Commentary & Analysis
FREE Graph Expo Report: Press Preview, The Heart and Soul of Our Industry
The offset lithographic press has been compared to the internal combustion engine,
By Patrick Henry
Published: September 24, 2002
The offset lithographic press has been compared to the internal combustion engine, and rightly so. Each is a venerable mechanical device that resolutely refuses to let history catch up with it.
For more than 100 years, motors for cars and trucks have grown ever more powerful, efficient, and reliable. Over roughly the same period of time, generations of litho presses have continued to outdo their predecessors in stability, versatility, and above all, print quality.
Litho presses just keep getting better, and that’s why we keep flocking to print trade shows like Graph Expo to see them. We know that wherever litho presses are on display, there always will be something new—maybe even something that fundamentally will change our understanding of lithographic printing and its place in 21st-century graphic communications.
Will we gain insights of this kind while Graph Expo holds sway at Chicago’s McCormick Place from Oct. 6 to 9? Perhaps—but it will take more than just casual aisle-strolling and poster-collecting to achieve them.
"The lithographic press is a more sophisticated device, but as you stand there and look at, you’ll never see it," says industry opinion leader William C. Lamparter (PrintCom Consulting Group). Lamparter, who will chair the pre-show Executive Outlook overview conference at McCormick Place on Oct. 5, explains that the most significant recent advances in litho press technology lie not in the iron, but in the digital infrastructure.
A press at a trade show may look unchanged from the last time it was on display, "but it’s not quite the same old same old," asserts Lamparter. He says that present in all of the litho press exhibits at Graph Expo, "but hard to see, will be an undercurrent of process integration"—that is, the blending of all parts of the litho printing process into a unified manufacturing workflow that can be controlled digitally from creative concept to job completion.
To learn the whole truth about the progress of offset lithography at Graph Expo, advises Lamparter, "do more homework before you go.". We can recommend two valuable home-study guides.
The first is the Web site of Graph Expo’s producer, the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC), at http://www.gasc.org. There you will find a well organized, interactive "Tradeshow Planner" that will help you gather a wealth of background information on exhibiting press manufacturers or on any of the other 500 vendors who will present products and services at the show.
Congratulations—you’ve already located our other preferred source of Graph Expo intelligence. Stay tuned here at WhatTheyThink.com for pre-show, show, and post-show coverage by our team of expert journalists, starting with our previews of highlights from selected exhibits in all of the major categories.
Our roundup of what will be new and noteworthy from the press manufacturers follows. See you at the show!
A.B. Dick Company (Booth 3411)
A manufacturer and marketer of printing technology for nearly 120 years, A.B. Dick Company is best known as a supplier to small-format printers. Its new offerings to this community at Graph Expo will be a feature-rich four color press and a high-productivity single-color machine.
4995A-ICS Four Color Press
McCormick Place will host the coming-out party for this compact but thoroughly equipped four-tower portrait press, capable of printing sheets up to 13.39" x 17.72" at speeds as high as 10,000 sph. Designed for small plants ready to step up to four-color work, the 4995A-ICS offers a slew of big-press features for automated operation and print quality control. Examples: a stream-feeding vacuum conveyor that assures proper sheet travel and accurate registration; software-controlled setting of ink keys; semi-automated plate loading; motorized, continuous regulation of dampening solution; and touch-button operation.
9980 Single Color Press
Let it not be forgotten that a productive, easy-to-operate one-color litho press can still be the ideal solution for turning out the simple work that is the bread-and-butter of many a small printer’s livelihood. For these applications A.B. Dick has built the 9980, a single-color offset press that can be fitted with an optional second-color head and an optional unit for numbering, perforating, and imprinting. Bright colors, excellent solids, sharp halftones and finely rendered line art are said to be the attributes of jobs run on this press, which contains numerous features for adjusting press settings and maintaining print quality.
Goss International Corporation (Booth 3439)
"Due to our massive installed base of newspaper printing systems worldwide, Goss is known primarily as a newspaper press manufacturer," says the company in announcing its exhibition plan for Graph Expo. "But this is only half the story. Goss has a very strong core of commercial and specialist advertising insert printer customers in North America, and...our focus is on providing web offset press systems that best suit our customers’ requirements, whatever they may be." Visitors to the Goss stand can get information about a variety systems for commercial applications:
C700 Insert Presses
The C700 series presses for insert printing are a Goss specialty. The 21" cutoff C700i and the 19.5" cutoff C700E can produce advertising inserts at speeds of up to 2,500 feet per minute. The C700E offers a choice of pin and pinless jaw folders. Both models have been enhanced with new features.
