The Drupa 1995 launch of KBA's large-format Rapidas, boasting speeds of up to 15,000 sheets per hour, automation levels on a par with medium format and a raft of unique features, generated brisk demand which its technological edge and intelligent format policy helped translate into a global market share of around 60 per cent, establishing KBA as the number one in large format – a position it holds to this day. Soon the 1,000th big Rapida will leave the production line heading for innovative and versatile German printer Druckhaus Berlin-Mitte.
Over the past fourteen years the big Rapidas have enabled KBA to consolidate its historically strong position in packaging printing and establish a reputation as the provider of choice among major book printers. In recent years it has also won over an increasing number of major commercial printers and players in the emerging web-to-print market by demonstrating the proven economic benefits of adopting large format.
Large-format presses are no standard, run-of-the-mill product: configurations and features can vary substantially depending on customer specifications and the application(s) for which they are to be used. The 1,000 LF presses manufactured to date, which embrace five models from the 5B (51in) Rapida 130 to the7B (64in) Rapida 162a, are used for just about every application that is commonly the preserve of B1 (41in) presses. The broad spectrum ranges from two-colour perfectors for printing books, through classic four-, five- and six-colour presses (with or without coaters) for printing books, commercials, film, packaging and posters, to 13-unit Rapida 142 dual coater presses for printing packaging and Rapida 162a four-backing-four perfectors for printing books and magazines. KBA is still the only press manufacturer in the market with large-format perfector presses in its product programme.
Around 15 per cent of all Rapida large-format presses built today have a perfecting capability, and this figure is rising along with the advance of big new eight-colour perfectors in the commercial and magazine sectors. There are around thirty such presses in operation worldwide today, some with perforators and coaters. While Germany, France, the UK, Italy and the USA are the major markets, presses have also shipped to China, Belgium, Hungary and elsewhere. In response to brisk demand KBA invited users to its Radebeul facility at the end of September for an update on new advances in large-format 4/4 perfecting.
Premium presses over 40 metres long
The two longest Rapida 142 presses shipped to date, both extending over 40 metres (131ft) and weighing in at more than 200 tonnes (220 US tons), are in Australia and the US. Their sheer size makes them look more like commercial web presses. The Rapida 142 at Anzpac in Sydney has a total of thirteen units – two printing units, an interdeck dryer, six further printing units with perfecting after the third unit, a coater, two interdeck dryers and a second coater – plus a triple delivery extension. A similar press, but without perfecting, is at Hub Folding Box in Mansfield, Massachusetts. KBA's reference lists also include several press lines with eleven and twelve units.
The know-how informing these distinctive and individual configurations cannot be acquired in a matter of months or even just a few years. And KBA is continually driving advances in LF technology, the most recent being a format enlargement and performance boost for the Rapida 162a perfectors, special post-perfector drum shells with an anti-marking coat, new Windows-based console software with job-change program, remote internet-based maintenance and a wider choice of maintenance tools. New quality monitoring modules include DensiTronic PDF and QualiTronic inline inspection systems Color Control and QualiTronic Professional for consistent excellence and minimum waste. A new generation of eco-friendly chilling devices with natural cooling can dramatically cut energy consumption.
The 1,000th press to leave the production line – a five-colour Rapida 162a for a sheet measuring 1200 x 1620mm (47.24 x 63.77in) – will go live this December not in Berlin, but in Wustermark, where it will print displays and packaging. Extras include facilities for printing board and microflute, a press plinth for handling piles up to 2m (78in) high, automatic pile logistics and plate changing, washing units for the plates, blankets and impression cylinders, temperature control for the rollers and inking units, DensiTronic Professional closed-loop colour control, and a direct link via a landline and LogoTronic Professional to pre-press and to the corporate network at Berlin-Mitte's headquarters 35 kilometres (22 miles) away.
The superlarge-format Rapida 185 and Rapida 205 are not included in the 1,000 press sales.