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Heidelberg Ramping Up for Debut of VLF Presses

May 2007
HEIDELBERG IS preparing for what will surely be one big celebration in Germany this September. The planned festivities will honor both the 50th anniversary of its Wiesloch manufacturing complex, as well as the grand opening there of Hall 11, designating the press manufacturer’s initial foray into the very-large-format (VLF) sheetfed offset press market.

In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Mark Michelson, editor-in-chief of PRINTING IMPRESSIONS, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen CEO Bernhard Schreier reveals why the world’s largest press manufacturer has chosen Drupa 2008 as the official unveiling of two new VLF press sizes in tandem with compatible large-format prepress and postpress offerings. He also addresses whether Heidelberg will eventually re-enter the digital press market, as well as provides an update on the company’s Chinese manufacturing facility and how it is positioning itself should there be an economic downturn.

PI: I understand that the new VLF Hall 11 in Wiesloch, Germany, is scheduled to open this fall?

SCHREIER: On September 15 to be precise. The planned opening is a fixed date because we will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of our factory in Wiesloch at the same time.

PI: When the VLF factory is fully operational, what will be the maximum production capacity there for the new 56˝ and 64˝ (XL 142 and XL 162) models? And about how many employees will be working in that hall?

SCHREIER: We don’t reveal capacity figures. However, the total worldwide market demand is roughly 1,600 printing units in the very-large-format sheetfed size and, assuming we capture at least 30 percent of that market share, our target will be to produce about 400 to 600 printing units per year. This will require about 250 workers.

PI: Will the new VLF hall be configured as a mass production assembly line operation or will it be designed for more customized press production?

SCHREIER: When producing 400 to 600 units a year, which means one to two units a day, you cannot talk about mass production. It will be very specialized assembly. These very-large-format presses will not be a standard product; there will be many options available for special applications. Customers who buy such a big and expensive device seek customization—straight presses, perfecting presses, 4-color, 8-color or 10-color capabilities, presses equipped with or without UV, and on-press varnishing, as examples.
 

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