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Graph Expo: Sheetfed/Web Offset Printing -- Still Making Impressions

November 2008 By Mark Michelson
DESPITE GROWING industry demand for digital printing devices, the fact remains that lithographic sheetfed and web presses still dominate the pressrooms—and revenue streams—for the majority of commercial printing operations. And, traditional press manufacturers are not standing still to compete with digital printing’s inherent short run and reduced waste advantages. 

Following on the heels of Drupa in Germany, Graph Expo in Chicago provided the first glimpse for most U.S. printers to learn first-hand how offset press manufacturers continue to prove their relevancy in an evolving industry.

That was quite apparent at the Komori America booth, which featured three different sheetfed models. Twelve daily demonstrations were held to emphasize the ease of job changeovers with Komori presses. The star of the booth was the six-color, 41? LSX40 press with coater that debuted at Drupa. 

Capable of speeds to 18,000 sph, enhancements include a more stable feeder and delivery; higher speed, fully automatic plate changers with non-stop plate removal; and a high-speed start function that enables the press to begin printing at 12,000 sph with makeready waste of as few as 20 sheets.

Most intriguing, though, is the LSX40’s KHS-AI “advanced intelligence” software that reduces job cycle times by as much as 50 percent. All press functions can be preset from the console, and the AI software also features self-learning technology that progressively updates press settings over time to further reduce waste. 

Showcasing multiple makereadies was also the mission for the six-color, 24x29? LSX29 press in Komori’s stand. The 16,000 sph LSX29 possesses a high-speed start function, a suction tape feeder, fully auto plate changing, and console-driven blanket and impression cylinder cleaning.

Rounding out the lineup was a four-color Spica 29P convertible perfector, which is designed as an economical, small footprint model. Demonstrating Sappi’s new Tempo fast-drying coated paper at the show, the press is also available in a five-color configuration to allow a varnish or additional color.

As has become a Komori tradition, the company also assembled a panel of customers at its press conference. They included Manny Hernandez of Solo Printing in Miami (System 38S web), Matt Doran of York, PA-based Anstadt Printing (six-color LSX29), Larry Patterson of Jones Packaging in Canada (customized, 13-unit LS40), and Zarik Megerdichian of 4Over Inc. in Glendale, CA. Megerdichian revealed the national trade printer’s plan to open three new Komori press-equipped production facilities: Miami, Dallas and Newark, NJ, to expedite ground shipping delivery.

Heidelberg USA chose a different tack for this year’s Graph Expo. It demonstrated a fully integrated, Prinect-based print shop. On the press side, the company featured the U.S. debut of its Speedmaster XL 105 as a perfector model. 

The 10-color press was equipped with Prinect Inpress Control, the first in-line device for sheetfed presses that uses spectrophotometry to measure color and register, while the press is running. Also shown with the press was the Prinect Press Center, which features a 40? Wallscreen unit where all press conditions and operations can be viewed at a glance, including color and register control.

Three times daily, visitors were invited to Heidelberg’s main theater for a presentation that highlighted the benefits of a fully integrated, JDF-based workflow. “Integration in a print shop is an absolute ‘must have’ for printers to maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” noted Jim Dunn, president of Heidelberg USA.

During Heidelberg’s press briefing, he announced that, early next year, Franklin, WI-based Proteus Packaging will be installing the first Heidelberg VLF (very-large format) press in North America, which debuted at Drupa. The folding carton producer opted for a six-color, 56? Speedmaster XL 145 with in-line aqueous coater to replace two older large-format presses.

Dunn also reported the sale of the 100th Speedmaster XL 105 press in the United States. Image Graphics and Litho, a general commercial printer located in Portland, OR, purchased a five-color model plus coater of the milestone press.

Additionally, he provided an update on the manufacturer’s growing success with its Saphira brand of consumables; Heidelberg’s efforts to expand its business and consulting services; as well as the fact that some printers recently have been ordering press parts over the Internet, which they think are original Heidelberg parts, but in fact are counterfeit. Some critical replacement parts will now be embedded with security elements.

The only other 10-color press at Graph Expo appeared in the xpedx booth, with the North American debut of the Ryobi 7510P, a 23x31? perfector with UV coating and Grafix interdeck dryers. The 15,000 sph press features a three-drum perfecting device with a double-diameter transfer drum, which allows virtually mark-free printing at high speeds and on a variety of substrates.

During the show, xpedx also talked up the new 40? Ryobi 1050 series that will be available next July in four, five or six colors, with initial maximum speeds of 16,000 sph (18,000 sph model to come). Featuring double-diameter impression and transfer cylinders, the new series also incorporates a closed-circuit camera that continuously monitors print quality and adjusts ink keys as needed. In addition, information on the new Ryobi in-line UV casting and foiling system, and energy-saving LED-UV print curing system were available. xpedx has signed national distribution agreements with postpress manufacturers C.P. Bourg and FMA.

