KBA Continues to Hold Global Large Format Position
Press release from the issuing company
JAN 31, 2007 -- KBA North America, a leading press manufacturer based in Williston, Vt., is continuing to hold its global position as the leader in Large Format presses. Its wide range of LF presses—from 51-inch up to 81-inch, and its decades of experience has placed the firm atop the list of manufacturers who can offer printers of commercial, books, displays, posters and packaging customized LF presses with technology that is second to none.
Technological advances revive demand
When did this leadership position start? At Drupa 1995, KBA’s launch of large-format Rapida presses heralded a quantum leap in makeready, automation, manning, ease of operation and net output, closing the quality gap to medium format even though the sheets are three to four times as big. Many of KBA’s competitors dismissed large format as a niche application that was all but extinct. They could not have been more mistaken. KBA not only increased its market share in core applications, such as packaging and book printing, but moved into the commercial market too. By Drupa 2004 KBA’s new superlarge-format models attracted a raft of orders from poster printers, whose run lengths are typically ultra-short, as well as from book printers and commercial printers, who were typically running only 40” presses up to that point.
Commercial printers are drawn to the large format size because a large-format sheet can accommodate 32, 48 or even 64 pages, as opposed to just 16 on a 41-inch sheet. Packaging printers are also exploiting the dramatic efficiency gains that large format can deliver: depending on the size of the packaging, where three blanks would fit on a 41-inch sheet, a Rapida 142 or Rapida 162 can print as many as eight. As an added bonus, LF printers can offer their customers the added-value benefit of single-source production, i.e. of commercials or packaging plus associated posters or displays.
Some 900 large-format Rapidas in just over 10 years
Since Drupa 1995 KBA has shipped almost 900 LF presses with a total of around 7,000 printing units. The most popular choice is the Rapida 162 (340 installations), closely followed by the Rapida 142 (320), which is a favorite among packaging printers and, increasingly, among commercial printers by virtue of the fact that the print format is twice that of a 41-inch press. Over the past three years these have been joined by shipments of some 40 VLF Rapida 185 and 205 presses. Presses shipped between 1995 and 2000 averaged five printing and coating units, but this has since increased to six as the market has evolved. And while there is still a demand for simple four- and five-color presses, there has been a noticeable shift towards presses with ten or more printing, coating and drying units, a high level of automation and all the attendant whistles and bells.
Many printers are choosing the LF size. Edison Litho & Printing, one of the largest large-format litho printers in the Northeast, has agreed to purchase its second KBA large format press in less than two years. Edison will be taking delivery of a Rapida 162 64-inch six-color sheetfed press with aqueous coater in January 2007, nearly two years after the firm installed its Rapida 205 81-inch six-color sheetfed press.
The new Rapida 162 64-inch six-color press, while still a large-format model, provides a different set of features from the Rapida 205 that gives Edison Litho further flexibility. “On the new press, we can use smaller sheet sizes and still be competitive yet flexible for our customers,” says Joe Ostreicher, Edison Litho’s vice president. “The Rapida 162 prints a minimum sheet size of 25 x 38-inches allowing us to be competitive on any 40-inch job. But the Rapida 162 offers the same high quality and the same high degree of automation such as auto plate changing, as the Rapida 205. We contemplated other press sizes but we agreed that the Rapida 162 64-inch press would give our customers the best printed sheet available.”
Unique to KBA: VLF perfectors
KBA is the only press manufacturer in the global marketplace whose product range extends to convertible eight-color perfector presses for sheet sizes up to 64 in. At present these big perfectors are mainly used to print calendars, textbooks and color picture books, but no doubt they will soon be adding commercial publications, as sheetfed printers follow the lead of their web press counterparts in shifting to high-volume print production. By way of a bonus, KBA large-format sheetfed presses can handle a wider range of substrates than other manufacturers presses and and can handle a wider range of page sizes than web presses.
KBA unveiled the first Rapida 162 eight-color perfector in 2002, ten years after 40-inch presses were furnished with this capability. For book printers, in particular, it is far more cost-effective to perfect print twice the number of pages in one pass. Apart from the time saving, this cuts the number of pages per book and the amount of interim storage space required. Large-format guillotines in the finishing department cut the sheets down to 40-inch so that they can be handled by standard 40-inch equipment.
Approximately 15% of all big Rapidas have a perfecting capability, and for folding cartons or other special applications the configuration of choice is five or six colors or more with perfecting after the first or second printing unit. This supports one-pass production, say, of blister packs with operating instructions on the back or folding cartons with assembly instructions or recipes etc on the inside.
Customized Configurations and high-grade inline coating
Inline coating is another application where large format can hold its own against medium format, and one or more coaters feature in roughly half the installed base of LF Rapidas. The traditional five colors plus coater plus extended delivery no longer dominate: configurations now include two coaters, a perfector and coater, and additional printing units after the coater. The longest large-format press line currently in existence is probably a Rapida 142 at Anzpac. Over 131ft in length, the 13-unit press is configured as two colors, a coater and convertible perfector followed by six more colors, a second coater, two interdeck dryers, a third coater and extended delivery. This press illustrates KBA’s unique level of know-how in engineering complex press lines for specific applications.
Two-coater KBA presses with six or seven colors have become a mainstream configuration, even in large format, and can be found at a string of printshops stretching from the US, Russia and Germany to France. Providing customized automation systems for pile logistics at the feeder and delivery on individual or multiple packaging presses is no novelty for KBA, which has also started installing pallet-free logistics systems. Where thick substrates like cartonboard or corrugated are printed, such systems can raise productivity without requiring additional personnel.
The big Rapidas are even suitable for UV and hybrid production on sensitive substrates. For the past twelve years KBA’s subsidiary Bauer+Kunzi (now KBA-MetalPrint) has based its metal-decorating presses on Rapida units. Here, too, the number of printing units per press line has increased over the years from two to five or six. The longest installation of this type so far is a Metalstar 2 eight-color press with inline coater and UV dryer.
Although other manufacturers have now moved into superlarge format, it will be years before they attain the standard of professionalism and expertise that KBA invests today in its large format press range. When it comes to press engineering, competence is based as much on experience as on skill.
KBA North America is a member of the KBA Group, a leading supplier of sheetfed, webfed, and digital offset presses located in Williston, Vermont. At KBA, we are dedicated to excellence in printing technology. Our greatest satisfaction comes from helping our customers succeed by building presses that enable their businesses to prosper. From engineering through production, our focus is on people, providing flexible technology, customized printing solutions, and personal service to help our partners differentiate themselves and be successful today and in the future.
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