Much of the activity at KBA’s stand in Hall 16 at drupa will center upon packaging, an application underlying the design of several pieces of press equipment that the company intends to spotlight at the show. KBA has always claimed a competitive edge in printing on paperboard, and at drupa, it will reassert the claim with systems it describes as engineered to meet today’s highest-priority requirements in packaging production. 

Last week, Chris Travis, KBA’s director of technology, and Eric Frank, vice president of marketing, spoke with WhatTheyThink about packaging and the solutions that KBA offers package producers in its large-format Rapida sheetfed offset presses. KBA customers, they say, have a number of trends to keep up with as the technical demands of package printing change: 

• There is a general need for greater efficiency in turnaround time, press automation, and waste reduction.

• The bar for quality control in pharmaceutical packaging and other critical applications has never been higher.

• The packaging market’s expectations for “green” and sustainable production also are intensifying.

• Logistics systems for moving large quantities of paper to and from press-side are becoming must-have production assets, as are inline capabilities such as inkjet imprinting.

KBA sells presses, inline and peripheral equipment, and software to address all of these requirements, say Travis and Frank.

The Prowess of Long Perfectors

The configurability of Rapida long perfectors is one key to their high efficiency in packaging environments, according to Travis. Among the examples he cites is CardPak, a packaging producer in Solon, OH, which operates its10-unit Rapida 106 both in straight mode (10/0) and as a perfector (9/1) to achieve a variety of high-end effects. 

At its U.S. plant in Dallas, TX, Cartamundi, a producer of gaming and collectible cards, has two unique versions of the 41" Rapida 106, including a 14-unit perfector consisting of five printing units, a coater, and two dryer towers before the perfecting unit, followed by a five more printing units, a second coater, and an extended delivery. The coater in the middle of the press, says Travis, can be used to lay down opaque whites, metallic golds, and other specialty fluids for whatever unique combination of effects the job calls for.

Coaters on KBA packaging presses, says Travis, aren’t being used solely for that purpose anymore: customers are finding them equally suitable for depositing thick ink films for colors that can be hard to get right on the dedicated printing units. Register control in the coating units keeps the coverage precise. The Rapida 106, Travis says, also can be ordered with a “revolver” coater that rotates three anilox rollers on and off impression as desired, while the press is running.

At drupa, KBA will display a four-color and a five-color Rapida 106, each with coating capability. Also prominent in the stand’s packaging exhibit will be the new Rapida 145, to be seen in a six-color configuration with a new coater, a triple-length extended delivery, a three-drum perfecting mechanism, and automated pile logistics.

Sleeves and Synchronization

Travis says that the 57'' Rapida 145 can be configured in a way that will have special appeal for packaging producers who want a hybrid printing solution combining offset lithography and flexography. Doing this kind of printing typically means having a chambered anilox roller as one unit of the press. But on a hybridized Rapida 145, the heavy roller is replaced by a lightweight, removable anilox cylinder sleeve that's considerably easier to work with. It can be put on or taken off, Travis says, in about three minutes—while the press is running.

Process synchronization is another efficiency-boosting feature of KBA packaging presses, says Frank. With this option, Rapidas in formats of 41" and up can perform cylinder, roller, and blanket washing simultaneously instead of sequentially, at the same that auto-plate changing is taking place. In this way, says Frank, the synchronization essentially eliminates the time that a standard press would need for washup, accelerating makeready and improving job throughput.

During the press run, the solution for automated quality control in KBA packaging presses is QualiTronic, the company’s inline sheet inspection system. Reproduction standards for branded packages are exacting. QualiTronic upholds them, says Frank, by continuously comparing color data—captured from each printed sheet in real time by an on-board camera—against values in a master reference sheet. Ink density readings and other measurements can be used as the basis for closed-loop control of the ink key settings, bringing color up to target values quickly and keeping it within those parameters for the duration of the run.

QualiTronic technology also enables the new inkjet imprinting capability that KBA will demonstrate on a 41" Rapida 105 at drupa. This fully inline solution, says Frank, can function in two ways: either as an imprinter of bar codes, QR codes, logos, and other custom images; or as an error-detection system that tags bad prints for automatic ejection by the press.

QualiTronic Mark ID runs the inkjet unit as a code and logo printer. QualiTronic Mark designates an entire sheet for ejection, while QualiTronic Mark Plus narrows the tagging to a specific misprint within the sheet—for instance, one out-of-spec packaging form in a layout that also contains useable blanks.

Package printing naturally is energy-intensive: the presses are large, the runs are long, and the power consumption is proportionately high. KBA offers a way to lower the energy profile in package production with VariDryBLUE, a drying solution available on Rapidas in formats of 41" and up. 

Installed on a Rapida with a triple-extension delivery, VariDryBLUE captures heat from the hot-air dryers in the first two end-of-press modules and reuses it to complete sheet drying in the third. The result, says Frank, is a cut of up to 50% in heat consumption, along with the energy savings and lowered carbon emission that such a reduction makes possible.

Streamlined Skid Transport

Material handling comes into play at two stages: when the unprinted sheets are brought to the press for loading into the delivery; and, after printing, when the packaging forms must be taken out of the pressroom for diecutting, folding, and other post-processing steps. KBA streamlines the chore of moving large skids of heavyweight paperboard with PIleTronic logistics, a system that uses software and semi-automated pallet transport and handling equipment to make the movement of paper non-stop. Having this capability has become a key trend as press speeds increase, Travis says.

KBA has other packaging solutions besides the Rapida presses. Its Genius 52UV, which will be displayed at drupa, is a B3 (14.2" x 20.47") waterless printing platform for label and packaging applications in film, board, and paper. Debuting close to it at the KBA stand will be the Varius 80, a variable-format UV web offset press for printing flexible packaging in short and medium runs. Operating without ink keys or a dampening unit, the Varius 80 prints flexible materials in formats up to 34" wide and can come up to color, according to KBA, after just 100 meters of start-up waste.

As one medium that can’t be made obsolete by the Internet, packaging comes closer to being recession-proof than any other print market application. Package printing also has technologies and workflows that set it apart from other forms of print manufacturing. KBA’s stand at drupa promises to offer visitors a comprehensive overview of both the differences and the opportunities.