We wrap up our portion of WhatTheyThink’s coverage of Graph Expo 2008 with a roundup of selected product news from the principal offset press manufacturers. (Coverage of Heidelberg, Komori, manroland, and Muller Martini appeared in an earlier story posted during the show.) Also included is a recap of a show conversation with a dealer of used equipment, along with a few items of interest from ink vendors.

Although a Graph Expo that takes place between a drupa in one year and a Print show in the next is always overshadowed by the bigger events on either side of it, Graph Expo 2008 was newsworthy in its own right from start to finish. There were plenty of new technological tires to kick, an abundance of profit-enhancing opportunities to consider, and a slew of the industry’s best brains to pick. All in all, it was a solid and satisfying show—well worth the shoe leather of everyone who tramped its aisles in search of answers.

Spinning the cylinders: trends in offset litho

Goss International, a web press manufacturer that typically does not bring fully assembled equipment to the sheetfed-focused Graph Expo and Print shows, ran a video presentation on a web press that it is marketing as a sheetfed alternative: the Folia system, consisting of a Goss M-600 web press and a specially designed sheeter. The Folia system, seen in debut at drupa, is said to be capable of producing up to 30,000 27.5" x 40" sheets per hour. Goss says that the sheeter permits web printing on coated stocks with standard sheetfed inks, but without a dryer. The Folia system will be available with automatic plate changing, digital inking control, closed-loop color management, and other features associated with high-end sheetfed printing.

Holger Garbrecht, president and CEO of KBA North America, used a media briefing to talk about the company’s impending transfer from Williston, VT, to Dallas, TX, a move scheduled to be complete by the end of next August. All of KBA’s sheetfed and web operations will be consolidated in Dallas, said Garbrecht, adding that the new site will feature a “completely green” customer center for press demonstrations, training, and other activities. The nearness of the new facility to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport hub also is expected to be a significant logistical improvement over the somewhat out-of-the-way location of the Vermont site.

These days, KBA limits its press footprint at North American trade shows to the Genius 52 UV, a small-format (14.2" x 20.47") waterless UV sheetfed offset press that can print in four or five colors on paper, board, plastics, and specialty substrates including lenticular, PVC, styrene, polyethylene, and static-cling vinyl The press now is available with a dedicated coating unit. KBA also manufactures some of the world’s largest and fastest sheetfeds, which it promoted at Graph Expo without physically displaying them. These include the 81” Rapida 205, two of which have been installed at Edison Litho in Edison, NJ; and the 18,000-sph Rapida 106, scheduled to be shipped to another New Jersey printer, UNIMAC Graphics of Carlstadt, by the end of the month.

Another specialist in high-speed sheetfed printing is Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses, which introduced what it said were the world’s fastest perfectors—the 16,200-sph Diamond 3000VT and Diamond V3000TP—at drupa earlier this year. Those presses weren’t at Graph Expo, but the third member of the Diamond V3000 series, the 16,200-sph V3000LX, debuted there in live operation with six printing units, a tower coater, and an extended delivery.

The 29 1/2" x 41 11/32" V3000LX also was equipped with SimulChanger, an automated system for simultaneous plate changes, and Diamond Color Navigator, a new color adjustment interface. SimulChanger, says Mitsubishi, can change plates on all press units at once in just over a minute. Diamond Color Navigator is said to enable operators to automatically adjust colors on press for color proof matching without complicated ink key tweaking.

The UV option that Presstek demonstrated on its Presstek 52DI digital offset press also is available for the Presstek 34DI. The Presstek 52DI is a landscape press with a maximum sheet size of 20.47" x 14.17". The Presstek 34DI offers a portrait format with a maximum sheet size of 13.39" x 18.11". Both feature on-press plate imaging in a waterless printing process that Presstek positions as an economical solution for run lengths from 250 to 20,000 copies.

The company is covering its bases in ultra-short-run, personalized printing by offering to bundle the bizhub PRO C6501 color production print system from Konica Minolta with Presstek DI presses. The idea is to give Presstek customers a solution for versioning that uses the Konica Minolta product to variably overprint static content produced on a Presstek DI press.

Sakurai showed the Sakurai 466SDC, a 20" x 26" press in four colors plus coater; and the 23 5/8" x 31" Sakurai 575SDC in five colors plus coater. Also featured was the Maestro MS-102AII, a cylinder screen press with a 29 1/2" x 41 5/16" sheet size. Promoted (although not displayed) was Sakurai's 96 series of 16-page, four- to six-color offset presses in a 25" x 38" sheet size. Sakurai claims to be only press manufacturer to offer a series in this format, which it says was the standard 16-page size among North American press suppliers before all press manufacturing went offshore in the 1970s.

At the xpedx stand, the spotlight was on a new six-up perfector from Ryobi, a Japanese press manufacturer represented exclusively in the U.S. by xpedx. Ryobi is well known for its small-format presses, but it lately has been broadening its portfolio with equipment in larger sizes. In live operation throughout Graph Expo was the 23” x 31” RYOBI 7510P, a 10-color perfector press with UV coating and UV interdeck drying. Running at up to 15,000 sph, the press features a three-drum convertible perfecting device with a double-diameter transfer drum. xpedx is depicting the advantage of the 7510’s six-up configuration in two ways: as a comparably priced but more productive alternative to four-up presses; and as a platform that nearly matches the output of eight-up presses while costing less.

During Graph Expo, xpedx also discussed a full-sized Ryobi platform that it expects to introduce in the U.S. next year: the RYOBI 1050 series, to be offered in four, five or six colors with speeds up to 16,000 sheets sph. It can feed stock up to 42.72" x 30.71" and will be available in two types: S, with a printing area of 41.34" x 27.95"; and XL, for 41.34" x 30.31". Ryobi also is developing an 18,000 sph model.

