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KBA unveils flying job changes for sheetfed offset

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Press release from the issuing company

The sheetfed offset experts from Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) have never been ones to rest on their laurels, and so it was scarcely surprising that they should have yet another world premiere behind the curtains for an open-house at AZ Druck und Datentechnik in Kempten on 24th July. The banner resplendent above the high-tech medium-format Rapida 106 read “Goodbye to pit-stops!” – and the revolutionary innovation from KBA bears the exciting name “Flying JobChange”.  
Some 40 decision-makers from European print companies were determined to be among the first to witness this revolution. With KBA Flying JobChange, the job changeover time in sheetfed offset dissolves practically to zero. And even ultra-short runs can thus be handled with an efficiency very close to that of digital print, but without compromising the clear benefits of an offset press, such as higher output, better print quality and a greater substrate and format flexibility.

It all began several years ago with FAPC for fully automatic plate changes within three minutes (or twice that time on a perfector press). In 2007, the direct plate cylinder drive technology DriveTronic SPC reduced this figure to just one minute thanks to simultaneous plate changing (irrespective of the individual press configuration), and now KBA has topped itself yet again with Flying JobChange for essentially instant job switching within just a few seconds, confirming once more its reputation as the trendsetter for modern sheetfed offset printing. With Flying JobChange, the flying plate change facilities known from web presses are transferred into sheetfed offset and permit an almost continuous production process.  

Productivity leap through parallel printing and makeready  

As typical runs become shorter and shorter, the economic significance of production efficiency is shifted ever more prominently into the foreground. The technical prerequisites for this latest productivity leap are DriveTronic SPC direct drives for the plate cylinders, exact pre-registration of the plates during changes with DriveTronic Plate-Ident, a few small hardware and software modifications, and naturally sufficient free printing units to enable automated makeready parallel to the current production. This has already been daily practice at AZ Druck und Datentechnik in Kempten for several months. The company's four-colour Rapida 106 perfector can also be used to print single-colour operating manuals in 1/1 perfecting. While production is running on units 1 and 3, the plates can be mounted and makeready completed on units 2 and 4. As soon as the specified run length is reached, the “Print Clean” function is activated automatically to clean off the blankets with a series of approx. 20 sheets. The operator then presses the button to throw the impression on in units 2 and 4, and production continues with the next job without further interruption. Subsequently, the next round of makeready can be initiated on the first and third units ready for the next job change.

Günther Hartmann, managing director of AZ Druck und Datentechnik, and Ralf Sammeck, KBA vice-president for sheetfed sales, welcomed the guests to the open house in Kempten. KBA's head of sheetfed offset marketing Jürgen Veil then gave a presentation on the cost-benefit aspects of automation solutions for makeready savings. Taking the example of the makeready world champion press KBA Rapida 106, he illustrated the enormous time and cost savings achieved with individual and especially the full package of automation modules compared not only to conventional presses without simultaneous functions, but also to those of the so-called “peak performance class”.

KBA DriveTronic family sets the standard in sheetfed offset

When it comes to modern drive technology and automation, KBA has been setting the standards for sheetfed presses with its comprehensive DriveTronic concept. The automation and parallel implementation of the processes necessary for job changeovers stretches from the full preset functionality of the DriveTronic Feeder, via automatic setting of the feed line with DriveTronic Infeed, the elimination of all manual intervention with the sidelay-free infeed DriveTronic SIS, simultaneous plate changing with DriveTronic SPC, and automatic pre-registration and verification of the assignment of plates to printing units with DriveTronic Plate Ident, through to parallel washing of the blankets, impression cylinders and ink rollers with CleanTronic Synchro. The time for a complete job changeover – including washing – can in this way be reduced to appreciably less than ten minutes, even without KBA Flying JobChange. Further functions such as automatic suction ring positioning ASP or ErgoTronic ACR for automated register corrections are similarly geared to enhancing ease of operation and productivity.  
Fast and reliable – the new KBA AirTronic delivery

Comparisons of a fully equipped Rapida 106 SPC and a 3b press with less extensive automation (both with eight units for 4 over 4 perfecting) show that for average run lengths of 3,500 sheets, the SPC press is able to print up to 3,647 more jobs per year, or in other words almost 12.8 million sheets. Despite the higher initial investment for the KBA Rapida 106 SPC, the payback period is around 14 months shorter than that of the less-automated press. A live demonstration with several job changes gave the industry representatives gathered in Kempten the opportunity to gain a first-hand impression of the effectiveness of the described automation modules on an eight-colour Rapida 106. The press was seen producing a customer magazine for the local motorsport company Abt Sportsline, a sophisticated commercial job comprising several signatures, on 115 gsm paper at the maximum perfecting speed of 15,000 sph. The new AirTronic delivery, which was also being shown to the trade public for the first time, was here able to excel with absolutely precise pile formation even with light substrates running at high production speeds. In this way, full-colour production on the Rapida 106 is also exceptionally fast and reliable when perfecting with sensitive materials.  
The spotlight of the day's event, however, was placed on the facility for flying job changes on the four-colour Rapida 106 perfector, which was presented by KBA product manager Jens Baumann. His efficiency analyses underlined the economic potential of this revolutionary automation feature for many everyday applications.

Twice as many jobs in the same time
For the demonstration, the Rapida 106-4 SW2 in Kempten printed a non-stop succession of five 1/1 book jobs with run lengths of just 800 sheets each on 90 gsm offset paper. The plates for each new job were changed “on the fly” at 10,000 sph (= quick-start speed) and the press then accelerated straight back to its production speed of 15,000 sph. It was not necessary to actually stop the press, and the production of the five jobs was already completed after just 17 minutes.
The ability to produce without interruption enables a four-colour Rapida 106 perfector with Flying JobChange to complete six jobs in the time which a two-colour press without Flying JobChange would require for three (see Fig. 2). Over a sequence of short-run jobs, therefore, the four-colour press with Flying JobChange returns 100% higher net performance, though the investment outlay is naturally not double that of the two-colour press. By way of process and work centre cost calculations, Jens Baumann showed that, depending on the individual hourly rates to be applied, flying job changes are particularly effective from an economic point of view for run lengths up to 1,800 sheets.  

Interesting business models with Flying JobChange

Flying JobChange, however, is not only a meaningful alternative for 1/1 production on a four-colour press. Another interesting possibility is that of multiple language versions on a six-colour Rapida 106, with the process colours for the layout and images on the first four printing units, followed by imprinting of the different languages for the text on the fifth and sixth units. Flying JobChange is equally productive for the handling of four and five-colour jobs on long perfectors. On an eight-colour press, for example, one four-colour job can be printed on units 1 to 4, while the next job is set up on units 5 to 8. Once the required number of sheets is reached, production can switch directly to the next job on the other half of the press. The first four units are then free to prepare the subsequent production. This technology is especially suitable for medium run lengths. And it goes without saying, that all these presses can still be used without restriction for standard four, eight or ten-colour straight printing and for 2/2, 4/4 or 5/5 perfecting. With Flying JobChange in combination with DriveTronic SPC and DriveTronic Plate-Ident, however, the range of production options is extended enormously, and for users with a corresponding job structure may be the ideal means to stay that one important step ahead of the competition.  




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