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Small- and Medium-format Sheetfed Presses -- Automated Workhors

January 2003
By Erik Cagle


Here's a look at the latest manufacturer offerings for small- and medium-size sheetfed offset presses in up to 23 x 29˝ formats:

The A.B.Dick 4995A-ICS with ink control system offers the benefits of a four-tower portrait press for printers looking to step up to four-color process work. Digitally compatible with CTP systems (such as A.B.Dick's DPM line), this automated press with a maximum sheet size of 13.4 x 17.75˝ increases short- and long-run productivity, provides consistent and repeatable quality and accommodates polyester or metal plates.

Features include the ink control system, which delivers consistent ink balance while reducing labor setup time; a unique streamfeeding vacuum conveyer and vacuum pull guide; a semi-automatic plate loader with pinpoint registration accuracy; a continuous dampening motorized film dampening system; and pre-piling to increase pre-loading paper capacity (29˝).

Other Options

The A.B.Dick 9980 single-color offset press features a register board design and a second common color head that has matching operating controls and pin register system to the parent press.

With 11 x 17˝ bleed capabilities, this press also possesses a continuous dampener moisture system, a segmented, calibrated lever ink fountain control system for both the parent and second color head, and an optional roll-up perforating numbering device.

The KBA North America Rapida 74, a 20.5 x 29˝ machine, targets the half-size user interested in bottom-line performance and high print quality. The Rapida 74 possesses a front-loaded inker design. According to KBA, this patented inker concept has proven to yield the finest solids, as well as provide quality color consistency.

Acme Printing, of Des Moines, IA, installed a new Rapida 74 after much success with a 41˝ Rapida 105. Print quality increased dramatically over its older, competitive presses.

The latest offering from Polly USA is the Polly Prestige 74, which boasts efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The popular 20 x 29˝ size gives the smaller printer more printing opportunities, while the affordable price makes the Polly 74 extremely competitive.

The 19-roller inking train reacts rapidly to ink adjustments and provides stability of ink feed. With double-diameter impression and transfer cylinders for superior registration accuracy with a minimum of gripper changes, the Polly 74 is available in two-, four- and five-color configurations.

The press has a range of features for extremely fast makeready. The Polly control console, with open architecture, enables the communication and presetting of press parameters from any prepress system conforming to the CIP3 or CIP4 standard. As more printers implement a digital prepress workflow, the Polly 74 gives the capability to transfer specific job data, such as ink key presets, directly from a digital file generated by the prepress system. This capability further speeds the makeready process, bringing the job to color faster and with substantially reduced waste.

Envelope Production

Halm Industries has a solution to help guarantee that your customer's mailing gets read and not thrown in the garbage—putting a four-color message on the envelope. The Halm EM5000 is its latest offering for this niche. At 30,000 envelopes per hour, it is one of the fastest color perfector presses available.

Aside from its speed, the machine boasts an integrated UV dryer and perfector. These features, along with a microprocessor motor control that eliminates electro-mechanical problems, enhances versatility and delivers the highest inherent reliability from job to job.

Sakurai USA focuses on manufacturing machines for the half-size and smaller markets, specializing in providing printers with highly automated, heavy-duty machines.

Its 58 Series presses run at 15,000 iph and have a maximum sheet size of 181⁄8 x 223⁄4˝. This press provides the benefits of four-up vs. two-up. It can print 60,000 8.5 x 11˝ sheets in one hour compared to only 30,000 on a similarly priced 14x20˝ press. This machine has been Sakurai's best-selling model because of its productivity differences and its ease to cost-justify for both short or long runs.

Sakurai also manufactures a slightly larger, compact 26˝ model that is also loaded with automatic plate changers, perfector changeover, sheet size presets, roller washers, CIP4 interface, blanket washers and more.

In the full half-size market Sakurai manufactures the 72 series with all of the same automation found on both the 58 and 66 series.

