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GRAPH EXPO & CONVERTING EXPO 2003--Sheetfed and Web Offset

Pressing Ahead

November 2003
By Mark Michelson
Editor-in-Chief

It's no secret that the stagnant U.S. economy has wrecked havoc on graphic arts industry suppliers the past three years. And, with many printers hesitant to make major capital equipment expenditures, sheetfed, and especially web, offset press manufacturers may have suffered the most of any industry segment.

But--partly based on exhibitor reports from the recently completed GRAPH EXPO and CONVERTING EXPO exhibition--interest in upgrading pressrooms and in the computer-integrated manufacturing concept (CIM) seem to be building. New press sales levels are still a far cry from the go-go '90s, but press suppliers at the show generally reported increased buying activity, as well as numerous requests for quotes from existing customers and prospects.

With a 42,000-square-foot exhibit space, Heidelberg featured 10 presses in its booth, including its new 20? sheetfed press, the Printmaster PM 52, designed for small and midsize shops. Available in one- to five-color models, the PM 52 is positioned between the Printmaster GTO 52 and the Speedmaster SM 52. Shown for the first time in the U.S. was Heidelberg's 20? Speedmaster SM 52-D with in-line rotary diecutting capabilities. A 10-color Speedmaster 74 perfector also running at the booth was sold to Grand Junction, CO-based Colorado Printing, supplementing an eight-color model installed by the commercial printer less than two years ago.

On the web printing front, Heidelberg debuted its gapless Sunday 3000/32, said to be the world's first single-circumference web press to offer advantages of an eight-pages-across (2x8) cylinder configuration. Its 72? web width allows the press to print 32 magazine-size pages per revolution at speeds up to 100,000 iph.

Quad/Graphics signed a mega-deal for two eight-unit 3000/32 presses in a two-web configuration, as well as another six-pages-across Sunday press. All three presses are to be delivered next spring and will be operational in one or more of Quad/Graphics' Wisconsin plants by August 2004. Likewise, the purchase of a five-unit Sunday 3000/32 was announced following GRAPH EXPO by Arandell Corp. for its Menomonee Falls, WI, facility.

Komori America also came away from the show feeling optimistic, especially after announcing that Joe Davis, chairman, president and CEO of Houston-based Consolidated Graphics, had renewed a five-year, $50 million purchasing agreement with Komori. Consolidated, which boasts 65 companies in 25 states, made its first acquisition under the new deal by installing a six-color Lithrone S40 with coater at Mount Vernon Printing in Landover, MD. Davis says he envisions buying five 40? sheetfed and one half-web press in the coming year, depending on future company acquisitions that the industry consolidator would like to make.

Newest Offerings

On the new product front, Komori--which is celebrating its 80th anniversary--displayed its redesigned Lithrone 28P perfector in a six-color with in-line coater configuration. Perfector change-over can be done with the touch of a button; it requires no operator intervention or special tools.

The updated perfector design maintains Komori's standard double diameter cylinder configuration. With the sheet always controlled by grippers, the positive mechanical control of the sheet reduces registration errors and dropped sheets, and is especially important when perfecting thicker stocks like 18pt. board. (The new perfector design will be introduced on the 2003 GATF InterTech Award-winning Lithrone S40 in November.)

GRAPH EXPO attendees who made a side trip out to Komori's showroom in the Chicago suburbs also had the opportunity to see a demonstration on the Lithrone SP, the Komori Super Perfector that enables one-pass, two-sided printing at speeds up to 13,000 sph. The manufacturer revealed that it is currently testing the Lithrone SP with a double coater configuration, as well.

Presses Were Moving

According to Komori, 10 Lithrone SP presses will be in operation in the U.S. by the end of 2003, including two presses going to Jostens and a pair for Herff Jones. Since its introduction one year ago, 20 Lithrone S40 presses have been installed nationwide, with further sales pending.

