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Web Offset Presses--The Hottest Of the Heatset

May 1998
When it comes right down to it, savvy, educated print buyers have one sweeping requirement of their commercial printers, expressed here in no-frills vernacular: They want more for less.

And, taking into consideration the expert engineering of printing presses on the market today, it's increasingly possible to give them just that. Good news for printing executives who might be poring over product literature, grappling with some tough choices.

Printers shopping for web offset presses all agree on one thing: less is more. Less makeready time, less manpower and less paper waste equal more profitability.

"Right now, [web printers] are looking for a number of things," reports Joe Abbott, director of technical support at MAN Roland. "The first is makeready features—the ability to change plates more quickly and generate less waste. Another, of course, is flexibility. Printers want to be able to produce a variety of sizes and pages out of the delivery system.

"Quality is still paramount," he adds, "although it's more assumed now than it was several years ago. If your press can't print, you can't sell it."

Minimizing Makeready
MAN Roland's flagship commercial product in North America, the Rotoman N, does more than just print high-quality products. The web press, equipped with Power Pack, offers a series of features aimed at minimizing makeready, including power plate loading. "We had a customer recently run a job of 250,000 impressions with a total of 70 plates to be changed. He ran the job in under seven hours," attests Abbott.

Diminished makeready time and increased run speeds have consistently gained importance in an industry continually pushed towards shorter run lengths.

The R&D team at Komori America took this into consideration when designing the company's System 20 Series long-grain, half-size web offset press. "The whole press was made for quick makeready and low makeready waste," notes Dave Maret, head of web sales. "That was our design criteria."

The System 20 runs at speeds of up to 45,000 rph and is capable of 12 different folds, able to be changed in just over a minute. "[The System 20] is suited for high-end commercial sheetfed operations looking for a more efficient manufacturing process for their longer run work," says Maret.

Pressroom efficiency is also achieved through the System 20 web press control center, including the main press console with Komori Monitoring System (KMS), a touch-screen display monitor for operator communication with the press, and the Print Quality Control (PQC) console.

A more efficient manufacturing process is also what Toshiba offers its customers—those primarily in the one-to-one offset press market, focused on short to medium runs. The company's OA-800 web press offers numerous automation features and overall ease of use.

It features Toshiba's push-button system for plate changing, which hastens makeready. Also, the press can be run at maximum press speed (800 rpm) during chopper folding. Furthermore, the OA-800 was designed to minimize floor space.

"We work with printers to configure presses the way they like to see them done," notes Robert F. Kinzel, vice president of sales.

"Smarter." That's how Graphic Systems Services' customers want their presses engineered, according to Dick Prentice, director of sales for the company, which manufactures multipurpose machines, as well as automated models designed for the commercial printing, direct mail, business forms and specialty printing markets.

Presses like the company's VS1020 need to be able to respond to the demands for more color and faster changeover—without putting too much pressure on the operator. Most adjustments are made electronically, either from the main operator console or at unit touchscreens, which eliminates much of the time-consuming manual setting, explains Prentice.

Makeready features at the operator's fingertips include automatic washup, auto-roller strip sequence, auto-plate-change sequence, infeed tension, ink feed and dampening settings.

Likewise, Miracle Press, a start-up company that manufactures web offset presses at its Naugatuck, CT-based facility, offers the Model 2500, a press that targets the lower-end heatset and open web market.

A heavy-duty press, the 2500 prints at a rate of 30,000 iph. Swing-away ink fountains are a standard feature, allowing for quick and thorough washup. The 2500's mist dampening system reduces waste, quickens makeready and eliminates ink feedback to the stainless steel water pans.

Most recently Miracle Press added the 3500 model to its offerings—marking its entry into the high-end commercial heatset web market.

Strachan Henshaw Machinery helps printers in the one-color book market reduce press downtime and consequently increase uptime with its VARIQUIK printing system. Eric Williams, sales manager, printing press division, describes the VARIQUIK as "the web press for the sheetfed printer."

