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’ 14×20˝ press, but we print four-up, 8.5×11˝ vs. two-up, 8.5×11˝,” claims Mike Grego, Sakurai marketing manager.

“That capability doubles a printer’s productivity and makes a huge difference in his profit margin. The fastest 14×20˝ press can only print 30,000 8.5×11˝ 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 11×17˝ jobs. This saves the cost of four plates and one complete makeready on a standard four-over-four 11×17˝ job.”

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