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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 The void of litho presses has been replaced by digital presses, wide-format inkjet printers, and a range of in-line and near-line finishing systems to support them.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.



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