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Sheetfed presses are faster, LARGER and longer

Aug 1, 2004 12:00 AM


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It might have been dubbed the JDF Drupa, but there was no denying the explosion of sheetfed press innovations. Consultant Clint Bolte (Chambersburg, PA) noted that increased efficiencies in inline finishing and value-enhanced production could be seen across all formats.

Bolte also cited three trends:

  • Small-format presses with automated plate loading and specialty packaging options, such as UV drying, foil printing and inline diecutting
  • Midsize presses with long perfectors — 10, 12 and even 15 print units
  • Even larger large-format presses, with a boom in fully automated XXL sizes.

As one vendor observed: “The specific hardware and software may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the intent of the new technologies is remarkably consistent: boost quality, trim production costs, streamline workflow and shorten turnaround.”

This article highlights some key hardware introductions. We'll take a look at networking issues next month.

Improved feeding, delivery and coating

Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) emphasized large-format enhancements, but had no shortage of small- and midsized press news. Its Prinect Online Kit and Prinect Classic Center remote inking and register control system for the Printmaster PM 52 and PM 74 enable these multicolor presses to be integrated into the Prinect workflow online. A new feeder for the PM 74 features a central suction tape and pneumatic pull lay for short makereadies.

Speedmaster XL 105

Targeting packaging and label applications, this 27.5 × 41.3-inch press is rated at 18,000 sph. Highlights include a new feeder and delivery as well the Air-Transfer sheet-transport system. An integrated inking/dampening system (“Hycolor”) features adjustable oscillator strokes, the ability to switch between standard and short inking units, and remotely adjustable lateral distribution of the inking form rollers. All register settings are controlled from the Prinect CP2000 Center press control system.

Speedmaster CD 102

This series of 27.5 × 39.4-inch perfectors has new feeders and deliveries, including the Preset Plus feeder originally developed for the XL 105. Improved cylinder jackets reportedly boost print quality.

Coating options range from the entry-level Modular Coating System to the FlexoKit. The fifth and tenth printing units can be used for printing or dispersion coating. Users with a 10-color press can print five-over-five color or four-over-four color with double-sided dispersion coating in a single pass. Double-sided dispersion coating reportedly lets jobs dry faster, eliminates yellowing and enhances scratch/scuff resistance. Applications include automotive brochures, magazines and CD booklets on matte and glossy paper.

Speedmaster CD 74

This press targets commercial printers handling a variety of stocks as well as packaging and label printers. An optional perfecting system enables printing on both sides of the sheet with short changeover times between paper and board and from the straight to perfecting mode. A three-drum transfer system lets users print stocks up to a maximum thickness of 0.8 mm in perfecting mode. The maximum print speed both in straight and perfecting mode is 15,000 sph. The CD 74 with a convertible sheet-reversing device will be available in four- to six-color models, with or without a coating system and extended delivery.

Waterless/keyless offset presses

Genius 52

KBA's (Williston, VT) waterless and keyless 20-inch press can be run by one operator via a touchscreen console. Automation highlights on the single-impression-cylinder press include plate infeed, circumferential register for handling various substrates and optional blanket washing. Makeready is said to require only 15 sheets.

Metronic, a company KBA acquired earlier this year, offers a UV-equipped Genius 52 for printing on plastics. Metronic colloborated with KBA on the original Genius. The company manufactures industrial inkjet, hot stamping, laser and thermal devices, as well as UV offset printing systems for CDs, DVDs and plastic cards.

74 Karat

This waterless direct-imaging press has several application-driven upgrades, including an optional plastics package and HumanEyes software for lenticular imaging.

Rapida 74G

This 29-inch waterless offset press features Gravuflow, the same keyless inking system found on the 74 Karat. The press is equipped with a Technotrans temperature-control system, automatic plate changing, remote format and register control. The 15,000-sph Rapida 74G can be configured with up to eight printing units plus perfectors, coaters and other inline finishing options. The Rapida 74 and 74G have identical automation features but the former has conventional roller-type inking units, while the 74G has one doctoring system, screen and form roller.

Rapida 105

A completely redesigned 40-inch press, the 105 has a new cylinder geometry, delivery concept and infeed advances, reportedly enabling it to achieve 18,000 sph in straight printing mode (15,000 sph perfecting). Users can opt for a side-guide free infeed, said to be a world exclusive. The 105 can print on stock ranging from 0.06 mm paper to 1.2 mm board.

At Drupa, the 105 was shown with KBA's new inline sheet-inspection system, Qualitronic II. The system's color camera is mounted near the delivery area and aimed at the impression cylinder through a narrow slit in the floor plate. On perfecting presses, a second camera can be installed before the sheet turns to monitor both sides.

Rapida 162

Rated at 14,000 sph, this 63-inch press offers four-over-four printing with a choice of inline coating systems and up to 14 units.

