GRAPH EXPO & CONVERTING EXPO 2002 -- Showing Signs of Recovery
One advocate for automation in the offset pressroom, understandably, is John Dowey, vice president of sheetfed product management at Heidelberg USA. Automation reduces operator involvement in non-productive and unpopular press functions, such as washups; potentially lowers manning requirements; and makes scheduling easier, since the makeready times and first-pull quality are more predictable and consistent, he says.
"We see integration as the next big opportunity to improve productivity," Dowey contends. "Press automation is very important, but one must realize that it is at a very high level already, so big gains with further automation are not so easy to come by."
Even so, Dowey doesn't believe our industry has reached a state where future advancements won't be economically viable from an ROI standpoint. The only way that print will stay competitive with alternative media, he believes, is if we can add more value; make the product more attractive, tactile and sensory; and still keep the costs under control. "Technology drives this type of innovation by making what used to need many steps and lots of time something that can be done quickly, with good quality and at a price that is still attractive to marketers," he believes.
As such, processes that can eliminate production steps will be a major show theme. As an example, Dowey refers to the advantages of an eight-, 10- or 12-color perfecting press. Such machines eliminate one entire makeready, one press pass, one press OK and the need to manually turn loads before backup, among other advantages.
Also expect to see various press manufacturers and auxiliary suppliers showcasing in-line coating options. The Heidelberg veteran says there is now an increased emphasis on hybrid or UV inks and coatings, which enable commercial printers to add gloss and product protection without necessarily sending jobs outside.
In the bindery arena, finishing gear that increases throughput speeds will be showcased. This is achievable, in part, through state-of-the-art equipment that incorporates computer-controlled makereadies with motorized setups and touchscreen operator interfaces. However, the mantra isn't just investing in bindery gear to enable finishing systems to keep pace with faster and more productive presses. Today's smart printers look at the bindery as a profit center in its own right and, more broadly, view postpress, mailing and fulfillment services as major avenues for growth.