Under the banner "KBA: Champions in Print" Koenig & Bauer in hall 6 is strutting its stuff at this year's Ipex in Birmingham with some dazzling exhibits that include the makeready world champion in B1 – its cutting-edge Rapida 106 – and the champion in energy efficiency, the B2 Rapida 75E ("E = Economy & Ecology"). The economic crisis notwithstanding, in the two years since Drupa 2008 KBA has been busy developing new automation modules for half-, medium and large format, with the main focus on simplifying and accelerating job changes, enhancing inline finishing and quality control, cutting the consumption of energy and materials and reducing manual input.
Innovative press technology remains core business
Speaking at KBA's Ipex press conference, president and CEO Helge Hansen pointed to the challenges facing the press engineering industry in the wake of the economic crisis, and the need for players to adjust to a 25% smaller market in the medium term. KBA initiated the necessary material and personnel cutbacks in 2009 and has implemented them rigorously. As a result it has cut costs by more than €100m ($129m), maintained liquidity through its own resources, with no new bank loans, and posted a modest pre-tax profit in 2009. This is a claim no other leading press manufacturer can make. A painful consequence of the consolidation process is that by the end of 2010 the group workforce will have shrunk by more than a quarter from over 8,000 to some 6,000. At present there are around 6,500 employees. Hansen emphasised that KBA has the broadest product range in the industry and is well placed not only in major core markets such as sheetfed and web offset and newspaper presses, but also in diverse niche markets like security printing, which is less cyclical. "While innovative press technology will remain a core KBA activity, we are seeking an additional high-potential business line." The group order intake in the first quarter was over 40% higher than twelve months earlier and remained brisk in April and May. Hansen mentioned a big contract from Express Newspapers in London for four Commander CT presses totalling 22 towers.
KBA Rapidas offer unique features in medium and large format
Many of the products shown in Birmingham reveal that KBA has a clear technological edge over its competitors. For example, the Rapida 106 boasts a no-sidelay infeed, a CleanTronic Synchro high-speed washing system and Flying JobChance in conjunction with DriveTronic SPC dedicated cylinder drives plus enabling software. In large format KBA offers a new energy-efficient VariDryBlue dryer with heat recovery, and simultaneous, dual-beam washing which slashes makeready times. For both formats KBA has developed an online quality documentation and control system, DensiTronic PDF, where a high-powered scanner compares the printed sheet with a PDF of the original. Even the smallest errors and deviations from the original, irrespective of the cause, are detected and documented, this eliminating needless waste.
QualiTronic CC with Instrument Flight: a new dimension in colour control
Another product making its debut at Ipex in a Rapida 106 is a quality-enhancing closed-loop colour measurement and control system comprising KBA QualiTronic Color Control and Instrument Flight, developed by Swiss software specialist System Brunner. By prioritising grey balance this new software tool delivers much greater colour accuracy and visually perceptible colour fidelity compared to other systems on the market. The measuring heads are calibrated at the press console prior to impression using Techkon's SpectroDrive. Control measurements can also be taken on the fly. At the KBA press conference System Brunner director Daniel Würgler explained how Instrument Flight functions and its benefits over other systems.
Rapida 106: Flying JobChange and other novelties
For many visitors to the show one of the big attractions in B1 is the Rapida 106 six-colour coater press boasting DriveTronic SPC dedicated drives, KBA Plate-Ident plate recognition and register-true positioning with simultaneous infeed, and Flying JobChange. During press demos the presenter launches straight into the press's manifold technological capabilities because the job change from one football poster to another with KBA Flying JobChange in the fifth and sixth printing units is completed in seconds – much too fast for lengthy explanations. The Rapida 106's coater is a big attraction for press operators who have to change coatings frequently and don't want to get their hands dirty.
Viscosity-based coating feed control from the console, automatic cleaning of the coating circuit and automated changing of the coating plates are not a given in medium format even with highly automated press lines. Other new features include CleanTronic Synchro, a system for simultaneously washing blanket and impression cylinders during plate change, and a new high-performance delivery, AirTronic, that can be preset remotely from the console and can handle lightweight stock at high speeds, even during perfecting. Since its launch at Drupa 2008 the Rapida 106 makeready world champion has been given a full technological upgrade that places it at the very top of its class.
Rapida 105: popular all-rounder for growth markets
In brisk demand in China, India, the Middle East, Latin America and in many other markets, KBA's proven Rapida 105, a robust and reliable all-rounder, can be equipped with a speed-enhancing package to raise output to 16,500sph. The five-colour alcohol-free coater version in Birmingham prints postcards and pictures of London. Its automated plate changing, ACR video register control, automatic washing and DensiTronic colour measurement and control deliver enormous time savings during job changes. The Rapida 105 can also be configured with some of the optional extras available with the Rapida 106, e.g. DensiTronic PDF, automatic coating feed, automatic coating circuit cleaning and nonstop facilities at the feeder and delivery. Other flexibility-enhancing options include capabilities for printing lightweight paper from 0.04mm (0.0016in) thick, solid board up to 1.2mm (48pt) thick and corrugated up to 1.6mm (60pt) thick. The Rapida 105's output and automation options make it equal to or more advanced than any other press in the 16,000sph performance class – including some new launches.