Goss Baker G15 Commercial Press
The 16-page G15 offers a 45,000 iph production speed and is available with four, five, or eight printing units. It can be built in a space-saving "four units stacked over four units" configuration as well as in a duplex press layout.
C548 Commercial Press
This 48" addition to the C500 line is a 2:1 geometry commercial press for the production of advertising inserts.
Heidelberg (Booth 1000)
"Connect the Passion" is a steamier-sounding slogan than what’s typically encountered at graphics trade shows, but don’t be alarmed. Heidelberg’s Graph Expo show theme is just its way of expressing how strongly it feels about the advantages of automated, digital workflows for print production.
Heidelberg’s "passion" for making connections will be the general theme of its elaborate display of a full range of systems for print manufacturing. The company says that its 38,000 sq. ft. show-within-a-show will house 233 tons of networked printing equipment including 14 presses that will run more than 50 live jobs. Niche-specific press presentations will feature, in addition to the presses mentioned here, complementary Heidelberg equipment for the pre- and post- phases of the job.
Prinect Digital Workflow
Heidelberg describes Prinect, its portfolio of software solutions for graphic arts workflow, as the "digital glue" that ties prepress, press, and postpress operations together from concept to completion. Prinect’s newest enhancement is AxisControl, a color measuring system that makes spectrophotometric measurements, performs colorimetric analyses, and uses the information from the color bar to calculate the control parameters for online color control. Heidelberg calls AxisControl a basic color measuring system for presses equipped with the CP2000 Center console, including the Speedmaster SM 52, SM 74, CD 74 and SM 74 DI models.
Digital Print Solutions
Heidelberg will showcase its digital print capability with the Digimaster 9110 Network Imaging System, a high-speed (110 pages per minute), digital black-and-white document production system. The device also will be shown as the Digimaster 9150i, featuring a Roll Systems feeder and an inline perfect binder. Digital color is to be represented by the NexPress 2100 digital color press; and by the QuickMaster DI 46-4 Pro. The category leader among direct imaging (DI) offset presses, the QM DI 46-4 Pro uses ProFire laser imaging technology and PEARLDry thermal plates from Presstek.
Quick Print Solutions
The Printmaster line serves Heidelberg customers in the small/quick segment of the market. At Graph Expo, quick printers can take a quick (or an extended) look at models QM 46-2, QM 46-2 Plus, GTO 52-4, and PM 74-2P.
Commercial Print Solutions
It wouldn’t be Graph Expo without Speedmasters, and Heidelberg plans to display two examples from this well-known series. The Speedmaster SM-74 DI is a 28" direct imaging press equipped with Creo’s SQUAREspot DOP (digital offset printing) thermal exposure system. The Speedmaster 52, a 14"x20" conventional offset press, is aimed at the quick-turn, short-run color market.
Industrial Print Solutions
Translation: packaging, label, and high-volume, high-quality printing applications. The packaging and label press will be the Speedmaster CD 74, capable of running an oversize (23.5" x 29") sheet and of handling substrates from label stock to 32 point board. The other "industrial" press, the Speedmaster SM 102, is a 40" machine available in configurations from two to 12 colors inline or up to 6/6 in perfecting mode after a quick changeover. Its specialty is one-pass printing of jobs involving heavy ink coverage, tricky PMS colors and varnish, and other challenging requirements.
Commercial Web Solutions
Heidelberg has gained a worldwide reputation from the performance of its sheetfed presses, but it does not build sheetfed presses exclusively. The company also manufactures newspaper and commercial web offset presses, and at Graph Expo the latter category will be highlighted. Equipment will include an Autoplate unit for the Sunday 2000, a 16- or 24-page web press offering gapless blankets, shaftless drives, and pinless folders. Also on display will be the M-600, an Autoplate-equipped, 16-page page web press designed for short to medium runs.
KBA North America (Booth 2811)
KBA North America is a subsidiary of Koenig & Bauer AG, which introduced the 74 Karat digital offset press at drupa 2000. The 74 Karat is a compact, waterless, and keyless four-color digital offset press with a 20 x 29" format and a top speed of 10,000 sph. KBA says that on-press imaging and an all-digital workflow position the 74 Karat as a more competitive solution for short- and medium- than conventional offset presses.