Sakurai offers free press comparison studies that help printers cost-justify the benefits of automation and selection of a press with the right sheet size.

Heidelberg USA offers the Printmaster GTO 52, now with two new enhancements: the ClassicCenter console and the Baldwin blanket washer, which is ideal for small-format printers.

The Printmaster GTO 52 with ClassicCenter console provides quick makeready with remote control CPC ink fountain, remote register control and acceptance of CIP3 information, which pre-sets ink keys and provides the ability to store up to 50 jobs per memory card. The Baldwin automatic blanket washing device reduces blanket solvent and saves paper waste and time. The Printmaster GTO boasts more than 60,000 owners worldwide.

MAN Roland offers three distinct press lines in the half-size format. Two of the models actually expand half to three-quarters by providing six-up capabilities to deliver 50 percent more productivity on every printed sheet. The three lines are the Roland 200, the Roland 300 and the Roland 500.

A new five-color model of MAN Roland's affordable 29˝ press, the Roland 200, equips printers to add spot color or varnish to their process color work. Also available in 2/0 and 4/0 configurations, the compact Roland 200 is a 13,000 sph, 20x29˝ format sheetfed press reportedly offering users superb print quality with ease of operation.

The press handles a wide range of stock from onionskin paper to 32-pt. board and foil. Its advanced operator console is integrated into the delivery to simplify setup and expedite press runs.

The 23 1⁄4 x 29 1⁄8˝ format Roland 300 makes six-up jobs possible. The R300's PECOM control console consolidates all major printing functions, and equips any pressroom for computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM). Working with JobPilot, the networked system enables off-line makereadies, saving 10 minutes on every job. The press runs at 16,000 sph in the straight mode and 15,000 sph when perfecting.

Faster Setup

The six-up Roland 500 operates at 18,000 sph to help half-size printers compete against 40˝ equipment. The press can handle substrates from 1pt. to 40pt., equipping commercial printers to enter such markets as packaging, plastics and labeling. Its PECOM operating and automation system speeds setup between jobs and is CIM-ready. The 500 can even print on microflute and corrugated, without options or accessories.

The latest model press introduced by Hamada of America is the Impulse 452P. This press is a 14 3⁄4 x 20 1⁄2˝ four-color convertible perfecter with a maximum speed of 13,000 iph or a straight four-color. The Impulse 452P was introduced at Graph Expo 2002.

Hamada also offers the B552HIRC with in-line aqueous coating and extended delivery. The B552HIRC, B452A and B252A come standard with auto plate loading, blanket wash and dry, sheet decurler, static eliminator and many other standard features. The B Series presses have become Hamada's fastest selling presses worldwide.

The Ryobi 750XL series from xpedx/Import Group comes in four-, five- and six-color models and is based on the popular features of the 680 series, but is offered in the 23 x 29˝ format.

The 750XL has a maximum image size of 29.53 x 22.83˝ and a maximum paper size of 31.02x23.62˝, providing six-up capability with added working space.

Among its features: double-diameter impression cylinder and transfer drum; semi-automatic plate changing without the need to bend plates; suction tape feeder board; plate cylinder cocking device; program inking for faster job changes and makereadies; and automatic blanket and roller washers.

Komori America offers the Lithrone 28, a fully automated, half-size press designed and engineered to be the pressroom workhorse. The Lithrone 28 comes equipped with the Komori double diameter impression and transfer cylinders to maximize printing quality. This provides superior registration accuracy with a minimum of gripper changes.

A full complement of automated features, including the Komori automatic plate changing system (APC), speed makeready and increase production efficiency. The Lithrone 28 also comes equipped with the Komorimatic dampening system that ensures stable dampening at all press speeds and routes hickeys off the press.

It is available in configurations from two to eight colors, runs at a maximum speed of 15,000 sph and can be equipped with an optional in-line coater for added versatility.

