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UV WEB OFFSET -- Future so Bright. . .

September 2001

When compared to heatset offset, all of the press manufacturers agree that one of the biggest advantages of UV drying/curing is what it doesn't do—release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That potentially can be a big concern, especially for shops currently not running presses with any type of dryer, says Eric Short, president of RDP Marathon in Laval, Canada. "For those companies, UV definitely is an easier approach to increase their printing quality and move up to coated stocks," Short points out. "Management may not want to deal with the whole process of applying for permits and paying licensing fees, assuming that's even an option."

While Short concedes that UV consumable costs are higher, he says the environmental concerns with the heatset process can offset that advantage, depending on how a printer weights each factor when running the numbers. In addition, Sanden's Justus points out that the capital cost of a UV-equipped web press is significantly less than the price of a comparable heatset web press. The operating speeds of UV presses also are becoming more competitive, he says.

As for competition from faster running sheetfed presses, Muller Martini's Jones says that is where in-line finishing can have a big impact. "It may take longer to makeready a web press but, with in-line finishing, the product coming off the press is much further along in the production chain," he explains. "With a sheetfed press, you are just making ready the printing part of the process. The sheets then have to dry before going through the bindery."

Making the Feature List
So how are these broad market trends playing out at the product development level?

Heavier ink coverage and greater automation head the list of advancements in Muller Martini web presses, according to Jones. Increased sophistication in the use of color has translated into nine- and 10-color press configurations now becoming common, he notes. Reduced makeready time is the universal feature buyers are looking for, though, since it puts more money on the bottom line, Jones adds. That means more electronics.

As an example, the product manager cites Muller Martini's system that automatically makes all the required lineal adjustments to press components—pull wheels, slitters, punch rings, etc.—based on the width of the web as measured by a video camera at the front end. Using this system, the press operator doesn't have to punch in any numbers.

The company's Series A and Concept-NT presses are offered in three widths, with a 29˝ maximum, and can be outfitted with UV drying. The presses operate at speeds to 1,200 fpm (the Series A has an optional maximum speed of 1,500 fpm).

Sanden features a "UV performance-engineered solutions package" on all its Quantum web presses, Justus says. "Our press design focuses on providing a larger operating window than conventional UV presses in order to maintain color consistency, significantly reduce makeready time and paper waste, and increase running speeds," he explains.

"This proprietary design, combined with the programmable Sanden Computer Control System (SCCS) and data management program modules, enable printers to increase print quality and productivity, while decreasing turnaround time and cost per thousand," Justus continues. In addition, the company's Compu-Set Q1 command center offers one-step control of all press functions, he notes. More than 70 press functions can be computer enabled, with the option to store settings in order to speed setup of repeat jobs.

A desire for higher quality color, and more of it, is the biggest overall trend Aumann has seen among potential buyers of the Kluge Web Press System. Along with offering web towers that can support more ink coverage, he says the key features of the press include shaftless drives and a modular design. "Having electronically controlled, independent drives for each station in the press improves print registration and speeds makeready," he notes. "The modular design means a printer can start with a four-color press and then upgrade to six or more units, allowing the press to grow with the business. It also gives buyers flexibility in terms of in-line finishing options."

The 15.5˝ wide, variable-repeat web press is designed for the short- to medium-run market segment. "It's suited to applications in which a low waste factor and faster makeready have a greater impact on profitability than top-end speeds." Removable ink fountains also contribute to makeready time savings, Aumann adds, since color changes and adjustments for the next job can be prepared off-press while the current job is printing.

The World of Wide Webs
RDP Marathon used PRINT 01 to launch its entry into the wider web market with the introduction of the RDPo380P 38˝-wide press. The variable-size perfecting machine is specifically designed for commercial printers and is available with UV curing. It operates at speeds to 1,800 fpm and features the Maraflo V four-form-roll system to ensure good ink laydown at all production speeds.

The press supports variable-size inserts in circumferences from 21.5˝ to 39˝ to produce exact cutoff sizes, and can be equipped with a servo-driven, variable-size signature folder to produce eight to 96 page counts.

