In an ideal world, and one which is rapidly approaching, the printing press would essentially be a souped up version of the desktop printer, driven and controlled by the functionality of the network, with all its settings and scheduling automatically generated and organised.
This is the dream of the CIP4/JDF developers, and it is a concept that will be warmly welcomed by print businesses, as it creates maximum efficiencies, minimises the opportunity for mistakes, enables labour reduction and means your best staff can effectively be cloned, so instead of running just one machine, they could run several at once, albeit in a virtual rather than physical way.
At drupa 90, Roland launched its R700 B1 press, which at the time was noted more for its unit construction as a dramatic move from Roland’s old principal, but the big news about the press was the fact that the company had essentially designed it as a computer, with print functionality. Five years later, all the other B1 manufacturers - Heidelberg, Komori, Mitsubishi and KBA - had similar concepts in their presses, and today this is the standard. Certainly all B1 presses are now able to be part of the digital network, and the majority of B2 presses, except those which are deliberately manufactured as the euphemistically named ‘entry level’ machines, in other words presses for printshops that don’t want or can’t afford network integration.
However, while all this digitalisation has been taking place and stealing the limelight, the actual mechanics of the presses have also been developing. Most noticeable of this has been in the long perfector revolution, which has seen the wide take up of multi-unit perfector presses capable of printing a process set or more on both sides of the sheet. Heidelberg has dominated this market since the launch, with its engineers leading the way in dealing with the tricky issues or trouble free perfecting on wet paper at high speeds with the PerfectJacket technology. It is estimated that Australia is in fact Heidelberg’s best market in terms of market share for long perfectors, with well over 80 per cent of the press in this stable coming from the company. Worldwide Heidelberg has by far the biggest market share of long perfectors.
These machines offer printers, and their customers, far shorter turnaround times, as it is one pass printing. Other advantages are economies of scale, reduced labour costs and reduced investment levels, as an eight-colour long perfector should be capable of producing the same output as 2.5 standard four colour presses. The rapid take up of long perfectors by Australian printers is testimony to their effectiveness.
Alongside long perfectors the other major story in printing presses is that these days each machine is virtually custom built. The days of the standard four or five colour press are receding and today the big presses come with all kinds of options; single, double or triple coating, and that before or after printing, perfecting wherever you like, flexo printing units incorporated, standard or wide widths, and different options in the same sizes.
The newest B1 press is the Heidelberg XL 105, launched here last month, with Scott Printing in Perth snapping up two immediately. The XL105 joins the SM102 and CD102 in a triumvirate of large format presses. It is a new press, capable of printing 18,000 sheets an hour, designed for what Heidelberg says is highly industrialised offset printing with its high degree of automation, large print format of 74 x 105cm and simple operation. It has a new system for contact-free sheet transport and innovations in the field of coating application, which Heidleberg says deliver increased productivity of 30 per cent and more. Further innovative solutions, such as Autoplate Advanced for simple and register-accurate plate changing, increase the cost effectiveness of print shop operations even further.
In addition to the new feeder and delivery generation, the newly released Air-Transfer sheet transport system with aerodynamic properties provides a basis for achieving reliable and stable production speeds of 18,000 sheets per hour.
There is a new Hycolor (Hy for hydro) integrated inking/dampening system. Adjustable oscillator strokes, the opportunity to switch between the standard and short inking units, and remotely adjustable lateral distribution of the inking form rollers are among the many possibilities that Hycolor offers. There are also innovations for the coating unit. All register settings are remote controlled from the Prinect CP2000 Center press control system, including printing pressure setting (both parallel and single sided are possible) and decoupling the coating form cylinder with the coating unit disengaged. The screen roller is changed efficiently with the new automated Multi Loader System and make ready times are cut even further.
The new XL 105 exemplifies the changing nature of printing press manufacturing, with the manufacturers capable of producing different machines for different applications. Heidelberg, of course, as the biggest manufacturer with the most resources has the most to offer. To have three different B1 presses is remarkable, and offers printers the opportunity to decide what they want to produce and then find a press to print it, rather than having to be limited by what the press can achieve.
In B2 presses Heidelberg has even more choice, with the Speedmaster SM74, the CD74, the Printmaster 74 (entry level) and the DI 74 direct imaging press, all offering different benefits and different opportunities.
MAN Roland, the original pioneer of digital integration for presses, has kept faith with its R700 series for 15 years now. The latest Roland 700 can print on almost any media and have as many coating and lay down units installed both at the beginning and the end as thought appropriate, as well as integrating between eight and 12 printing units plus perfecting. It can lay down metallic foil using Prindor, with Eagle eye fault detection system fitted, it can redirect faulty sheets out of the press and rounding off a veritable cornucopia of features, the feeder and delivery can be fully automated for continuous printing. Inline functions enhance production economy and possibilities and optimise printing quality even further: the most important ones are the InlineFoiler Prindor for foil laminating, the InlineObserver for monitoring sheet travel, the InlineInspector for detecting flawed sheets, the InlineEmbosser for embossing, die-cutting and perforating in a coating module, and the special configuration Roland Ultima with a coating module upstream of the printing units to apply coating or opaque white. These new developments supplement the already known and further developed systems like the InlineSheeter reel-to-sheet feeder, the InlineSorter for diverting spoil sheets and the ColorPilot Plus system for colour quality control that measures print control strips located anywhere on the sheet.
In the B2 format Roland too has a plethora of offerings, including the Roland 500 for packaging printing, the Roland 300 for commercial, both of which are driven by Pecom, the digital network, and Roland has its own entry level press, the Roland 200, which like the Printmaster 74 is deigned to enable A3 printers to move into a bigger league, buy without the costs of the digitally integrated highly automated presses such as the R300 and R500.
