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Sheetfed Offset--Running With The Big Dogs

May 2000
The stakes are high and the iron-producing players are few in the world of 40˝ and larger sheetfed presses. Today, manufacturers are looking at what printers want in a press tomorrow.


BY ERIK CAGLE


The crystal ball is working overtime at manufacturing facilities around the world.

While you make your way at DRUPA 2000 through the hundreds of thousands of people cramming the aisles of the 18 buildings at Messe Dusseldorf, the R&D people, the tech heads and marketing gurus are looking past the present. They're thinking DRUPA 2004. Phrases float through their brains: increased automation, but what's left on the press?...what is the future for CIP3 and standardization? . . . on-press direct imaging is here, what's next?

For now, press manufacturers are keeping their ears to the ground. Robert McKinney, marketing director for KBA North America, Sheetfed Press Div., hears the constant call for greater press productivity, which comes back to quicker makeready times.

Primary Focus
"Everything we have done has been geared towards the reduction of makeready times through automation," McKinney says. "Every place that it's possible to automate the makeready function and CIP3 integration—all washup systems, automatic plate hanging systems—that has been our key emphasis."

In terms of large-format (40˝ and bigger) sheetfed offset units, the Koenig & Bauer Group (KBA) will be displaying its KBA-Rapida 105 (29x41˝) and KBA-Rapida 162 (44x64˝) at DRUPA. McKinney believes the 50˝, 56˝ and 64˝ formats are popular today due to automation that wasn't available on those press sizes five years ago.

"If you compare them to a 40˝ machine, you've got the same running speed and quality. Unlike years ago, you've basically got the same makeready times and same manning requirements as the 40˝ presses. But at 15,000 sheets per hour, you're essentially producing double the output you would with a 40˝ press," McKinney says. "That's one reason why printers are starting to lean toward large-format presses."

Direct imaging on-press is one of the few remaining areas on which manufacturers can concentrate their efforts, according to McKinney. "We're reaching the point of diminishing returns as far as how much more automation manufacturers can design on a press that's going to have a reasonable ROI to the end user for the added expenditure."

Versatility is a key factor in the eyes of MAN Roland's Sheetfed Press Div., according to Jon Surch, director of sheetfed product marketing. Units that have the capability of printing jobs ranging from commercial work to e-flute carton stock are highly desirable. MAN Roland offers its 900 Series press in the 56˝ format (13,000 sph) and the 700 Series in the 40˝ format. The 900 was introduced as a packaging press, but has also enjoyed considerable success with commercial sheetfed work, churning out product that is close to twice the size of the 700 format. Both models are being shown at DRUPA this month.

 

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