“I have rarely experienced such openness, honesty and collegial spirit at any other event of this kind” – this enthusiastic comment from one participant is indicative of the positive atmosphere at this year's 12th Cortina User Workshop, which was hosted by Nordsee-Zeitung in Bremerhaven on 21st and 22nd September. The users of the waterless offset newspaper press KBA Cortina and the attending representatives of the supplier industry were unanimous in their verdict: “The agenda was extremely varied and provided a wealth of valuable first-hand information. The event should definitely be continued in this proven form.”
The almost 90 participants were already able to visit the night production at the Nordsee-Zeitung print centre on the eve of the workshop proper. Welcoming his guests back in the morning, managing director Matthias Ditzen-Blanke explained why Druckzentrum Nordsee had chosen the waterless KBA Cortina ten years ago, and reflected on the print centre's experiences over those years. Ditzen-Blanke: “The number of jobs handled has risen significantly since we installed the Cortina back in 2008. Today, we are no longer just the print centre for the Nordsee-Zeitung, but also service provider to an extremely broad spectrum of customers. The 30 % increase in paper consumption can be attributed above all to the greater volumes of printed supplements. From the business perspective, it was a challenge to invest in a shrinking market segment, but in the end, the decision to purchase the Cortina was one of our best ever. I have nothing to regret whatsoever.”
Lars Cordes, production manager at Druckzentrum Nordsee, reported on new applications which are made possible by the waterless printing process. “Semi-commercials are not really attractive for us, because we would there be competing with classic heatset printers,” he said. Far more interesting fields are newspaper-like and hybrid print products, as well as products which target previously untapped potential with new papers, new folding options, etc. Cordes: “That could mean anything from a 1000-page spare parts catalogue to calendars. All examples which are far more profitable than even the highest circulations of standard supplements. Through the optimisation of production infrastructure and materials, we are opening up whole new markets.”
The workshop was once more a very international meeting. Cortina users came to Bremerhaven not only from other parts of Germany, but also from the Benelux countries, Scandinavia, France and Switzerland, while representatives of the supplier industry had even travelled from Korea and the USA. As in previous years, their common focus was placed on broad-based discussion of the waterless coldset process, including selection of the most appropriate materials and results obtained with the KBA Cortina press. User working groups meet regularly to elaborate strategies for continued development of the press technology and consumables, and representatives of these groups gave reports on ways to further promote the resource-sparing process of waterless offset newspaper printing.
In the words of KBA project manager Peter Benz, waterless offset printing is still a concept with a promising future, even twelve years after the initial market launch: “Compared to conventional wet coldset, the waterless process raises the bar in terms of quality, flexibility and productivity, and thus offers significant competitive advantages.”
The workshop participants confirmed the freedoms to develop qualitatively outstanding newspaper and commercial products when using the KBA Cortina, but also called on the press manufacturer and consumables suppliers to continue further development of the process. It would be a clear mistake to interpret that as discontent on the part of the users, however. On the contrary: A survey conducted by the Cortina users themselves showed that practically all the responding printing houses were satisfied with both press and process. The original newspaper press of 2004 has since evolved into a versatile production system for both newspapers and commercial products. Cortina printers are today working with significantly improved inks, papers, plates and other consumables, and some are even using integrated coating units for further inline refinement of the print products.
Supplier industry on the ball
Prominent consumables suppliers also gave insights into their product strategies. The Flint Group, for example, reported on its acquisition of Siegwerk's news ink business and gave an unequivocal commitment to continue the development and production of Cortina inks. Presstek announced that it would soon be unveiling a water-based and completely chemistry-free plate system, while apex international introduced its new style of anilox roller engraving and spoke about the recently agreed cooperation with KBA.