MAN Roland One-Ups the Six-Up Sheetfed Category With Graph Expo Launch of the Roland 500 Perfector By Patrick Henry, WTT Executive Editor October 10, 2006 -- Four years ago, as a part of its coverage of Graph Expo 2002, WhatTheyThink profiled not a person but a press making its debut at the show: the Roland 500, a six-page sheetfed with the speed of a Maserati and an engineering pedigree as impressive as the exotic car’s. At the time, the 18,000-sph Roland 500 could lay claim to being the industry’s fastest sheetfed press, and its technical distinctions didn’t end there: it could print on anything from envelope stock to packaging cardboard, and it boasted what MAN Roland called a “new generation” of computerized electronics for monitoring and controlling press functions. The one attraction that the straight-printing Roland 500 lacked was the ability to print both sides of the sheet in the increasingly complex combinations of inks and coatings that “long” perfectors were making de rigueur for competitiveness in commercial work. The slot for a six-up perfector was filled by the two-side version of the Roland 300, but production of that series ceased two years ago. This left MAN Roland with only one multicolor perfector in its sheetfed portfolio: the two-two-side Roland 700, a machine built for the full-size (40") market. During Graph Expo 2006 next week, MAN Roland will demonstrate how it has closed the gap in six-up perfecting with an all-new convertible model of the Roland 500, a press unveiled at the IPEX show in England earlier this year. Last week, Jon Surch, MAN Roland’s USA’s vice president for sheetfed service operations, talked about what showgoers may find interesting as they appraise the press he called “the logical next step” in the company’s bid to retain preeminence in six-up sheetfed—a market that MAN Roland created and helped to popularize with the earlier Roland 300. Classy Chassis with Six Appeal The six-up format sometimes is called the three-quarter size because it splits the difference in pagination between four-page, 20" x 28" equipment and eight-page, 28" x 40" machines. MAN Roland and other makers of six-page presses target them at printers who want the productivity and versatility of a full-size press in a smaller, more affordable package. The first thing MAN Roland wants potential buyers to know about the 23.22" x 29.13" Roland 500 perfector is that it stands out as the only perfector in its category with a single-drum sheet turning system and double-diameter cylinders . Because the design scheme opted for space-saving single-drum perfecting and kept the double-size cylinders of the straight-printing Roland 500, the basic construction of both models is similar. The Roland 500 perfector is available in up to 10 units, plus coaters. According to Surch, the Roland 500 perfector has been in development for the last two years, including prototype testing at several beta sites. "One of the things we learned during prototype testing was that, contrary to our expectations, we could increase the maximum perfecting speed to 15,000 sph," he says. It had been assumed that the Roland 500’s top speed in two-side mode would be the same as the Roland 700’s at 13,000 sph, but testing showed that the smaller footprint of the half-size press made the higher running speed achievable. Pegging the Roland 500's perfecting speed to that of the 40" press was entirely logical, as both presses use the same sheet-turning technology. “We cloned the Roland 500’s single-drum perfecting mechanism from the Roland 700, a successful line with thousands of units installed worldwide,” says Surch. MAN Roland endorses the single-drum approach, in which a double-sized reversing drum equipped with interacting suckers and grippers sits between impression cylinders, as a mechanically simpler alternative to the three-drum systems favored by Heidelberg, KBA, and others. In such triple systems, a transfer drum sends the sheet to a storage drum that passes it to reversing drum for turnover. A single-drum perfecting device accomplishes the same thing by integrating all of the turning steps in one cylinder. MAN Roland believes that fewer moving parts and fewer sheet transfers make for smoother, less distortion-prone paper travel through the press. Flatter, Not Flutter Double-sizing the perfecting drum, the impression cylinders, and the “transferter” assemblies also serves to eliminate flutter and other unwanted sheet movement that can lead to marking and scratching. Making the perfecting and impression cylinders twice the diameter of the plate and blanket cylinders lets sheets lie as close to flat as possible during transfer from unit to unit. Single-size drums, in contrast, oblige the sheet to wrap all the way around, increasing the risk of sheet movement and marking. The transferters are cam-like