VARIQUIK features a print tower that contains three common or different-size print cylinders. While printing on one cylinder, plating-up can take place in safety mode on the other two, contributing to reduction in makeready time.

"The trend toward automated controls will no doubt continue, and virtually anything the printer wants can be done—but at a price," observes Williams of the book printing market.

Goss Graphic Systems' versatile G18 press also offers its users flexibility. The company's newest 16-page high-speed commercial web press is capable of fitting in smoothly with current and planned auxiliaries—a key feature in today's printing plants, where change and expansion are often the names of the game.

The G18 is designed for the high-quality printing of magazines, catalogs and other commercial products. The press features closed loop controls to assure proper balance throughout the print run. Users rely on electronic files to preset ink keys digitally. There is no need to scan plates.

RDP Marathon, which specializes in manufacturing web offset presses for promotional, packaging and business forms printing, acknowledges the importance of flexibility, especially for the smaller web printer interested in branching out into various niche markets.

The company's dual-capability commercial perfector press, the RDP-260-P, is 261⁄2˝ wide and features variable print size, allowing for an exact 17˝ cutoff—a specific value to certain segments. Utilizing the 17˝ cutoff—as opposed to a standard 173⁄4˝ cutoff—can add up to big savings in paper and pocket change.

"We've calculated that can mean as much as $100,000 a year on our eight-page format," maintains Eric Short, president of RDP Marathon.

RDP also offers the 331⁄2˝ RDP-330-P perfecting press. The presses feature the Smart-Set press control system, with color touchscreen operator interface, for ease of use.

Stevens International's presses are built on an open-design concept to ensure that each model is exceptionally easy to work on and to operate. Among the company's commercial web offerings is the System 3000 P, a variable repeat length, offset perfector with multiple options and delivery choices, allowing for a variety of products. The System 3000 P is geared toward heatset commercial, direct mail and high-quality specialty applications.

Hantish International, which distributes Zirkon presses, offers three models to the web heatset industry: the eight-page Zirkon 6611, the 24-page Zirkon 9620, and the 16-page Zirkon Z16 (scheduled to ship in the first quarter of next year).

The Zirkon 6611 is a servo-driven machine, with no line shaft connecting between the last print unit and the chill stand, allowing for effective control of the press cutoff. Make-ready can be performed in very slow speeds due to the independent ramping curve for the ink and water balance, reports Greg Honeck, Hantish vice president of sales.

The 6611 is rated at 50,000 iph for both magazine fold (8.5x11˝) and chopper fold using its unique high-speed chopper. It diverts alternating products into one of two choppers, explains Honeck. After folding, the products are reconverged back into a single stream, thus eliminating the need for an additional stacker and jogger.

Hantish International anticipates a continued demand for shaftless presses—servo-driven print units, chill stands, folders and independent drives. The new Z16 press will reportedly meet that demand. "There are a lot more benefits," notes Honeck of shaftless design. "It gives you the flexibility to make more finite adjustments on-press with better control."

King Press, which offers several presses for the commercial market, also features shaftless design with its Media King 2000. The company's newest printing unit, the Newscolor IV, provides its users flexibility, as it may be used for heatset, as well as non-heatset, applications.

Competitive Capabilities
To offer competitive products in the printing market, manufacturers must go above and beyond the automation needs of commercial web printers. "Because today's presses are generally faster, wider and more productive, fewer of the machines will be required to accommodate the demand," points out Tim Klee, director of marketing services for Heidelberg Web Press.

Therefore, while providing high-quality printing at rapid speeds, presses must also provide capabilities—whether through enhanced features or auxiliary equipment—that deliver more specific improvements, such as decreased waste.

In the quest to reduce scrap, many printers are favoring gapless presses combined with pinless folders—a proven, efficient method of saving paper. Gapless machines, like the M-3000 "Sunday" press from Heidelberg Web Press, can eliminate gap-created mechanical disturbances, allow faster blanket changes, and create significant paper savings from the reduced non-print area.