The manufacturer's SmartoSet 2000 press control system manages all press functions via a touch screen with graphic displays accessible from both the main console and individual print units. The system includes CIP4 support and provides job storage and retrieval for faster makeready. Its temperature management capabilities are particularly suited to UV production.

GSS is focusing on providing more automation to make job changeover and makeready as fast and easy as possible, Prentice says. The computer technology integrated into its presses also makes the machines "smarter," helping printers deal with the growing shortage of experienced press operators, he adds. With regard to developments specifically in the UV arena, Prentice says GSS has been working to develop the right combination of equipment and supplies to achieve higher production speeds.

The company's primary offerings for the commercial segment are the VS-1020 and VS-1230 variable-size web presses. The VS-1020 is 20.5˝ wide, runs at speeds to 1,000 fpm, and has an electronic control system that supports job storage and recall. The VS-1230 offers a 30.5˝ web width, runs at speeds to 1,200 fpm, and features three interchangeable print cylinder cartridges with support for punch and perf units.

Magnum Manufacturing has been reworking its commercial web press product line, reports Michael Steller, president of the Ontario-based company. As part of this move, the ComStar and GenStar product names are being dropped, he says. One thing that hasn't changed is the focus on keeping things simple from the manufacturing and press operation standpoints, Steller adds.

The company's commercial products are being relaunched as the Magnum 520 (20.5˝ maximum width) and Magnum 680 (26.5˝ maximum width) variable-size web presses. Both have been upgraded with redesigned, thicker side frames to support running at a maximum 1,200 fpm. They also feature a combination roller system that can print UV or conventional inks, and have bigger ink fountains to support commercial work.

One of the "bells and whistles" the presses do offer is the MAPS (Magnum Automated Paper Saving) system, Steller points out. This system enables the offset printing towers to be made ready with the web in the stationary position. Ink is supplied to the ink train, plate and blanket prior to moving the web, he explains, and then the paper web is engaged by computerized controls that quickly bring the press up to the preset running speed.

The biggest recent development at Didde Web Press, in Emporia, KS, probably was its acquisition by Alcoa Packaging Machinery, a wholly owned subsidiary of aluminum-producer Alcoa. The deal is expected to resolve the financial challenges the equipment manufacturer had been facing.

Built for Speed
When it comes to commercial web presses, Didde touts its BIC 315 variable-size press. It is offered in standard 21˝, 24˝ or 27˝ widths and 16 2⁄3˝ to 28˝ repeats, with up to 10 color units. The combination of thick side frames and oil bath lubrication throughout the press are said to enable a maximum running speed of 1,500 fpm. The press can be equipped to do UV or heatset printing and features nylon-covered vibrators that reportedly improve ink transfer, especially with UV inks.

The press manufacturer also reports it has been developing a new level of electronic press controls for its products, with an emphasis on improving the operator interface and reducing makeready time. The controls employ a flat menu interface that is designed to reduce the number of keystrokes required to access a press function. The system is CIP4 compatible.

Drent Goebel America's primary commercial web offering is the Vision SMR (Short MakeReady) press. The shaftless drive machine uses electronically controlled servo-motors to drive all press functions. It can be configured as a hybrid machine, with a combination of offset, letterpress, flexographic, gravure and rotary screen printing units.

The Vernon Hills, IL-based equipment supplier says it strives to give potential buyers greater control over product costs by offering more press options, including a choice of manual or electronical controls. However, it claims makeready times on the Vision SMR can be reduced by as much as 45 percent when electronic press controls and automated setup features are combined with tool-less adjustments.

Given all the current crop of web presses have to offer, what more can buyers expect to see in the future? Muller Martini's Jones, for one, thinks the industry is a year or two away from seeing some interesting developments in waterless and/or single-fluid inks. "The technology shows some tremendous promise for this type of printing," he says.

"We also expect to see operating speeds continue to climb, as the wattage of UV lamps increases. We're already looking at speeds of 1,800 fpm, and could go up to 2,000 once the materials are up to it."
 

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