revolvers that hand sheets off to the next set of cylinders entirely without contact on the wet side—an action that eliminates, Surch says, the need for anti-marking nets and similar expedients as the paper accumulates ink in its passage through the press. The transferter (center) moves the sheet without contact on the wet side. MAN Roland says that the flat sheet travel made possible by the double-diameter surfaces also enables the Roland 500 to print substrates as thick as 24 pt. on both sides at the top-end perfecting speed of 15,000 sph. In non-perfecting mode, the press can handle substrates from onionskin to 40 pt. stock at 18,000 sph. Another feature that protects print quality in the Roland 500 is the “7 o’clock” configuration of its cylinders, an arrangement in which the impression cylinder is positioned at a 7 o’clock angle to the blanket cylinder above. Besides keeping the sheet under uniform pressure during printing, the 7 o’clock geometry also assures that the whole of the sheet has been inked before it begins to move to the next printing unit. The idea, according to Surch, is to eliminate the bumps and jolts of cylinder rotation that can cause streaking and marking during ink laydown. Making sure that two-sided printing from the Roland 500 stays scratch- and mark-free also depends upon the performance of the components that guide the sheets into the delivery. Because a sheet printed on both sides is twice as vulnerable to surface damage as a sheet printed straight, extra care must be taken to give it a smooth ride to the delivery and onto the pile. The need for a gentle landing is even more pronounced in long perfectors with coating units and extended delivery sections. The Roland 500 does the trick with air pans, fully controllable by the operator and installed throughout the press. Air jets emanating from the pans support the sheets and cushion their landing in the delivery. In another borrowing from the Roland 700, the Roland 500 mounts an “InLineObserver”—a video camera—below the reversing drum to let the operator watch for signs of sheet movement or flutter. Unwanted movement can be countered by adjusting the flow of air from the pans underneath the perfector. Will Build To Suit The Roland 500 perfector can be ordered with up to 10 units, not counting coaters, and the perfecting device can be in any position. The press can integrate aqueous, UV, and any other type of coating available for full-size presses. It’s also possible to turn the Roland 500 into a hybrid press by adding a chamber doctor blade anilox unit for laying down flexo coatings after printing. MAN Roland’s Inline Foiler is not currently available for the Roland 500 perfector, although Surch indicates that this could change if sufficient demand for foiling with the press were to materialize. He says that MAN Roland expects demand for the press to be strong in the 5/5 long perfector configuration. The 4/2, six-color setup, widely used in commercial work, is another of the many possible formats the Roland 500 can take. The layout of the first Roland 500 perfector in North America is somewhat simpler. Worzalla, a full-service book manufacturer in Stevens Point, WI, became the earliest adopter by putting its Roland 500 into full operation about two weeks ago, having opted for a five-unit press for 4/1 perfecting or straight five-color work. The press, on which Worzalla will produce book covers and jackets, also has a UV-capable double-coating unit. Surch says that MAN Roland has booked several other North American orders for the Roland 500 perfector and expects these shipments to take place by the end of the year. Graph Expo, obviously, is a well-timed opportunity to drive additional sales. The press will not be at MAN Roland’s booth (3237) at McCormick Place, but it will not be far away or difficult to see. The machine will be put through its paces at MAN Roland’s nearby demonstration center in Westmont, IL, the destination of tours that will depart from McCormick Place hourly throughout the show. (Places can be reserved by signing up at the booth.) Surch says that visitors to Westmont will see the Roland 500 perfector running in both straight and two-side modes, with conversion between the two taking less than 90 seconds. The speedy changeover is one feature of MAN Roland's printnet system for press operating, networking and automation. The printnet technology lets straight or perfecting be specified as CIP4 data within an electronic job ticket that the operator can activate as desired. Once this has been done, conversion and setup are fully automatic. “That’s a good touch,” says Surch. He thinks it’s one of many touches that will leave showgoers convinced that a side trip to see the Roland 500 perfector was well worth the bus ride. Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at [email protected]