KBA: 500th LF Rapida Destined for USA
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
May 13, 2003 -- KBA has notched up its 500th order for a large-format sheetfed press. The contract for an eight-colour Rapida 162 with coater, perfector after the first printing unit and a 3.9m (12’ 10”) delivery extension was placed by US print enterprise Graphic Packaging in Lumberton Robeson, North Carolina. Shipment is slated for August. The press will be mounted on a 420mm (16½”) plinth to accommodate a maximum pile height of 1.9m (74¾”) at the feeder and 1.8m (70¾”) at the delivery. When the big, automated Rapidas were launched at Drupa 1995 they reinvigorated a press format that had been in steady decline along with its outdated technology. Most of the first presses to roll off the production line were four- and five-colour versions for book printing. They were followed by packaging presses with as many as 12 printing or coating units and extended deliveries. The biggest installation to date – a 1,020mm x 1,420mm Rapida 142 shipped to US printer AGI Klearfold in Melrose Park, Illinois – is a formidable 37.5m (123’) long and boasts seven inking units, a perfector after the first printing unit, a coater, inter-unit dryer, additional coater and dryer, an eighth printing unit and a delivery extension. No other press manufacturer can supply multi-unit configurations such as these. And KBA is still the only manufacturer to offer automatic perfecting in formats up to 1,120mm x 1,620mm. Around 15 per cent of the big Rapidas shipped so far feature a perfector, usually after the first or second printing unit. In spring last year KBA unveiled the world’s first eight-colour LF perfector press, a Rapida 162a. Since then other versions have gone live in Germany, Belgium and the UK. Ongoing Advances in Technology The past seven years have brought continuous advances in the technology of the big Rapidas. Last year, for example, KBA introduced a new drive system for the feeder, comprising four dedicated servo motors for the various subassemblies (suction-belt feed table, sheet separator, main and auxiliary piles in nonstop mode). This shaftless drive system, which replaced mechanical elements, is unique to KBA sheetfed offset presses. One of its biggest advantage is that it eliminates jerking, so pile movement is much smoother, even during pile transfer in nonstop operation. The multiple washing system for the plate, blanket and impression cylinders has also been revamped and now cleans the plates ready for reusing once removed from the press. The washing unit is connected to a gearwheel and vertical toothed rack which enables it to be moved between the individual positions (plate cylinder, blanket cylinder, impression cylinder, park position) with much greater precision. The wheel and rack system also allows cloth feed to be controlled more accurately, so the cloth can be used more efficiently. The remaining cloth length and number of washing sequences still possible are displayed at the console, so cloth changes, which can be carried out by one person despite the cumbersome format, can be scheduled accordingly and waste cut to a minimum. The coater, too, has been redesigned to improve handling and access to the coating forme. Makeready for an automatic change of coating plates has been cut to two minutes. The Harris + Bruno LithoCoat doctoring system adopted a while ago throws the doctor-blade chamber onto the anilox roller using hydropneumatic pressure. Since it gentler than previous systems it prolongs the service life of the blades and rollers. Five positioning cylinders located at intervals across the blade width effectively counteract sagging, which enables the coating to be applied much more accurately and thus enhances quality. Some 40 per cent of all the large-format Rapidas shipped are configured with one or two coaters. Core Markets Central Europe and North America – Growth Market China More than 70 per cent of the LF Rapidas sold to date have gone to countries in the EU, with North America the second-biggest market. But sales to Asia, especially China, have been climbing steadily and last year accounted for 6 per cent of the total. The most popular models are the Rapida 162 and 162a, which generate over half the total volume of LF sales, followed by the 142 and the 130/130a. Now KBA is planning to shake up the superlarge market with its new Rapida 185 and 205. Three Rapida 205s and a Rapida 185 – among them a coater version and a press for direct offset on corrugated – have already been sold in Germany. A fourth Rapida 205 will come on stream soon in Switzerland.