Since the fall of the Berlin wall 16 years ago, KBA has emerged as the fastest growing press manufacturer in the world, and now claims to be number two in sheetfed sales. It has a plethora of presses, in fact everything from small format to the biggest available, with some nifty innovation present throughout the range.
Its most radical press is the Genius, the KBA Rapida 74G, which uses the chassis, feeder and delivery of the conventional KBA Rapida 74 machines, but to get ink on paper KBA has taken the printing system from the digital 74 Karat press. The press prints waterless using either Toray or Presstek plates, and uses the Gravuflow inking system. Apart from the impression cylinder, only four cylinders all of equal size are required to finish up with a job. The benefits of the Gravuflow system are many, the drawbacks are few. Three things stand out. The press prints waterless, so no alcohol is required, and related to this, no dirty fount is being tipped down the drain.
Because there is no water involved, much more environmentally friendly inks can be used. In fact, water-based inks are already available. Without water, the lift in the image is superior and waste at start up is reduced to the infinitesimal.
In the B1 sector KBA’s newest press is the 105, which comes with a quite different lay system. The pull side lay and some form of swinging arm transfer familiar to most printers has been dispensed with. On this press, as the sheets stream down the table, electronic sensors map where it is and compares that with where it should be. A vacuum drum incorporated into the infeed takes the sheet and moves to the predetermined register position before feeding the sheet into the press itself.
Komori is one of the biggest selling press lines in the country, with CPI proving a successful sales and service agent for the company. It has a wide range of B1 and B2 presses. In the B1 sector its ever popular Lithrone has recently been joined by the S Series, which it describes as its ‘pinnacle’ machine. In readiness for IT and digitalisation, this product can handle the print industry’s printing data and workflow digitalisation, and its digital on-press function enables plate preparation by laser. Print quality is enhanced by a new ink roller temperature control system which increases color stability in continuous printing. The skeleton structure of the transfer cylinder enables stable handling of paper stock ranging from thin paper to 1mm. Productivity is enhanced by the addition of a newly developed automatic plate changing system, which combines with automatic washing systems for ink rollers, blanket cylinders and impression cylinders, an automatic ink film adjustment system and other elements to achieve a marked reduction in make ready time. Environmental consideration includes the use of non-alcohol dampener, an ink cartridge configuration, oilless bearings and the adoption of new spray powder. These measures prevent environmental pollution and yield a major reduction in paper wastage, contributing to the conservation of paper resources.
Mitsubushi has a fairly low profile in Australia, its presses are branded under the Diamond series, and are highly automated, heavy duty machines with plenty of additional functionality. Its new Diamond 3000TP, for instance, with innovation on this includes the ability to perfect on heavyweight stock, more than 0.6mm, made possible because the press has no perfecting drums.
Akiyama is a name that was well known a decade ago here, but financial issues in Japan caused the company to sink into its shell for a while. However Cyber is now selling the press here, with the 13,000sph B1 JPrint double decker perfector the most notable machine. Innovations include the plates on top and bottom deck being changed at the same time.
Shinohara presses have become one of the most popular B2 presses in the country, thanks to the combination of the press itself and the back up of the Currie Group. The Shinohara 75 series comprises straight 2, 4, 5 and 6-colour models which are all also available with Shinohara’s 60-second semi-automated conversion-to-perfection facility and, like the 8-colour, capable of running the super-B2 520x750mm and wider 585x750mm sheet sizes. Standard features for reduced make readies and optimum printing efficiency include remote on-the-run ink key and ink feed control; dampening solution adjustment and plate cylinder register control; automatic blanket wash; automated alcohol supply; sheet decurlers; hickey picker; and static eliminator. Additional systems include automatic ink roller cleaning, remote plate clamp cocking, paper size preset, semi-automated plate changing, non-stop feeder and in-line coaters and IR driers.
In addition, the multi-colour Shinohara 75 allows a greater variety of work to be handled. Jobs with more spot colours, varnishes and special effects can all be produced more competitively in one pass. Features such as Shinohara’s SPIS pre-inking system, CIP-4 workstation and SCCS colour control station increase efficiency further to create the most productive printing package in the 21st Century pressroom.
The Shinohara 75VIIIP provides the ultimate in productivity for commercial quality two-sided multicolour print production. Since both sides of the paper are printed in one pass there is no delay for drying during turnaround, quality control is optimised and skilled operatives are used to maximum effect.
Ryobi in Australia
Ryobi has had a massive shot in the arm in Australia with Asian giant Cyber taking up sales and service here a year ago. Having already made its name in A3, it is now a serious player in the B2 market, with a plethora of B2 machines, and has just launched itself into the A1 market, with the 920 series. The Ryobi 920 series is based on the same engineering and electronic technology printing features of the conventional Ryobi mid-size models.
In the B2 market the Ryobi 750 series is a unit construction type B2 size multi-colour offset press (tandem type) which adopts the double diameter impression cylinder and double diameter transfer drum for each printing unit, and the Ryobi 750 series in two types (S type and XL type). XL type is for longer paper size. The Ryobi 750 series presses can be combined with an aqueous or UV coating unit, and an infrared dryer or UV curing.
Sakurai is the latest press after KBA and Ryobi to get a new distribution agreement, in its case, with Pressnet taking on the machines. Its main press in the B2 sector is the 75 series. Features include automated plate changing, Sakurai Auto Set, programmable ink & blanket washing, motorised ink fountain roller and ultra-sonic double sheet detector. Sakurai tends to offer plenty of options as add-ons, which essentially means you can buy the press you want for the budget you have, you don’t have to have all the bells and whistles.
The offset litho printing press remains the cornerstone of the commercial print industry, and with a bevy of established manufacturers producing an amazing range of machines, there should be something for every type of printer.