Commentary & Analysis
FREE: Nearness of drupa and Print ’05 Can’t Dim Graph Expo’s Luster As A Showcase for Conventional Offset Lithographic Technologies
By Patrick Henry &
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 6, 2004
By Patrick Henry “interstice (in•ter•stice, in•ter•stic•es), n.: a space, especially a small or narrow one, between things or parts.” October 6, 2004 -- Sandwiched between drupa last May and Print ’05 next September, Graph Expo 2004 can’t help having an interstitial quality. This isn’t to deny that the show is a floor-space sellout (this was true weeks ago) or that attendance is almost certain to be heavy (nobody appears to be betting against the Graphic Arts Show Company’s confident prediction of 40,000 visitors). If there is to be a narrowing, it will be one of focus as the bigger exhibitors squeeze their drupa panoplies into Graph Expo’s smaller space and shorter time frame. With an eye on the greater demands of Print next year, some of them are husbanding their resources to an extent that will restrain a little of the energy that marks Graph Expo in years when it isn’t bracketed by mega-events. WhatTheyThink.com’s traditional pre-show survey of press equipment exhibitors revealed some of this restraint. A press manufacturer that usually stages a media briefing to open the show has cancelled the exercise this time, noting (correctly) that most journalists have already covered its major announcements for the year at drupa. Others are limiting their booth displays to static printing units and multimedia presentations, sparing themselves a costly second round of transporting, erecting, and tearing down complete presses. As an executive of one of these manufacturers told us, “We did our blowout thing at drupa.” Active volcanoes like Mount St. Helens may have enough pent-up energy for more than one blowout thing per year, but not trade show exhibitors. The benefit of these scaled-down presences is that this year’s show offers visitors a comprehensive but very manageable way to see how far conventional press technologies have advanced since the last drupa-Print conjunction in 2000-2001. The 13 press manufacturers who briefed us on their exhibit plans seem to have spent the intervening years thinking of little else besides how to make good equipment better: more automated in operation; more flexible in capability; more consistent in quality; and, above all, more adaptable to changing print market demands. All of this progress will be in full view in their booths at Graph Expo, which has nothing to apologize for as a learning experience in or out of the shadows of drupa and Print. We’ll be reporting on these advances in more detail from McCormick Place next week. In the meantime, here’s a guide to some of what’s worthy of your attention in the press section of the hall. Akiyama International Corp. (booth 2061) Visitors will have to wait until Print ’05 for the next equipment display by Akiyama, which has elected not to bring machinery to Graph Expo. The company will, however, conduct daily, round-trip tours to a customer site located about 30 minutes from McCormick Place, where the attraction is a newly erected, six color Bestech 40" sheetfed press with coater. (Inquire at the booth for reservations.) Presses in the Bestech series feature oversize impression and transfer cylinders for clean, precise printing. Their inker-dampener and feeder-register-infeed systems are engineered for short-run productivity at high speeds, according to Akiyama. At the booth, a 50" video screen will give visitors a multimedia introduction to Akiyama’s eXtreme 440, an advanced, 16,000-sph sheetfed press that premiered at drupa. The presentation also will cover Akiyama’s J Print multicolor perfectors and its solution for CIP3/CIP4 connectivity. This is a combination of closed-loop technology by X-Rite and software from Colortonics that, according to Akiyama, enables its open-architecture press controls to link to prepress data from any source. Drent Goebel (booth 2978) To cognac fanciers, the appellation VSOP means “very superior old pale.” To Drent Goebel, it is a toast to having received exclusive European and North American patents to Variable Sleeve Offset Printing technology—the core of its presentation at Graph Expo. Drent Goebel is Dutch-German enterprise with a 150-year heritage in the development of rotary web offset presses. VSOP technology, the company says, now brings all of the advantages of printing with length-variable sleeves to offset production. On Drent Goebel presses with VSOP, printing cutoffs can be adjusted to any length within range by changing only two lightweight sleeves. This feature, according to the company, gives offset printing the dimensional variability of flexo and gravure and lets offset printers run a very broad range of stocks—paper, P/S, films, foil, and cardboard—on the same press. At Graph Expo, a printing tower from a VSOP 850 mm (33.5" web width) press will be the show-and-tell device for interested visitors. VSOP presses also are available in web widths of 520 mm (20.5"), 1,120 mm (44.1") and 1,250 mm (49.2"). Video presentations will offer information about Vision, a shaftless, short-makeready web press; and Novaprint, built for high-volume web work. Goss