Waterless expands business options
Open house: world’s first KBA Cortina with heatset capability in action at De Persgroep’s new Eco Print Center in Belgium.
More than 100 representatives from European newspapers and their suppliers witnessed a world premiere on 22 March at Eco Print Center (EPC), Belgian media house De Persgroep’s gleaming new production plant in Lokeren, near Brussels.
A packed house at the demonstration of the first KBA Cortina with a heatset capabilitiy at Eco Print Center (EPC) in Lokeren.
The first section of the biggest Cortina press line ordered to date (four of an ultimate twelve four-high towers) demonstrated a high-speed production change from a 32-page coldset broadsheet newspaper to a 32-page heatset tabloid magazine, complete with blanket washing and changes of plates, paper and web leads. What makes this so exceptional is the fact that the waterless Cortina uses the same inks for both coldset and heatset production, thus eliminating at a stroke the need for time-consuming changes.
When it is completed the KBA Cortina in Lokeren will have twelve four-high towers with 96 couples, 4 folders and12 reelstands for reels 1,500mm (59in) in diameter. Provision has been made for the addition of three heatset dryers.
The Cortina’s new capability targets both contract printers, whose success depends on agility in responding to customer needs, and printers of traditional newspapers and coldset products who are keen to make the most of costly pre-press, press and post-press technology by printing value-added semi-commercials such as journals and flyers on LWC and other stock. Opting for the high-automation KBA Cortina allowed De Persgroep not only to dispense with a fifth 48-page press line but also to bring in-house a number of titles that had previously been printed externally
De Persgroep Publishing: driving growth with strong brands
After joining KBA deputy president Claus Bolza-Schünemann to welcome participants, De Persgroep Publishing’s managing director Rudy Bertels gave a brief profile of the De Persgroep media group, which in addition to De Persgroep Publishing also owns Mediafin (newspapers, financial journals; internet), VMMa (television, radio, interactive media) and Het Parool (newspapers). The group’s newspaper titles include Het Laatste Niews (daily circulation 287,857 copies) with a number of regional editions, DeMorgen, De Tijd, L’Echo and Het Parool. All of them have online editions with additional reader offers. De Persgroep’s numerous magazine titles – among them Daq, Joepie, Familie, DM, nina, netwerk and zone magazines – have circulations of between 129,000 and almost 400,000 copies. In 2005 De Persgroep Publishing posted an operating profit of €32.2m ($42.8m) on sales of €433m ($576.4m).
According to Bertels the group’s strategy is founded on profitability, efficient organisation, continuous innovation both in publishing practices and technology, and strong brands with print and the internet as the central pillars. The Eco Print Center project was driven by a need to expand printing and colour capabilities by upgrading press and post-press technology, and increase plant utilisation to get a better return on investment, none of which was possible in the confines of the old production plant in Kobbegem. Lokeren was chosen for its central position in the group’s sales market, the waterless Cortina for its superb print quality, fast edition changes, green technology and its ability to use the same inks for both coldset and heatset production. The start-up of the first section last year coincided with the conversion of deMorgen to the more compact Berliner format, with Het Laatste Niews and other titles scheduled to follow as further press sections are brought on stream in the course of the current year.
Interesting option for growth market semi-commercials
KBA marketing director Klaus Schmidt described heatset printing on newspaper presses as a market sector that is experiencing dynamic growth. Worldwide more than 50 conventional KBA newspaper presses (most of them single-width) have been fitted with a heatset package. The most common types of stock are SC and LWC weighing up to 90gsm. Says Schmidt: “Newspaper presses with a semi-commercial capability can be used to print a whole raft of everyday products for which a costly commercial press would be an overkill. But printers must be aware that they are not full-blown commercial presses for printing glossy magazines or luxury catalogues.” The quality they deliver depends on press technology (automatic colour and cut-off register controls) and the type of stock used, but falls somewhere between Ifra (newspaper) and Fogra (commercial) norms. At present no wet offset inks suitable for both coldset and heatset have been launched on the market. And because the two types of ink are formulated differently (particularly their pigmentation) no such hybrid inks can be expected in the near future. Here, too, waterless printing with the Cortina (dryography) is ahead of wet offset. According to Schmidt, since 1999 KBA has invested millions of euros in waterless coldset with the Cortina. The added heatset option for semi-commercials is a welcome bonus for users.
