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KBA Rapida 105 with plate cylinder direct drives in Rudersdorf, near Berlin

Press release from the issuing company

Small print runs are the norm in pharmaceuticals packaging. That's why short job changeover times are critical to economic production. And it's also why a Rapida 105 with plate cylinder direct drives has been in production in the Pharmacenter of the rlc packaging group (rlc) in Rudersdorf on the edge of Berlin since October 2005. It was the first Rapida medium-format press of the new 18,000 generation anywhere in the world to be fitted with a DriveTronic SPC.
With a workforce of 250, rlc's Rudersdorf plant produces both general packaging (Colorpack) and pharmaceuticals packaging (Pharmacenter). Rapida sheetfed offset presses in medium and large format have long been in use in both segments, being replaced at regular intervals by presses of the latest generation. In October 2007, for instance, Colorpack will take delivery of a large-format, six-colour Rapida 142 with coating facility and triple delivery extension. The foundations have already been prepared for the press, which comes in 630 mm higher and boasts a non-stop logistics system. And, in November, Colorpack will also be opening its doors to another Rapida 105, with eight printing units, sheet turning after the second unit, double-coating facility and delivery extension - in effect a 12-unit system with a total length of 27 metres.
Pioneering users for new drive technology
But back to the Pharmacenter, where two largely identically configured six-colour Rapida 105s with coating tower, delivery extension, cardboard handling facility and SIS (SensoricInfeedSystem) operate side by side. One has a DriveTronic SPC, the other does not. "Because we in the Pharmacenter have very small print runs, in 2005 we took the decision to invest in the Rapida 105 with direct drives for simultaneous plate changes. That made us the pilot users for the new drive technology from KBA, and probably in the market generally, and we have not regretted that decision once since then", says MD Hans-Jurgen Katzer of what was then a bold move.
450 working hours saved
Comparing similar presses with conventional and direct drives, rlc's management investigated the benefits in terms of shorter changeover times of simultaneous plate changes over traditional systems involving several change cycles. "With a normal press it takes about four minutes to complete a plate change. With the DriveTronic SPC we reduced this process to around one minute. This means that we save three minutes a job just through the plate change alone", explains Hans-Jurgen Katzer. "These three minutes that we save per job add up to a total saving of 450 working hours since the press was commissioned", Katzer calculates. "It has meant a significant boost to our productivity. The throughput of jobs has become much quicker, and our pre-press department now has to prepare a lot more plates per shift. The resulting bottlenecks persuaded us to buy a new plate processor", he adds, describing the unexpected consequences.
Since being commissioned at the end of October 2005 following intensive field trials of the DriveTronic SPC, the Rapida 105 had printed some 23 million sheets by mid-August 2007. With print runs being small, this translates into more than 9,100 different jobs. This means that the DriveTronic SPC has performed almost 36,500 automatic plate changes at rlc, assuming the minimum colour imposition of just four colours. It would be 55,000 if every job had been produced with all six inking units. For Hans-Jurgen Katzer, the conclusion from his almost two years of experience is clear: "We would definitely opt for a Rapida 105 with DriveTronic SPC again if we were looking to invest further in the Pharmacenter, where we usually have small print runs."
High level of process automation
The DriveTronic SPC, though, is far from being the only tool for automating the printing process and quality management at rlc. Every machine, whether a Rapida 142 or Rapida 105, boasts non-stop feeder and delivery equipment. The large-format jumbos are even integrated into fully-automated systems for stock logistics. FAPC fully-automatic plate changing, Inkline ink pumping and online networking to the pre-press via KBA LogoTronic as well as individual solutions tailored to the specific packaging are part and parcel of rlc's press facilities. DensiTronic S, the measuring and regulating system, is also a feature of every Rapida and key to both Rapida 105 systems in the Pharmacenter.
To ensure 100% quality control, the presses are fitted with KBA QualiTronic 2, the inline sheet inspection system. A tag inserter installed in the delivery area marks incorrect sheets that do not conform to the digitally stored comparison master so that they can be removed before finishing. A warning is also sent to the operators at the central control console, enabling them to intervene in the printing process in order to rectify the fault. This allows rlc at its Berlin Colorpack and Pharmacenter sites to meet the high quality requirements of its customers in the particularly sensitive packaging sector. The almost fully automated quality assurance system means that satisfying the criteria of DIN ISO 9002 is par for the course at rlc.
In 2006 rlc recorded a 17% increase in sales to EUR 80 million. Such growth rates are a rarity for printing businesses, even on an international yardstick. The two highly automated Pharmacenter and Colorpack plants on the outskirts of Berlin made a key contribution to this achievement. The group has an international presence within the COPACO and GPA alliances and also has a plant in Poznan, Poland.