International Corp. (booth 2079) Goss is no newcomer to Graph Expo, but the company will enjoy something of a debut this year as the new proprietor of the products of the erstwhile web division of Heidelberg. That acquisition, completed earlier this year, gives Goss—best known as a manufacturer of newspaper presses—a profile in the commercial web market with equipment that continues to be assembled at the former Heidelberg factories in Dover and Durham, N.H. Goss says that it is now ready to offer what it calls the industry’s broadest range of specialized commercial press and postpress systems and services for web offset production. It will advance this claim at Graph Expo with a static display of a printing unit from a Sunday 3000/32 press—the same unit presented by Heidelberg in its introduction of the 3000/32 at last year’s show. Three of the presses now are in operation in the U.S. The 3000/32’s two-by-eight cylinder configuration can print 32 A4 page impressions per cylinder rotation. That gives the press a 72" web width that can print magazine-size pages at speeds up to 100,000 impressions per hour. Aided by Goss’s gapless blanket technology, the 3000/32 is said to be two to three times more productive than conventional 16-page webs. Goss also equips the 3000/32 with pinless former and combination folders and a variety of press controls. Goss, which also acquired Heidelberg’s high-volume postpress product line, will represent that part of its portfolio by running a two-station example of servo-driven (i.e., independently motored) hoppers for the Pacesetter saddle stitcher. A video display will promote the Automatic Transfer (AT) feature for Goss Sunday 2000 presses. This option is said to permit on-the-run version changes or complete four-color job changeovers without stopping the press for a conventional makeready. Goss also will talk about its DigiRail digital inking system. Grafitec America (booth 1472) Grafitec America is the U.S. distribution arm of a press manufacturer that is based in the Czech Republic but wholly owned by an American investment group. At Graph Expo, the company will exhibit a five-color, 20" x 29" Grafitec Polly Prestige sheetfed press with automated features including plate changing, washup, and remote register with cocking. The press, which supports a CIP4 workflow, has a Grafitec convertible dampener/coater in the fifth unit. The Polly Prestige line is also available in two-, four-, and six-color configurations. Halm Industries (booth 3666) Halm makes envelope presses: small-format machines built to churn out tens of thousands of envelopes per hour in two or four colors. The presses, which can handle both standard and irregular pieces in sheet sizes ranging roughly from 3" x 4" to 18" x 15", have many features designed to support simple operation and uninterrupted production. The machines that Halm will set up for inspection in McCormick Place are the Jet Press Plus XL, a two-color, 50,000-iph perfector with radial axle cylinders that permit adjustments while the press is running; the Super Jet Press Plus XL, for two-sided, 25,000-iph printing of sheets at the top end of Halm’s size range; and the Envelopemaster 4000, a computer controlled press that can print four colors on one side at 30,000 iph. Also on display will be the ColorMatic ID-2500 ink dosing machine. This unit, according to Halm, reduces ink waste and enables printers to mix precise quantities of ink—including very small, end-of-the-run amounts—by extracting and dispensing every drop in the can. Heidelberg (booth 1000) Although some may question Heidelberg’s exit from the digital print and web offset markets, the decision, from the point of view of Graph Expo planning, was a most convenient one: it left all the more room for flaunting sheetfed equipment, now as before the company’s hallmark product line. Heidelberg should have no trouble colonizing its 40,000 sq. ft. island with the eight sheetfed presses it has selected for the show, including three machines in configurations first seen at drupa. In a gesture of its deepening interest in the package printing market, the company will also show a high-speed die cutter. The “drupa 2004 Generation” machines are the latest members of the well known Speedmaster family. The Speedmaster SM 102-10 PC2S is billed as a top-quality, ergonomically refined, highly automated perfector with extended preset functions that reduce setup work to a minimum. The Speedmaster CD 74, available with or without perfecting in 20.87" x 29.13" and 23.82" x 29.13" formats, is designed for the long runs and high speeds of industrial package printing. Also intended for package printing, the 27.5" x 39.4" perfectors in the Speedmaster CD 102 series incorporate new feeder and delivery systems and coating unit innovations. Also awaiting review at the Heidelberg stand are a pair of Quickmaster QM 46-2s: one with inline perforating and numbering and another with specially designed guards. Heidelberg will reassert its commitment to direct imaging presses by displaying the 13.38" x 18.11" QMDI 46-4 Pro. The Printmaster PM 52 and the Speedmaster SM 52 six-color perfector with coater will show what Heidelberg equipment can do in the 14" x 20" size range. The Dymatrix 106 CSB die cutter