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Graph Expo Review: Presses - Offset, Digital Integration

October 2011 By Mark Michelson
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Offset press output still comprises 90 percent of the printing done today, by some accounts, but you wouldn’t know it based on all the attention given to digital inkjet- and toner-based devices at Graph Expo last month.

Not so surprising, though, in light of a changing industry landscape. Customer demands for ever-shorter runs, lightening-quick turnaround times and, in some cases, variable data capabilities, are leading many commercial print shops to consider a digital device in lieu of new lithographic press capacity when making capital equipment expenditure decisions.

Lithographic press manufacturers aren’t standing still, however. They continue to bring new technology developments to market that further speed press makereadies and reduce paper waste. Many have also signed sales and service partnerships with digital equipment providers to broaden their product portfolios. And, in the run-up to the Drupa mega-show in Germany next May, some have even partnered to co-develop new hybrid presses that will combine the best attributes of offset and digital printing.

Using the theme “HEI Flexibility,” Heidelberg emphasized several new industry partnerships during the show. Heidelberg prominently displayed a Ricoh Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition digital press (sold to: Winchester Printers, Winchester, VA) and a grand-format VUTEk GS3200 UV inkjet printer (sold to: Quad Express Printing, Hayward, CA) to showcase its sales and service agreements with Ricoh and EFI, respectively.

And, a bright red, 18-wheeler truck formed almost one entire wall of Heidelberg’s booth to emphasize its Printers Advantage paper and consumable supplies national distribution partnership with Unisource.

Even so, Heidelberg did display two sheetfed offset presses: a five-color-plus-coater Speedmaster SM 52 with Anicolor zoneless inking, which is designed for ultra-short-run printing; and a five-color Speedmaster SM 74 equipped with Prinect Axis Control, a coater and a 40˝  Wallscreen display.

The toner/inkjet-based digital and sheetfed offset systems were all linked together with Heidelberg’s Prinect workflow to print and finish components for an advertising campaign featuring a fictional golf resort. They included a 12-page brochure printed on the SM 52, a three-panel brochure with variable data on the C901 Pro, a hybrid letter incorporating five-color offset shells printed on the SM 52 with variable text from the C901, and a poster output on the GS3200. Additional products were finished on Polar cutters, Stahl mailing systems and Kama folder/gluers.

The golf resort campaign illustrated Heidelberg’s cross-platform color management and job routing expertise across the spectrum of digital and lithographic devices that are increasingly found within their customers’ operations.

Litho, Digital Alliance

“Digital Meets Offset Power” was the tag line that manroland created for Graph Expo, in part because it also signified the North American launch of its sales, engineering and consulting alliance with Océ. Parlaying the relationships it has built within the commercial offset printing, newspaper and packaging markets, manroland will now be helping Océ further penetrate those sectors for its inkjet-based digital printing solutions.

“manroland has never looked at digital presses as a competing technology, but rather as another piece of the puzzle,” says Vince Lapinski, CEO of manroland North America.

Lapinski also announced that the new six-color, 41˝ Roland 700 HiPrint HS (max. speed: 18,000 sph) sheetfed UV press with coater that was operating each morning during Graph Expo in manroland’s Westmont, IL, demo center was being shipped to Stephenson Printing in Alexandria, VA, marking its first North American installation.

According to George Stephenson, president, “This (press) will allow me to print 1,000 copies or less of the multipage work (up to 200 pages) that we specialize in, and still be cost-effective. I anticipate doubling my workflow with the same (number of) bodies.”

manroland’s new TOP (Performance = Technology x Organization x People) technical performance consulting program made its North American debut, as well. The program is designed to measure and improve all aspects of press operations, including print quality, speed, productivity and makeready times.

After an initial press analysis is complete, a to-do list is provided to the printing company, which can then decide what actions to address at what time.

For the newspaper press market, manroland has also received a 2011 InterTech Technology Award for its autoprint APL. A robotic arm is automatically fed the plates and the plates are all loaded onto the cylinder simultaneously, completely automating the entire plate-hanging process.

Meanwhile, Komori America promoted its “OffsetOnDemand” concept centered around ultra-short runs and quick turnarounds using Komori sheetfed offset presses. The core of the system is the fusion of Komori’s KHS-AI integrated control system and its H-UV curing system. KHS-AI significantly reduces makeready and production times, and cuts paper waste.

The H-UV curing system—a 2011 InterTech Award recipient—employs a single UV lamp. From an environmental standpoint, H-UV generates no VOCs, requires very little heat (thus reducing power consumption) and does not require the use of spray powder.

The new Komori Lithrone G40, introduced to the North American market last July, is the backbone of OffsetOnDemand. The 40˝ press combines many of the technologies from the Lithrone SX series with the features of the Lithrone S line. With the ability to print on a wide range of substrates at speeds up to 16,500 iph, the G40 features a re- designed feeder and delivery.

Komori also launched its PDC-SX print density control scanning system, which allows for color bar placement anywhere on the sheet to maximize the printing area. In addition to automatically tracking the color bar and measuring color and density, it displays and controls register. Additionally, the Komori Info-Service Display (KID) made its North American debut. A large display unit installed on the press console, it allows the operator to quickly check the operating status of the press, as well as provides a full-size display of the image data for the job and ink key data.

Process Improvement

From a service standpoint, Graph Expo marked the launch of the KomoriKare Advantage program. Packages are available that improve press efficiency through maintenance, upgrade and training programs. Also debuting was the Komori 360 program, designed to integrate Komori’s sales and service team with its customers’ management and pressroom teams to achieve measurable process improvement.

The integration of digital and offset press platforms took center stage during the KBA press conference. Attended by KBA execs and a representative from RR Donnelley (RRD), the discussion soon turned to their companies’ earlier-announced agreement that enables KBA to license and integrate RRD’s digital imaging technologies into its conventional press offerings.

According to Mark Hischar, KBA North America president and CEO, his company will showcase a web press incorporating RRD’s new ProteusJet piezoelectric inkjet press technology at Drupa. Future joint development will include RRD’s “Apollo” technology, a proprietary, variable inkjet technology first disclosed in 2009. The Apollo technology is “an enhancement to offset” that could be applied to other KBA presses.

KBA also promoted its InterTech Award-winning Flying JobChange technology, which provides instant job changeovers in seconds on a Rapida 106 press. An operator can change plates on one or more printing units on-the-fly while the press is running. For web offset production, KBA now offers the 16-page C16 press, which is designed for short runs and quick turnarounds.

Goss International highlighted recent web press projects where printers selected Goss presses to replace older technology or enter new markets. Its booth showcased options for commercial and newspaper printing, print finishing and aftermarket support, as well as the new Sunday Vpak variable sleeve packaging presses and an expanded portfolio of Ferag, Akiyama, Purlux and Yawa products.

Goss Sunday 2000 direct mail web presses have been installed recently at Japs-Olson, Vertis, Quad/Graphics and other U.S. sites. Several of them feature Automatic Transfer technology, allowing on-the-fly version or job changes without stopping the press, and “digital hybrid” configurations with integrated digital printing.

Just one more example of the integration of traditional offset with digital technologies that permeated many exhibitor/printer discussions on the show floor during Graph Expo 2011. PI


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