Automation has surely found its way into the large-format sheetfed offset press arena. Over the past six years, there has been a virtual explosion in what can now be found in the 40˝ and larger size format—including automated plate changers and washup systems, as well as sophisticated press control stations with touchscreen controls.

Printers no longer have to contend with slow and labor-intensive machines, explains Mike Grego, marketing manager for Sakurai USA, which offers the 40˝ Sakurai 2102EPII press. “Automation is a must. With labor costs being one of the largest contributors to the hourly operating cost of a piece of equipment, reducing the number of press operators and increasing efficiency are necessary to optimize productivity and profitability.”

As a result of these advancements, more and more printers are taking a second look at the viability of a larger format press, reveals Bob McKinney, marketing director for KBA North America’s Sheetfed division, part of the Koenig & Bauer Group. Its line of large-format KBA Rapida presses includes 41˝, 44˝, 47˝, 54˝, 56˝ and 64˝ models.

“Today, if you compare a 50˝, 56˝ and 64˝ press to a 40˝ machine, you’ve got the same running speed and quality. But at 15,000 sheets per hour, you’re essentially producing double the output you would with a 40˝ press. That’s one reason why printers are starting to lean toward large-format presses,” states McKinney.

For Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A.), automating the makeready function has been the dominant consideration in the ongoing development of its Diamond Series press line. The series includes the Diamond 5000, a 51˝ press, and the Diamond 6000, a 56˝ model.

Automation Concerns
“While there probably isn’t one single operating feature that customers desire most in a large-format press, a high degree of automation is certainly a dominant consideration,” reports John Santie, Mitsubishi product manager. “Recent advances in automation—in particular, the automation of the makeready process and the linkage to prepress—have made big presses a cost-effective solution in the ongoing trend toward shorter run lengths and faster turnarounds.

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