KBA North America announced a major sale during the show--a $13.8 million press contract from Malnove Inc., said to be the largest independent, non-integrated folding carton manufacturer in North America. The first of the three 56?, KBA Rapida 142 sheetfed presses ordered will be installed at

Malnove's Omaha, NE, plant this winter. KBA's Rapida press running on the show floor was purchased by Merrill Communications LLC, a diversified communications and document services company based in St. Paul, MN.

From a product standpoint, KBA debuted its new Genius 52 sheetfed offset press. The 20? keyless, waterless press is designed for quick printers, in-plants and commercial printers. The maximum sheet size is 20.5x13?, available with four or five printing units.

The company also announced the availability of two new super-large-format presses. The Rapida 185 (51x723/4? sheet) and 205 (59.5x803/4? sheet) are available for the commercial, book and packaging markets. Both presses feature a new design that incorporates a monolithic substructure box with mounted inking unit towers to provide a single, torsionally rigid block.

Dryer Agreement Signed

KBA also signed a licensing agreement with Air Motion Systems, of Golden, CO, that grants KBA worldwide rights for the production, distribution and servicing of Air Motion dryer systems for installation on KBA's Rapida sheetfed offset presses. Air Motion has developed a modular system of UV, IR/hot air and combination dryers. KBA will continue to offer dryer systems from other manufacturers, based on customer preference.

Also newsworthy was KBA's announcement of its new dual-finish printing process using hybrid inks. The in-line coating application allows printers to print a job that features both silk matte and gloss elements, and print it on a five-color press fitted with a single coater plus delivery extension.

Under the banner "Success Spoken Here," MAN Roland's exhibit featured virtual visits to a variety of facilities that have expanded their operations with Roland presses. The press manufacturer tallied up significant press sales, including one for the new Roland 900 XXL extra-wide sheetfed press that premiered at the show. Strine Printing, in York, PA, made history by purchasing the world's first 900 XXL system to be equipped with an in-line coater. The 73? press was also the first 900 XXL to be sold in North America. It delivers 328 percent more printable area than a conventional 40? machine and 22 percent more than a 64? press. Also shown was a printing unit from a LITHOMAN IV web press. The press features web widths up to 81?, formats of 32, 48 and 72 pages, and speeds up to 2,800 fpm.

GRAPH EXPO served as the world premiere for MAN Roland's new Rover Remote Service System, which helps eliminate onsite service calls. Consisting of a tablet PC equipped with a wireless video camera, a broadband Internet connection and special software, Rover gives press crews the ability to show service specialists technical problems as they are occurring.

Vision Graphics, Loveland, CO, took home the six-color Roland 500 sheetfed press with in-line coating that ran at the MAN Roland exhibit. The six-up system joins Roland 900 and Roland 700 presses already running at Vision.

Two Roland 901/6 BP systems were sold to Edwards Brothers, headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI. The BP stands for back printer, meaning that these Roland 900s can print 1/1--a configuration designed for high-speed book production. The new presses will be the book manufacturer's fourth and fifth Roland 900s.

AIIM (Avant Imaging & Information Management) will soon be installing a 10-color, 41? Roland 700 with 5/5 perfecting and a digitally controlled roll-to-sheet feeder. The Toronto-area printer took advantage of the optional PressMonitor management module in its PECOM package, as well as the new Uptime MAX service program that covers all emergency service and maintenance. AIIM caters to the financial services, insurance, high-tech, chemical, pharmaceutical, packaged goods and institutional industry sectors.

Also at the show, Nacci Printing, located in Allentown, PA, purchased a six-color Roland 300 perfector with in-line coating. And Gilson Graphics, in Grand Rapids, MI, signed on for a two-color Roland 700 perfector.

In the web press arena, Solna touted that its C800 commercial press is available in both right- and left-hand units along with unit-on-unit stacking capability without the need for tabletop construction. Solna's Digital Press Control system augments the completely shaftless Indramat drives with closed-loop color control, job data storage and ink fountain presetting using RIP data.

Under its "Innovation for Business" theme, Goss International presented its advertising insert and commercial press systems. Highlights included the Goss Baker G15 commercial press and the Goss C700 and C500 insert press series, as well as other semi-commercial and directory printing systems. Also demonstrated was its latest digital inking system.

