NEWSPAPER PRESSES -- Creating Commercial Niches
BY CAROLINE MILLER
Faced with dropping readership, falling advertising revenues and more media outlets, newspaper publishers are looking now more than ever to their in-house production facilities to help them meet the challenges of a volatile business environment.
Increasingly, newspapers with printing capabilities are interested in the ability to bring in commercial work to help boost their profits, contends Craig Simon, director of web sales administration for MAN Roland.
MAN Roland manufactures the four-page Cromoman, the Uniset, the Geoman and its flagship, 16-page newspaper web press—the Colorman—which was shown at IPEX in a 24-page version. Its top speed ranges to 86,000 copies per hour.
"Newspapers are creating a commercial niche and an additional revenue stream for themselves with the production of flyers for discount stores, supermarkets and the like. So the more color and the higher print quality we can give them, the better they like it," reveals Simon.
John Collins, a spokesperson for Goss International, has seen this trend at every level in the market. Goss offers the single-width SSC Community and the single-width Universal series, which comes in both a one-around version and the two-around Universal 70. These presses, he says, combine the practicality of a single-width press with the productivity and automation of today's double-width presses. Goss' double-width portfolio includes the Colorliner press series and the Uniliner press series.
"We've seen a growing desire for newspaper presses that incorporate several of the features of commercial presses. Many of our customers want to be able to take in some outside commercial work to keep press utilization high," he adds.
These trends have led to commercial-type features on a newspaper press, such as heatset capabilities, more flexibility in web widths, more accurate jaw folders and better inking systems. There has also been a focus on features that improve net throughput and reduce downtime, such as presettable presses and better web tension control.
Even customers who print nothing but their own newspapers are finding they need to become more like a commercial operation. The number of zoned editions has increased greatly, meaning there's a greater emphasis on job turnaround and makeready.
"Readers and advertisers want content that relates to them more personally or is at least more neighborhood-oriented, claims Simon "So the issue of zoning—producing different editions for different zones in a marketplace—is huge. We've perfected a technique called On-the-Fly Changeover, which lets the pressman shut down one printing unit while simultaneously engaging another. The result: a different version of a section of the paper can be produced without ever stopping the press."
To answer the demand for zoned editions, MAN Roland developed the Regioman. With its four-across and one-around configuration, the Regioman is well-suited to producing different pagination counts. So, if the majority of the advertisers want to get into a certain section on any given day, the Regioman lets the printer increase the size of that section to accommodate them.
Versatility is also a key factor for newspaper printing operations, and the design of the Heidelberg Mainstream press meets that growing requirement, according to Greg Norris, manager of marketing communications for Heidelberg Web Systems.
"The one-page around, four-page across (1x4) format is becoming an appealing option for an increasing number of papers due to advantages aligned with modern production demands for more economy and more versatility," he notes. "In the two years since we introduced the Mainstream, we estimate that 1x4 presses have gained approximately a 20 percent share of the double-width market that was previously dominated exclusively by 2x4 presses."
In addition to versatility, this press format also offers its users lower costs and faster makereadies. Straight printing with a 1x4 press requires 50 percent fewer plates than straight printing with a 2x4 press, adds Norris. That can cut the cost of plates, as well as the time necessary to make and mount them, in half. It also reduces prepress equipment requirements, making computer-to-plate a more financially viable option. The Heidelberg Mainstream and the MAN Roland Regioman are reportedly the only 1x4 presses sold to date.
Still, the need to deliver high print quality and more color continues to drive the demand for new presses and add-on units. These capabilities help to make news-papers more competitive with other media because they make them more attractive to readers and advertisers.
Wanting More Color
"Newspapers and their readers can't seem to get enough color, so we're building our products to deliver more color than ever before," says MAN's Simon. "And this is a trend that won't let up, simply because color sells news-papers and helps to sell products for those who advertise in the paper."
And it's not just larger newspapers that are looking to add color, reveals Grant Dickinson, Web Press Corp.'s vice president of sales. His company's Quad-Stack was introduced three years ago due to the growing need of small dailies and weekly print groups with space considerations to produce four-color.
"Most small plants do not have the 16- to 20-foot ceilings necessary for a four-high tower, but can use a four-color unit that will fit within 10-foot ceilings," he notes.
Shaftless drive technology has also been an important innovation for the newspaper press market in the last few years, says Rich Kerns, president of Solna Web Press. Solna's flagship newspaper press, the D400, is a 55,000 pph vertical tower press, which comes fully equipped with such options as spray dampening, water-cooled oscillating rollers, on-the-run plate cylinder cocking, three ink form rollers and digital press control system (remote ink, dampening, press function and register control). The D400's shaftless drive allows for independent unit make-readies and can be equipped for "flying plate changes."
