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Lithographic Printing : 'Heavy Iron' Comes Up Light

November 2012 By Mark Michelson, Editor-in-Chief
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Gone are the days where sheetfed offset presses dominate the show floor during a GRAPH EXPO exhibition, despite any machinery handling financial incentives created by show organizers to encourage bringing heavy iron. The high costs involved to ship and set up a large, multicolor offset press at a show—coupled with a general lack of revolutionary technology developments to showcase, as well as the large investments litho press manufacturers have already made in their own demo centers—makes it hard to justify the expenditure.

There's still plenty of digital equipment running on the GRAPH EXPO show floor, however, reflecting our industry's emphasis on short-run, on-demand production. The void of litho presses has been replaced by digital presses, wide-format inkjet printers, and a range of in-line and near-line finishing systems to support them.

By my count there were only four offset presses actually running at GRAPH EXPO last month. A five-color Heidelberg Speedmaster SM 52 with Anicolor zoneless short inking technology and aqueous coater demonstrated its ability to run six, 300-sheet jobs on different substrates, with one operator, in 30 minutes. There was also a four-color Presstek 52DI 52cm digital offset press, which can go from digital file to printed sheet in 10 minutes. A small-format, two-color BaumPrint 18 press could be found in Baum's booth, with another BaumPrint 18 in Mitsubishi Imaging's exhibit operating as part of a platemaking demonstration.

Telling, Without Actually Showing

That's not to say that exhibitors like KBA North America, Komori America, MLP U.S.A., Goss International, manroland web systems, TKS and Manugraph DGM didn't have a presence on the show floor this year. It's just that they opted for video presentations, interactive displays, print samples, and standalone press consoles and press units to emphasize new developments, enhanced maintenance and press monitoring services, consumables lines, as well as their own digital equipment and hybrid workflow offerings.

Even the five-color SM 52 Anicolor was just one component in the workflow presentation of a cross-media promotion Heidelberg developed for a fictional clothing store called belle&beau. The marketing services campaign included a custom Prinect online storefront, short-run brochures printed on the Anicolor, letters and catalogs with variable data output using a Heidelberg-branded Linoprint C901 color digital press, and in-store posters and displays produced on an EFI Rastek H652 UV flatbed inkjet printer. Prinect Color Toolbox ensured color matching across the three (offset, digital, wide-format) output platforms.

Heidelberg also demonstrated the new generation of its Prinect Image Control spectrophotometric color management system. The latest iteration is specifically designed for printers seeking to comply with G7 methods and ISO standards for printing according to grey balance control.

The Systemservice area of Heidelberg's booth featured Remote Monitoring, which enables early detection of machine system failures before problems occur, based on continuous data capture from the press. Also of interest was the new, cloud-based Prinect Performance Benchmarking service.

KBA North America devoted a dedicated area within its booth to educate attendees about the new Service Select EA (Efficiency Analysis) program for its sheetfed customers. A video also highlighted the company's presence at drupa in Germany this past May. Featured was KBA's entry into high-volume digital printing with the RotaJET 76 inkjet web press, which will be at a beta site in early 2013. Applications include books, commercial work, direct mail and magazines.

Other attention-getters at drupa were the new 57˝ Rapida 145 equipped with a new coater concept, and KBA's 41˝ Rapida 106, which can now print at speeds up to 20,000 sheets/hr. And, for flexible packaging, the new Varius 80 variable-format web offset press is still in alpha stage.

On the second day of the show, Meredith-Webb Printing, of Burlington, NC, ordered a 64˝, seven-color KBA Rapida 162a press with coater and UV capabilities. Its second KBA, the large-format Rapida 162a will be delivered early next year.

Similarly using Graph Expo to highlight its entry at drupa into the inkjet digital printing space, Komori America offered a simulated "live" demo, via an interactive hook-up with its production plant in Japan, of its new 29˝ Impremia IS29 sheetfed inkjet machine equipped with hybrid UV technology. Developed in conjunction with Konica Minolta, the IS29 operates in straight or perfecting mode and can print on substrates from 60-lb. paper to 18-pt. board, without requiring any specially treated papers. The bizhub PRESS C8000 digital press was promoted by Komori as well, based on its partnership with Konica Minolta.

