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."
Convertible in layout, perfecting presses attract profits. In fact, any press capable of performing numerous functions stands a good chance of drawing work.
"The commercial market is trending toward greater flexibility in the market," notes MAN Roland's Wayne Perk, manager, marketing services.
Medium to large sheetfed printers, with the proper focus, can creep into markets beyond traditional commercial sheetfed applications. "The Roland 900 press provides printers with flexibility by allowing them to do commercial printing as well as serve the publications and high-end packaging markets," Perk offers.
In addition to opening new markets, a sheetfed press—equipped with the appropriate auxiliary equipment—can excel in an existing segment. Add to the sheetfed process time-saving enhancements such as in-line multiple coating, closed-loop ink densitometry systems and advanced drying/ curing systems, and the opportunity arises for the enterprising printer to capture a larger chunk of market share. (See "Maximizing More Than the Metal".)
Still, loading up on every option may not be the only method of getting the most out of your machine. Following, some vendors lend their tips on investing in sheetfed presses.
Q. What advice could you give readers who are seeking to maximize productivity and profitability?
- "To be equipped with options and configurations that fit your needs of productivity and profitability, and to not just follow the trends."—Don Trytten, vice president and general manager, xpedx (formerly ResourceNet International)
- "Printers are bombarded with new technology, some of it very helpful. The printer needs to stay focused and keep in mind the pressroom is still the nucleus of the business. Grow the center first and buy on a 'need' basis the support equipment." —Dan Macke, national sales manager, Polly USA
- "Choose only those automation features on new presses where there is a measurable return on investment."—Robert McKinney, director of marketing, KBA-Planeta
- "There has never been a more appropriate time for printers to look at the ROI vs. the buy-in price. However, today's printer is not looking at ROI to justify how to make the payments, he's looking at the impact of the equipment purchase on the overall company. The right equipment purchase can do more than pay for itself. It can dramatically improve throughput and profitability for the entire organization."—Mary Lisi, director of marketing communications, Komori America
- "Automate to streamline production! Lower downtime on the press is the only method to significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing, which meets the tight schedules of today's print communications companies."—Jon Surch, press production manager, Sakurai USA
- "Training! Training! Training! We strongly recommend that customers only work with industry vendors that supply extensive training to utilize the many tools which are available to them. Let's face it, no technology is worth its salt unless it can be used properly."—Wayne Perk, manager, marketing services, MAN Roland
- "Carefully scrutinize your purchase. Some automatic functions are not profitable if they require constant service. Don't overbuy a machine betting on future work."—John Palmer, sales manager, Advanced Graphic Equipment
- "Buy equipment that suits the type of work you do and want to do. Buy equipment that allows you to keep your overhead low and therefore your profit margin high. Take good care of your equipment and your skilled employees, and they will take care of you."—Mike Croft, press demonstrator, Omni-Adast
While tips such as these can benefit under-fire sheetfed printers today, what do press manufacturers have on the horizon? After all, printers must march in time with print buyers, who demand more and more each day. Fortunately, manufacturers are well-prepared for the hike.
"As manufacturers, we know our users will always be asked to provide more today for less than the price was yesterday," remarks Akiyama's Moore. "Meeting that challenge is the business of today."
Advanced Graphic Equipment features its Impulse 26 series of four- to six-color formats. Continuous feeder and delivery systems accommodate long runs.
Akiyama Corp. offers the J Print press, a multi-unit perfecting sheetfed press, available in 28x40˝ and 32x44˝ sheet sizes. The series features a patented "straight through" design. Due to its over/under configuration, a 10-unit 5/5 40˝ J Print press will fit into an area required for a conventional six-unit 40˝ press.
Heidelberg USA's Speedmaster long-perfecting presses, the SM 102-8-P and SM 102-10-P, are capable of one-pass productivity and are available with in-line coating towers and extended deliveries, running at speeds of up to 13,000 sph. The SM 74-8-P eight-color perfector runs at a rate of up to 15,000 sph.
KBA-Planeta's large-format Rapida 130-162 series features a high level of automation and handles a large range of stocks. Standard configurations extend from two- to eight-color versions and feature convertible perfecting units, and a choice of coating and drying systems. The Rapida 104 outputs up to 15,000 sph in straight printing and up to 12,000 sph in perfecting.
Komori offers its midsize Lithrone 26 and 28 sheetfed presses, featuring the Komori Monitoring System (KMS), which integrates to the K-LAN closed-loop control system. The K-LAN utilizes a database server to direct real-time digital job ticketing/scheduling, press monitoring and process control. Lithrone presses are equipped with the Komori PDC-S system, a closed-loop scanning spectrodensitometer.
MAN Roland features its Roland 700, a 15,000 sph press with a 28x41˝ format. The fiber-optic press includes the award-winning PECOM networking system and is CIP3 compliant. It provides a TPP workstation, Pre Press Interface (PPI), and automation features.
Omni-Adast offers the 705C DI, a waterless, digital direct imaging press in a 26˝ format. Available in two-, four-, and five-color configurations with perfecting standard and in-line coating optional.
Mitsubishi's 3F (40˝), with speeds of 16,000 sph, incorporates sheet slowdown at infeed to ensure stability of substrate. Tapered roller bearings on impressions and transfer cylinders are enlarged to the same size as the company's 51˝ models. The press includes the Delta Dampening feature.
Polly USA's midsize four- and five- color 26˝ 466 and 566 models with perfecting are versatile and affordable midsize options.
xpedx (formerly ResourceNet International) distributes the Ryobi 662PFH A2 size, 2/1-color offset press, featuring Ryobi's satellite perfecting system. The double-diameter impression cylinder configuration for two-color, front-side printing eliminates gripper changes. Also available is the Ryobi 662H, an A2 size, two-color offset press. Features of both presses include Ryobi's Aqua Automatic Control (AAC) system and the "Ryobi-matic" continuous dampening system.
Sakurai USA's offerings include the Oliver-ED II series of multicolor presses with the Sakurai Plate Changing (SPC) system, automated ink roller washup and blanket cleaning, sheet size presetting and plate cylinder register system. Also available is the Oliver-58EII series, the Oliver-72EII series and the two-color Oliver-2102EPII convertible perfecting machine.
—Carolyn R. Bak