The graphic arts world shifts its attention to Dusseldorf for the World Series of Printing. For some manufacturers, it's a coming-out party for new heatset web offset press hardware.
BY ERIK CAGLE
Don't worry, it's not too late to book a hotel within a half-hour commute of Dusseldorf for May's DRUPA 2000 exhibition. Should nothing be available, there's always nearby Brussels or Amsterdam.
Yes, when it comes to attending the world's foremost ink-on-paper (et al) exhibition, early planning is absolutely necessary. The same can definitely be said for the many manufacturers, technology providers and assorted vendors that will be displaying their goods and services. Many have been working on next month's initial offerings since the last rail car was packed following DRUPA 95.
Not all companies will be showing brand-new equipment; some will concentrate on offerings that were first made public at Graph Expo or within the past year-to-18 months. Others will announce strategic alliances, partnerships, mergers and acquisitions. Regardless of what forum it is used for, there's little doubt that DRUPA is the place to make a splash.
It's time to unload the rail cars and take a sneak peak at what some of the industry's heavy hitters will be showcasing at DRUPA in terms of heatset web offset presses, as well as the compelling issues that have driven their design.
"Like needs in other print markets, heatset web offset presses represent significant investment in physical assets," explains Eric Short, president of RDP Marathon. "The explosion in digital technology has not bypassed the pressroom."
RDP will show its V-series print tower in a single-side printing configuration. The company will also demonstrate SmartSet 2000, a Windows-based system that provides remote control of press functions—from makeready to washup.
A number of issues, including quality, dependability, high quality of printing, short makeready time, ease of operation and technology all factor into the press equation for Hantish International, according to President Roger Hollando. Among the items Hantish will display, web offset-wise, are its eight-page Zirkon Model 6611 press, as well as its 24-page unit. Making its grand debut, however, is a 16-page Zirkon press with a 223⁄4˝ cutoff and 38˝ width. It features a 2:1 configuration and is rated at a speed of 60,000 impressions per hour (iph).
Barbara Gora, marketing vice president for Goss Graphic Systems, believes web offset provides the best cost-per-piece equation for most forms of mass commercial printing. However, she feels that adding more technology and automation to the press does not necessarily improve that ratio. "For example, if a press has high automation features and a premium price tag, but it's going to cost the printer more to operate that press, the ROI isn't there to justify the purchase in the printer's mind," Gora states.
"As a press manufacturer, we strive to provide designs that match the ROI and day-to-day performance expected by our target customers," she adds. "We have learned that technology for the sake of technology does nothing to benefit customers or ourselves. Hence, we have adopted a more prudent approach to press manufacturing—provide the best quality machine at the feature and performance level best suited to our customers' businesses."
For Didde Web Press, the product development process encompasses focusing on such topics as faster makereadies, consistent, high quality output, competitive advantage and ease of operation. Dennis Stotts, marketing manager, believes his company has addressed those concerns with the release of the Excalibur. A blanket-to-blanket perfecting offset tower that boasts a CMC (Computer Master Control) console, the Excalibur will be shown in action via a video demonstration of an installation at a customer site.
"The Excalibur is a very robust design with numerous offset features to provide consistent, high quality printing performance. All press functions are controlled from a master touch screen console, giving press operators high levels of control to maintain performance," Stotts says. "These combinations of press functions and features provide our customers with a press that creates a competitive advantage in serving their customers in both unit cost and service."
Traditionally a coldset web press manufacturer, Web Press Corporation has had customers that have used its equipment for heatset applications, both gas-fired and infrared (IR), according to Chuck Gath, vice president of sales. Quality has always been the top focus for Web Press as it has adjusted to make heatset capabilities more of a factor in its offerings.
The Quad-Stack, which has yet to reach its second birthday, makes its DRUPA debut following a European coming-out party at IFRA. It features four perfecting units arranged in a unique stack configuration.
"In the last 18 months, the Quad-Stack has really taken off," Gath remarks. "One of our big selling points is that it can be attached to our competitors' equipment. This allows anybody with a single-width, one-around press to take advantage of this four-color unit."
With its customers under intense pressure to hold the line on pricing, MAN Roland is constantly seeking design innovations that will allow it to maintain a firm line on cost, according to Jerry Clark, vice president of commercial web sales.
"Makereadies are a good example," he states. "We made semi-automatic platechanging standard equipment after the last DRUPA, and that seems to be the trend now. We are continually seeking methods that will enable users of our equipment to keep a cap on the 'cost per thousand' of whatever printed products they produce."
While MAN Roland will display its Rotoman, likely in a 16-page, one-web, four-color configuration, it will also be concentrating on PrintCity, the co-op venture that features 40-plus companies working in tandem to create a complete workflow. A daily newspaper will be produced in PrintCity, with MAN Roland serving as the web and sheetfed offset press provider.
