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HEATSET WEB OFFSET PRESSES -- Some Like It Hot

May 2002
BY CAROLINE MILLER


Printers shopping for a heatset web offset press all agree on one thing: less definitely is more. Less makeready time, less press downtime, less manning requirements and less paper waste generated all mean one thing—more profits. And that's exactly what heatset web press vendors are offering their customers.

"Emerging and growing printers have a renewed focus on technology and flexibility," reports Richard Kerns, president of Solna Web Systems.

"Waste and time on press are crucial issues, which can be addressed easily by the new technologies available. Our customers are now equipping their heatset presses with closed-loop color control systems, ink fountain presetting using CTP data, spray dampening systems and, often, robotic or automated stacking operations. Printers use these new technologies to make their operations and skilled personnel more efficient, as well as to offset the difficult challenge of finding skilled craftspeople."

Solna offers three heatset press models to address each of their customers' needs. The C800, Solna's flagship, is a 45,000 iph, horizontal commercial press, which is targeted at short- to medium-run commercial and publication printers. Hallmarks of the C800 include water-chilled ink rollers, on-the-run plate cylinder cocking and shaftless drive technology. The C800 is manufactured in both right- and left-hand versions, and can be stacked for multi-web configurations.

The Solna C300 is tailored to the heatset book and directory market, and is usually configured in two- and four-unit arrangements. A popular option in directory printing is to "piggy-back" two webs through the same dryer, allowing up to four-web production on a two-pass press. Solna uses chill stand technology developed by Jardis Industries to allow separate tension control for each web, while having the capability to revert back to normal operation when running coated stock.

Solna's newest heatset press is the D400 vertical tower press, which is aimed at publication, semi-commercial, insert and newspaper operations. The 50,000 iph press uses shaftless technology and has a wide range of folding and finishing capabilities. Three ink form rollers, plate cylinder cocking and full automation help the versatility of the D400 apply to a wide range of heatset production.

RDP Marathon, which specializes in manufacturing web offset presses for promotional, packaging and business form applications, recognizes the need for high print quality in its three

variable-repeat models. The RDP-260P has a 17˝ to 28˝ repeat, with a 26.5˝ maximum web width and speeds to 1,500 fpm. The 330P has a 17˝ to 28˝ repeat, a 33.5˝maximum web width and 1,500 fpm maximum speed. RDP's 380P, with a 21.5˝ to 39˝ repeat and a 38.5˝ maximum web width, runs at up to 1,800 fpm.

High Print Quality Needed

"Customers are looking for an integrated package of in-line press technologies, which are bundled with a press control and make-ready system," reveals Eric Short, president and CEO of RDP Marathon. "The demand is for high print quality and print stability as basic elements for their competitiveness."

Didde Web Press' answer to the needs of its heatset web customers is the Excalibur web offset press, a blanket-to-blanket perfecting press designed to produce signature, plow-folded and cut-sheet work. The Excalibur is offered in half-web and three-quarter-web sizes.

"Our customers are looking for ways to produce shorter run lengths for high-quality insert work, publication and specialty applications," explains Frank Roberts, vice president of sales for Didde Web Press.

"Features for makeready, fast changeover and minimizing waste are critical to our marketplace. In-line finishing to include UV varnishing, plow lines, ribbon shifting, gap cutting sheeters and diecutting are all common in our customers' requirements."

To meet a wide demand, MAN Roland claims to offer the industry's most complete range of heatset web presses, including the Rotoman S, Rotoman, Polyman, Lithoman, Uniset D, Cromoman and the DICOweb—all with AC shaftless drive technology.

MAN Roland's Rotoman S web press can print at speeds of up to 85,000 iph thanks to an array of innovations led by its sleeve-offset technology. The advancement virtually eliminates gap bump and the vibrations that it causes, according to Jerry Clark, vice president of commercial web sales and marketing. When combined with an AC shaftless drive, the smoother-running results improve print quality, as do Rotoman's 1:1 cylinder configuration. The press also utilizes no-gap blankets and conventional plates in a narrow-gap plate lockup that is tool-less.

High-production Features

The Rotoman S produces signatures of up to 24 pages in a single-web configuration. High-productivity features include plate changing in minutes and MAN Roland's PECOM press control system, which facilitates such benefits as off-line makeready and Quickstart 2 for fast and low waste changeover.

"One of our larger users defines his uptime challenges succinctly when he states that a very key measurement for his company is how long it takes to get a press back on the clock once it stops running," relates Clark.

"He applies that benchmark to both planned stoppages (such as end of form run) and unplanned (web break) ones. MAN Roland web press systems perform well under this criterion, principally because of how thoroughly we integrate all of the essential auxiliary equipment into our PECOM control system," Clark adds.

Fully Automated System

Another vendor, Komori America, addresses heatset printers' need to be competitive with its long grain, eight-page System 20 web offset press. The press is 20˝ wide with a 23˝ cutoff, and is typically equipped with a folder and sheeter. The press has a full complement of automation required to achieve short makereadies with minimal waste.

"Our customer base is looking for ways to be more competitive, particularly on some of their longer run work that they are currently losing to competitors," notes Terry Bradley, technical director of web systems for Komori America. "The System 20 significantly reduces turnaround time because the product is dry and ready for the next production step. And print quality is equivalent to that of sheetfed."

