WEB OFFSET SPECIAL REPORT -- Breaks and Splices Ahead
As a defense perhaps, a web break with the past is coming soon to your plant: Roll-to-roll. "Oh-no," cry the in-line hardliners and, yes, there has been violence over in- or off-line for decades. Now, however, digital and specialty finishing are demanding the "rollover." A vast array of 1-2-1, B-2-B and S.O.B. requirements and capabilities make 1970-style in-line press-to-ship obsolete. Hybrid applications, with web printed backgrounds that accommodate ink-jet and laser versioning and personalization, will increase press throughput if not utilization.
Soon "history" will be those web-finished products that make for snake-like festoons around a plant and for legendary makeready-to-run times. Roll-to-roll-to-truck; that's the future. Or, if a job is one of those odd or impossible formats that today's imposition-challenged buyers specify, off-line batteries of specialty finishing machines will convert roll-to-weird. Bring on the 49-pagers with flush gates and outboard tips, whatever they are!
It will take a brave craftsperson to anticipate the probability that tomorrow's pressroom will be peripheral rather than central to production. Smart innovation will be in process integration rather than what the late, great Harry Quadracci envisioned to be the "shortening of the process" at press. Practicality, as well as physics, are dooming most direct-to-cylinder propositions as already-invented digital imagers move up to speed.
Also, the justifications for very-large-format web presses in a population-concentrated Europe are not so relevant in most of North America. The term "hybrid," in all of its neobiological human and machinery connotations, is destined to be this year's buzz word.
Most exciting to the by-now-exhausted web veterans are the imminent ends of SWOP, SNAP and other once-needed standards to control the gremlin of dot gain. The nobel printed-piece prize should go to whomever came up with the idea of same-size dots, and much smaller ones at that. FM screening is at once the greatest gift to web offset and to everyone who eventually gets to see and read it. Stochastic enables all presses to print better.