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May 2001
Heatset web offset press manufacturers tackle burning issues


Less waste, shorter runs and labor shortages are all issues that commercial printers who use heatset web offset presses must contend with on a daily basis. These issues, coupled with customer demands for better quality and lower costs, can quickly put web printers in the hot seat. It's enough to make anyone start to sweat.

In response, heatset web offset press manufacturers are coming to the rescue, finding ways to put out the flames and respond effectively to these age-old problems. Several heatset web offset manufacturers were interviewed by Printing Impressions to discuss how they are working to address their customers' evolving needs.

For RDP Marathon's perfecting presses, meeting printers' needs are at the forefront in terms of the design, according to Eric Short, president. "Clients for heatset web presses are looking for a wide range of configurations and specifications. As a result of the need for flexibility, RDP Marathon's perfector series of presses are designed with the ultimate degree of flexibility, starting with variable-size cylinder repeat inserts," Short explains.

"Customers can specify a press for 18˝, 213⁄4˝, 223⁄4˝ and accomplish all of these repeats in one press. The variable-size inserts can be purchased initially or planned for the future. Because the perfector presses are offered optionally with variable-size signature folder, variable-size sheeter or variable-size in-line finishing line, the customer has ultimate flexibility for future market decisions," he says.

RDP Marathon isn't the only manufacturer looking to address client concerns in their press designs. Didde Web Press integrated client feedback in the design of its Excalibur press.

"Today, clients are demanding increased speeds and as much in-line finishing as possible, so as not to dramatically reduce the production speed of the press," states Allen Watts, marketing and sales director.

"Didde's goal is to provide our customer competitive advantage in producing all types of end products and at various run lengths. The Excalibur design is focused on six major areas: technology integration, consistent print quality, in-line processing, job throughput, press operation and waste elimination," Watts explains. The Excalibur features high run speeds—up to 48,675 iph—with consistent print quality and a wide assortment of finishing options to provide a highly productive manufacturing cell for growing printers, he claims.

Didde has also developed a control system to provide press operators with a tool to minimize makeready times and paper spoilage, while providing consistently higher quality printed products from the first saved sheet to the end of the job. All press functions are controlled from the console, including ink and water balance. Job run settings can be saved and retrieved, notes Watts, to allow for very fast, repetitive makereadies.

For Heidelberg Web Systems—the largest heatset web press supplier—the key issue for customers has gone beyond the concerns of minimizing waste and the trend toward shorter runs. Today's commercial printer is interested in increasing the value proposition of print, reports Greg Norris, marketing communications manager. That means making print more competitive with other media and more attractive to advertisers, publishers and consumers.

"Consequently, we are focused on press technology that allows printers to increase print quality, productivity and product personalization, while decreasing turnaround times, waste and the overall unit cost of printed products, Norris says. "It's important to realize that the Internet and electronic media are not displacing the demand for web printing; if anything, they are increasing demand.

"However, these media have significantly changed the competitive environment. They have trained consumers to expect personalized, real-time communication," he reveals. "To remain competitive, web printers will continue to require press technology that allows more versatility, more product personalization, faster productivity and lower costs."

In order to meet these evolving demands, Heidelberg has developed its Sunday Press series, according to Norris. "Our Sunday Presses remain the hallmark of our heatset press lineup. The Sunday 3000, which prints up to 100,000 iph, has clearly established itself as the market leader for long-run catalog and publication printing. This year, we are introducing the Sunday 3000i—a modified version of the Sunday 3000 and the first gapless press designed specifically for insert printing."

The Sunday 2000, which was was introduced last year, is also available in 16- and 24-page formats. Its make-ready features also make it well-suited for shorter runs and fast changeovers. For high-pagination printing, Heidelberg offers 48- and 64-page Sunday 4000 presses. In addition, the 16-page M-600 is a popular choice for high-quality commercial and publication printing. Finally, the 16-page M-130 is valued for its high quality, versatility and ease of use. "We have several customers that have bought the M-130 as their first heatset web press," reports Norris.

GSS Printing Equipment is also coming to the aid of commercial and direct mail printers who are being asked to provide higher quality and a more colorful product—in a shorter period of time—in lower quantities and at a competitive prices, notes John Sillies, president.

"As a web offset press manufacturer, we can help meet these challenges by providing increased automation throughout the press. Features such as closed-loop ink key color control, automatic ink washup, job save and recall of ink, as well as water settings, are just a few of the features available to reduce time and paper waste during makereadies" he adds. "To meet the demands of more colorful and higher quality printing, GSS presses are equipped with large ink trains to handle demanding jobs and automatic registration to assure quality throughout the run."

GSS offers web offset presses in widths from 20˝ to 40˝, with speeds up to 1,800 fpm. Many of its press models are capable of varying the cutoff size and are offered in circumferences from 14˝ to 40˝.

Still, another hot-button issue for printers is the need for seamless in-line finishing, remarks Roger Kaughman, manager of marketing administration at King Press.

