WEB OFFSET REPORT -- Make Ready for Change
Stämpfli claims the system is suited to short runs of 500 to 3,000 copies. The printer also sees potential to extend editorial and ad deadlines. Publication customers reportedly are being told it is now possible to integrate new advertising or editorial pages up to one hour before run time.
Both heatset and coldset versions of DICOweb are said to be available for order in North America.
Heidelberg's Clement has a considerably more reserved take on direct-to-press technology. "There are some niche applications for on-press imaging in the web offset arena, but there is more potential in automation and process integration improvements," he says. "Presses only earn money while they are running. When a single operator can change all of the plates simultaneously in less than two minutes, using systems like Heidelberg's Autoplate, much of the appeal of on-press imaging is lost."
The product manager believes there is broader potential for a different type of on-press imaging: ink-jet printing of variable data in-line with a web press. "We've just seen the technology realized on a press startup," Clement points out. "As run lengths continue to come down and product customization increases, we will see a growing number of printers using this technology."
KBA's Rehmann adds that the engineering of modern presses makes it easier to integrate ink-jet systems. "Individual drive (or shaftless) technology has resulted in more effective and cheaper solutions for adding imprinter equipment. This capability supports the increasing demand for print products to address specific target groups."
Again with an eye toward makeready savings, Prince predicts the web offset segment will see a reemergence of waterless printing. "It makes sense in terms of tremendous paper savings," he asserts. "There are still issues regarding the plates (price, run length supported, scratching) and inks (chiefly price). Having a digital waterless plate now available is a positive development. If paper prices keep going up, the process will become a more interesting option."