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Small- & Medium-Format Sheetfed Presses -- Pressing into 2004

January 2004
by chris bauer

Managing Editor

It's no longer necessary to buy a behemoth press to get all of the big automated features that come along with them. Small- and medium-format (up to 23x29˝) sheetfed presses also boast a bevy of bells and whistles.

"The main features required by today's press buyer (are based on) automation," notes Mike Dighton, vice president of Hamada of America. "Auto plate loading, blanket washers, color consoles, including CIP3/4, are almost always asked for by our customers. The automation carries into prepress, as well."

Hamada's new Impulse 452P is a 14x20˝ perfector. The Impulse runs at 13,000 iph and will perfect at 12,000 iph. Standard features include a color console with remote running register, ink sweep and on-the-fly cylinder cocking. Semi-automatic plate mounting, vacuum tape register board and many other time-saving features are also standard equipment.

The theme of automation is echoed by most press manufacturers.

"Automation and higher quality are the trends," contends Ken Newton, senior vice president and COO at A.B.Dick. "Customers are finding that printing requires the need to provide a repeatable solution to their customers. The small commercial printer now expects suppliers to provide auto-mation and quality levels that exist on larger presses."

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, this automated press with a maximum sheet size of 13.4x17.75˝ reportedly increases short- and long-run productivity, provides consistent and repeatable quality, and accommodates polyester or metal plates.

These trends are not a surprise to Don Trytten of xpedx/Import Group. He feels that, as with all segments of the U.S. economy, the direction manufacturing is headed is toward increased productivity—and the basic manner that this can be attained is through more productive equipment. Printers and press manufacturers need to determine the specific equipment size and automated features that provide the most productivity for their particular requirements, he says.

Make the Right Choice

"These correct decisions determine not just the productivity of the equipment, but also the highest return on the investment—not all automation is right for everyone," Trytten advises. "We are also seeing these presses being considered in areas that previously were reserved for only larger machines, such as labels, packaging and thicker paper stock printing."

xpedx/Import Group offers the Ryobi 750 series of B2-size multicolor offset presses. The 750 series boasts advanced auto-mation, a digitally controlled quality control system and CIP4 prepress compatibility.

All of the quality and automation demands made by printers are for good reason, points out Ernie Bardocz, president of Grafitec America. Quality and color sells.

"The savvy print purchaser and product marketer understands this and demands that they get the most for their print dollar," Bardocz explains. "Color allows printing to compete with all other advertising media. The printer that switches from 40˝ presses to 26˝ or 29˝ machines still demands the same quality of product."

Grafitec America recently introduced the 29˝ Polly Prestige 74, now offered with semi-automatic plate changing and automatic plate cocking. The advanced sheet handling system includes double diameter impression and transfer cylinders for registration accuracy with a minimum of gripper changes. The 19-roller inking train and 23-zone ink fountain react rapidly to ink adjustments and provide stability of ink feed. The press is rated at 13,000 sph.

"The small- and medium-format sheetfed press is not just an entry-level machine any more—not just used to fit a niche," stresses Randy Siver, business development manager, sheetfed presses, for Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses. "Some printers with 40˝ presses are supplementing what they do with half-size machines. Those presses are fully automated—just as automated as anything else we sell."

In addition, Siver reveals that the ability to connect to JDF and CIP4 is a key component that printers are now requiring.

The Mitsubishi Diamond 1000LS is a fit for printing firms looking to extend their capabilities on a wide range of multicolor products. This 28˝ press offers speeds up to 15,000 sph. Capable of producing direct mail work, publications, sales collateral materials, point-of-purchase displays and software packaging, the Diamond 1000LS opens up opportunities in the mid-size format.

The big news in smaller offset presses, according to Christian Cerfontaine, director of marketing for MAN Roland, is what he calls the 3⁄4 format—a half-size machine that's been dimensioned up into a six-up configuration. "That allows printers to get 50 percent more productivity—in the form of two extra pages—on every impression they make.

"MAN Roland literally invented this format, and we continue to be the leader in this growing segment," Cerfontaine adds. "For instance, we now offer two completely unique 29˝ press lines—the ROLAND 300 and the ROLAND 500. Each offers a set of special features and capabilities designed to help printers go after and win new printing projects."

