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Large-Format Sheetfed Presses -- Bigger Gets Better

November 2005
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

It wasn't long ago that large and extra-large format sheetfed offset presses were considered primary tools for the package printing market.

In Europe, notes Ken Kodama, vice president of sheetfed sales for Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A.), these oversized machines were not used just by folding carton producers, but also by publication and commercial printers. But the productivity of the super-sized press and its ease of use is winning over favor among U.S. printers in the commercial sector.

"The manning for a large-format is similar to a 40˝ press, so the makereadies are very similar," Kodama says.

"For example, with perfecting, in order to get a 16-page format, you're perfecting on both sides. On a 56˝ press, you can do it on one side, although you still have to work and turn the sheet. On a large format, you are not limited by the pagination of the sheet because perfecting requires gutters for the slow down wheels on the back side and ceramic-type jackets on the impression cylinders, which will affect print quality. So there are some advantages to the large format."

Changing Roles

The role of the perfecting press has made a dramatic impact in recent years, according to Kodama, primarily because the technology has improved. "I think the technology has gotten good enough that it's easier for customers to use. However, even now, the perfecting unit is an item that will require proper maintenance, which the large format will not require, and perfecting jobs require some extra thought for workflow that is not required for straight printing.

"Considering the ongoing pressure on margins for printers, any time you can accomplish something in one pass is money saved for them."

Mitsubishi enjoyed a strong PRINT 05 & CONVERTING 05 show in September, promoting the Diamond 5000 (51˝) and 6000 (56˝) models in the large-format realm. Tandem Perfector presses aren't available for the large format yet, but Mitsubishi is considering producing them in the future.

Gaining efficiencies, particularly through the power of perfecting, were among the hot topics during PRINT 05 in Chicago. No one needed to tell KBA North America that large-format printing is the rage in sheetfed circles; its sales for the past year exploded by 42 percent, primarily due to its successful efforts in large-format press sales. The company has sold in excess of 700 large-format presses worldwide since 1995, notes Michael Iburg, product specialist for KBA.

Taking Control

One thing that has allowed KBA to differentiate itself, according to Iburg, is its modern control console technology. Advantages include: optional integration into a digital workflow; comprehensive automation of functions such as plate and pile changing or non-stop pile logistics; online densitometry and spectrophotometry quality control; and automatic presetting for press components and auxiliary systems.
 

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