Rapida 205

KBA's 205 targets printers replacing older 77- or 78-inch presses. Said to be the world's largest sheetfed press, the 205 boasts a sheet size of 59½ × 80¾ inches. Six or more units are available with an inline slitter running at up to 11,000 sph. Roller coatings allow low- and alcohol-free printing. The 205 can print on a wide range of paper, board and metallized stocks. Applications include point-of-purchase displays, posters, labels, books and packaging.

Faster makereadies for all formats

MAN Roland (Westmont, IL) stressed shorter makeready times and higher productivity for its midsize to very-large format presses. Ergonomic Plate Loading was shown on a four-color Roland 200, a 29-inch press that can handle board up to 32 pt.

Roland 500

This six-up, 18,000-sph press can print on stock from 1 pt. to 40 pt. Applications include microflute, tags and labels, and plastics. The 500's 23.23 × 29.13-inch sheet size reportedly yields 50 percent more output than conventional halfsize presses. A QuickStart option reportedly speeds makereadies and reduces waste, while Power Plate Loading for the coating unit reportedly lets users complete this task in two minutes.

Roland 700

This 41-inch press, rated at 16,000 sph, was showcased at Drupa's PrintCity Packaging and Label Factory. Shown in a six-color configuration, it featured an inline double-coating module, a digital inline sheeter and an inline sorter, as well as EagleEye, a video-driven quality control system.

The 700's Inline Sorter identifies and diverts waste sheets from the delivery pile. Press crews don't have to stop the press to eliminate rejects.

The EagleEye video-driven inspection system works in tandem with the sorter to check the quality of each sheet on the fly, as it exits the last printing unit.

The Prindor InlineFoiler lets users add cold- foil embossing to printed products. Three 700 printing units apply the foil in a single pass. All steps are handled continuously as the press prints, including gluing, foil transfer and embossing.

A new InlineEmbosser also is available for 700s equipped with inline coating units. The device temporarily attaches embossing dies on the cylinders of the press's coating module. For deep embossing, the die is mounted on the form cylinder to make an impression on the front side of the substrate. For relief embossing, two dies are positioned on the impression cylinder to make an impression on the reverse side of the substrate.

MAN Roland also unveiled the Ultima 700, which positions coating and drying modules before its printing units to produce a variety of inline special effects.

Shaftless technology goes sheetfed

Shaftless technology typically found on web presses has migrated to MAN Roland's sheetfed machines. DirectDrive, shown at Drupa on the Roland 700, powers a printing unit's plate cylinder with a high torque motor controlled by MAN Roland's PECOM system.

DirectDrive decouples the plate cylinder from the press's main drive, providing users the advantages of parallel plate changing. When used with Roland 700s equipped with MAN's automatic plate loading (APL), DirectDrive enables APL to change plates on all press units at the same time. Plate changing reportedly can be done in a minute, even on 12-unit presses. Wash-up routines also can be completed during plate changing.

The mechanical isolation of the plate cylinder gives a sheetfed press 360-degree circumferential register, expanding the range of plates that can be used, including those designed for other manufacturers' presses.

On-the-fly black plate changes

DirectDrive lets operators take printing units in and out of a print run on-the-fly. Black plate changes can be made without stopping the press. On a six-color press, for example, text changes can be made from one language to another without stopping and restarting the system. While the black plate for the original is running on the fifth unit, the black plate for the new version can be loaded on the sixth unit.

MAN Roland said DirectDrive could potentially pave the way for a sheetfed version of its DICO, a web press that features erasable imaging cylinders.

Automating changeovers

QuickChange for the Roland 700 reportedly offers 30 percent faster makereadies. Modules include:

  • QuickChange Job, which lets the press operator pre-select a sequence of makeready functions on the PECOM console. Press transferters also are automatically adjusted to accommodate different stock types and thicknesses.
  • QuickChange Air, a digitally directed network of servo-driven air valves in the feeder, delivery and in between, is said to facilitate precise sheetflow. All air settings for a job can be stored at the PECOM console and recalled for repeat jobs.
  • QuickChange Feeder provides faster adjustments of the 700's feeder components. Format changeovers from minimum to maximum sheet size are said to require only 45 seconds. A manual adjustment function overrides the press's servo motors, so operators can quickly change formats.
  • QuickChange Infeed is a servo-driven front lay adjustment that reduces makeready time at the infeed. Other components include a push-type side lay for G-flute board, a first-sheet guidance system for heavier stock and an adjustable infeed drum for board printing.
  • QuickChange Color provides a triple-flow universal inking unit that can be configured in different ways to accommodate demanding inkflow jobs.
  • QuickChange Wash equips Roland 700 users with faster ink changeovers. A new fountain design facilitates faster ink removal and trimming. An advanced ink roller washing unit refines spray functions for more targeted results, further reducing makeready time. An optional separated washing agent circuit lets operators instantly switch between cleaning solutions. It also can be used for switching from conventional inks to hybrid or UV inks.
  • QuickChange Clamp features multipurpose clamps for the 700's coating form cylinder and an additional pressing roller incorporated into the inline coater. Users reportedly can change from flood to spot coating in under three minutes.

