WEB OFFSET REPORT -- Make Ready for Change
At the intersection of these needs is the growth in large-format web offset presses, with 64- and 72-page models now available, Prince notes. He expects the segment to grow in terms of the width and diameter of cylinders, as well as the installed base. The motivation behind the trend is to drive down the number of makereadies required to complete existing work, but not to enable shops to go after even longer runs and potentially compete with gravure.
Wider in Europe
The trend toward wider presses has been more pronounced in Europe, reports Erik Rehmann, marketing manager for commercial and rotogravure presses at Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) in Frankenthal, Germany. "In the United States, 16- and 24-page presses dominate the market," he says. "In Europe, the trend is toward wider presses for 48- and 64-page A4 products with web widths greater than 1,900mm."
Shaftless drive technology has helped to enable the engineering of wider presses, notes Chris Clement, product manager for commercial web presses with Heidelberg Web Systems in Dover, NH. "The technology continues to evolve, with the latest press systems featuring independent, a.c. servo drives for each component. The advantages include low maintenance, smoother acceleration and deceleration to reduce web breaks, faster makereadies and the flexibility to de-couple printing units," Clement says.
The product manager also sees potential for further exploitation of gapless blanket technology to reduce vibrations. "Heidelberg sees an opportunity to develop wider and more productive single- and double-circumference gapless presses without sacrificing print quality or the one-to-one cylinder ratio. Gapless is not a static technology," he asserts.
For the makereadies that are required, the industry needs presses that can be set up faster, GATF's Prince continues. This need cuts across all sizes of web presses—along with sheetfed machines, for that matter. JDF (Job Definition Format) is poised to become the common solution, according to the veteran consultant.