Act II for pre-owned presses

Used equipment doesn’t get much play at Graph Expo, which naturally is geared to new technologies and applications. But behind the scenes, the show always serves as a bustling trading post for pre-owned iron. This year’s event kept up the tradition as no fewer than 11 exhibitors listed themselves as dealers or brokers of used machinery.

One of the dealers was PressAccess, a four-year-old business that sold and installed more than 50 used presses last year. Its president and founder, Clyde B. Tillman, said that those who know what to look for in used equipment can find some real bargains in a market well supplied with undervalued presses that still have millions of good impressions left in them.

Matching printers with these pre-owned gems is the main mission of PressAccess, which employs its own staff of technicians to inspect, dismantle, and reinstall the sheetfed presses that move through its inventory. PressAccess also offers post-installation training and an extended 12-month warranty—a comprehensive security blanket that Tillman says is unprecedented in the used-press market.

Most of the machines that PressAccess handles are Heidelbergs. The company typically doesn’t install presses that are more than 10 years old in the U.S., according to Tillman, who once managed Heidelberg’s remarketed equipment business. These aged warhorses usually go to South America and China.

The used equipment trade in the U.S. has been dealing with what Tillman calls an “artificial reduction” in price ever since the market disruption following 9/11, which led to an oversupply of pre-owned printing machinery that is only now being eliminated. Once, a three- or four-year old press in good condition might have sold for 25% off its original price. Today, says Tillman, some buyers unrealistically expect a 50% discount—an indication that the price relationship between new and used equipment still has some settling down to do.

Tillman thinks that the real action at present is in eight- and 10-unit sheetfeds like those in Heidelberg’s Speedmaster SM 102 series. “Used long perfectors are the best bargains in the marketplace right now,” he says, adding that some of these high-output presses are selling for considerably less than what they would have cost new. But he cautions that no used press is better than the care that has been taken of it—a factor that PressAccess specializes in evaluating.

Before taking a used press—even one that is just out of warranty—into its inventory, PressAccess subjects it to a rigorous inspection designed to root out and correct any problems that the original owner may have missed or ignored. Tillman thinks that while there is more emphasis on good maintenance than there used to be, many printers could be taking better care of the presses that they hope to sell or trade one day. When one badly maintained press slips into the market, he points out, it can depress the value of all other presses of that type.

PressAccess, which is based in Cumming, GA, also sells used postpress machinery and offers a variety of equipment support services. At Graph Expo, it ran a show special on its blanket wash program—a service that ultrasonically cleans and re-optimizes blanket wash units within 24 hours (not counting shipping time to and from PressAccess).

Tillman stresses the importance of properly functioning blanket wash units both to print quality and to pressroom efficiency. He says that no busy plant can afford to waste time in manually wiping blankets that have been poorly cleansed by a dirty, ink-caked blanket wash unit.

A few drops of ink

Speaking of inks and coatings, while there were some notable absences from that category of exhibitors this year, Graph Expo did contain products of interest related to press fluids.

INX International launched two environmentally friendly product lines: EcoPure HPJ Soy premium quality inks and EcoTech process color inks. It also displayed the SPEC RTP3000 ink mixing and dispensing machine built by Southeastern Process Equipment & Controls Inc.

The do-it-yourself device gives printers and in-plants without vendor-managed ink departments their own solution for blending paste inks in 1-lb. to 10-lb. batches. In its cabinet is a computer controlled, 18-canister carousel from which ingredients for the ink recipe can be drawn in extremely small increments to assure precise formulation. INX says that any paste ink of high viscosity can be compounded in minutes at up to 50% less cost than preblended inks purchased outside, including standard sheetfed, UV, and hybrid varieties.

INX, which will offer installation of the RTP3000 in ink setup proposals to its customers, says that the device is ideal for environments with spot-color workloads on eight- 10-, and 12-unit presses. Designed for simplified operation by pressroom personnel, the RTP3000 has software-driven management functions including ink formula storage and internal inventory control.

Toyo Ink was represented not only in its own booth but at the stands of press makers Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses, Screen (USA), Presstek, Shinohara USA, and Halm Industries, all of which used Toyo products in live printing demonstrations. Toyo inks also were part of offsite printing demonstrations by manroland at its Westmont, IL, tech center.

Toyo brought samples of almost everything it produces to Graph Expo, including specialty fluids such as electrically conductive silver paste inks for RFID tags and similar applications. Newly added to its enhanced-gamut Kaleido Ink series is a UV formulation that, like the rest of the Kaleido Ink line, is said to bring the printable CMYK gamut close to the full Adobe RGB gamut. This means, according to Toyo, that Kaleido process inks can achieve a range of color that approximates six- or seven-color printing and matches almost exactly the output of inkjet printers and high-end direct digital color proofers.

Van Son Holland Ink Corporation made news during and after Graph Expo with a staggered pair of product introductions. At the show, Van Son presented Vs3 XS inks, which it described as a “more robust” version of the existing Vs3 ink line. Benefits of Vs3 XS were said to include a stronger pigment range, faster setting and drying, and improved stability for 4/4 perfecting. On October 30, Van Son followed up by announcing the launch of the waterless Vs4 ink line, which it described as compatible with all waterless plates and presses. These inks are said to have the industry's widest critical tone temperature range, enabling them to resist toning and mottling from 63?F to 97?F.

Visitors to the Van Son booth could pick up complimentary copies of the Van Son Printer’s Digest, an extremely helpful pocket reference guide to ink characteristics, printing techniques, color matching issues, and the Van Son product line. Copies can be obtained at no cost by sending a request on company letterhead to Van Son Holland Ink Corp., 185 Oval Drive, Islandia, NY 11749. A PDF version can be downloaded from the Graphic Communication Central information archive at Virginia Tech.