Open house for packaging printers at KBA in Radebeul
Monday, March 15, 2010
"XL or XXLplus?" was the question dominating the agenda of an open house targeting large format and packaging printers at the Radebeul facility of Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) on 11th March. Some 160 representatives of this market segment from ten European countries and the USA accepted the invitation to discuss the technical and economic implications of production in large format (XL) as opposed to superlarge format (XXLplus) in respect of prepress (Kodak), press (KBA) and postpress equipment (Bobst).
The undisputed star of the event was the highly automated Rapida 185 press (format 130 x 185 cm) with seven printing units, two coaters and three dryer towers built for the trade and media group Al Bayan in Saudi Arabia. This colossal press, measuring 33 m in length and weighing in at several hundred tonnes, was able to demonstrate its impressive potential printing on both solid and corrugated board. First, however, together with its slightly larger sister press Rapida 205 (151 x 205 cm), it pitted this performance against that of a six-colour Rapida 142 coater press in format 102 x 142 cm, as a typical configuration chosen by packaging printers, in a series of productivity and profitability comparisons.
After a brief welcome by Ralf Sammeck, KBA vice-president for sheetfed offset sales, the meeting got straight down to business. Mirroring the sequence of the production process, the floor was first given to Beatrice Lässig, unified workflow solutions sales manager at Kodak, who gave a presentation on the subject "Packaging prepress for large and superlarge formats – Automation makes the difference!" She showed that decisive foundations for the quality, production efficiency and profitability of packaging printing are already laid at the prepress stage. The large-format CtP systems from Kodak use thermal imaging and the company's SquareSpot technology to ensure process stability and consistent repeatability in plate-making. The Kodak Magnus VLF Quantum platesetter is able to serve all KBA large-format presses through to the Rapida 205. The modular, expandable systems, with their diversity of speed and automation options, can be tailored to the most varied productivity needs.
Kodak: CtP platesetters for all formats
The prepress workflow similarly acquires special importance for controlled and high-quality prepress and print production. The Prinergy Powerpack workflow system covers the full functionality of packaging prepress and provides for direct control of the different output devices (CtP, proofer, etc.). At the same time, the automation of the Prinergy workflow system guarantees efficient, error-free and streamlined prepress sequences. Digital hard and soft proof solutions with Kodak colour management supply colour-true results and thus a reliable preview of the final print. The possibilities here extend to include colour proofs with screening on the original production substrate, an option which is of particular relevance for packaging printers.
Modern thermal plates, such as the no-preheat Electra XD, the extremely high-resolution DITP or the Sword Ultra, which does without postbaking, satisfy the quality and performance demands of packaging printing with both conventionally dried and UV-cured inks. At IPEX 2010, Kodak will be launching a further innovation, the no-preheat thermal plate Trillian SP, which stands out by way of its low processing chemical use and high resistance to press chemistries.
Advantages for superlarge format with long runs
KBA head of marketing Jürgen Veil next presented a comprehensive comparison of the productivity and profitability of the large and superlarge formats from the perspective of an experienced practical user. On the basis of the individual manning requirements, labour costs, equipment features and makeready times of the three presses in question, namely a Rapida 142, a Rapida 185 and a Rapida 205, Jürgen Veil came to the conclusion that, assuming equivalent automation, the Rapida 205 requires approx. 10 minutes longer for a complete job changeover than the Rapida 142, above all due to the handling of the considerably larger dimensions. The differences in production speeds and in makeready and investment costs result in different hourly rates for the large and superlarge-format presses. With a high level of automation and for an average run length of 6,000 sheets, these rates vary from €438,- for a Rapida 142-6+L to €585,- for a Rapida 205-6+L.
At first sight, the comparisons of different run lengths up to 30,000 sheets seemed to indicate that, in view of their lower production speed (Rapida 185: 11,000 sph; Rapida 205: 9,000 sph) and longer makeready times, the two superlarge-format presses were clearly unable to match the sheet output of the Rapida 142 (max. 15,000 sph). The situation changes, on the other hand, if the production output is calculated in terms of sheet area or final products. A sheet in format 102 x 142 cm, for example, can accommodate 16 typical folding cartons. On a Rapida 185, this figure increases to 25, and on a Rapida 205 even to 36 products. Consequently, the production output of the Rapida 185 exceeds that of the Rapida 142 with an increasing tendency from a run length of 6,500 sheets. With a Rapida 205, this break-even point is already reached with an average run length of 5,000 sheets.
Further analyses, however, show that the production costs only fall below those of the Rapida 142 from a run length of 16,000 sheets for the Rapida 185, or 12,000 sheets for the Rapida 205. As these profitability thresholds may shift up or down significantly, depending on the individual job structure, a careful cost-benefit analysis is advisable in the forefront of corresponding investment projects.
Reducing non-productive makeready times
In the second part of his presentation, Jürgen Veil introduced the latest KBA solutions to reduce makeready times in large and superlarge format. One of these KBA innovations goes by the name CleanTronic Synchro. This two-beam washing system is able to wash the blankets and impression cylinders simultaneously, or alternatively to use both washing beams for blanket washing and thus halve the necessary washing time from four to two minutes. Even if only one washing cycle is planned per job, this adds up to an annual time saving of 185 hours. Experience shows that the blankets are usually washed after every 6,000 to 8,000 sheets. In this case, the time advantage increases to 257 hours, corresponding to a financial benefit of over €115,000. Fully automatic cleaning of the coating unit is another feature which soon pays off: Assuming 1,000 coating changes per year and a shortening of the cleaning time from three to two minutes, the annual time gain exceeds 130 hours. The situation is similar for coating forme changing. Thanks to the automation of the large and superlarge-format Rapidas, changes are completed in 2 or 2.5 minutes, respectively. Other presses of comparable format classes can here easily be occupied for up to eight minutes. On the basis of one coating forme change per job and a production output of 5,551 jobs per year, automated forme changing with SAPC is able to save 550 hours of makeready time and thus costs amounting to €246,850 on the Rapida 142. The savings on the superlarge-format presses are only marginally less.
