Graph Expo Review: Presses – Offset, Digital Integration

Fred Thompson (left), president of Chatsworth, CA-based Aaron Thomas & Associates, and Gary Thomas, vice president, stand by their new press: a five-color Heidelberg Speedmaster SM 74 equipped with Prinect Axis Control, coater and 40˝ Wallscreen display.

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.

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