Around 200 newspaper pundits from Germany and abroad seized the opportunity to see the Cortina's new conventional counterpart, the Commander CT, being put through its paces in a shopfloor environment and to learn more about the similarities and differences between these two compact presses.
In addition to their low-level towers, which are just 4m high and can be split apart at the touch of a button for maintenance, both models incorporate a high level of automation (plate change included) and a raft of features. Since the prototype of the Cortina was unveiled at drupa 2000 KBA has booked eleven orders for a total of 51 four-high towers (39 of them double-width, 12 triple-width). Nine of these press lines are now in operation.
The Commander CT, which is available as a 4/2 or 6/2 version, had scarcely been launched on the market a few months ago when KBA booked an order from Spanish newspaper publishing house Heraldo de Aragón in Saragossa.
The pilot press at the Main-Post was integrated in the night production routine in March following a twelve-month testing and optimisation period. In July, pleased with its performance to date, the regional newspaper publisher ordered a second tower which will ship in mid-2008 and stack on top of the existing tower to boost colour capacity. A space-saving configuration such as this, which allows an eight-high tower to be erected in an existing press hall, is only possible with the compact Commander CT and Cortina.
David Brandstatter, managing director of the Main-Post, which is part of the Holtzbrinck group, named two basic reasons for the collaboration with KBA on the Commander CT: "Firstly, the Commander CT's compact design offered us an opportunity to expand production capacity in the existing press hall, without having to extend the building. That was a major economic argument. Secondly, we found the Commander CT's high level of automation and user-friendliness a compelling concept. We firmly believe that the future of newspaper production lies with this type of press, and we wanted to be part of the action."
The conventional Commander CT utilises all the features of the waterless Cortina that are not specific to the printing process. It targets newspaper printers who for various reasons (preference for standard consumables, extension to a conventional press line etc) do not yet wish to make the transition to waterless offset. Many feel more comfortable with a process that has been around for over 40 years and consumes familiar inks and plates. Also, they are accustomed to the process-related limitations and generally higher waste levels than in waterless offset. Some of the drawbacks of wet offset, such as fan-out, misting and intensive cleaning and maintenance are not a problem with the Commander CT thanks to its compact design, new film-type inking units with three forme rollers, and high level of automation in the roller locks and bearings.
At the open house Bernhard Harant, head of KBA's newspaper division, detailed the philosophy, technology and user benefits afforded by the 90,000cph Commander CT. The reduced height means that Commander presses, which have been one of KBA's most successful product lines for almost 40 years, can now be erected in standard industrial buildings or stacked to expand the printing and colour capabilities of existing presses in high halls. The KBA PlateTronic automated plate-changing systems, several hundred of which are already in operation on Cortina press lines, cut edition changes to just over two minutes with no change of web width or to around six minutes with a web change and blanket washing. The RollerTronic automated roller locks, of which KBA has installed over 30,000 to date, optimise printing conditions by eliminating the need for manual roller adjustment, and are a standard feature of the Commander CT. The same applies to the new KBA NipTronic bearing technology with optional console link for the precise setting of printing pressure on different types of stock.
The oil-free tower (which has cut consumption at the Main-Post by some 1,000 litres (264 US gallons) per year, can be split down the middle for access to change the blankets and washcloths. Each plate and blanket cylinder is driven directly, with no gears. Following intensive print tests with various types of inking unit the new press was fitted with one that incorporates a new type of undershot ink duct and film roller plus three forme rollers, and says KBA delivers an outstanding quality on both solids and challenging images. The triple-roller spray dampener has also been refined and can now be washed along with the inking unit by throwing the first forme roller onto the plate dampener. This is a totally new feature.
While ink mist cannot be eliminated entirely in a high-speed wet offset press like the Commander CT, enormous progress has been made compared to standard types of press, and KBA anticipates no negative impact on the specified high standard of reliability afforded by the automatic plate changers, which are protected from contamination. Hundreds of such systems are already operating flawlessly on Cortina press lines.
On compact presses there is also much less fan-out in full-colour production than on standard four-high towers. One contributory factor is the new inking unit, which consumes less water. This has prompted KBA to offer a six-wide version of the Commander CT with FanoTronic enhanced fan-out controls and web widths of up to 2,100mm, for the Rhine format.
In his progress report, Main-Post technical manager Andreas Kunzemann emphasised the Commander CT's excellent print quality, which in his opinion is hard to equal with a conventional press. More than just a welcome side-effect is the 15 per cent reduction in energy consumption, largely resulting from automated roller setting and NipTronic bearing technology. And precise registration means that start-up waste following automatic plate change is lower than on the Main-Post's conventional presses. After some initial hesitation the press operators, who were accustomed to satellite presses, soon appreciated the benefits of the Commander CT's extensive automation and compact design.
Andreas Kunzemann's verdict? "The Commander CT offers all the benefits of blanket-to-blanket print production - a superior print quality and stable web tension - plus a colour registration that is on a par with that of satellite presses. On top of this, the lifts and Stepin technology make it highly ergonomic. In my opinion this compact form is the way of the future for high-volume, high-automation newspaper production. The economic and ergonomic benefits delivered are a cogent argument against classic tower presses."
Notwithstanding the Commander CT's virtues, KBA remains committed to waterless, and sees this commitment justified by the current climate debate and recent sales to Le Figaro in Paris and Nordsee-Druckerei in Bremerhaven. The waterless Cortina's process-specific strengths are sure to boost its popularity among newspaper printers with numerous local editions and among contract printers for whom flexibility is the watchword. The exclusive option of adding thermal air dryers to allow production switches between coldset and heatset with no change of inks, and hybrid copies in a fine print quality, are a compelling argument for waterless, keyless technology.