If there's such a thing as a contrarian position at drupa, Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) owns it. The German press manufacturer is taking a generally conservative stance on some of the technological rallying-cries being heard at the show, preferring to steer a different course with a more restrained message about the fad-free fundamentals of good print manufacturing. The company also is making no secret of its wish to eclipse print craftsmanship with what it calls industrialized printing: an automated process dominated by presses so highly mechanized and self-regulating that they almost seem to be members of their own crews.

There is, however, nothing understated about KBA's presence on the drupa fairgrounds, where it occupies a bustling 37,000 sq. ft. stand in Hall 16. Here the company is attempting to show that if it cannot be the world's biggest maker of printing equipment, it can be the most innovative, with a display that includes six all-new presses or printing units boasting features as competitive as those found in any of the other halls where presses are on view. KBA is also eager to share information about presses that are not at the show but are in live operation at customer sites, five of which will be the destinations of KBA-hosted tours until drupa closes next week.

In his welcoming remarks at a May 7 media briefing, Albrecht Bolza-Schünemann, KBA president and CEO, struck a frank note when he said that he didn't expect drupa to draw as many visitors this year as it did in 2000. Nonetheless, he said, the event “comes at exactly the right time to promote our industry,” citing this year's richer mix of foreign visitors as one reason why the show would result in good exposure for KBA and other vendors.

Bolza-Schünemann said drupa 2004 would demonstrate that the era of print as an art is well and truly past. But, instead of joining the chorus of exhibitors calling digital workflows the preordained replacement for the lost art of print, he noted that other kinds of technical advances would be just as important to the medium's long-term survival. Although KBA's drupa product offerings feature networked production with JDF integration, Bolza-Schünemann declared that the JDF platformthe printing pressmust be just as capable as the workflow: It's no use adopting JDF and new business models if the underlying technology is outdated and labor-intensive.

Claus Bolza-Schünemann, deputy president, used KBA's experience in the newspaper press market as a lens through which to view the realities of workflow. KBA, he said, prefers an open-architecture system drawn from a large pool of providers to a single-source solution. There is no such thing as a single newspaper workflow, he said. It is a constellation of diverse individual systems that must be embedded in the production scenario and customized as a coordinated whole to form an all-digital process sequence.

Other trends were taken with a similar grain of salt by the KBA executives. Albrecht Bolza-Schünemann said, for example, that KBA sees “renewed interest in conventional presses for shorter runs now that the euphoria for digital printing has faded.” KBA's marketing manager, Klaus Schmidt, said that while on-press plate imaging—a KBA specialty in its Karat presses—might be fine for some applications, it is not a feasible approach for the fast-paced production of newspapers. ”The idea of changing the plates, and then imaging them on press cannot compare with offline computer-to-plate combined with high-speed automatic plate changing,” Schmidt said.

The best way to see what KBA sees as the true future of print is to visit its stand in Hall 16, which it has divided into six sections themed for sheetfed, prepress/JDF, newspaper, gravure, short-run, and commercial web offset operations. Also on view are specimens of products, processes, and applications developed with a long list of industry partners. We have not a Print City, but a world partnership of cooperating solution providers, said Albrecht Bolza-Schünemann, referring to a joint exhibit of networked equipment by more than 50 exhibitors in Hall 6.

Here are the new-product highlights from the KBA display. All except the Compacta 217 are sheetfed presses; all except the Genius 52 are equipped for JDF integration.

Genius 52
Scheduled for commercial availability after Graph Expo, the uniquely designed Genius 52 is a keyless, waterless s press built around a single impression cylinder. KBA says that the temperature controlled, ghosting-free inking units enable the press to come up to color with only a few sheets of start-up waste. The Genius 52 is billed as offering one-person operation with a small (9 meter) press footprint. Features include automatic plate infeed; automatic blanket washing (optional); and remote adjustment of circumferential and sidelay register. The press can accept both CTP and analog plates. A variant model produced by a new KBA subsidiary, Metronic UniverSYS, has a delivery extension and a UV package for film and plastic applications including smart cards.

On display along with the Genius 52 in the short run factory area of the KBA stand are the 46 Karat and 74 Karat direct imaging, waterless sheetfed presses. The 74 Karat is being displayed with a coater unit that enables it to print 3D lenticular images created with software from HumanEyes, a KBA technology partner.

