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Heatset Web Offset Presses -- Hot Rumors Cool Off

April 2004

Meanwhile, KBA North America has released details of another new product it will roll out at Drupa: a 70,000 cph, high-automation, commercial web press—the Compacta 217. The new press will target the high end of the 16-page market and complement the 1997-vintage Compacta 215.

According to KBA officials, the Compacta 217 was engineered to address a shift in market orientation as players gear up to face emerging challenges. With run lengths diminishing, demand is growing for a higher level of automation to ease paper handling, cut run waste, reduce makeready and changeover times, afford easier access to subassemblies, and enhance press capabilities, reliability and cost-efficiency.

Good ROI on Equipment

"KBA remains committed to providing press solutions that provide our customers with the necessary quality that they are looking to achieve, while maintaining a low-cost production platform and rewarding a return on investment," notes Gary Owen, KBA Web Press division director of marketing. "Combined, these qualities are reflected in all of our latest product array."

Although the trend toward shorter press runs has been a recurring theme in the printing industry, Paul Pirkle, vice president of commercial web sales at MAN Roland, adds that high-volume web markets are also alive and well. Here the trend is to run a larger format press, rather than multiple webs.

"A MAN Roland client in this sector is able to run 32 pages on a four-around, five-unit press in the same footprint they had been running two 16-page signatures with a double-web setup on an eight-unit press," Pirkle explains. "Meanwhile, they are accelerating their deadlines and cutting their manning requirements, thanks to the efficiencies the configuration provides."

MAN Roland is introducing a commercial version of its printnet digital backbone at Drupa that has been working on the newspaper side of the market for several years now. Pirkle reveals that printnet will make it easier for commercial web printers to link their MIS and all of their production equipment together into a fully functional, computer-integrated manufacturing network.

"Another of our advancements will be fully automated plate loading for heatset printers," he continues. MAN Roland's ROTOMAN will sport a new Automatic Plate Loading (APL) feature at Drupa.

The 16-page Komori System 38S web offset press can also be seen at Drupa. It provides a short changeover time through fully automated, one-step register adjustment, color matching, fold adjustment and plate changing. Komori's new KHS-AI with Advanced Intelligence has self-learning software that further reduces job changeover time, costs and workload.

Capable of 60,000 iph operation, the System 38S has a new folder that handles a variety of products, including direct mail, advertising material and magazines. As part of Komori's JDF demonstration, the folder on the System 38S is set via JDF data transfer.

Automation Is Standard

"CIP4 workflow integration, semi-automatic plate changers, shaftless drive technology and fully automatic folder changeover have become standard requirements for web presses," observes George Sanchez, director of sales and marketing, at MLP U.S.A. "Most web press manufacturers today offer some level of solutions for these requirements."

During a pre-Drupa press conference held in Düsseldorf in January, Mitsubishi announced the following new web product developments for the Drupa exhibition: Reusable Plate System (RPS) utilizing digital off-line imaging technology. The RPS is currently developed for run lengths up to 100,000 impressions; the MAX-Saver Expert Software Platform, which integrates all of the press operational functions through the Mitsubishi-developed, computer-integrated software program; and the Diamond 16MAX-V commercial web press system, which incorporates variable cutoff technology for increased format flexibility. The exhibit will include a single printing unit and a variable cutoff combination folder in operation.

There is a lot of interest in the industry right now in press control systems and CIP4 capability, notes Eric Short, president and CEO of RDP Marathon. "Press controls are key," he stresses. "Printers have to be able to take digital files from prepress, set up the press and make it functional with a minimal amount of waste and time."

RDP Marathon engineers web presses for commercial, direct mail, labels, packaging and document printing. The RDP Smart•Set 2000 provides control of all press functions on touchscreen graphic displays accessible from both the main console and individual print units, integrating seamlessly with management software, including CIP4 digital workflow, and providing job storage and retrieval, and a modem interface for remote systems diagnostics.

Dave Moreland, of Dauphin Graphic Machines (DGM), remarks that many of his commercial customers are bringing along their non-heatset print customers and eventually losing the fastest growing publications to heatset printers. "We have developed a press to allow our clients to add heatset capability affordably and efficiently in the DGM 440 press line," he explains.

The design is a three ink form, three oscillator vertical machine capable of speeds up to 45,000 iph. The press is oil lubricated, both gear and operator side, with cooled oil. The unit is also available with water-cooled oscillators and is equipped with a shaft or shaftless drive. The heatset equipment can be configured as vertical dryers or horizontal dryers over the press line. DGM will have a DGM 440 tower at its Drupa booth and information about its latest controls platform for the DGM 440.

"I see the commercial publications market gaining momentum as the economy strengthens and the overcapacity on the top end of the market begins to fill in," Moreland adds. "The short-run publications are better served by the more regional printers, which tend to be our primary customer base."

According to Richard Kerns, president of Solna Web USA, most of his company's recent sales, including a 12-unit commercial heatset press to TAP Publishing in Crossville, TN, are loaded with technology. Closed-loop is the key word—both color and register control. Ink fountain presetting using CIP3/4 data is also a popular option.

Kerns feels this trend will continue, with more flexible presses that allow medium- and smaller-size printers to tackle a more widely defined market. "Presses will need to run a magazine in the morning, a brochure on specialty stock in the afternoon, a newspaper insert in the evening and a direct mail piece at night," he concludes. "All of these jobs will require fast makereadies and quicker turnaround times."

Don Gustafson, president of the Tensor Group, attests that he has seen a slowdown over the last 12 to 18 months for heatset printing due to the general drop in advertising combined with the excess amount of high-volume equipment that is available to print anything from inserts to publication-type work.

"We are also seeing more interest in closed-loop color on the lower end of the commercial heatset market for areas such as short-run insert work," he points out. "Given the merger activity over recent years with the customer base and now also on the supplier side, we don't expect Drupa to have quite as much sizzle as it had in recent times."

Another option for printers is the Timsons T48A ZMR offset press with its vertical web line, which delivers one-color books. While one unit prints at speeds up to 400 m/min., the press operator is changing plates on the other unit. At the appropriate time, the new unit is accelerated and synchronized at web speed. As soon as the last signature is produced, the new unit starts to print. The T48A ZMR's design with a blanket-to-blanket distance of less than 40˝ gives greater control for tight register, two-color work.


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