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February 2002

It's not the size of the press that matters, but rather how you use it.

There was a time when small-format sheetfed offset presses sat in the shadows. A workhorse, but nothing compared to their fast and flashy, 40˝ and larger brothers.

Today, small presses are becoming the envy of the larger presses. The small press market has been the subject of intense technological development and, as a result, small presses, ranging in size up to 20x29,˝ now offer the features found on larger presses such as increased press speeds, makeready automation, networked systems and digital controls.

In fact, with the increasing market demand for shorter runs and faster turnarounds, the small press is ideally suited to meet these demands. "This market segment is growing at an even faster rate than the market for larger presses. Smaller printers are looking for more color, while larger printers are looking for shorter run lengths," explains Bob McKinney, director of sales and marketing for KBA North America.

KBA offers the Rapida 74, a 20x29˝ press available in two- to eight-color models, with or without tower coaters. The press is equipped with automatic plate changers, CIP3 digital interface, as well as automatic washers and ink roller wash.

Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses' Marketing Director John Santie agrees that interest in small-format sheetfed presses has expanded in the last few years. "We are seeing a mix of printing firms purchasing presses. On the one hand, there are small commercial shops that are up-and-coming and looking to grow their business. With the speed and automation available on 28˝ or 29˝ presses, they can move up to the four-page format. This size enables them to offer their customers better quality on a wider range of products. We also are seeing larger printers with full-size 40˝ presses realize that a half-size machine allows them greater flexibility and productivity. Rather than try to fit a small job onto a 40˝ press—which wastes press capacity—they are adding half-size presses."

Small-format presses are holding their own as the demand for color goes up and the run lengths go down, reports Doug Schardt, product manager at Komori America.

"In many cases, the decreased labor demanded by the smaller presses prove out the theory that short-run work can be run cheaper on smaller presses," he says.

And the issue of productivity is becoming more and more important in today's market, remarks Christian Cerfontaine, marketing manager for MAN Roland. "Printers are looking for any automation feature that saves them time and money."

Automation Is Key

"They have to be more productive to stay competitive. That means a high level of automation is needed to take advantage of today's opportunities and to face tomorrow's challenges. This level of automation is simply not available on the older generation presses," he says.

"A printer has to live with his press investment for at least five years, so not having automation is equivalent to being noncompetitive for the next five years. That just doesn't make sense, particularly if your market is short runs."

As printers are forced to contend with intense pricing pressures, manufacturers have added new features to their small-format press offerings to help their clients meet these demands.

For example, Sakurai USA's approach to their customer dilemma is to design a machine that fits the U.S. paper size in order to increase productivity. "Our 58 series press is priced similar to our competitors' 14x20˝ press, but we print four-up, 8.5x11˝ vs. two-up, 8.5x11˝," claims Mike Grego, Sakurai marketing manager.

"That capability doubles a printer's productivity and makes a huge difference in his profit margin. The fastest 14x20˝ press can only print 30,000 8.5x11˝ sheets in one hour. Sakurai's 458EPII press can print 52,000 8.5 x11˝s in one hour."

Sheet Size Matters

That's over 70 percent more efficient, he adds. "The 58 size not only doubles the productivity, but also allows printers to run work-and-turn 11x17˝ jobs. This saves the cost of four plates and one complete makeready on a standard four-over-four 11x17˝ job."

Komori has also answered the call for improved performance in its small-format press line. Its 20˝ Lithrone press is available in configurations from two to six colors with coater. Full press automation packages, as well as a full press console at the end of the press, are optional. Komori also offers its two-color Sprint series press, which is available in 26˝ or 28˝ widths. These presses can be equipped with automation and convertible perfecting capabilities.

The 20x28˝ Mitsubishi Diamond 1000 sheetfed press can be configured with solid cylinders for high-quality general commercial printing, according to Santie. With a stock range of 0.0016˝ to 0.024˝, it is capable of handling substrates for different markets, such as brochures, manuals, advertisements, point-of-sale materials and software packaging. Mitsubishi also offers the Diamond 2000, a 23.5x29˝ press that delivers four- or six-page signatures at speeds to 16,000 sph.

The new 20x29˝ MAN Roland 200 is an affordable, five-color press that equips printers with the ability to add spot colors or varnish to their process color work. Cerfontaine says it designed for printers looking to move up to four-up, four- or five-color printing, and for any facility seeking to add extra productivity to its pressroom.

From Onion Skin to Board

The 13,000 sph press handles a wide range of stocks, from onion skin paper to 0.032˝ board and foil. "Its advanced operator console is integrated into the delivery to simplify setup and to expedite press runs," Cerfontaine concludes.

Heidelberg USA markets the Speedmaster SM 52 for the small-format press market, in addition to the Printmaster GTO 52, Printmaster QM 46 and Quickmaster DI 46.

The Speedmaster SM 52 is the benchmark for the 20˝ format; it offers the latest technology utilizing CP2000. The SM 52 is a 15,000 iph press available with up to six printing units and in-line aqueous or UV coating. The press comes standard with the Heidelberg Alcolor dampening system and with automation such as Autoplate, remote register control, preset feeder, and seven programmable washup programs for rollers, blankets and impression cylinders. It is also available with a fully automatic sheet-reversing device.

One manufacturer with many small-format press options available to printers is Ryobi, which is distributed by the xpedx Import Group. "We are able to offer a press for any given need. We have a variety of machines and do not need to adapt a machine to fit all needs," reports Don Trytten, xpedx vice president and general manager.

Among Ryobi's vast product array are the Model 510 and 512, an economical, A3-plus-size press available in either single- or two-color versions. Press options include: molleton or continuous dampeners, stream feeder, underswing gripper and vertical/lateral registration adjustment.

The 510 and 512 can also be equipped with in-line numbering and perforating equipment. The Ryobi 520 series of presses are available in one-, two-, four-, five- and six-color units, and come with or without in-line coating systems.

Adast America also offers a variety of models for the small-format press market. Among its offerings is the Adast 507, which is available in one or two colors. The 507 also offers remote ink and register control.

The QP25 offset press is the newest addition to the A.B.Dick family of presses. It prints multicolor work using the Constant Contact Control Register System. According to A.B.Dick, the Kompac II segregated, non-motorized continuous dampener with patented Auto Recovery Moisture System delivers sharp, dense images and can be used with a wide variety of inks.

More Vendor Choices

Another vendor, Polly USA offers both the Polly 66 press series and the Polly Prestige 74 press series. The Polly 66 is a 19x26˝ press while the Polly Prestige 74 is a 20.5x29.125˝ model. Both are available in two, four and five colors.

Hamada of America markets its new two-color B252, four-color B452 and five-color B552. Features are said to include Easy Plate Setter, blanket washers, running register, swing gripper in-feed, landscape feeding and heavy-duty construction. The B552 also features in-line aqueous tower coating and an ink console.

Technological advancements found in small-format presses have also worked their way into the manufacture of specialty presses.

"In addition to the automation features, many of our clients are demanding better print quality with a faster turnaround," reveals Paul Hynes, general manager for Diamond Press.

The Diamond P7 envelope and specialty press is a two-color perfector. Two models include a 13.5x20˝ or a 18.5x20˝ image area. Applications include high-speed production of all sizes of envelopes, as well as overprinting of products not able to be produced on standard sheetfed presses.

The Halm EM5315 perfector prints four-over-one at speeds to 30,000 envelopes per hour. Chillers are standard and the machine has a retractable table that allows for easy access to the perfecting unit. The machine also comes standard with an integrated cold UV system.


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