset is inferior."

King Press feels it has addressed the aforementioned concerns in the manufacturing of its Print King IV vertical web offset press. The Print King IV is a single-width, single-around perfecting press available in up to four units high.

Rich Kerns, president of Solna Web USA, also believes that improving ink quality over the past few years and the broadening availability of a wider variety of coldset-friendly paper stocks have benefitted the coldset cause. Kerns warns of the inroads heatset is making on price adjustments to become more competitive in an area universally accepted as being coldset's saving grace: greater affordability.

"While subjected to competitive pressures from the heatset market, coldset remains fairly stable," Kerns says. "Quality and pricing are the driving factors. As long as the coldset printer exposes himself to and takes advantage of new technologies, from spray dampening (usually not suitable for heatset) and all of its virtues—increased ink mileage, less ruboff, zone control—to new stacker configurations designed to decrease scuffing and offsetting, coldset print quality will always be a worthy and expanding option."

Solna's latest coldset offering, the D400, is a vertical stack design with standard features such as three ink form rollers, on-the-run plate cylinder cocking, shaftless drive systems, remote color control with CTP (RIP) interface for ink zone presetting and spray dampening.

Peter Schrobenhauser, president of Matik North America, notes that UV curing becomes a viable alternative to heatset as speeds increase, with product quality comparable.

Matik represents the Goebel Novaprint line, a shaftless, 1,500 fpm, variable-cutoff press for UV or heatset. The Novaprint is offered in widths of 201⁄2˝, 27˝ and 30˝, and attracts a variety of markets, from book and magazine printers to direct mail printers.

Quality improvements in coldset printing, resulting from process control, press technology, materials and auxiliary equipment, are helping to make coldset more viable, according to Dave Moreland, vice president of sales and marketing for Dauphin Graphic Machines. Its cost effectiveness—lower capital costs, cost per thousand, materials costs and savings in environmental considerations—further make coldset a more attractive proposition.

"Lower run quantities, increased cost sensitivity and increased environmental costs will further help coldset compete effectively with competing advertising mediums," Moreland states. "The use of SNAP standards and an overall increase in coldset print quality will maintain coldset as a viable choice."

Dauphin boasts a line of commercial technology presses, the DGM 435-5, DGM 440-3, DGM 855 and DGM 860, which feature three ink form rollers and three oscillators.

Since coldset webs are narrow to mid-size for high-speed production of relatively short runs, notes Richard Stevens, president of Stevens International, it allows the printer to buy a multicolor web press for medium-to-short runs for a lower investment than a heatset press. He adds that non-heatset webs with UV dryers offer versatility and flexibility in addressing a number of end-user applications.

Stevens International offers variable-size webs in widths from 20˝ to 38˝, in four to 12 colors. UV dryers are optional.

"It's my opinion, without question, that non-heatset web offset, with the additional flexibility of ultraviolet ink technology, is the most practical, economical and efficient process available today," Stevens states. "Without exception."


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