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Web Offset Presses -- Spinning a Better Web

April 2005
by chris bauer

Managing Editor

The demand for technology that allows web printers to efficiently produce shorter, versioned runs continues to increase. Print becomes a more attractive option for media buyers when they can combine the impact of highly targeted pieces with the advantages of the web offset process, including faster turnaround times and lower costs. As a result, web press manufacturers are designing machines able to satisfy the ever-changing needs of web printers.

"The playing field for web offset is expanding," assesses Greg Norris, manager of marketing communications for Goss International. "Innovations in areas like automation, waste reduction and makeready speed are pushing the profitability threshold down into run lengths that were formerly the exclusive domain of sheetfed printers."

Web printers continue to see more and more steps in the printing process becoming fully automated—the ease-of-use, precision and reliability of automation technologies continues to improve. As a result, press crew sizes and waste levels are decreasing while productivity is increasing.

"Web offset printers are finding ways—through technology and creativity—to produce more sophisticated and effective printed products for their customers," Norris adds. "Advances in productivity, efficiency, versioning, in-line finishing, postpress product personalization and hybrid products, to name just a few areas, continue to create new opportunities that improve the value proposition of web offset printing."

The Goss Sunday 3000/32, with its 72˝ web width, is able to print 32 magazine-size pages per revolution at speeds of up to 100,000 impressions per hour (iph). Gapless blanket Goss Sunday technology is vital to the new 2x8 format. The tubular blankets eliminate vibrations that would otherwise compromise speed and print quality with the wider, eight-pages-across cylinders. The first Sunday 3000/32 press systems in the U.S. went into production at Quad/Graphics and Arandell Corp. in 2004. Several additional presses will reportedly be installed this year.

Paul Pirkle, MAN Roland's vice president of commercial web sales, says that the web printing market is steadily rebounding for both press manufacturers and printers. But since competition in this segment is becoming more sophisticated, press technology has to be able to give printers a competitive edge.

"Commercial web printers are faced with shorter runs, requiring that they slash their already tight makeready times even further," Pirkle notes. "So we've been developing and introducing tools that printers can use to streamline their workflows through computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM)."

MAN Roland provides interfaces to MIS systems like PECOM-Web, which deliver real-time analysis of production data via remote Internet access from virtually anywhere. This is fundamental for advanced production management decision making, Pirkle says, which results in cost savings.


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