A short time after paper runs through the LITHOMAN press in a German print shop, the bestseller is jumping off the shelves of a bookstore in a nearby city. With a job turnaround time of four to five days for the upcoming peak holiday season, one can see where rapid book production is heading.
Fast delivery with the shortest turnaround times is only one of the trends in book printing. Shorter runs aimed at specific target groups also have to meet high quality expectations. This is why besides fast makeready times, publishers insist on quality for color and register for both hardcover and paperback books. In addition, book printers have to keep waste rates as low as possible in order to achieve an optimal cost per copy.
These requirements are resulting in increasingly automated production. Ebner & Spiegel GmbH in Ulm, one of Germany's largest producers of books, upgraded their LITHOMAN printing systems by adding CutCon Plus, manroland's new cut-off register system. The CutCon Plus upgrade is available for all manroland presses manufactured after 1999, and has shown a payback of 1 to 1-1/2 years.
Ebner & Spiegel has positioned itself as an industrial-scale book printer with the highest quality standards. The company belongs to Groupe CPI of Paris, one of Europe's leading book manufacturers. Every year 450 employees in Ulm produce around 63 million books, including 36 million paperbacks, 18 million hardcover books and 9 million calendar books. All facets of book production are handled by this full service company, including delivery.
Waste rates four to five times less
In 2006, Ebner & Spiegel invested in two LITHOMAN presses to augment their two ROTOMAN presses that were installed in 2002. Recently they upgraded their LITHOMAN systems with CutCon Plus. The new cut-off register control system has already met the expectations of printing plant manager Walter Fideler.
"With book printing, precise register is vital. CutCon Plus readjusts register very quickly and accurately. Our waste rates are now four to five times less than before and we are completely satisfied," Fideler said.
"Our customers regard noticeable cut-off register variations as a glaring fault which they cannot accept," added Josef Oswald, production and engineering manager for Ebner & Spiegel. "Today with CutCon Plus, variations in cut-off register are only about 0.5mm. Achieving this accuracy with conventional systems generates much more waste due to the manual adjustments that are needed to set it up."
Stable cut-off register during start-up and blanket washing, as well as during reel changing, ensures quality and thus reduces waste rates. The system has a third alignment roller located further upstream in the press that provides improved "anticipation" of web changes. The controls are integrated with PECOM and the cut-off drives so it has a fast response time and is very accurate. The system can even respond to web movements due to varying paper modulus. During press acceleration to production speed, CutCon Plus is especially effective. After register mark detection, CutCon Plus readjusts the cut-off register quickly and reliably during the acceleration phase, which minimizes waste.
Since paper costs amount on average to some 50 percent of production costs, waste rate reduction has great potential for resource conservation and cost savings. When reels are changed, CutCon Plus compensates for web tension variations. The impressive result with CutCon Plus is there are now virtually zero complaints regarding register variations. Fideler is thrilled about the advantages this provides for print production.
"During reel changing, we no longer open the waste gate because it is not needed for so few copies. Reel changing is not even noticeable in cut-off register," Fideler said.
Oswald is happy to see his staff concentrating intently on monitoring quality and production. With CutCon Plus the operators are relieved of adjustment tasks during production. They quickly became familiar with the system because they were involved in every stage of the installation. Ebner & Spiegel has nothing but praise for the collaboration with manroland in developing a partnership, and they are interested in further automation to produce faster with the same high quality.
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