Offset and Beyond — Great Technologies, But Tough Times

Bill Lamparter, president of the PrintCom Consulting Group, claims that today’s sheetfed offset innovations are so advanced, they’re already pushing 2004 press models toward obsolescence. “Analog press developments continue to focus on waste reduction, faster run speeds, quick changeovers, improved and automatic color control, better perfectors, improved inking systems, touchscreen controls and virtual proofing on the console,” he details. “And, there are new advancements in in-line finishing, such as cold foiling, embossing, diecutting and a variety of coating options, which enable on-press production of unique product effects.”

Lamparter acknowledges other new offerings, such as large-format sheetfed presses up to 64˝ wide, which are designed for both commercial printing and packaging applications. (KBA and man- roland offer even larger models.)

“This was Heidelberg’s contribution to Drupa 2008,” he says. “And the Speedmaster XL VLF presses include features like Heidelberg’s Intellistart, which permits the press to be prepared for the next job while the first one is being printed; and Wallscreen, which gives the press operator an overview of the printing process with dynamically depicted functions, including ink zone displays.

According to Lamparter, there has been a bounty of eye-opening innovations in lithographic technology: on-press spectrophotometric color measurement/adjustment systems, operated by touchscreen; the ability to customize press lines to meet a printer’s specific application requirements; perfecting technologies; and on-press options like UV coaters, double coating units, cold foil systems, as well as presses that can be equipped with a flexo unit before the offset units.

Bill McLauchlan, senior technical consultant for Printing Industries of America, is confident that—excluding the unfortunate economic situation in 2009—many “next-gen” offset presses on the market would be strengthening the industry.

“The newest technology offerings are amazing. Every manufacturer has developed new and innovative features,” he points out. “There is so much automation. In the past, this kind of high-tech machinery was unheard of.”

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