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SMALL-FORMAT SHEETFEDS -- Small Press Envy

February 2002
BY CAROLINE MILLER


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."
 

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