Sheetfed Presses--Lean, Mean One-pass Machines
"I feel the need...the need for speed." So quipped Tom Cruise's cocky fighter pilot character Maverick in the action flick, Top Gun.
Those same sentiments can be echoed by any commercial printer with medium- to large-sized (for purposes of this article, 26˝ and larger) presses. Except, Cruise's Maverick had it easy—just a few competitors to deal with and only one battle necessary to test his meddle. Increasing customer demands, pricing pressures and shorter turnaround times all combine to put sheetfed owners' metal to the test—on a daily basis.
"Large-format sheetfed press manufacturers feel the same price pressures as their customers. Continually shorter run lengths subject our users to price pressure from smaller-format press users. In the medium to longer run lengths, sheetfed printers are under price pressure from eight- to 16-page web printers," notes Tim Moore, J Print sales coordinator, Akiyama Corp.
The answer to lessening such pressure? You guessed it: The speed of a fighter jet packed in the (sometimes convertible) body of a well-oiled offset machine.
"Printers tell us that growth demands are paramount to their continued success," observes Randy Siver, sheetfed product manager for Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses. "Presses are required to step up to this demand by providing greater speed, makeready enhancements, and as much in-line one-pass efficiency as possible."
Fortunately, quick and efficient production is made feasible thanks to a wealth of machines offering operator-friendly automated features. Automation of press functions has steadily increased over the past few years—allowing printers to reduce waste and the number of employees manning the machines, while increasing production and quality.
Automated functions, however, are not the only answer to reducing make-ready and press-time. The optimal method of sheetfed production would entail eliminating the need for multiple passes through the press—hence, the growing trend toward perfecting.
"Long perfecting presses, capable of perfecting four-over-four or five-over-five can lower costs by 15 to 25 percent, while simultaneously boosting overall plant capacity without additional operators," explains Heidelberg USA's John Dowey, marketing director, Speedmaster presses. "For every job these presses perfect, they eliminate most of one makeready, one press check, one production run and intermediate drying of the job."