Ravensburger is a leading European provider of puzzles, games and activity products, and a leading publisher of children's and youth books in the German-speaking region. The blue triangle is one of the most renowned trademarks in Germany. Founded by Otto Meier in 1883, the company today counts 2,100 employees, who together generate annual sales of almost €500 million. Two Rapida offset presses stand in the competence centre for print production, one each in medium and large format.
The large-format Rapida 145, with five printing units and inline coater, was commissioned just last year to replace an old large-format press. The medium-format Rapida 105 had also been in production for over a decade, but has now been given a new lease of life. Within the framework of extensive restructuring measures in the print centre, it has been turned by 180° and treated to a comprehensive retrofit. The total investment, including renovation of the hall, amounted to almost €4 million. Both presses now run in high-speed unison – the Rapida 145 at 15,000 sheets per hour for 98 per cent of the time.
The recent investments became imperative due to the increasing proportion of short-run production jobs. Print volumes have increased from 39 million sheets in 2010 to 48 million sheets, but the number of individual jobs has risen even more sharply from 7,600 to 11,000. Overall, average run lengths have fallen from 4,950 sheets in 2010 to 3,900 sheets in 2016. Faced with this challenge, there was no alternative but to minimise makeready times and raise production output.
Faster makeready processes for more print jobs
That is all child’s play for the Rapida 145. Thanks to the facilities for parallel processes (DriveTronic SPC with PlateIdent, CleanTronic Synchro and a DriveTronic SFC coater with AniSleeve), makeready times have been slashed by a staggering 80 per cent. But even that is only half of the story. As makeready is no longer such a major factor in production costs, classic games such as “Ludo“ can be printed more frequently. Consequently, less space is required for finished and semi-finished products, and less capital is locked up in intermediate storage.
There are typically up to 18 job changes per shift. The record to date was 50 makeready cycles in 24 hours. Production is generally spread across gang formes for maximum flexibility. Pre-press decides whether a particular product is to be placed on the sheet once or several times, depending on the overall quantities required and the delivery schedules. Between four and sixteen different products are printed together on one sheet. CtP is also the stage at which it is decided whether to assign the job to the medium- or large-format press.
On the Rapidas, one test sheet is normally sufficient before actual production commences. In the past, three or even four correction steps were necessary. As a result, the amount of makeready waste has been halved. Alongside the direct material savings, the Rapida presses are in this way also contributing to the conservation of natural resources.
Benefits on unusual substrates
Günter Märker, head of production at Ravensburger: “We can swear by our Rapidas for their advantages in board printing.” Typical board weights lie between 120 and 450 g/m2. “Both must run equally well,” says Märker. Playing cards are printed on virgin pulp stocks.
Even though production is organised so as to group together common formats and substrates, it is still necessary to perform two to three coating forme changes and one or two anilox roller changes every day. DriveTronic SFC and AniSleeve are here real time-savers. Coating plate changes run parallel to other makeready processes, and an anilox roller sleeve can be changed by a single operator – without physical effort and without the need for a crane or the like.
One small detail is especially appreciated by the press operators at Ravensburger, namely the plate lift. Whole plate trolleys are lifted up to the press gallery level, and the printers only have to distribute them to the individual printing units. Climbing steps with an unwieldy plate has become a thing of the past.
Extensive know-how also in post-press
Before the investment plans could be implemented, there was one important point to be clarified: How to accommodate continued use of the existing die-cutting tools, despite the switch to a new large-format press model. After all, considerable money and know-how had gone into their production. The answer was amazingly simple: The Rapida 145 uses narrower colour bars, and thus the gripper margin required for die-cutting is still available.
There are 32 employees in Ravensburger’s competence centre for print production. They work three shifts and are also responsible for cutting. The post-press department and the associated store occupy much more floor space than the relatively small printshop with its 250 m2; the total production space amounts to approx. 20,000 m2. The departments for die-cutting and lamination of the puzzles and for box-making are much larger. Most machines here are the product of extensive specialist know-how – for example the lidding machine which places a lid on the finished box sets.
A company like Ravensburger is naturally a source of many superlatives. The largest Ravensburger jigsaw puzzle, for example, came onto the market in 2016. It comprises 40,320 pieces and weighs around 20 kg. Puzzlers can look forward to some 600 hours of fun to complete the puzzle measuring 6.8 x 1.9 metres.