74 Karat with Coater
To be shown for the first time in the U.S. market at Graph Expo, a coater-equipped 74 Karat will run live demonstrations throughout the show. KBA says that during the presentation, the press will take less than 17 minutes to run a full production cycle from the last saleable sheet of one job to color approval of the next. Visitors may select any file to print from a pool of more than 25 jobs.
Komori (Booth 1048)
Komori’s Graph Expo theme, "Survival of the Fittest," alludes to the company’s belief in helping printers maximize capacity and control costs in an unforgiving economic climate. Komori will offer survival strategies through equipment displays, 10 live demonstrations per day, and video presentations on Komori presses in addition to the ones seen at the show. Two machines will highlight the Graph Expo product lineup:
Having its North American debut at the show is the Lithrone S40, a 40" press with a full set of Lithrone technology features as well as significant new improvements. The enhancements include advanced automated makeready functions and "skeleton" type transfer cylinders.
This half-size press is available in a four- or a five-color configuration and can be equipped with an optional inline coater. It will be seen at the show as a five-color press demonstrating the benefits of Staccato FM screening by Creo.
Komori also will present information about its Color Connection software suite for digital control of all production processes from design to print. The video programs on Komori presses will cover the System 20 half-size web, the Lithrone Super Perfector, the Lithrone 20, and the Sprint GS.
MAN Roland (Booth 1032)
No vendor is more committed to the evolution of offset lithography than MAN Roland, which has pioneered the development of technologies for transforming the printing press into a precision-controlled platform for computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM). MAN Roland’s approach to CIM is called PECOM, a suite of systems for monitoring and managing every aspect of press function.
The Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) recently bestowed a 2002 InterTech Technology Award on two new PECOM software modules that will be among the highlights of MAN Roland’s presentation at Graph Expo: JobPilot, which streamlines repeat jobs with preset instructions taken from stored "electronic job tickets"; and PressMonitor, a "remote and real-time window into the press" that can display job-status information and other production data on Windows workstations.
JobPilot and PressMonitor will get the vehicle they deserve by being demonstrated on the all-new Roland 500 sheetfed press, a machine making its North American debut at the show. According to MAN Roland, the 500’s extended 29" format (23.23" x 29.13") lets printers think six-up instead of four-up, thereby enabling them to be more competitive with shops running 40" equipment. The 500 is also claimed to be the world’s fastest sheetfed press at a maximum speed of 18,000 sheets per hour (sph).
Extensively field-tested before its commercial release, and brimming with mechanical and electronic innovations for consistent print quality, the 500 will be shown as a six-color press with inline coating. (Note: please revisit WhatTheyThink.com on October 1 for our exclusive interview with Dr. Anthimos Giapoulis, the leader of the MAN Roland team that designed and built the 500.)
Among other press-related exhibits of interest at the MAN Roland stand will be:
As the market leader in web press and newspaper printing, MAN Roland will show major components from this portion of its portfolio at Graph Expo. Centerpieces include the insert unit for the LITHOMAN commercial web press; and a multimedia presentation on the ROTOMAN web offset system installed at GATF’s research center this summer.
Offset printing without plates has become a reality with DICOweb, a MAN Roland technology that uses a directly imaged, thermoplastic transfer medium as the image carrier in lieu of metal plates. Creo supplies DICOweb’s on-press laser imaging system. The medium can be erased and reapplied from job to job, speeding changeovers and boosting productivity in both short-run and higher-volume work. Graph Expo visitors can inspect a DICOweb printing unit and watch a video about DICOweb presses now running or being installed in plants in Germany, Switzerland, and Turkey.
MAN Roland also will furnish information about:
Aimed at printers seeking entry into the four-up, four-color market, the compact Roland 200 is a 13,000 sph, 20" x 29" sheetfed press that is also available in two- and five-color configurations. It now features the new ColorPilot Smart ink control system and an optional IR/UV dryer.
Said by MAN Roland to be the only six-up press with perfecting, the Roland 300 is now 1,000 sph faster than last year (running at 16,000 sph in straight printing mode). The PECOM-equipped 300 can be ordered in configurations from two to eight units, with or without inline coating.
Anyone in the market for a 41" press in up to 12 colors will want to learn more about the Roland 700. The machine now features automatic non-stop delivery that enables it to run continuously at top speed (16,000 sph) while printed product is removed. The 700 also is available with an inline sorter for waste-sheet ejection without press stoppage; an inline perforating system; a reel-to-reel sheet feeder; and ColorPilot ink control.
