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Sheetfed/Web Litho Printing : Offsetting a Weak Economy

October 2009 By Mark Michelson
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MOST PRINTERS have curtailed their capital equipment expenditures in response to tough economic conditions and tight credit markets. Nonetheless, it's become increasingly obvious that maintaining a modern offset printing pressroom is a fundamental prerequisite to competing as a viable business.

Those seeking answers, and confirmation, to the tools that can help ensure future success trekked to PRINT 09 to observe the latest lithographic press and optimized workflow advancements available.

Sheetfed and web offset press exhibitors were all singing the same tune that the "holy grail" to achieving profitability in these tough times lies in a print shop's efficiency—quick makereadies, waste reduction, higher productivity with less people, as well as value-added capabilities to diversify and differentiate one's offerings. Not a new song, but nonetheless a chorus refrain that continues to resonate as more and more of the printing establishments saddled with outdated equipment and inefficient workflows fall by the wayside.

And, with few buyers of heavy iron around, vendors at the show were also singing the praises of their press maintenance/repair programs and consumables offerings.

Be Productive or Perish

The necessity of pressroom automation to survival in such a cut-throat industry was the take home message from a commercial printer panel assembled during Komori America's PRINT 09 press conference, as well as within the Komori booth itself.

The 12,600-square-foot stand featured three sheetfed presses: a six-color, 29x41˝ Lithrone SX 40 18,000-sph workhorse equipped with fully automatic plate changers; a six-unit, 24x29˝ LSX29 that can incorporate value-added, specialty processes; and an economical, five-color, 20x29˝ Spica 29 convertible perfector geared toward short runs.

The star of the Komori booth, however, was its new KHS-AI (artificial intelligence) sheetfed software that continually learns, adjusts and presets inking requirements, air settings and register control for current and subsequent jobs. The software's Smart Sequence and Smart Feedback features reduce downtime between jobs and speed on-the-fly density changes. KHS-AI can also be retrofitted onto some older-model Komori presses.

"We believe AI software can reduce startup waste up to 50 percent and, when paper is the most costly consumable in a printing plant, that's a significant number," pointed out Doug Schardt, sheetfed product manager.

The concept of a fully integrated print shop connected by end-to-end Prinect workflow solutions was literally the centerpiece of Heidelberg USA's 30,000-square-foot booth. A 10-color, 29˝ Speedmaster XL 75 perfector was equipped with the InPress in-line color and register measuring system, simultaneous plate changers and an aqueous coater. The press also featured Heidelberg's Prinect Press Center with both the Intellistart process-oriented navigation system and high-definition LCD Wallscreen.



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