Heatset Web Presses -- War Heats Up
With the economy continuing to be sluggish, printing facilities require equipment that can attract more business, reports Anton Bauer, technical director for MAN Roland. That means printers want presses that can do it all. "Commercial printers need to print shorter runs because their customers want their work segmented into different versions, to better appeal to different targeted audiences," he maintains. "Printers also want to move the occasional job from their sheetfed presses onto their webs. Those demands require web systems that can deliver lightening-quick make-readies.
"On the other side of the coin, the commercial shops don't want to turn down high-volume work, so their heatset webs have to run fast and efficiently. We have one customer, Progress Printing, that's running jobs as small as 2,500 units and projects that require multimillion-piece production—all on the same press."
On the control side, in terms of current trends, the ability of manufacturers to provide servo technology ranks high. The reason this is more relevant in the heatset market, advises Eric Short, RDP Marathon's president and CEO, is that the press configurations tend to be somewhat complex in terms of the drive layout and the ratios.
"Servo technology is offered as an option on our heatset presses, but it's not for everybody—it depends on the configuration," Short councils. "There are costs involved. There are certain heatset printers out there that have seen the benefits of that technology and want to go servo across-the-board. It's not an expenditure that is necessary or justifiable in all cases—but there is a proven home for that technology and most anufacturers offer servo technology where it is relevant."
George Sanchez, director of sales and marketing for commercial web presses at Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A.), adds that waste and time on-press will continue to be critical issues that new technology must address. "We can expect that the pressure to reduce turnaround times, materials waste and the cost of the finished printed product to continue," Sanchez suggests. "Future technology in the commercial web press industry will eventually incorporate digital imaging directly to the plate cylinders themselves, thereby optimizing the imaging process and minimizing the time required for changing job formats.