John Torrey, vice president and general manager of xpedx Printing Technologies, also reported on the new xpedx Technology Center that will open in Cincinnati next February. It combines the company’s two print technology centers currently located in Cleveland and Lenexa, KS. The new testing center will feature prepress, press and finishing equipment from several OEMs. 

Like Heidelberg and xpedx, KBA North America only showed one press in its exhibit space. A 20? Genius 52 UV waterless press, now available with a new dedicated coating unit, was demonstrated printing on paper, plastic, board and lenticular substrates each day at the show. KBA and FLEXcon also partnered to premier three unique pressure-sensitive substrates designed for use with 41? KBA Rapida 106 presses.

Much of the attention at KBA’s press conference, however, centered around its previous announcement that it will combine its corporate headquarters in Williston (Burlington), VT, with its web press operations located in Dallas. The relocation will join the KBA sheetfed and web divisions under one roof, along with the sales, service and parts departments, as well as a new corporate demonstration center.

Holger Garbrecht, president and CEO, said the decision to relocate to Dallas was made for the benefit of KBA’s customer base. Expected to be completed by next August, he added that the move to a more central location will allow KBA to be closer to much of its clientele, as well as to be able to ship parts from Dallas to clients all over the country in hours. Garbrecht revealed that all of the key KBA executives and about half of the current employees in Vermont will relocate to Dallas.

KBA activities in Canada have also been expanded. John Raithel, senior vice president of sales, has assumed the additional role as president of KBA Canada. The briefing was attended by Warren Werbitt, CEO of Pazazz Printing in Montreal, who installed a six-color, 56? Rapida hybrid UV press in July.

Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses also featured one sheetfed press in its booth: a six-color, 41? Diamond V3000LX with tower coater and extended delivery. The press was equipped with Mitsubishi’s SimulChanger fully automated plate changing system and Diamond Color Navigator, a newly developed color adjustment interface that also made its North American debut. 

In comparison with manual adjustments, Diamond Color Navigator can cut color adjustment time in half and increase reproduction accuracy by nearly one-third. It consists of upper and lower touch monitors. The upper monitor displays the print image as it appears on the press sheet. The print image is created from job and color data transmitted from prepress via the Mitsubishi Prepress CIP4 Control server. Operators simply run a finger across the image to highlight ink key zones needing adjustment.

The lower monitor contains a color adjustment “compass” (or color wheel). Using the color wheel, operators move the overall color of the selected area in the direction it needs to go to match the proof. Diamond Color Navigator automatically adjusts the appropriate keys on each printing unit to the correct amount, saving operators from performing repeated manual adjustments.

The printing unit covers on the new V3000LX press are made of pressure-formed, superplastic zinc alloy. And the feeder, printing units and delivery are equipped with LED beams, so that operators can instantly recognize changes in press operation status by the color and/or blinking interval of the beams.

Other key features of the press include scratch-proof, smudge-proof transfer and delivery skeleton cylinders, air showers above impression cylinders, a gripper height adjustment device and an individual air chamber at each printing unit. Innovations in air management prevent scratches and smudging when printing on thick sheets. A redesigned air hose and fewer air blowers have improved air control efficiency.

The company also announced the sale of the first four-unit, 16-page Diamond 16 MAXS+ commercial web press with UV coater, which will be installed at Shweiki Media’s new publication printing plant in San Antonio, TX.

manroland elected not to showcase any presses in its booth, but instead shuttled interested printers to its demo center in suburban Chicago prior to show hours to see a 56? Roland 900 press in action. Even so, the new Printvalue support program made its North American debut. Four service contract portfolios were highlighted: printservices (predictive maintenance, process analysis), printnet (workflow solution), printcom (consumables) and printadvice (consulting).

During a press conference, manroland CEO Vince Lapinski explained how his company embraced a strategy “about six years ago to focus more on services, not so much on iron. It helps printers become more profitable and gain all the benefits of the equipment’s capabilities,” he said. 

Some other show news and booth highlights included:

o Timsons Ltd. signed an agreement whereby HP’s new 30? Ink-jet Web Press will connect with Timsons’ digital book finishing system.

o Aside from video presentations on its new M-600 Folia commercial web press equipped with a custom VITS sheeter, Goss International announced that Quad/Graphics will be the first printer in the world to retrofit a gapless Sunday web press (an eight-unit Sunday 3000) with Goss’ DigiRail inking system.

o Sakurai’s five-color, 235/8x31? 575SDC press with aqueous coater on display was sold to Multiscope Inc. in Pennsylvania. A Sakurai Maestro silk screen press also demonstrated glitter application.

o Presstek 52DI and 34DI digital offset presses now offer UV printing capabilities.

o Akiyama discussed the MEGA Jprint 40 series sheetfed press with double coaters and Supertech presses that debuted at Drupa.

o Web Press Corp. promoted its Quad-Stack 4/4 color printing unit for adding color to existing single-width, one-around press lines or as components within complete lines.

o The Tensor Group talked about its single-width models designed for the semi-commercial, insert and newspaper markets.

More Graph Expo coverage on new and improved pressroom consumables, color control systems and press accessories will follow in future issues. PI



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