The Diamond 2000 is the latest offering from Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses. It is ideal for direct mail, sales collateral materials, point-of-purchase displays, labels and software packaging. It is rated at speeds up to 16,000 sph.

Among its features are vacuum feeder belts and vacuum side guide, high-speed impression cylinder on/off device and Quick Start inking. The push-button, automated plate-changing system permits operators to change plates from a standing position in 60 seconds. The press also integrates seamlessly into a digital workflow.


Rediscovering Half-size Magic

To be honest, Rob Hasson Jr. wasn't all that concerned with generating half-size sheetfed offset press work. His Fidelity Printing, in St. Petersburg, FL, had carved a niche serving the Tampa Bay area with 40˝ products such as brochures, direct mail and annual reports for small technology companies, financial and insurance businesses, among others.

The 45-worker operation, founded by Robert Hasson Sr. in 1970 and now run by son Rob and his brothers, James and William, did have a half-size press. But it was the printing equivalent of the third-string quarterback; unless it was absolutely needed, it remained inactive on the sidelines.

The press was a veteran quarterback at that, nearly 20 years old. So Hasson and his brothers decided it was time for a change in philosophy.

"We had let the half-size sheetfed market get away from us," Hasson explains. "We weren't really paying attention to that marketplace. We thought we knew it because we were in it years ago. (The half-size press) was that press in the corner we had to use every now and then for our good customers. Then we started to look at it in terms of, hey, there's a lot of business out there that fits our half-size press. Let's not be too arrogant—that we're just a 40˝ shop."

Fidelity Printing turned its half-size philosophy from necessary evil to marketable asset. The printer tapped MAN Roland for the 23 x 29˝ 300 series, which complemented the 700 series and its 40˝ work. Installed in January 2002 and running full bore by March, the press has allowed Fidelity to increase its sales by 30 percent.

Fidelity Printing has unleashed a marketing blitz to tout its reborn capabilities, highlighted by an open house last October that drew 200 of the leading designers and purchasing agents from the Tampa Bay market. "It was well received by the design community," Hasson says. "They understand how simple it is in terms of proofing issues on the press, and how seamless it is now."

Hasson notes that the productivity of the 300 has more than doubled capacity. According to one production report, Fidelity Press did 13 makereadies and 47,000 impressions in nine hours, which would have taken three shifts on the old half-size model.

"We had time constraints with our 20-year-old press, where we physically couldn't get the jobs done in a day," Hasson says. "We knew we'd be more efficient with the 300—that it would run faster and makeready faster. We just didn't realize it would be as efficient. Part of that is the PECOM (press control) software. We're very pleasantly surprised at its efficiency and performance.

"It's allowed us to take some work off the 700, so it's given us more sales opportunities. And when we run into time crunches, we can produce the covers on the 300 and the text on the 700, then marry them in the bindery."

Buoyed by a pressroom integrated with the PECOM system, the acquisition of the 300 enabled the printer to complete the electronic loop. Fidelity reportedly was one of the first printers in the Tampa Bay area to take on direct-to-plate.

"In looking at the short-run color market—even in the 40˝ size—run lengths are changing," Hasson says. "Part of that is because of the electronic prepress capabilities. In years gone by, customers would worry about their cost per thousand costs, so they'd order generic brochures to make sure they were covered. Today, run lengths are shorter and, because prep costs aren't as much, they can change information whenever they want.

"We already had the half-size, but we weren't automated," he continues. "It didn't give us the speed that we wanted to bring to the marketplace so we weren't very competitive. We had really quick digital capabilities, but really slow printing capabilities."

For printers considering going into half-size work for the first time, Hasson recommends evaluating your marketplace and how your customer's data is handled. "There are opportunities out there that may surprise you because of the speed of the press and the quick makeready," Hasson says.

"In reality, half-size presses have become fully loaded. Printers used to buy a 40˝ press for all the bells and whistles, but now, with the half-size press, you also get all the bells and whistles."
 

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