For medium- to long-run packaging, commercial printing, and other large-format applications, the Roland 900 is now available in three new, larger new sheet formats—44" x 63.7", 47" x 63.7", and 51" x 72.8"—for a total of six sizes with the 32.3" x 44.5". 35.0" x 49.6", and 40.1" x 55.9" formats. Several new improvements for printing and finishing have been added.
Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (Booth 2800)
Diamonds form the distinctive Mitsubishi logo, and "Diamond" is the family name of the precision-built web- and sheetfed lithographic presses that the company has purveyed to the North American market for the last 25 years. Diamond series web presses are available in eight-page to 128 page formats, 20" or 38" wide, with cutoffs from 19.37" to 26.5". Diamond series sheetfed presses come in formats from 28" to 56," configurable in up to 10 colors.
Diamond 2000 Medium-Format Press
Set to make not only its North American debut but its world premiere at Graph Expo is the 23.5" x 29" Diamond 2000, a sheetfed press built for six-up printing of a broad array of high-quality commercial work. Available in up to 10 colors, it can accommodate substrates from .002" paper to 24 point board at speeds up to 16,000 sph. Plate changing, sheet size presetting, and dampening control are among its many automated features. Its automated makeready system uses digital prepress data to preset ink keys, register control, color specifications, and make other adjustments. The press also can be equipped with closed-loop color control and a CIP3/CIP4 prepress link.
At Graph Expo, the new Diamond 2000 will be shown as a fully-equipped six-color press with tower coater. Mitsubishi says that the press will be the only machine at the show running Midwest Ink Corp.’s InterTech Award-winning "Hydro H20" inks. These inks reportedly can run with plain water, eliminating the need for fountain chemistry.
Ryobi (at xpedx, Booth 4824)
The products of Ryobi’s Graphic Systems Division will be represented at Graph Expo by xpedx, its U.S. agent for sales and service. xpedx also will present film plotters, platesetters, and digital asset management tools from other manufacturers and will market its services as an integrator of graphic systems. Ryobi presses to be shown or promoted by xpedx include:
B2-Size Multicolor Presses
At IPEX 2002 in Birmingham, U.K., last April, Ryobi announced the new 750 series of B2-size (29.53"x 21.46") multicolor offset presses: the Ryobi 754 (four color), 755 (five-color) and 756 (six-color). Exemplifying the line at Graph Expo will be an "XL" model featuring a longer (22.83") image area. The 750 series presses feature double-diameter impression cylinders and transfer drums in each printing unit for stable paper transport. They also offer a host of built-in or optional features for simplified makeready, consistent print quality, and automated operation. Inline units for aqueous and UV coating are available, as are infrared dryers and UV curing stations.
A3-Plus Size Convertible Perfector
For quick changeover from single- to double-sided printing, Ryobi offers the 524HXXP. The operator can automatically select straight or perfecting mode in about one minute by touching a display panel, setting up the press for 4/0 or 2/2 printing. Other advantages of the 524HXXP are its 19.88" x 13.78" maximum printing area; its 13,000 sph top speed; and features such as semi-automatic plate changing and fully automated control of ink supply, dampening, and ink-water balance.
Direct Imaging (DI) Press
Ryobi’s successful bid for a piece of the DI market is the 3404DI, an A3-size, portrait format press offering a maximum sheet size of 13.39" x 18.11". The 3404DI uses Presstek’s ProFire Firepower laser imaging technology and runs the Presstek PEARLDry plate. Plate imaging speed is 2 min. 30 sec. at 1,270 dpi or 4 min. 20 sec. at 2,540 dpi, according to xpedx. At Graph Expo, the 3404DI will be shown with the optional PDS Pro E spectrophotometer ink control system and the Epson 7600 proofer. It is also available with PDS E densitometer-based ink control.
Sakurai (Booth 1832)
Sakurai says that the hallmark of its "Oliver" presses is automation. This means that on each Oliver press most major functions are fully automatic, including plate changing, blanket and roller washing, changeover to perfecting, and presetting of sheet sizes. The 19 presses run the gamut from single-color models to six-color machines with coaters; sizes range from 14" x 20" to 28 x 40".
Sakurai Oliver 466SIP
A newcomer to the Oliver line and a planned centerpiece for Sakurai at Graph Expo is the 466SIP, a small-footprint, four-color convertible perfector with a sheet size of 18.5" x 26". Capable of printing up to 15,000 iph, it includes all of the features of the 458 series four-color presses plus ultrasonic double sheet detection; color console with optional compatibility for a CIP4 interface; and "by popular demand," steps on the operator side of the press.