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Ellerhold & XXL

Jun 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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With models ranging from 20 to 81 inches, KBA North America (Williston, VT) has presses for practically everyone. At a recent open house held at its Radebeul, Germany facility, attendees learned the story behind KBA’s largest press, the 81-inch Rapida 205.

Although the company has long specialized in large-format presses, with 51-, 56-, 64-, and 73-inch equipment, the company wasn’t sure there was a market for presses of bigger proportions. Other vendors apparently shared this skepticism: 77-inch presses have not been offered since the mid-1970s. Printers using this format had to seek out legacy Miehle and Harris presses and contend with maintenance challenges, not to mention makereadies, which could take as long as four hours.

Several years ago, however, KBA’s Radebeul neighbor, Ellerhold, a poster, billboard and POP specialist, made a request. The company wanted four 81-inch presses. “We [asked ourselves], ‘Is there a market for this press?’” recalled Ralf Sammeck, president and CEO, KBA North America. “We thought we might sell two a year. But it’s been a huge success.”

A dozen Rapida 205s have been sold to North American customers. The press is offered with six or more units and an inline slitter running at up to 11,000 sph. On a wide range of paper, board and metallized stocks, applications include point-of-purchase displays, posters, labels, books and packaging.

Attendees at the open house toured the Ellerhold plant which is located just down the road from KBA’s headquarters.

Klaus Gerlach, an Ellerhold board member, explained that the 20-year-old company has three additional facilities in Germany, as well as plants in Moscow and Istanbul.

The company’s motto is “Really big, really fast,” and it’s easy to see the truth of this statement. Typical jobs are 300 to 500 sheets, with each plant generally producing 20 jobs per day. (“The fully automatic plate changing is beautiful,” says Gerlach.) The minimum run length is 50 sheets; smaller quantities can be produced on NUR, HP Scitex Pressjet or Idanit digital printers. Ellerhold produces its own B, E and F board for its packaging and POP work.

In additon to the 205, Ellerbach’s Radebeul plant has two Rapida 162s as well as a 185. The 119-employee shop has a three-shift operation, which is unusual because running a night shift is expensive in Germany.

Ellerhold produces an extensive range of German and international poster sizes, including the City-Light, a single-sheet, back-lit, enclosed display poster. The majority of the 95,000 City-Light posters in Germany can be seen on bus shelters. Ellerhold also has developed an alternative to gluing billboards or posters in place using a technique called “Stretchboard.” Similar to the tractor-fed paper used by old dot matrix printers, the top and bottom of the billboard have a series of regularly spaced holes. The billboard is then unfurled onto a special frame with built-in pins. Springs stretch the billboard in two different directions for optimal tension.


Katherine O’Brien is the editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at