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ON THE ROAD -- German Tour Opens Printers' Eyes Wide

April 2005
RADEBEUL, GERMANY--Customer demands, technology developments and market pressures are leading printers to think about pressroom productivity and efficiency in new ways. Format and substrate flexibility--along with a continual drive for makeready gains--have become part of a more complicated formula for determining the right production platform.

In the sheetfed printing segment, two production alternatives that have been getting greater attention of late are long perfectors and large-format presses. Koenig & Bauer AG recently held an open house at its sheetfed headquarters to give some 300 participants an opportunity to compare examples of each platform. A select group of U.S. commercial printers and trade press editors made a trek to the event at the invitation of KBA North America.

Chosen as a basis for the comparison were a 10-color, 41? Rapida 105 perfector (five-over-five) press and a six-color, 56? Rapida 142 straight press. Jürgen Veil, marketing manager and print specialist at KBA Radebeul, stepped attendees through a detailed analysis of the impact adding each of these two presses would have on an "average" medium-sized sheetfed shop. Based on the set of parameters he defined, Veil says retooling a shop in this manner will generate press capacity reserves, while substantially reducing labor costs for a standard job mix.

For a head-to-head comparison of the two presses, Veil used the job chosen for the later press demos--a 32-page brochure with four-page cover in A4 format. In this case, he contends a 56? press is more cost-effective than a 40?, five-over-five perfector for producing run lengths of 20,000 copies or more. This cost advantage widens as the run length increases, the marketing manager adds.

Below the 20,000 copy threshold, the long perfector is more economical and its cost advantage widens as run lengths decrease, Veil says.

Going Large

According to KBA, one of the key messages it wanted attendees to take away from the open house is that large-format printing can be a significantly more cost-effective production platform, particularly for longer print runs or challenging substrates. This press category also gives users the opportunity to extend their range of services, in particular, by printing large-format displays or posters.

Medium-size perfectors are more competitive at producing a succession of smaller jobs with a limited number of pages, KBA contends. Both platforms are said to offer similar performance in terms of quality, makeready times, manning levels and maximum running speeds.

As a common starting point for the printing demonstrations, the open house also featured an overview of a new management information system, called technoPLAN, from Rogler Software, a company based in Switzerland. The system was used to plan and estimate the test job for both presses.

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