Because more and more printers realize the benefit of integrated automation, more and more presses are ordered with options that improve quality control and allow "printing by the numbers," Cerfontaine observes.

Buying Productivity

"For example, Computer Controlled Inking (CCI), which provides closed-loop color control, is an option that is ordered with more than 80 percent of our presses. Our automation features are in such high demand because we can offer a clear return-on-investment for almost any option we offer. The result: our customers gladly invest 10 percent more upfront because they realize it gives them a 20 percent potential productivity increase on every job they print."

The ROLAND 300 is equipped with perfecting and offers a top speed of 16,000 sph. With its six-up format and the fast makereadies its PECOM operating system affords, the 300 is suited for any commercial application. The ROLAND 500 was designed to handle substrates up to 40-pt. or 1mm thick. It clocks in at 18,000 sph.

These trends towards automation are not going to go away anytime soon. And it is easy to see why.

Simplified processes and easier-to-operate equipment that can produce high-quality printing day in and out are what Eric Frank, vice president of marketing for KBA North America, sees for the future of the small- and medium-format sheetfed press market. "Manufacturers also need to increase overall training on everything—from the product to the surrounding components that influence it."

To that end, Frank points to the KBA Karat press as a good option for now and the future—especially in a market where it is difficult to find qualified labor. As a result, KBA offers a 20x29˝ model, reportedly the only dedicated direct imaging press. The 74 Karat can image plates and do a complete makeready in just 15 minutes and then deliver the first sellable sheet in under 10 sheets.

At Graph Expo, KBA North America announced the new Genius 52 sheetfed offset press. The 20˝ keyless, waterless press is designed for quick printers, in-plants and commercial printers. The maximum sheet size is 201⁄2x13˝, available with four or five printing units.

In today's competitive market, minimal make-ready waste is mandatory, adds Wally Chmura, Komori America's national accounts product manager. "The margins on every piece a printer produces are getting smaller, and run lengths are getting shorter. Printers need to maximize the performance of their press by utilizing all of the automation available on the printing press."

Komori America recently debuted the newly redesigned Lithrone 28P half-size perfector. The updated Lithrone 28P features improved inking and dampening systems for reduced ghosting and improved print quality. Sheet reversing is handled by a high-performance mechanism employing Komori's double diameter, three-cylinder configuration. The sheetfed press runs at 15,000 sph in straight and perfecting mode, and can print on substrates from onionskin to 18-pt. board for maximum versatility.

The smaller format market will continue to play an important role in the overall production chain for printing, concludes Chris Curran, Heidelberg's manager of marketing communications.

"CTP systems sized around the (small) format continue to evolve and get more affordable, both in terms of hardware and plate materials," he remarks. "Increased use of digital information, better networking, and machines with high automation will let printers with this equipment compete and win jobs with low run lengths. And with the high speed of these smaller presses, and productivity of options like perfecting and in-line coating, they can still be competitive with the larger presses at surprisingly long runs."

Various Sizes

The Heidelberg Speedmaster CD 74 can be supplied with four, five, six and eight printing units and a coating system in both the standard and UV versions. These models have double-width impression cylinders and air transfer to ensure the reliable transport of a wide range of printing stock. The preset feeder with central suction tape, high-speed inking units, Alcolor Vario dampening system and the CP2000 Center are further key features of this series.

Also on the equipment front, Sakurai USA has announced the expansion of its 26˝ press series. The 556SI, a fully automatic, five-color press, is available complete with a coating unit and extended delivery. The compact design and a maximum running speed of 15,000 iph increases productivity while reducing makeready times. Sakurai's automatic plate changers can remove and load a plate in less than one minute.

Another option, available from Akiyama, is the Bestech P28. It offers speeds of up to 13,000 sph and a maximum sheet size of 201⁄2x283⁄8˝. The Akiyama ACC (Akiyama Color Control) console provides the operator with precise ink controls, lateral/circumferential register, storage of job information and interface with other systems. Bestech also offers the versatility and efficiency of aqueous or UV coating.
 

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