The machine's digital, shaftless drive system, optimized inker and Duotrol dampener also contribute to its high operating speeds and high-quality printing.

Heidelberg Web Press has also been successful with its new M-8 eight-page commercial press in both short- and long-grain versions. The press innovator reports that it will be unveiling several new models at IPEX 98 in September.

Sanden USA, which primarily serves the direct mail and promotional graphics markets, has focused on perfecting its UV drying, a common requirement for value-added work printed with eight to 10 colors. The flagship among Sanden's hard-cylinder, variable-size web offset presses is the QUANTUM-1500, specifically designed to deliver high-quality UV production at speeds up to 1,500 fpm.

"UV printing has allowed our customers to print on coated stocks, as well as achieve high production speeds on heavy-coverage work, without facing the burdensome environmental regulatory issues associated with heatset applications," explains Jeff Fadness, vice president of sales and marketing.

However, UV processes have been known to generate problems such as excessive heat buildup in the ink train and ink misting.

"If not properly designed, these problems often lead to presses that may be rated at speeds up to 1,200 feet per minute mechanically, but cannot perform acceptable UV printing at speeds above 600 to 800 feet per minute," reports Fadness. "Consequently, the benefits of UV may be lost in attainable production speeds."

Sanden's QUANTUM-1500 was engineered to combat such problems. In a specially designed ink train, it incorporates four form rollers, four large chilled vibrators and a total of 17 rollers with more than 200 inches of lineal ink storage.

Solna Web, which addresses the needs of web printers involved in high-end general commercial publication work, introduced its C-800 web press this past September at PRINT 97. The press, appropriate for the eight-, 16- and 32-page markets, incorporates automation features that reduce manpower requirements, a specific request of Solna customers.

The C-800 features a microgap on the blankets that shortens the gap distance and expands the print image. "For example," notes Travis Ferguson, director of sales and marketing, "the most standard cutoff is a 223⁄4˝ with a 38˝ web width. With our microgap on the C-800, that allows publication signatures of a true 81⁄2x11˝ printed bleed."

The press also offers a synchronized gap and no-tool plate lockup. Also available is a true color register system with on-press densitometry.

"Being able to provide flexibility is very appealing to our customers; switching from job to job and paper weights gives them this flexibility," notes Ferguson.

Additionally, press controls are run from a standard PC Pentium control platform—an advantage in terms of expansion, as well as ease of use and maintenance.

Solna recently introduced its G-150 press, capable of both a horizontal and four-high configuration, geared for the color, newspaper and semi-commercial printing market. The G-150 will be displayed at the NEXPO show in June.

A standard feature on all Solna presses is spray dampening, a trend worthy of investigating, according to Ferguson. "Advantages in ink mileage are quite superior on spray dampening as opposed to conventional dampening," points out Ferguson. "It's a pulse-driven solution. We certainly encourage printers to look into it; the advancements have come along greatly."

Timsons, which provides machines for the one- and two-color book market, promises to debut its own continuous dampening system on a T-48A Arch press this September during the IPEX show.

The company currently offers several different models to the commercial web market, including the T-32, T-48A, Quad and Mini-Quad.

Timsons' latest design, the T-48A, focuses on loading and unloading of plates. Makereadies are performed in less than three minutes. The T-48A press is designed to be operator-friendly (low profile) to avoid

fatigue on the part of the operators when performing numerous make-readies per shift.

"Timsons presses have the ability to produce 16-, 24-, 32-, 48- and 62-page signatures from a single roll of paper," reports Steve Kukla, sales manager at Timsons.

As manufacturers become even more responsive to the needs of today's heatset web printers, and as technological innovations such as computer-to-plate workflows creep into the web arena, printers have a wealth of choices to help in boosting productivity.

"This is a very exciting time for printers and equipment manufacturers working together to be successful," notes Graphic Systems Services' Dick Prentice.

—Carolyn R. Bak
 

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