Likewise, Heidelberg is providing its customers with the tools they need to remain profitable with its complete range of conventional and gapless technology presses for every heatset web offset application. Heidelberg's leading presses in the North American market are its gapless Sunday 2000 and the M-600 models for short- to medium-run commercial and publication printing, and the Sunday 3000 for long-run catalog and publication printing.

"Web printers are looking for features that, when added together, give them a competitive advantage," stresses Mark Levin, Heidelberg senior vice president of sales. "The equation is different for every printer, but the critical factors in everyone's equation are print quality, productivity, makeready speed, waste reduction, efficiency and ease-of-use.

"Technology that automates the web printing process—such as digital presets, automatic plate changing, closed-loop controls and pushbutton folder changeovers—is increasingly important. Minimizing or simplifying operator involvement leads to better quality and increased efficiency.

"The Sunday 2000 is specifically designed to excel at short run lengths, and we have customers that can go from the end of one job to saleable copies of the next job in less than 15 minutes" he reveals. "The gapless blankets can be changed in less than a minute. The plates can be changed in less than two minutes with Autoplate, or in less than five minutes with the semi-automatic plate changing option. And the prepress interface allows the entire press to be preset in under four minutes."

Getting Networked

Printers are increasingly interested in a "networked" operation, according to Levin. "They want to take advantage of modern digital data storage and transmission capabilities to link their processes, control their components with increased automation and enhance their information management capabilities. We are responding with Prinect, a series of Heidelberg software modules based on open, industry standards that will eventually connect all of the components and processes in a web printing operation."

Mitsubishi Diamond Series heatset web offset press offerings emphasize systems that deliver dependability, durability and demonstrate print quality, while shortening turnaround times and reducing waste, notes George Sanchez, director of sales and marketing for web presses at MLP U.S.A.

Diamond Series heatset offset web presses are available in eight- to 128-page formats. All Diamond Series web presses also feature a totally shaftless drive, which contributes to greater stability during high-speed operation.

In the current business climate, Mitsubishi's heatset web customers are seeking, more than anything, value from their investment, says Sanchez. ROI considerations are dictating equipment decisions.

"We've probably seen an end to the days of buying a press just for the sake of buying equipment or for speculative capacity. In many cases, customers are basing equipment decisions solely on the economic benefits derived from new equipment and new technology versus older and obsolete technology.

"The equation becomes that they can produce the same amount of work or greater with one new press system than they can with two of their existing assets. It's a two-for-one relationship in the replacement market, and it's greater than two-for-one when you consider newer technology to expand the business," he reveals.

Sanden USA offers the Sanden SP1500, a shaftless, variable-size cutoff, blanket-to-blanket heatset press. The press has a rated speed of 1,500 fpm and is available in web widths from 21˝ to 38˝. To achieve variable cutoffs, customers can purchase different circumference inserts ranging from 17˝ to 28˝, depending on the application. Thus, a printer can purchase one press with two sizes, provide the flexibility to back up two standard, fixed-size perfectors and produce a greater variety of end products.

"We provide the customer with what is most needed today: flexibility and versatility," reports Douglas Justus, president of Sanden USA. "For example, the ability of one press to cut off at 17.75˝ and 22.75˝, and to provide both short- and long-grain products. Also, if a printer's application size changes, they can purchase a different set of inserts and continue to produce the work. With a standard, fixed-size perfector the printer could potentially lose the customer or be required to purchase a new press to accommodate the new product size."

And not to be out done is the Tensor Group's T400BE, a vertical, four-high press featuring a full-bearer design with enhanced press controls. It is available in cutoffs ranging from 21˝ to 22.75˝.

Highly Flexible

The T400BE provides a high degree of web flexibility by offering up to 40˝-wide formats. This is possible due to a very stiff cylinder support design and the addition of bearers that further reduces torsional dot distortion, according to Don Gustafson, Tensor president.

"Insert printers frequently battle fanout and dot gain due to the type of stock they run, such as SCA and SCB. The T400BE has a newly developed dampener arrangement, which has proven to consistently run lighter water levels, which results in much less fanout and sharper, crisper halftones. This new dampener also does not bring any ink back into the water system, which is a frequent problem with other vertical presses. This enhances print quality and greatly reduces press maintenance."

Customers are not only looking to enhance print quality and reduce startup waste. "Another key issue is reduced maintenance costs and enhanced durability for the strenuous heatset market," he adds.

"A very large issue is to provide overall value, which is a combination of initial purchase price, parts and service capabilities, and continued product improvements."

New developments in press engineering such as individual shaftless drives, decentralized intelligent control systems, paper-saving minigaps on plate and blanket cylinders, and an automatically adjustable gripper folder, make the KBA Compacta 215 one of the most advanced 16-page commercial web offset presses on the market, claims Alwin Stöckl, KBA sales director for commercial web offset and rotogravure presses.

Stöckl believes that, despite a difficult past year, customers remain intensely interested in heatset web press developments.

"We can see that the market is picking up again. Customers are showing more interest in the heatset process, and they want to talk to us about their challenges. I believe we are in a position to offer them the answers for which they are looking."
 

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