Also featured at Graph Expo was Komori's KHS-AI software that enables a Komori press to achieve ink and register stability in just 20 sheets—dramatically reducing makeready time and paper waste. In addition, the company's H-UV curing system makes it possible to go from the press directly to the bindery. Finally, as an adjunct to KomoriKare, the company debuted its K-Supply program that provides consumables and replacement parts.

MLP U.S.A. also used GRAPH EXPO to talk up its drupa introductions. IPC III is a knowledge-based press control terminal that connects Mitsubishi printing presses to the rest of a printer's operations. It facilitates presetting of press functions and repeat job control. New features include eco-mode operation to reduce the minimum speed of the press when necessary, a calculator to track ink consumption and daily plate change counting.

Unveiled for Mitsubishi sheetfed presses, Diamond Eye-S combines on-press color and inspection control in one unit. It compares prepress image data with actual image data and automatically adjusts color density to reach the target. Another product—Diamond Color Navigator—automatically corrects ink key openings according to an operator's visual sense of color using a touchscreen color wheel. The ecoUV drying system, which consists of a single 120 watt lamp instead of the usual three to four 100 watt to 200 watt lamps, was also highlighted.

Goss International, led by new President and CEO Rick Nichols, promoted its drupa introductions and showcased options for commercial, newspaper and package printing, print finishing and aftermarket support. Its exhibit also reflected the expanded range of Ferag, Akiyama, Purlux, Yawa products and various converting equipment available from Shanghai Electric companies.

By demonstrating live cylinder changes during drupa, Goss' new Sunday Vpak presses have increased the focus on web offset as an attractive alternative to flexo, gravure and sheetfed offset for many packaging applications. Based on the Sunday gapless press concept, Vpak presses feature quick-change blankets and printing cylinder sleeves that allow "infinitely" variable repeat lengths.

Sunday Vpak 3000 and Sunday Vpak 500 presses are available in web widths of up to 75˝ and 41˝, respectively. The first Vpak 500 press system will be installed at North Mankato, MN-based Precision Press (a Taylor Corp. company) later this year.

The Goss Lifetime Support team presented parts, service and enhancement programs for extending the competitive lifespan of press and finishing systems. Projects such as a unique newspaper press reconfiguration at Newsday in New York and commercial web enhancements across the Americas, were also featured.

manroland web systems announced its new Lithoman 32 web press configuration. The 32-page Lithoman offers the same automation and closed-loop tools as the Rotoman DirectDrive 16-page, with additional production flexibility. Without sacrificing quality or increasing waste—even on extremely short runs—the Lithoman 32 allows traditional 16-page printers or double-web publication printers to reduce costs and increase throughput.

In addition, emphasis was given to manroland web systems' service portfolio, its printcom consumables offerings, and the market success the company has had with press retrofits and upgrades.

Giving New Life to Newspapers?

Also highlighted was its digital newspaper printing partnership. The system combines an Océ (JetStream 2800, 3300, 4300) continuous-feed inkjet press with manroland web systems' VPF digital variable-cutoff folder and a Rima stacking system. Digital newspaper production increases a paper's ability to micro-zone newspapers to specific areas, and to create on-demand and personalized newspaper content.

Likewise, TKS was riding high on the heels of its four-color Jetleader 1500 digital inkjet web press introduction at drupa, where it printed daily production runs of the current day's U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal. Chicago-based Newsweb Corp. installed the first Jetleader series press in North America, just in time for interested Graph Expo attendees. The commercial shop plans to use it to print existing products, as well as to develop new markets.

In a sampling of other litho press-related developments...Graph Expo marked the U.S. launch of the Grafix PowderMax spraying unit, which features a plate-dosing system with reliable dosing control for all printing powder types and powder applications...Diversified Graphic Machinery promoted the DGM Foildex system that applies cold foil in-line on a lithographic press. The unit allows foil to be applied only where necessary and stops the foil from the back of the last image to the front of the next sheet. Segmented shafts also allow multiple rolls of foil to be run across the press.

Also worth noting, the Vision/Vision SP, from DG Press Services, is a short-makeready web offset printing press that is claimed to combine shaftless technology with near-limitless in-line options...innoINK, a self-learning, cloud computing-based ink presetting system from Innolutions Inc., is designed for web and sheetfed offset presses equipped with motorized and non-motorized ink keys and ink sweep...Van Son Holland Ink debuted the Van Son/GFI ink dispensing machine, which offers printers the ability to mix custom colors and mixes on-site. PI



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