"Heatset printers, or printers wishing to venture into the heatset market, are looking for more in-line process functions. In the past, our experience has been that the typical customer was seeking a press to simply print and fold magazine or magazine-type signatures printed on a coated stock. But the trend we have seen in the last couple of years is toward the demand for processes like pattern perforating, coatings and spot varnishing to be incorporated into the press system," he reveals. The Process King is his company's flagship press in the commercial heatset web offset market.

Like other manufacturers in this space, Timsons Printing Machinery is also working toward reducing makeready time and waste, according to Steve Kukla, sales manager.

Timsons now offers a wide variety of press models. The new T-48A is an arch press design with semi-automatic plate loading and unloading, which reduces the time needed to perform plate changes. With the

T-48A's consistent makeready time of less than three minutes between plate changes, Kukla says the press has proven to be very beneficial to printers specializing in the short-run marketplace.

Komori America's current web offering is the System 20, an eight-page, (23x20˝) press, which is long grain for compatibility with 40˝ sheetfed presses. It has a maximum speed of 45,000 iph. The cutoff is 23˝ in order to print an 11˝ signature with bleed trim and color bar. It is typically equipped with an automated changeover, combination folder, sheeter and includes many automation features, including individual ink and water tracking curves per color and a CIP4 interface to preset the ink keys.

Soon to be Offered in U.S.
Later this year, Komori—which acquired the web offset press division of Toshiba Machinery in April—plans to introduce the System 38S, a 16-page (23x38˝) press. It was displayed at DRUPA with a European cutoff, and is currently available in Europe and Japan. The System 38S is fully equipped with automated plate changers, automated folder product changeover, ink key preset software, individual ink and water tracking curves, and CIP4 interface.

"Our web products provide high print quality," reports Terry Bradley, technical director of web systems. "We equip our webs for fast makereadies and many in-line functions, allowing our clients to reduce down-stream bindery functions. In addition, our presses are capable of changing speeds with minimal operator intervention to adjust color or register."

Meanwhile, MAN Roland offers its customers the versatility that they need in the Rotoman press. The Rotoman is reportedly MAN Roland's premier and most popular press. The Rotoman press prints at speeds up to 60,000 cph. It is a 1:1 press designed for optimum print quality, as well as fast makeready and changeovers in highly competitive, dynamic markets. The press system can include up to nine units for heatset production of 16-page products for short to long runs.

High-productivity features include automated plate changing that facilitates the changing of up to 16 plates in less than five minutes.

Still another concern facing web printers is the lack of skilled labor. This problem is at its most pronounced among small- and medium-size printers. Realizing this need, Solna Web is among those manufacturers that are working to address the labor force shortage. "Some of the smaller—niche, if you will—printers are interested in how we as a supplier can help them raise press crew skill levels to stave off the competitive forces of the mega-printers," states Rich Kerns, president.

"Likewise, as the gap widens between the big and small printers, the type of production equipment needed also splits into two different arenas. The big guys need the 3,000 fpm, gapless machinery to keep up with the circulation demands in their segment, while the niche printers need equipment that can easily print a financial job on lightweight directory stock in the morning and a high-profile jewelry catalog in the afternoon."

Solna offers two heatset designs. The Solna C800 commercial web press is geared toward short to medium, high-quality runs. The D400 vertical tower features multiple sets of four-high towers and vertical dryers. The unit is aimed at complex and heavy page count configurations, as well as the four-color directory printing segment.

"The trend will be for [press] manufacturers to concentrate on the extremes of the market," Kerns contends. "There seems to be a wide spread between the 2,000 and 3,000 fpm presses and the 30,000 iph designs. Quite often, the mid-size printers get left out of the new development circle."

Web Press Setups

(Editor's Note: The following was contributed by Roger Cross, project manager for OASIS Alignment Services, Rochester, NH.)

As with nearly all modern high-speed precision machinery, the webfed offset press will benefit from less installation time, easier startups, and more long-term trouble free operation if optical tooling methodology applied by trained alignment technicians is utilized during the press line installation and setup.

Offering the ability to guarantee alignment tolerances of as little as two arc-seconds (approximately 0.002" over 1757) for level, parallelism and perpendicularity, optical tooling methodology is very beneficial in nearly all phases of the physical installation of the press line, including:

  • The initial layout and positioning of monuments for the true machine centerline, an offset parallel representation of the centerline and any cross-machine reference lines that are deemed necessary.

  • Precise positioning and leveling to specified elevations of base-plates or sub-frames, where applicable.

  • Accurate positioning of individual components with respect to machine direction and cross-machine direction.

  • Provides for precise control of the level, plumb and perpendicularity of individual component framework.

  • Utilizes a single common reference form which all components are aligned.

  • Eliminates the possibility of creating a parallelogram effect in the line.

  • Eliminates the "build-up" of error commonly associated with mechanical tramming methods.

  • Properly documented alignment data is valuable for use in troubleshooting press line problems in the future.

"Web printers will continue to require press technology that allows more versatility, more product personalization, faster productivity and lower costs."

—Greg Norris


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