GE07: So Much Iron, So Little Time: A Reporter’s Reality in McCormick Place
Our perennial regret at the Graph Expo and Print shows is the impossibility of giving a detailed mention to every press manufacturer that supports these events by its presence at them.
By Patrick Henry
Published: September 14, 2007
Our perennial regret at the Graph Expo and Print shows is the impossibility of giving a detailed mention to every press manufacturer that supports these events by its presence at them. Mounting a trade show exhibit, even a modest one, is an expensive and arduous undertaking that does great credit to the exhibitor willing to make so serious an investment. A booth in McCormick Place—whether written about by the trade media or not—certifies the occupier as a company that takes great pride in its products and shows an equally passionate interest in what its customers are thinking. These are the hallmarks of leading vendors in any industry, and the absence of trade media coverage in no way diminishes these exceptional merits. So, we are asking the readers of WhatTheyThink to give their attention on our behalf to the press technology providers that we are unable to include in our hastily assembled reports from the show. You can find all of them at the Graphic Arts Show Company web site, www.gasc.org. They are all eminently worthy of your interest.
Coverage continues today with summaries of what was new in offset litho offerings from Goss, Heidelberg, Mitsubishi, Presstek, and xpedx Printing Technologies/Ryobi. To come: roundups of developments in CTP, plates, and other areas of prepress.
Goss International always stands somewhat apart at Graph Expo as the only exhibitor whose press line for the commercial market consists exclusively of full-size web equipment. Its principal news on this front was the availability of the DigiRail digital inking system for its commercial web presses. A PIA/GATF InterTech Award winner in 2003, DigiRail has been widely installed on Goss newspaper and insert presses. It can be retrofitted onto some existing Goss models and is an option for the Goss M-600 and gapless Sunday commercial webs.
DigiRail replaces traditional “open fountain” ink delivery with digital ink pack devices housing low-torque, in-line gear pumps. The pumps feed ink pulses to the ink train through individual, digitally controlled valves. The system comprises a series of ink packs mounted on an aluminum rail against the first ink roller. Each ink pack has a synchronous AC motor and 12 individual ink metering valves that operate in a binary, on/off fashion. Each valve is pulsed by separate digital signals, and varying the “on” time of the pulses delivers precise volumes of ink. According to Goss, changing the digital on/off pulse rate makes it possible to make ink adjustments in increments as small as 1 percent.
The number of ink packs needed varies according to web width, with the individual valves covering zones equivalent to those of a traditional ink key. The advantages of DigiRail are said to be faster and more accurate ink presets; protection of the ink from lint, paper dust, dampener, and other contaminants; reduction of start-up waste; and the minimization of problems related to ink density and color variation. These benefits, says Goss, now are available for commercial presses printing at up to 100,000 iph.
In its usual grand manner, Heidelberg loomed largest of all at Graph Expo by presenting the event’s largest assortment of lithographic machinery—a five-press array that drew even more attention to the Heidelberg booth in the absence of equipment from fellow German rivals MAN Roland and KBA. (MAN Roland presented only a single press unit from its new Direct Drive 700; KBA did not exhibit at Graph Expo this year.) Heidelberg asserted its presence at the show and in the sheetfed market as a whole with setups of the Speedmaster models SM 52, CD 74, and SM 102; the high-performance XL 105; and, for small shops, the Printmaster QM 46.
But Heidelberg was not out to impress the crowds with the sheer weight of its gray iron—it had a more sophisticated marketing objective in mind. “HEI Tech”—the company’s catch-phrase for the record of technical innovation that complements its long history as a press maker—is the virtue that Heidelberg wants printers to perceive in its lineup of platforms for commercial, packaging, and small-shop applications. At Graph Expo, Heidelberg tried to highlight HEI Tech both in the configurations of the presses on display and in the options available for them.
