SHEETFED PRESSES -- Sizing Up the Options
Regardless of format size, the trend toward sheetfed presses with ever more color units has been matched by increasing levels of automation. Manufacturers don't see buyers backing off in either area, even in a challenging business environment. There are practical limits on how far the industry can go on both fronts, however.
"In general, if somebody is committed to buying a new press, they really want to equip it to be as efficient as they can make it," asserts KBA's McKinney. "Probably 95 percent of the presses we sell now are equipped with the CIP4 option. Shops that do a lot of makereadies also opt for the fully automated plate changing option."
The full impact of all this automation has yet to be felt in the marketplace, however. "A trend we're starting to see is customers buying presses for efficiency sake," reveals Stephan Carter, an R.R. Donnelley veteran who was recently named president and COO at Komori America in Rolling Meadows, IL.
"Oftentimes it is more cost-effective for a printer to remove several older, slower presses and replace them with just one new press," adds Doug Schardt, Komori product manager. "Taken as a whole, today's newer presses have capabilities that printers just cannot match with older equipment. Those advances give buyers the edge they need to stay profitable."
According to Sakurai's Grego, press automation is all about survival. "We don't offer a stripped down version (to reduce the price) on any model. We know printers need these features in order to survive over the next decade," he says. "Instead, Sakurai's approach has been to focus on incorporating a unified design into mechanical and electrical parts that allows them to be manufactured economically in large quantities."
Offering a somewhat contrary approach is press manufacturer Polly USA in Jacksonville, FL. "We see press automation as adding capacity, and if a shop doesn't need the capacity it doesn't need to buy certain features," explains Dan Macke, national sales manager. To protect a buyer's investment, though, the company's presses are designed to be modular so components can be added later in the field, Macke points out.