Timsons representatives promoted the manufacturer's new generation of short-run web offset book presses, which eliminate makeready time altogether. The Timsons T48A ZMR "zero makeready" press changes forms on single-color work without stopping.

Czech Out the News

GRAPH EXPO proved to be a coming out party, of sorts, for Grafitec America (formerly Polly USA), which was renamed to align its name with its parent, Grafitec Ltd., based in the Czech Republic. An 18-year Heidelberg veteran, Ernest Bardocz was on hand as the new president of Grafitec's North American team. He takes the helm of Grafitec America from Dan Macke, who served as the company's general manager since its acquisition by the parent company. Macke has assumed the role of vice president and now focuses on sales and territory management.

Aside from the personnel moves, Grafitec used the exhibition to promote its 29? Polly Prestige 74 sheetfed press, which is now offered with semi-automated plate changing and automatic plate cocking. Its sheet handling system includes double diameter impression and transfer cylinders. Also new is an optional dampener coater--an interchangeable system for the fifth printing unit--which delivers the versatility of either five-color printing or coating.

Another vendor, Sakurai USA, used GRAPH EXPO to showcase an enhanced press--the 26? 566SI series with coater. The fully automatic, five-color press was shown for the first time complete with a coating unit and extended delivery.

According to the manufacturer, the addition of the coating unit is one more expression of Sakurai's commitment to the half-size and smaller press market. Standard features on the 566SI series include single roll anilox coater, automatic coating recirculator with single button washup and makeready, enclosed chamber doctor blade, automatic plate changers, Sakurai Auto Set sheet preset device, auto roller washers and touchscreen control with CIP4 integration, among others.

At the recent IGAS exhibition in Japan, Sakurai also introduced the new 23x29? 475SD press, which is available in straight or perfecting versions. The six-up, 15,000-iph press is available with or without coater, and in configurations of four to six printing units.

Hamada of America's new Impulse 452P is a 14x20? perfector press. It runs at 13,000 iph and will perfect at 12,000 iph. Standard features include a color console with remote running register, ink sweep and on-the-fly cylinder cocking. Semi-automatic plate mounting, vacuum tape register board and many other time-saving features are also standard.

Another Japanese manufacturer, Akiyama International, promoted its Bestech series, which is available in 28?, 32?, 40? and 44? models in up to eight colors. The jumbo cylinder configuration provides enhanced sheet transfer for a wide range of paper stocks. A new touchpad control enhances operation. On the perfecting front, Akiyama's J Print series is available in 26?, 29?, 32?, 40? and 44? models in up to 12 colors. Its linear transfer arrangement is said to allow trouble-free printing in one pass. Utilizing the same gripper edge throughout eliminates front-to-back registration issues. And its compact footprint reportedly saves 40 percent on floor space.

Aside from traditional sheetfed presses shown, the xpedx/Import Group especially touted the Ryobi 3404DI digital four-color machine with a maximum paper size of 13.39x18.11?. The direct imaging press has two imaging heads, incorporating FirePower multi-beam lasers developed by Presstek, that image rollfed PEARLdryPlus waterless plate material on each cylinder. Its compact design is achieved by using a satellite V-shaped, five-cylinder configuration. A Harlequin-based RIP processes PostScript and PDF data for imaging at 1,270- or 2,540-dpi resolution.

Changing Directions

All told, GRAPH EXPO seemed to offer up presses for all types and sizes of printers. While not much new appeared in the standard, 40? sheetfed market category, press manufacturers (like Heidelberg, KBA and Komori) seem to be looking downstream with smaller format machine offerings, as well as upstream (MAN Roland and KBA) with extra-wide-format presses. And, on the web offset front, recent industry rumors that Heidelberg's Web Systems division may be merged with Goss Graphic Systems was a hot topic among Heidelberg's competitors.

Computer-integrated manufacturing, incorporating JDF workflows, was also a theme in most of the press manufacturers' exhibits. But, with DRUPA fast approaching next May in Germany--as the old saying goes--"we ain't seen nothing yet" on that front.
 

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