The Speedmaster XL 105, shown as a six-color model with coating unit and extended delivery, was seen in demonstrations with Prinect Inpress Control, an inline spectrophotometric device that can measure color and registration on the fly while the press is running at top speed—in the XL 105’s case, 18,000 sph. Prinect Inpress control, designed to speed makeready and reduce paper waste, also was seen on the six-color-plus-coater version of the CD 74 packaging press at the show.
The better to demonstrate its potential for one-pass productivity, the eight-color Speedmaster SM 102 perfector was equipped with a Preset Plus delivery and a Cutstar roll-to-sheet feeder. Preset Plus aims at transporting perfected, coated sheets gently onto the pile without image-marring contact at any point during delivery. The Cutstar unit uses Cutstar CAN (a networking technology) to connect with the SM 102’s CP 2000 control console, an integration that maximizes the sheeter’s efficiency.
Anicolor inking and Alcolor dampening were the highlights of the four-color-plus-coater model of the Speedmaster SM 52. Anicolor uses an anilox roller in a temperature-controlled, chamber-blade inking unit that meters ink to the plate without inking zones. Heidelberg says that doing away with the need to set ink zones enables the SM 52 to come up to color in fewer than 20 sheets and cuts makeready time by up to 40 percent. Alcolor continuous dampening applies solution to the plate in a thin, even film, minimizing the amount needed. Less dampener, says Heidelberg, means speedier sheet drying and, as a result, more expeditious finishing.
Traditionally, the term “press speed” has been defined only by the volume of printed matter that can be harvested from the run in a specified increment of time: sheets or impressions per hour for sheetfed; feet per minute or copies per hour for web. Lately, though, attention has shifted to a parallel velocity that may be turning into an even more meaningful benchmark of a platform’s performance than its output rate. We’re referring to the speed derby for the quickest changeover from job to job—a competition that’s burning up the track as every press manufacturer offers new automated solutions aimed at helping users of its equipment to shrink the intervals between jobs, process more work per shift, and reap the profits accordingly.
Nowhere was the new meaning of press speed made clearer than at the stand of Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses, where demonstrations of an eight-unit Diamond 3000LS aimed to show how automated plate-changing could compress the sequential changeovers of four jobs on the 40" press into about 25 minutes—including three plate changes and all blanket washups. This breathless pace was made possible by Mitsubishi’s SimulChanger plate cylinder repositioning system, designed to replace old plates with new ones on every unit in one operation. According to Mitsubishi, SimulChanger can change plates in approximately one minute whether a job requires four colors or 10.
SimulChanger does it by automatically turning and stopping each plate cylinder in the optimum position for changing the plate while the press is running. This saves time by eliminating the need to reposition the plate cylinders individually—a process improvement that enables all plates to be changed at once. Plates preloaded into cassettes are mounted, clamped, and tensioned automatically as the old plates are ejected. As each plate is replaced, its cylinder returns to the proper position for printing. Mitsubishi says that the push-button SimulChanger system can reduce makereadies on a 10-color press by almost 15 minutes.
Mitsubishi matched its advancement in plate-changing with equally automated solutions for print quality assurance and color control. The Symphony print inspection system from partner DAC Engineering Co. Ltd. detects hickeys, smudges, and other print defects at full running speed, while the Mitsubishi Color Control System V (MCCS-V) image-scanning spectrophotometer furnishes sheet-inspection data for closed-loop control of ink keys on the press.
Shown operating on the Diamond 3000LS at Graph Expo, The DAC system consists of up to four color CCD cameras mounted above the impression cylinder. The cameras can inspect 49 million pixels from the entire printed sheet and compare that data to the same 49 million pixels from a master image.
Scanning for dirt, scratches, ink dropouts, and other imperfections, the CCD arrays can detect extremely small defects—such as splattered ink or light-color defects on pale images—that can easily escape visual inspection. Symphony lets press operators examine every inspected image on a monitor in real time. Sheets containing defects are tagged for removal and can be retained as hard copy for correcting defects.