"Shaftless provides so many benefits to both the printer and press manufacturer; we have only just begun to see the many different facets of the technology," he says. "For the printer, it means independent makeready, flying plate changes, as well as flexibility in color placement and paginations. For the manufacturer, it means no—or certainly less—drive shafts, gear boxes, complete flexibility in add-on placements, and the elimination of costly components such as gearing, shafts, etc. Shaftless can even provide subtleties such as one button operation to bring cylinders to the exact position for plate-up or removal, better tension control and better synchronization between press components."
Also taking advantage of shaftless technology has been Dauphin Graphic Machines (DGM), states David Moreland, vice president of sales and marketing.
DGM offers a fully integrated package for newspaper printers. CIP3 or CIP4 files are utilized along with pagination software to preset the entire press for the specific web leads that make up the pagination of the press run and provide the pressmen the ability to pull up any page for fine tuning by entering the page and section number into the remote inking console.
The press is preset for all ink and water settings, color-to-color register, and print-to-cut register. This, Moreland advises, allows them to go rapidly from one newspaper to another with a minimum of waste and downtime.
DGM's full line of single-width web presses include the DGM 430, 440, 440B, 440S, 850 and 860 press lines, along with a full complement of folders in the DGM 1030, 1035, 1240, 1050, 1255 and 2:3:3 jaw folder.
While many large dailies have embraced shaftless technology, Goss' Collins contends that some smaller newspaper customers have remained cautious when it comes to shaftless technology.
"There are a number of reasons for this. One is cost. For a smaller press, the cost of shaftless compared to a traditional shafted press has been unfavorable. This is starting to change though. Another reason is that the maintenance on a shaftless press is a bit different than maintenance on a shafted press. Many smaller newspapers aren't comfortable that they have the skill sets necessary."
Another interesting printing innovation that is slated for production this year is the Cortina press, available from KBA North America's Web Press Div. The compact Cortina is waterless, keyless and gearless. Series production is scheduled for 2002. A height of only 3.4m for a four-high tower makes for easier handling, reduces capital investment costs and supports distribute-then-print scenarios. Waterless, keyless inking units minimize waste, eliminate fanout and promote a uniform print quality with little or no manual intervention.
A gearless, oil-free printing unit with a dedicated AC drive for each cylinder offers ideal conditions for flying plate changes and later integration into computer-to-press systems, according to KBA. With an eight-high tower (height approximately 7m), flying imprint changes during 4:4 production are more cost-efficient than ever before. The tower glides apart to afford easy access for maintenance tasks. KBA officials believe that eventually the Cortina will offer an ecological alterative in the market.
However, how the market responds to this and other developments remains be seen.
Publishers "Spine Glue" In-line
Major media outlets are adding in-line finishing technologies to their high-speed newspaper presses. Instead of outsourcing the T.V. Guides, coupon books and catalog stuffers to trade binders (usually saddle-stitched), they are now spine gluing these components in-line. The Denver Post and the Standard-Examiner (Ogden, UT) recently installed a Valco Cincinnati Robond fluid application system on their web presses. The Indianapolis Star is currently in the installation process.
In-line fluid application systems have traditionally been used on offset presses where high-quality products are produced. In addition, offset presses usually create products that have a longer shelf life than a daily newspaper. The rugged, fast-paced environment of a daily newspaper has traditionally been prohibitive for in-line spine gluing. However, new application technology permits quick setup and the durability necessary to thrive on a newspaper press.
The system being used at the Denver Post, Standard-Examiner and, soon, the Indianapolis Star is microprocessor-controlled and custom-engineered for precise dispensing of adhesive and fold-softening fluids.
Motorized cross-web bridges with mounted dispensing valves enable quick setup. New programming capabilities allow the press operator to quickly configure every aspect of the glue/softening system. Fast and easy positioning of gluing and softening patterns permits quick changeover for the next job.
Newspaper material also presents a very rough application environment. Fortunately, newly developed contact nozzles reduce web friction and clogging, and prevent buildup of foreign matter while gluing. Even at high machine speeds of 1,000 m/min., fluids can be applied either on an intermittent or continuous basis. Glue and softening volume adjusts automatically with machine speed.
Heretofore, another obstacle has been the tremendous size of a newspaper press compared to the average offset press. The modular design of the Valco system allows adaptation to large newspaper presses.
A fluid application system installed in-line on a newspaper press provides the flexibility to produce many items that have traditionally been outsourced. In addition, some publishers are now selling commercial time on their press.