and embosser, being introduced to the North American market at Graph Expo, can handle materials from 4 pt. paper to 60 pt. solid or 160 pt. corrugated board at speeds of up to 9,000 sheets an hour. Its maximum sheet size maximum sheet size of 29.92" x 41.73" can be optionally increased to 32.28" x 44.49". KBA North America, Sheetfed Division (booth 1054) At drupa, KBA distinguished itself with an ample display of technology for what it called “industrialized” printing: an automated, self-regulating manufacturing process centered upon the extreme mechanical sophistication of KBA presses. Visitors to Graph Expo can judge KBA’s capabilities for themselves by examining two pieces of equipment direct from the German show: the Rapida 105 and the Genius 52 UV. Configured for Graph Expo in six colors plus aqueous coating, the 18,000-sph Rapida 105 features a motor-driven, shaftless feeder and an optional sidelay-free infeed in which the lateral movement of the advance cylinder eliminates a speed-inhibiting action of the side guide. The machine can print stock from 0.06 mm paper to 1.2 mm board and may be equipped with the Qualitronic II inline sheet-inspection system; video register; Densitronic closed loop color control; and ink-temperature control for optimum print quality. A single, central impression cylinder, an anilox short inking unit, and UV inline drying enable the Genius 52 UV, a waterless offset press, to print on stock up to 32 pt. and on synthetics such as PVC, PC and ABS. Capable of printing a standard 20" format with CTP or analog plates at up to 8,000 sph, the press also features automatic plate changing. KBA says that the press, designed for one-person operation, can come up to color with only a few waste sheets. KBA could not transplant its entire drupa exhibit from Düsseldorf to Chicago, but it will promote the equipment it did not bring by displaying more than 25 sample sheets from these presses. Also to be seen at the KBA stand is a special presentation on printing RFID (radio frequency identification) tags inline with conductive inks. Komori America Corp. (booth 1066) When is a press not a printer’s best friend, but a “necessary evil” or a “thief stealing stealing revenue right out of your pocket”? When it’s the kind of outmoded, non-integrated equipment that Komori is urging printers to replace with Komori presses in its new “Rethink” marketing campaign. This provocatively themed advertising and direct mail crusade, timed to coincide with Graph Expo, advises printers that Komori machines belong in their pressrooms because Komori “spends a lot of time designing your business into our presses.” Next week, printers will find out whether they can see their businesses in two Komori machines following up their world premieres at drupa with their U.S. debuts at Graph Expo: the Lithrone S40 and the Spica 29. The Lithrone S40, to be shown as an LS640P in six colors, is a 28 3/ 8" x 40 9/ 16" perfector that can print at up to 15,000 sph in both perfecting and straight mode. Komori says that the LS640P’s double size, three cylinder perfecting mechanism and the design of its delivery system eliminate marking and scuffing. Its automated plate changers can change six plates in three minutes, according to Komori, which has also equipped the press with its “Color Connection” software suite for ink-key setting and on-press color management. The LS640P additionally will be a demonstration platform for the ICS Remote Director SWOP-certified soft proofing solution. Billed as an entry level press for printers breaking into the four-color market, the Spica 29 is a 20 7/ 8" x 29 1/ 2" convertible perfector for 4/0 and 2/2 work at speeds up to 13,000 sph and 11,000 sph, respectively. Perfector changeover is fully automatic, as are pre-inking, Komorimatic dampening, and other functions. Komori will present the Spica 29 with a Screen PlateRite 4300 platesetter as a solution for on demand printing. MAN Roland Inc. (booth 1017) The cynosure of all eyes at the MAN Roland stand is certain to be the Roland 700, a 41" press that the company will use, as it did at drupa, as a showcase for many of its most advanced technologies. The Roland 700 can be configured in two to 12 printing units with perfecting, and with or without single or double in-line coating. It is also available in a model that positions the coating and drying modules before the printing units for special effects inline. With its top running speed increased to 16,000 sph, the press comes to Chicago equipped with in-line components including a double coating module, sheeter, sorter, embosser, and foiler. Everything will operate under the video-driven gaze of the new EagleEye sheet inspection system. The Roland 700 optionally can incorporate a bundle of makeready-accelerating modules known as QuickChange. MAN Roland says that these automation enhancers, controlled from the press’s PECOM console, make it possible to cut makeready on the next-generation 700 by 30 percent vs. previous models. A static Roland 700 printing unit will be used to demonstrate an ongoing development that the company calls Direct Drive: a method of powering a sheetfed printing unit’s plate cylinder with its own high-torque motor. According to MAN Roland, decoupling motor-driven plate cylinders from the press’s main drive makes it possible to change all plates simultaneously; complete plate changing and washup in the same cycle; and make black plate changes without stopping the press. DirectDrive could also be applied to on-the-fly changes of the reimageable printing cylinders used in MAN Roland’s DICO plateless printing technology. Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A., Inc.) (booth 3618) Repeating its drupa engagement in Chicago will be Mitsubishi’s Diamond 3000TP Tandem Perfector, a 28" x 40" press that can be ordered in configurations up to 6/6 with aqueous coating and IR drying. Mitsubishi says that because the 3000TP’s Translink Unit maintains the same gripper edge, the press can print both sides at 13,000 sph without reversing the sheet. The press handles stock thicknesses up to 24 points or up to 32 points. At Graph Expo, the Tandem Perfector will incorporate a spectrophotometer-based closed-loop color control system, with Mitsubishi’s ColorLink CIP4 server transmitting makeready data from electronic prepress for ink presets. Several remote workstations will let visitors observe the MIS workflow as it captures production data and job-status information. Muller Martini Corp. (booth 1447) Muller Martini’s prominence as a vendor of postpress equipment sometimes overshadows its equal leadership in manufacturing variable-size web offset presses. There will be two notable reminders of the company’s credentials in web offset at Graph Expo, both of them making their North American debuts: the Alprinta, to be seen as a printing unit; and the Concepta, which will be shown in live, inline operation with a digital press. Available in formats from 20" to 34", the Alprinta is designed for versatility in commercial , direct mail, flexible packaging, and label printing. The press operates at a top speed of 1,500 fpm and can be fitted with a variety of inline finishing modules for single-pass productivity. Mechanical assets include a four form roller ink train and direct servo drive of the printing units. The press has an automated makeready system and is, says the manufacturer, fully JDF/CIP4 compliant for computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) applications. To see the Concepta in action, visitors must take a detour to the Nipson exhibit in booth 3360. There they can observe the Concepta printing two-color direct mail pieces that are streamed directly to a Nipson VaryPress 400 digital press for inline personalization of each offset preprint. Muller Martini’s half of this conventional/digital duo is a 1,200-fpm machine that can be configured in up to 12 units for formats from 14 " to 28 1/ 3". It features precision inking controls and offers the option of individual drives for the inking units, enabling simultaneous plate changing. Muller Martini says that like the Alprinta, the Concepta is ready for CIM as a JDF/CIP4 compliant press. RDP Marathon Inc. (booth 2479) This Montreal-based developer of variable-size web presses says that it has chosen to use Graph Expo not as an equipment venue but as an opportunity for “literature meetings” and other kinds of sales-building interactions with customers. Visitors will find that RDP Marathon has a number of interesting things to discuss, including the North American release of its LS•100 packaging press—a 38.5" web that uses offset sleeves instead of conventionally mounted plates. RDP Marathon calls its sleeve technology SOLID (Sleeve Offset Lithographic Independent Drive), wherein each sleeve insert is equipped with a single drive servo to run both the plate and the blanket sleeves through a common gear train. This assures synchronization, while a precision mounting system minimizes the printing gap to provide the largest possible printing area. SOLID technology enables the LS•100 to run infinitely variable cutoffs from 24" to 36" at speeds up to 1,500 fpm, according to RDP Marathon. SOLID also advantages the LS•68 26.5" web. Sakurai USA Inc. (booth 3416) Sakurai is making the short journey to McCormick Place from its Schaumburg, Ill. headquarters to introduce two new classes of equipment, the press series 66 and 75. The 66 SI/SIP series is configurable in four or five colors, with or without perfecting. A coating unit with extended delivery also is available. Sakurai says that the five-color version, the 566 SI with coater, comes standard with a set of features that makes the press fully automated at an affordable price. Maximum running speed is 15,000 iph. According to Sakurai, the size and productivity of the presses in its 75 series will enable printers running traditional 40" presses to downsize to smaller equipment that will reduce their costs and make them more competitive in the half-size market. The 75 series’ three-quarter (23 5/ 8" x 30 1/ 8") sheet size permits six-up 8" X 11" layouts, says Sakurai, making it possible to perfect or work-and-tumble three-panel jobs with bleeds and color bars. The combination of the six-up format and the series’ 15,000-iph running speed bridges the gap between traditional half and full size market, according to Sakurai. The presses offer a full set of automated features and are available in four-, five-, and six-unit configurations, with or without coaters.