The fastest turnaround possible is the bread and butter for King Press Corporation. According to Roger Kaughman, manager of marketing administration, King Press horizontal web commercial presses and vertical web presses have been designed for minimum downtime, without the need to break out the web for fast plate changes.
"Visitors to Process King heatset and Print King IV customer sites are consistently impressed with their short makereadies and minimal operator intervention during the press run," Kaughman notes. "Besides being very operator-friendly, King Press is ever mindful of manufacturing very solid and precise printing presses."
King Press is showing the latest Print King IV vertical web offset tower, which features extra-wide bearers on the blanket and plate cylinders.
Extremely fast makereadies also top the priority list for Timsons, according to President Ken DeVito, along with manufacturing and production quality. Speed, however, cannot be attained at the expense of quality. "Timsons folders can fold signatures up to 96 pages," DeVito says. "The important thing here is that we produce a quality fold. There is no room for error in the folding of books."
The company will be showcasing its Timsons T-48A arch press, one of the fastest makeready presses available in the book market, boasting a makeready time of 21⁄2 minutes.
Improving print quality, productivity and efficiency remain the key factors in today's web printing equation because they are the factors that can give high-volume printing a competitive advantage over other media, according to Tim Klee, director of marketing for Heidelberg Web Systems.
"Personalizing products for smaller audience segments also makes print more attractive," Klee states. "Consequently, while overall web printing volume is increasing, individual run lengths are decreasing."
Every day will be "Sunday" for Heidelberg in Dusseldorf next month as it showcases the 24-page Sunday 2000 (available in a 16-page format, as well), which is designed for short and medium runs, as well as the 48-page Sunday 4000, designed for high-pagination printing.
"With gapless blankets, we have eliminated the vibration-related disturbances that occur when the blanket gaps meet in a conventional-technology press," Klee notes. "This technology improves print quality significantly and increases productivity dramatically by providing the dynamic stability to run wider webs at faster speeds."
Klee notes that in the case of the Sunday 2000, gapless technology allows Heidelberg to offer a 24-page press (six pages wide) instead of the traditional 16-page model (four pages wide). The result is 50 percent more pages per cylinder revolution without increasing personnel.
KBA North America reports that its parent, the Koenig & Bauer Group, will display its KBA Compacta 818 among a number of non-web offerings. The new unit is a high-performance, 64-page commercial offset that addresses the need for high quality and fast turnarounds. The press features dedicated, shaftless devices for the reelstand, infeed unit, each individual printing unit, chill roller stand, draw rollers in the superstructure and an automatically convertible P5 folder. The press also features semi-automatic plate change and quality control using in-line densitometry.
Cost and quality related customer issues are at the foreground for Miracle Press. To help address these concerns, Miracle Press operates a state-of-the-art machining facility equipped with advanced CNC technology. The company will be displaying its 3500, 3550 folder and console.
Solna Web has increased its folding, sheeting and in-line finishing options in order to meet the needs of producing a wide variety of product sizes and formats, beyond eight-, 16- and 32-page signatures. "A well thought-out press configuration, some of which the printer hasn't heard of before, can help propel the channel-visioned into a very broad spectrum of production possibilities," notes Rich Kerns, president. "Alternative drying, such as UV, EB and IR, only help to expand the horizons."
Solna Web will tout its C800 commercial web press, which debuted at IPEX 98, that is geared toward short to medium, high-quality runs. The unit is particularly suited to accommodate a wide variety of substrates and paper weights with its bearerless technology.
Making its debut is the Solna D400 vertical tower, featuring multiple sets of four-high towers and vertical dryers. The unit is aimed at complex and heavy page-count configurations, as well as the four-color directory printing segment.
Among the vital factors that drive press design for Matik North America are shorter runs, substrate and paper weight flexibility, fast changeovers, modern accessibility and integrated information technology, according to Peter Schrobenhauser. "The Goebel Ecoprint, Novaprint and the Combiprint are directed to different markets, from forms and direct mail, with UV, to packaging and commercial heatset web printing," he says.
The Novaprint 680 is being shown for the first time anywhere at DRUPA. A variable size, heavy-duty press with new drive technology, it is geared toward both direct mail and commercial work.
John Sillies, executive vice president of Graphic Systems Services (GSS), believes the most critical issue is the continuing progress being made in the quality of flexo printing. He notes web flexo presses are being sold in applications that were unimaginable to web offset press manufacturers 10 years ago.
"Although I don't believe flexo printing will ever be able to produce offset print quality, it is producing acceptable quality in some applications," he says. "GSS is responding to this challenge with the introduction of the Conquest press. This press will compete directly with flexo web presses in the folding carton, flexible packaging and label markets."
