SMALL-FORMAT PRESSES -- Small, But Powerful
Doug Schardt, assistant product manager for Komori America, shares a similar view of the industry. His company has found a way to overcome the shortage of skilled workers by making the presses easier to operate. Komori achieves that by enhancing its small-format machines to accept digital ink key data from prepress, just like large-format presses. This enhancement greatly improves color acquisition on a makeready and decreases setup time.
"It allows less experienced operators to achieve color balance quickly, negating years of experience that is typically sought," Schardt explains. "Of course, this doesn't mean poor operators become great operators overnight, but it does help tremendously in fending off the impact of larger presses in the market."
Schardt sees small-format presses moving toward faster and cheaper make-readies with a trend of polyester plates and finished formats to save costs, especially with four-color work.
This increased versatility regarding different plate materials is one of the leading trends in the market, suggests Bernd Blumberg, marketing director of Printmaster systems for Heidelberg USA. He also identifies the need for more automation to reduce the demand for skilled personnel.
"Due to the availability of inexpensive design programs such as QuarkXPress and PageMaker, the complexity of simple stationery, flyers and newsletters has increased," Blumberg notes. "Customers ask for halftones, solids and full bleeds—even in the small sheet size. This can not be produced with old duplicator technology."
Heidelberg counters these needs with the Printmaster QM 46-2, which incorporates larger press features such as bearer-to-bearer pressure, Autoplate, pneumatics and microprocessor controls to deliver excellent print quality and ease of operation.
Wayne Perk, MAN Roland's director of marketing communications, suggests there are several trends that are having a significant impact on the manufacture of small-format presses. He notes that printers are handling shorter runs, dealing with reduced turnaround times, demanding lower prices and finding it difficult to obtain qualified personnel to operate the equipment.