Almost 70 million waterless newspapers and journals per month
KBA project manager Peter Benz examined the current state of play in the Cortina’s development, and findings to date. The seven press lines currently in operation in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland print almost 70 million newspapers, supplements, magazines and community titles per month, with the plant in Lokeren accounting for around 2.3 million heatset magazines in March alone. Total ink consumption for today’s Cortinas is just under 1,000t and plate consumption almost 500,000m² (5 million square feet) per year.
Waterless web offset has moved into the mainstream and is no longer a niche application for eccentric visionaries. Inks from Flint Group, Huber Group (Huber München, Hostmann Steinberg Celle) and Sun Chemical are routinely used, others from Siegwerk and Toka (Japan) have also been trialled successfully. The Cortina runs with metal-backed blankets from Reeves, Conti, Day, MacDermid.
Benz emphasised that the Cortina complies with the relevant Ifra quality norm for coldset production, while heatset images printed using a Fogra/ bvdm test forme on class 3 paper also largely fall within the tolerance range. On top of this a bigger colour gamut is possible with waterless heatset. Another big advantage of the waterless Cortina is that when converting between coldset and heatset there is no fount solution whose pH value must be checked, and no dampeners to clean or adjust. In fact, the similarities between waterless coldset and heatset – from the inks, plates and blankets to makeready times and manning requirements – far outweigh the differences. Start-up waste can be slashed by automating colour and cut-off register controls, web edge controls, length and cross perforation and adding a semi-commercial package for the folder.
Cutting costs with round-the-clock production
Wim Maes, technical director of de Persgroep Publishing, described the new Eco Print Center and his experience to date with the waterless process. The company has invested around €100m ($133m) in new premises with 39,000m² (420,000ft²) of floor space and 300,000m³ (10.5million cubic feet) of production space, cutting-edge pre-press (Kodak, Nela, Könings), press (KBA) and mailroom technology (mainly Ferag) and automated paper logistics (KBA et al). The prime objectives in making the transition to waterless with the Cortina were to maximise plant utilisation between 8pm on Sunday and 5am on Saturday, cut production costs by reducing manning levels, waste and production times, and enhance press ecology. The old Aurex/DPP printing plant in Asse, near Brussels, consumed 35,000 tonnes (38,500 US tons) of newsprint a year; in 2008, once the current investment package for Lokeren has been implemented, the aim is to boost consumption to 70,000 tonnes (77,000 US tons) printing 200 million newspapers plus 100 million coldset and 120 million heatset journals. Annual plate consumption will then be as high as 180,000m² (some 2 million square feet), ink consumption 750 to 1,000 tonnes (825 - 1,100 US tons).
After almost a year’s experience with coldset and two months with heatset, Wim Maes ranks lower waste levels, 5-minute job changes in coldset and 15-minute conversion between coldset and heatset (thanks to automatic plate changing) as the Cortina biggest advantages. In March 2007 alone, the first Cortina section at ECP will print just under 15 million broadsheet newspapers and tabloid magazines ready for stitching, gluing or trimming.
Following the addition of a presetting system and automatic colour and cut-off register controls, in coldset production Maes is planning to close the waste diverter after just 60 copies, as is the case at the Badische Zeitung, and even in heatset he is looking to push waste levels well below those of conventional presses. Waste in semi-commercial production will then be determined by the register setting system, which on newspaper presses is more complex than on commercial presses. Here, the absence of fan-out is a big asset and should make it much easier to run hybrid coldset/heatset production on newsprint and commercial stock via one former. This has already been tested successfully in Lokeren. Says Maes: “Provided all the parameters are set correctly, the waterless Cortina is the ideal tool for standardising coldset and heatset production on one press, making it simpler and more cost-effective to grow business by increasing the level of press utilisation.”
Rapid conversion from coldset newspapers to heatset magazines
The absence of dampeners and ink keys on the Cortina shortens the learning curve, makes the press easier to operate and dramatically reduces contamination (no ink mist), while RollerTronic automatic roller locks and NipTronic remotely adjustable cylinder bearings reduce maintenance. Says Maes: “The Cortina is a giant copier, the quality is the same from the first copy to the last.” This was evidenced by the newspapers and magazines printed during the press demonstration: a special edition of a coldset broadsheet title, deMorgen (32 pages in Berliner format), printed on two towers, and a heatset magazine, DM (32 pages in tabloid format), printed on one tower following a high-speed job change with no preset.