The MCCS-V extends spectrophotometric measurement by recording all image data for a sheet in a single operation. It can measure an entire pull sheet or proof by scanning the image only, color bar only, or a combination of the two both horizontally and vertically. When measuring a 28" x 40" sheet, the MCCS-V can obtain data from about 240,000 points. Color values are compared to preset color targets to calculate recommended adjustments for the appropriate ink zones.
The press-side device supports input from four straight presses or two perfectors. The MCCS-V can read OK sheets from previous jobs to accelerate the setups of reruns. Operators also can scan multiple-up sheets to find the best-looking image in the imposition. The color data from this image then becomes the optimum control value for the entire sheet.
What Presstek wanted to communicate about direct imaging (DI) equipment at Graph Expo is that a press that can image its own plates is no longer perceived as a “niche” machine but as an essential contributor to a busy plant’s productivity. Presstek says the reason why its waterless DI presses can be found in many pressrooms where half-size and full-size presses predominate is that a DI press is an exceptionally handy thing to have in these high-volume environments: it enables the plant to profit from short-run, small-format work without having to tie up the bigger machines to get the work done.
The company conducts 28 road-show presentations per year to spread this perception among users of both conventional and digital presses. At Graph Expo, Presstek showcased the Presstek 52DI, a 20.47" x 14.76" landscape-format digital offset press that offers, according to the manufacturer, the lowest average cost per page in the 250- to 10,000-impression range. In support of the claim, Presstek cited market research concluding that on average, a typical job on a Presstek 52DI costs half as much per page as a comparable job run on a high-volume, toner-based digital device, and is 13 percent more profitable than conventional offset.
Also promoted was the Presstek 34DI, a portrait-format digital offset press that produces up to 7,000 13.39 x 18.11" sheets per hour. Additionally, the company drew attention to the environmental benefits of the DI process in both presses: chemistry-free, thermal laser plate imaging; elimination of fountain solution; extremely sparing use of solvents for washups; ability to run soy-based waterless offset ink; and reduced paper waste by eliminating ink/water balance and via four-color laydown without sheet transfer (owing to the towerless, central-impression-cylinder design of the press).
These days, an eight-up offset press isn’t exactly a headline-maker at a major printing equipment show—unless it comes from a press vendor that hasn’t ventured into the full-format sheetfed market until now. The introduction of such a press at Graph Expo was the lead story this week for Ryobi, represented in the U.S. by xpedx Printing Technologies.
Although new in the U.S., the straight-printing, four- and five-color Ryobi 920 series has been available in Japan, its country of manufacture, for two years. An A1 (36.22" x 24.61") platform that prints eight-up impositions in both A4 and letter sizes, the 920 is being positioned here as an affordable alternative to 40" equipment that can produce book work, pocket folders, posters, and similar kinds of work as efficiently as full-format presses with larger printing areas can. Besides a lower investment cost, other economically attractive features of the 920 series are said to be lower plate and electrical costs as well as a space-saving footprint that is considerably smaller than that of standard 40" equipment.
Technically, the 16,200-sph 920 platform is the next step up in size after Ryobi’s six-page 750 series, from which the 920 product derives many of its automated and labor-saving capabilities. These include semi-automatic plate loading, suction tape feeder board, the PCS-G Printing Control Console with programmed inking, Ryobi-matic continuous dampening, ultrasonic double-sheet detection, and JDF compatibility. Numerous options are available.
At Graph Expo, in addition to the 920 and 750 equipment, xpedx Printing Technologies also promoted its 520 series of 14" x 20" multicolor presses. It also previewed the opening of a new, 20,000-sq.-ft. demonstration and learning center for Ryobi equipment in Lenexa, KS, on October 22. Most of the Ryobi line will be installed on a rotating basis at the center, where visitors can bring job files for test runs and learn about GRACoL G7 production standards, among other activities. The facility itself is G7-certified and will offer classes to train individuals wishing to become G7-certified consultants.
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Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications (www.libordeath.com), a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.