MAN Roland: DICOweb Makes Debut, Nussbaum is First Customer
Monday, February 11, 2002
After more than a decade in development, the offset press that prints without plates has gone into commercial production, creating short-run, highly targeted publications for one of Germany’s leading printers. Located in the Black Forest city of Weil der Stadt, Nussbaum Medien (Media) publishes official gazettes and bulletins — the equivalent of community weeklies in North America. The company chose to become the world’s first DICOweb printer because the innovation offered a single-source solution to variety of emerging production challenges. "Anyone familiar with the medium of official bulletins and notifications knows what counts is speed, reliability, and print quality, in addition to the desire for more color," says Oswald Nussbaum, who founded and manages the company. "We've been sold on the revolutionary technology of the DICOweb from the very beginning," he explains. "The DICOweb allows full-color low-cost production, even with shortest runs, and that makes our bulletins, which used to be two-color, more attractive to readers and advertisers." DICO stands for digital changeover, and the press lives up to its name, capable of speeding from job-to-job in less than 12 minutes. Less than two of those minutes are required for imaging the press. An exclusive MAN Roland design utilizes laser imaging heads and a patented thermoplastic transfer medium to apply the job directly to the DICOweb’s image carrying cylinders. Then when the print run is completed, the image is automatically erased to ready the cylinders for the next project. The innovation’s unique ability to image, erase and re-image jobs — eliminating the time and expense of making and loading plates — results in significant productivity gains for the printer who uses new system. "The DICOweb is, as the name says, more of a digital changeover device than a press, since the pressroom earns its keep with more efficient changeovers," says Dr. Josef Schneider, the executive vice president in charge of DICOweb development for MAN Roland. The digital changeovers physically begin at the press’s on-board laser imaging heads, which were developed by Creo in cooperation with MAN Roland. Many of components that power Creo’s field-proven computer-to-plate technology are utilized here, enhancing the reliability and durability of the DICOweb. Switchable imaging resolutions of 1,800 dpi and 3,200 dpi can be dialed in. The precision laser bursts adhere a thermoplastic media onto the image-carrying cylinder, where it is fixed by a 30-second heat treatment. The result is a water-repelling surface that constitutes the printable image area. It’s durable enough to produce over 20,000 eight-page copies per hour, at the top run rate of over 11.4 feet/second, making DICOweb perfect for on demand commercial jobs for short-to-mid-size newspaper production. The press can handle longer runs as well, simply by reactivating the imaging process after every 20,000 impressions. DICOweb printers can choose from an extensive range of substrates. Virtually any material that can be rolled and spooled onto the press’s 12"-to-20" web width is a candidate for DICOweb printing. That versatility is being explored at Nussbaum Medien, which has tested a variety of inks and substrates on its DICOweb, with an eye toward possibly supplementing its newspaper work with commercial print projects in the future. Nussbaum has already gotten inquiries from companies that would like to feed him four-color digital work, but as of now, the community newspapers are keeping his DICOweb busy. The DICOweb is designed to be the ultimate in process integration, capable of handling a job from prepress, through printing, to complete postpress. But the Nussbaum Medien application shows how the plateless press can be a team player as well. The company is using DICOweb to print the four-color covers and outside signatures of its newspapers, marrying the results to inside signatures produced on its conventional two-color web presses. An Agfa Apogee Workflow system provides PDF files to either a platesetter, which feeds the conventional systems, or directly to the DICOweb, as appropriate. The resulting signatures are folded by the respective press’s integrated folders, then collated, trimmed and stitched on an offline saddle stitching system. For its newspaper work, Nussbaum Medien opted for a coldset version of DICOweb. For high quality commercial printers, the system can be upgraded to heatset production with an integrated dryer. Cutoff lengths can be adjusted by as much as 7.8 inches, simply by switching to different diameter sleeves on the image and blanket cylinders. More expansive format changes can be accomplished by changing the size of the cylinders themselves. DICOweb’s plateless design allowed MAN Roland engineers to incorporate many of the industry’s latest mechanical developments into the system. For instance, the press is powered by digitally controlled motors that drive its print units directly, eliminating the need for external shafts and gear trains. Also: DICOweb’s plate and blanket cylinders are crafted as tubular sleeves. That allows the pressman to change them quickly and easily. But more importantly, the advanced mechanical features improve printing performance. "With a seamless cylinder, you have eliminated from the device the greatest enemy of quality and speed, and the greatest limit on printing format — namely, vibration," Schneider says. DICOweb’s modular nature also helps preserve the printer’s investment in the system. Down the road, DICOweb-equipped plants will be able to switch to different print processes to better accommodate their customers’ needs.