GSS is also unveiling two new web offset presses at DRUPA: the Conquest Series press and Commander Series press. The Commander web offset is an 1,800 fpm, variable-circumference press available in web widths from 261⁄2˝ to 401⁄2˝, while the Conquest web offset is a variable-size press with web widths from 18˝ to 26˝.
Komori will be displaying the System 38SII, a 16-page, one-to-one press. The System 38S, as well as the eight-page System 20, feature 23˝ cutoff models for the U.S. market, according to Terry Bradley, technical director of web systems for Komori America. "While the publication market requires shorter cutoffs, the high-end commercial printer must be able to print the 81⁄2x11˝ product full bleed with color bars," he says. "We think 23˝ is the right cutoff for that market and that is our primary market."
The System 38S, new to the states but not internationally (where the 38SII is being unveiled), features plate changers, push-button product changeover on the folder and is rated at 50,000 iph. Incorporating unique pre-inking software, the press will demonstrate the world's fastest makeready with stock change, folder changeover and form change in less than 10 minutes.
The following is an overview of what DRUPA 2000 represents to a number of web offset press manufacturers in terms of relationships with current and potential customers.
Eric Short, RDP Marathon: DRU-PA 2000 highlights the importance of high-quality web offset printing in a digital environment. RDP identifies the need to operate significant capital equipment investments in an environment that is becoming entirely digital in terms of print management and workflow.
Roger Hollando, Hantish: DRUPA, to our company, means what it does for most important manufacturers—that is, to show our customers that we offer more and more technologically advanced products, responding to their needs and future plans.
Dennis Stotts, Didde Web Press: DRUPA is the grandaddy of graphic arts trade shows and, as such, attracts a worldwide audience. Participation is required to maintain a global image and to renew and strengthen relationships with current and future customers.
Chuck Gath, Web Press Corporation: Since it is the largest print show of its kind in the world, it means a lot to our company. It shows our commitment to the international, as well as domestic, marketplace.
Roger Kaughman, King Press: Exports make up about 50 percent of King Press sales, so we are looking forward to DRUPA 2000 as an opportunity to visit with our many loyal international customers. We are also eager to show the international web offset market the advantages King has to offer in our newest Print King IV.
Ken DeVito, Timsons: The DRUPA exhibition has always been very important to us because the majority of our customers attend. This year is of greater importance because of the debut of so many new innovations. Timsons has become a leader in book production, and because of this, our customers expect these introductions. Not only do we know each customer's specific needs before we manufacture their press, we build a communication foundation so strong that the printer receives exactly what he or she has envisioned.
Tim Klee, Heidelberg Web Systems: DRUPA is a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the quantum leaps in productivity, efficiency and print quality that our Sunday Technology presses and integrated press and postpress solutions provide. We are also excited about our unique presentation format at this DRUPA. In addition to demonstrating individual components, Heidelberg will demonstrate how its prepress, press and postpress components work together in efficient systems or "solutions" designed for specific printing applications. For high-volume printing, visitors will see the Heidelberg name on our splicers, printing units, dryers, saddle stitchers and adhesive binders, and this will emphasize the fact that we are the only supplier which can provide the advantages of complete, integrated solutions.
Jerry Clark, MAN Roland: It's the biggest showcase in the industry and an opportunity to have contact with an extremely broad audience. It's truly an international show. Attendees may not necessarily bring their checkbooks to sign web press orders on the spot, but our viewpoint is to use this impressive showplace to make the contacts. Then we go back to these people and really get into a detailed analysis of what their needs are and develop the appropriate solution.
John Chabot, Miracle Press: The DRUPA exhibition will give us more international exposure and the opportunity to demonstrate that we have a better press at a better price.
Rich Kerns, Solna Web: DRUPA is always in the background of our important business decisions and time schedules. There is no trade show like DRUPA for initial product unveilings. For small companies like Solna, it's easy to book an entire year's production at DRUPA. We know that when equipment buyers travel to Dusseldorf, they usually mean business.
John Sillies, Graphic Systems Services: Other than the Internet, DRUPA is the only place I know to have the unique opportunity to display our company's products to 400,000 interested visitors from 168 different countries. But far better than the Internet, we have the opportunity to talk face-to-face with these same potential customers. Every five years, DRUPA acts as a propellant to accelerate the development of new technology. Professionals in the graphic arts field travel from around the world to see this latest technology in printing. As a manufacturer, we have a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate our new products, locate new customers or strengthen bonds with existing customers.
Peter Schrobenhauser, Matik North America: DRUPA, in general, but especially DRUPA 2000, rep-resents a milestone for press manufacturers and graphic arts equipment suppliers. Not only does DRUPA usually raise the platform for new technologies, it allows the introduction of such technologies to a worldwide audience of current and new customers in a concentrated geographical and timely fashion. DRUPA is normally not affected by changes in the overall economy as customers realize that this opportunity comes only every five years, and press manufacturers take this opportunity to present a wide array of installed machines in production.