Rapida 74
Configurable in up to 10 units, this fast (18,000 sph straight, 15,000 sph perfecting including 5/5) printing machine can handle substrates from standard 0.06 mm paper to optional 1 mm carton, plastic, and G-flute, according to KBA. Semi-automatic plate changing is standard; automatic is available as an option. Other performance options include coating, perforating, numbering, hybrid inking, and corona static elimination. Equipping the press with KBA's Gravuflow waterless inking units yields the model known as Rapida 74 G, capable, according to KBA, of high-quality printing after start-up waste of 10 sheets or fewer. The Rapida 74 G can handle a wide range of stock and is said to be ideal for costly substrates because of the uniformity of its print-to-print and job-to-job reproduction.

Rapida 105
Built for the highly competitive 40" market, the KBA Rapida 105 has a maximum rated output of18,000 sph; a motor-driven, shaftless feeder; and an optional sidelay-free infeed in which the lateral movement of the advance cylinder removes a speed barrier by eliminating the action of the side guide. Operators can preset and adjust all press functions from a new Windows-based console, says KBA. The machine can print stock from 0.06 mm paper to 1.2 mm board and may be equipped with the Qualitronic II inline sheet-inspection system; video register; Densitronic closed loop color control; and ink-temperature control for optimum print quality.

Also to be seen at the stand is the original Rapida 105: the Universal model launched in 1998 and still available in configurations of up to 14 printing units. According to KBA, the Rapida 105 Universal enjoys the distinction of being the world's longest B1 press (i.e., with a 40" sheet size) in its incarnation as the EffectPress at the Meinke printing establishment in Neuss near Düsseldorf. (Plant tours to Meinke depart the KBA stand daily at 3 p.m.)

Rapida 162
The KBA Rapida 162 is a size 7 (63") press with a maximum output of 14,000 sph and, says KBA, the makeready times of modern B1 presses. It is one of a new generation of Rapidasthe models 130, 130a, 142, 162, and 162aboasting new features and higher net output. The Rapida 162 offers 4/4 automatic perfecting and can be installed in configurations up to a 13-unit perfector with a choice of inline coating systems. Its substrate range extends from 0.04 mm paper to 1.6 mm E-flute. Like KBA's B1 machines, the Rapida 162 can be ordered with shaftless feeder; video register; automatic or semi-automatic plate changing; Logotronic computerized data exchange system; and Densitronic closed loop color control.

Rapida 205 (printing unit)
All aboard the KBA tour bus to see what the company calls the world's biggest sheetfed offset press, the superlarge Rapida 205, in action at the teNeues printing house in Kempen. Those preferring not to leave Messe Düsseldorf may inspect a unit of this 2050 mm x 1510 mm (80.71" x 59.44") Hummer among sheetfeds at the KBA stand. KBA says that the Rapida 205 offers the same features and automation level as its B1 equipment. Built for printing books, posters, displays, and packaging, the 9,000 sph Rapida 205 comes in a special-format (77.16" x 57.08") 205-4 P model consisting of four printing units plus perforator; a dual-purpose washing system; automatic plate changing; nonstop delivery; automatic register control; the Logotronic and Densitronic controls; and a slitter. (This is the configuration installed at teNeues.)

Compacta 217
KBA makes lithographic web presses in 10 sizes for newspaper, publication, and commercial applications. Carrying the flag for the company's web capabilities at drupa is the new Compacta 217, a16-page commercial web press with a maximum output of 70,000 copies per hour. Extensively automated to minimize makeready time, the Compacta 217 on display in Hall 16 showcases advances such as minigaps on plate and blanket cylinders; Drivetronic shaftless drives; perfect imprinting with standard printing units; automated gripper and pin folders; automatic plate changing; and automated web tension control. With cutter, the Compacta 217 can handle a maximum stock weight of 250 gsm (94-lb. cover).

Other web equipment being promoted by KBA at drupa either in plant visits or in technical discussions are the new Prisma 4/1, 75,000 cph, compact press; the waterless, keyless, and compact Cortina 6/2 Commander for newspaper printing; and the super-wide TR12B gravure press, running at 3,150 fpm for an output of 8.2 million A4 (8.27" x 11.69") pages per hour.