Rapida 75E: energy- and space-saving dynamo
Alongside optional extras for enhancing speed to 16,000sph and the stock range to 0.8mm (30pt) the E model of the Rapida 75 unveiled at Drupa 2008 sports a raft of advances: a new, noise-insulated KBA feeder, automated format setting, sheet grippers adapted from large-format Rapidas, shell-free transfer drums, air-blast sheet guides plus new sheet brake in the delivery, semi-automatic coating-forme change and remote maintenance via the internet. Together, these slash makeready times by more than 30%. The five-colour coater version shown in Birmingham has an extended delivery, automatic plate changing, inking-unit temperature control, roller and blanket washing and a KBA ErgoTronic console. During Ipex it is printing various jobs ranging from an inline-perforated schedule for the football World Cup in South Africa to posters of London with matt and spot coatings. The Rapida 75E's claim to the title of energy-saving champion is underpinned with detailed comparisons, a power consumption display at the delivery and (like all the Rapidas on the KBA stand) alcohol-free operation, attested by a green eco-globe on the printing units. The Rapida 75E is also available in a 605 x 750mm format. At the end of this year KBA is launching a perfector version for anything up to four-backing-four.
Rapida 75C and Rapida 66: expanding the range in small format
For smaller printshops where space is at a premium, automation is not a primary concern and the budget is limited, KBA offers the Rapida 75C (C = commercial) which is available in two-, four- or five-colour versions, has no coater and is less extensively automated. Its maximum rated speed is 13,000sph and instead of the 75E's usual ErgoTronic console it is controlled from a touch-screen at the delivery. Rounding off the smaller end of the Rapida range, which extends to 2m (78in), is the SRA2 (26in) Rapida 66, which has almost twice the format of an A3 press – four A4 pages fit on a sheet instead of just two – for virtually the same price, and consumes less space and energy than a half-format press. Its practical level of automation makes for easy handling.
The smallest, most unusual and most versatile press KBA is showing at Ipex is the Genius 52UV built by KBA-Metronic. It appeals strongly to printers seeking to escape the fierce competition in mainstream markets by catering to niche applications with out-of-the-ordinary products and substrates. The B3 (20in) Genius 52UV is also winning converts in the web-to-print sector. Typical Genius substrates include various types of film up to 0.8mm (0.03in) thick, expensive paper, aluminium-coated board and even wood (a printer in Switzerland). The Genius 52UV supports creativity like no other press in its format. Smart cards, mousepads, stickers, lenticular images, plastic menus or short runs of packaging patterns on board – the pallet is almost endless. One big advantage of its dampener- and alcohol-free operation is that start-up waste is normally no more than ten sheets, and live demos at Ipex prove this time and time again. This is a crucial benefit when printing short runs of costly materials. The five-colour version exhibited, which features a coater and extended delivery, prints lenticular, mousepad and Chromolux film, solid board and PVC – just a small cross-section of its normal range.
At the Ipex press conference KBA marketing director Klaus Schmidt noted that some 150 Genius 52UV presses have been sold to date. And fifteen years after KBA-Metronic's first waterless press, the fact that another major manufacturer has also discovered the strengths of this technology and launched the Anicolor press at Ipex 2010 is evidence that the Genius 52UV is on the right track. A wider adoption of waterless print production can only promote its cause, whether with or without UV. In the past fifteen years KBA has driven advances in this environmentally friendly technology almost single-handedly, with the 74 Karat, the Rapida 74G, the Genius 52UV and a newspaper web press, the Cortina. So some support is very welcome.
Green printing an ongoing issue for KBA
Due to space and cost limitations, at Ipex KBA has foregone the dedicated green printing zone it had on its stand at Drupa 2008. But that does not alter the fact that the group's commitment to green print production dates back to Drupa 2000, where it was the first manufacturer to exhibit an emissions-reduced sheetfed offset press – the Rapida 105 – which was awarded eco-certification by the German equivalent of the health and safety executive. This accreditation has since been extended to all Rapidas from the 75 to the 205. Energy-efficient press technology, environmentally friendly waterless offset, alcohol-free wet offset and reductions in noise, dust and carbon emissions are an ongoing focus at KBA.
Optimising the workflow with KBA Complete and Logica
Consultants from KBA Complete and its alliance partners Hiflex and Logica Sistemi are also present on the KBA stand to provide information on their proven systems for optimising production workflows and processes with KBA LogoTronic Professional, dedicated Hiflex MIS software for large-scale print operations, Logica WorkflowSelect for smaller printshops and web-to-print systems.
For prospects from eastern Europe and the Far East KBA is organising trips to nearby production plants so that they can see large-format sheetfed presses, long perfectors and web offset or newspaper presses in operation that are not exhibited in Birmingham.