Roland 900XXL

This 73-inch sheetfed press reportedly has 328 percent more printable area than a conventional 40-inch machine. Applications include books, posters and package printing. The 900XXL features an inline slitter and can handle thick substrates up to 48 pt., at a top speed of 10,000 sph.

A double coating module includes a coating unit, two drying units, a second coating unit and an extended delivery for applying UV coatings, hybrid UV/aqueous applications, double hits and special metallic techniques.

Convertible and dedicated perfectors

Double Diamond

Mitsubishi's (Lincolnshire, IL) 40-inch convertible perfector is available in up to 12 units (five-over-five with two tower coaters). The coaters are located before the sheet-reversing unit and after the final printing unit, enabling it to print and coat both sides of the sheet in a single pass. With automatic adjustment for stock thickness, the Double Diamond reportedly is capable of producing a wide range of multicolor products at speeds up to 11,000 sph in perfecting mode or 13,000 sph in straight printing mode. When perfecting, the press can process substrates ranging from thin bible paper up to 12-pt. board stock. When converted to straight printing, it handles paper and board stock up to 0.024 inches, as well as specialty substrates.

Diamond 3000 Tandem Perfector (TP)

This 40-inch dedicated perfector can be configured in any combination from one to six reverse-side units and one to six front-side units. Mitsubishi's Translink unit connects the reverse-side and front-side printing units. The press prints both sides of the sheet at 13,000 sph without reversing the sheet. To ensure accurate register on both sides of the sheet, the same leading-edge gripper is maintained throughout the run. The Diamond 3000 TP is available with a choice of stock ranges: 0.0016 inches to 0.024 inches, or 0.008 inches to 0.032 inches.

Heidelberg USA's new president

Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) has named James P. Dunn as U.S. president, effective immediately. Dunn takes over the position from Neils M. Winther, who worked for Heidelberg for more than 30 years. Winther has reportedly left to pursue other opportunities and spend more time with his family. He will remain available to Heidelberg during the transition phase.

Dunn has most recently been responsible for the holding company that supports all of Heidelberg's North and South American activities. Previously, he held positions including president of the Heidelberg Americas shared services division and CFO of Heidelberg Web Systems.

MAN Roland event highlights 6-up press

MAN Roland (Westmont, IL) recently hosted a commissioning conference to celebrate the installation of a six-color Roland 500 press with inline coating and UV capabilities at its Graphic/Training Center. Visitors saw the press in action and heard a users panel discussion featuring Mark Steputis, president and CEO of Vision Graphics (Loveland, CO) and Guillermo Lopez of Monarch Litho (Montebello, CA).

Eric Belcher, COO, sheetfed press operations, told guests the 500's sheet size (23.23 × 29.13 inches), speed (18,000 sph) and fast makereadies will let users compete with 40-inch shops for short and medium runs.

The exec emphasized the versatility of the press: “You can print on stock from 1 pt. to 40 pt. to expand your business beyond the commercial realm, pick up packaging jobs or print on plastic.”

On the networking front, Belcher highlighted Printnet, which he described as “a truly open system so you can connect any brand press, prepress workflow, finishing equipment or management information system.” Introduced at Drupa, Printnet is built on MAN Roland's PECOM press operating system.

Mitsubishi showcases perfecting capabilities

Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A., Inc.) (Lincolnshire, IL) hosted a national open house this past spring. John Santie, sheetfed product manager, gave a presentation on the Diamond Series of perfecting presses, which was followed by a tour of the Mitsubishi Litho Center prepress area. Tour highlights included platesetters and a CIP3/4 workflow with open interfaces to the presses. Organizers ran live jobs and test forms to show how the Double Diamond perfector handles changeovers, different sheet sizes and variable ink coverage.

Color management options

MAN Roland's (Westmont, IL) ColorPilot systems manage color and set ink zones using a color-bar reader and integrated software.

Three configurations are offered:

  • ColorPilot Smart — standard for the Roland 200; optional for the Roland 300

  • ColorPilot — for MAN's 300, 500, 700 and 900 presses

  • ColorPilot Plus — an enhanced version for perfecting presses.

ColorPilot analyzes color control bars in one pass, reportedly requiring only 14 seconds to read the bars on a 41-inch sheet. It takes eight readings per millimeter. The resulting density values appear on a control monitor and can be used to automatically set the press's ink fountains. To accelerate makeready momentum, ColorPilot corrects all ink key settings in four seconds or less.

For critical-color jobs, ColorPilot can be used to capture colorimetry data as well as density values.

New perfectors; JDF production management

Komori (Rolling Meadows, IL) showcased a redesigned perfector mechanism for all of its full- and halfsize Lithrone presses. The new perfector design features the Lithrone double diameter cylinder configuration, even at the perfector. Look for Komori's eight-color Lithrone S40 perfector and small-format Spica 28 convertible perfector press to make their North American debut at Graph Expo.