Saving waste and energy
A recently published study quoted an average waste rate of 14 per cent for a typical print company. Various solution approaches were suggested and their influence on the waste rate was calculated. KBA has now taken these calculations as the basis on which to determine the cost-saving effects of its closed-loop quality monitoring systems. Through the use of QualiTronic ColorControl (inline colour measurement), QualiTronic (sheet inspection) and DensiTronic PDF (comparison of the printed sheet with the original PDF file), the waste rate can be reduced by 3.5 per cent, corresponding to a annual cost saving of €280,000.
The same applies to the subject of energy. Industrial electricity prices rose by 131 per cent between 1998 and 2009. A further increase by almost 100 per cent is expected for the period to 2030. It is thus an evident necessity to improve the energy efficiency of printing presses. KBA has decided to tackle the especially energy-intensive drying process. As a first outcome, the new dryer technology KBA VariDryBLUE provides for hot air which is not yet saturated to be returned into the drying air circuit. The heating input and waste air volume are reduced dramatically. A comparison of the energy efficiency of standard and KBA VariDryBLUE dryers revealed an energy saving of over 50 per cent and a reduction in CO2 emissions by over 116 tonnes per year – an important contribution to both economy and ecology in print. Over an investment period of seven years, the potential savings total almost €250,000.
Mayr-Melnhof: Large board formats are also manageable
Herbert Glatz, head of technical customer services at Mayr-Melnhof Karton, took the open house in Radebeul as an opportunity to explain the production process for coated board through to the completed stack. It remains a challenge to produce board in superlarge formats, but there are today already diverse possibilities to provide this format for the different grain directions. Between 2006 and 2009, there was a minor shift in sales volumes from format 6 to format 3b for duplex and triplex board and for liner. Deliveries in format 7, by contrast, increased slightly. Larger formats of these typical packaging materials have to date not been requested in any appreciable quantities.
Bobst: Die-cutters also available for the 2-metre format
"The future is large" was the title of the concluding presentation given by Sandro Gubinelli, marketing manager for sheetfed activities at Bobst, who was able to show that the conversion and finishing of packaging sheets up to a format of 210 x 130 cm is today technical normality. Automated die-cutters can be supplied to suit the format needs and typical applications of the most varied market segments. The large-format MASTERCUT series handles die-cutting up to close on the maximum format of the Rapida 205 and is thus aimed, for example, at the producers of transport and display packaging, corrugated board products and POS displays. Boasting outputs of 7,500 sph (MASTERCUT 1.7) or 7,000 sph (MASTERCUT 2.1), dynamic contact-free sheet registration with the Power Register system, a continuous feeder and extensive automation, they stand on a par with die-cutters for smaller formats in terms of technology. With the market leaders MASTERCUT 145 PER (9,500 sph) and SP 162 CER (7,000 sph), Sandro Gubinelli allowed a closer look at two highly productive solutions which are particularly popular in the food and consumer electronics segments for the processing of solid board and laminated micro-flute. Folder-gluers of the EXPERTFOLD and MASTERFOLD series complete the processing chain for very heavy substrates such as 2,000 gsm solid board or the whole spectrum of corrugated grades.
Sandro Gubinelli also provided some valuable information to aid investment decisions. He identified a series of calculation parameters and compared the productivity of the large-format machines MASTERCUT 145 PER, MASTERCUT 1.7 and MASTERCUT 2.1. The result was similar to that revealed in sheetfed offset print: While the largest machine took a clear lead by processing a sheet area of 27.5 million m², the MASTERCUT 1.7 was able to output around 1.1 million sheets more per year thanks to its faster speed. If we view annual performance by the number of sheets, on the other hand, the 20 million sheets per year of the MASTERCUT 145 PER means another 1.7 million sheets on top of what is achieved by the MASTERCUT 1.7. Sandro Gubinelli's summary: "Each user is different, the parameters are different and the needs are specific, and that is why we offer a large range of different products. The decision is yours!"
Demonstration on the largest sheetfed offset press in the world
Theory is all well and good. But there is nothing to beat a practical insight, and so the fitting culmination of the day was a print demonstration on the 12-unit Rapida 185 which had already served as an striking backdrop for the preceding presentations. With its seven printing units, double-coating facilities and three dryer towers, it may not be the longest press in the world, but it is by way of its sheer volume without doubt the largest sheetfed offset press ever built. Non-stop pile changing at the feeder and delivery, fully automatic FAPC plate changers, an ICS slitter, ErgoTronic ACR (video register), the colour measurement and control system DensiTronic professional and LogoTronic for networking with prepress are just a few of the elements of a comprehensive automation concept.
The Rapida 185 first printed a typical POS display for a brewery on F-flute board. Following a comprehensive job changeover, the press ran a City-Light poster with an all-over UV finish (primer in the first coater and solid UV coating in the second). After another job changeover – this time with an automated coating forme change completed in a mere two minutes – the Rapida went on to print a 25-up packaging forme for the food industry at maximum speed on a 210 gsm topliner. This sequence of very different jobs gave an impressive demonstration of the versatility of the superlarge-format Rapidas. The market segments posters, displays and book printing have always been strong domains, but further important fields of application can now be expected to follow in high-volume folding carton production and transport packaging for direct installation at the point of sale. There are seemingly no limits for the presses thanks to their exemplary substrate flexibility. Even so, the comparison production on a six-colour Rapida 142 with inline coating gave a clear indication that the established formats 6 and 7 will continue to predominate in packaging production overall.