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Twice as nice, Part 2

Feb 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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Convertible perfecting
Commercial printer Spectrum Printing & Graphics Inc.’s (Portland, ME) new 35,000-sq.-ft. facility accommodates the growth its new eight-color Mitsubishi Diamond 3000R perfecting press is expected to generate. The company’s 34 employees specialize in one- to eight-color sheetfed offset printing. Spectrum Printing billed about $3 million in sales in 2003. President Alex McCulloch expects volume to increase by 60 percent this year.

The 40-inch 3000R runs at 11,000 sph perfecting or 13,000 sph in straight printing mode. Automatic changeover is accomplished from a Centralized Operator MakeReady and Control (COMRAC) console. The press has a three-cylinder sheet-reversing unit, and double-size impression cylinders and ceramic jackets facilitate high print quality.

According to Santie, "The Diamond 3000R is a convertible perfecting press geared toward the commercial printer doing publication work. The press will print up to 12-pt. stock in perfecting mode and up to 24-pt. board in straight mode."

In addition to perfecting and automated changeovers, McCulloch credits the direct CIP3/4 interface between the press console and prepress with minimizing makereadies. "It’s getting us up to 80 percent color in 50 sheets," he says, "then the scanning spectrodensitometer brings it up all the way to full color within 200 to 300 sheets, depending on the job. No two jobs are the same, but the Mitsubishi perfector has cut production time on some jobs by 60 percent."

‘More competitive and profitable’
Bob Treadwell, Akiyama’s (Cerritos, CA) Eastern regional sales and marketing manager, cites efficiency as the key driver behind perfector sales. "In the 1990s, if printers needed another press, many just added another six-color with coater," he says. "In the last few years, they’ve found they need to do more than that. A perfector will give them the efficiencies to let them quote better prices to be more competitive and more profitable."

Akiyama’s perfectors have a rated speed of 13,000 sph. The J Print series is CIP3/4-compliant. It features closed-loop color control from X-Rite, and a redesigned feeder and delivery. The 40-inch format is Akiyama’s most popular J Print, but it also offers 26-, 29-, 32- and 44-inch versions.

Graphic Services gets the perfecting edge
When Bob Fitzgerald founded Graphic Services (Rockwell, MA) in 1989, the company specialized in educational publishing. Today, the $30 million, 128-employee company also does commercial and financial printing. Its pressroom has one 40-inch Akiyama Bestech press, two J Print perfectors (6/6 and 5/5) and several heatset and coldset web presses.

Acquisitions have played a key role in the company’s market and equipment expansion. Originally, Graphic Services was strictly sheetfed, but in 1991 it purchased the assets of Intercity Press, which included three cold-set webs. In 2003, Graphic Services acquired some of Charles River Lithography’s sales as well as its 12-color Akiyama sheetfed press. And, in 2004, the company bought a 36-inch, six-unit Baker Perkins heatset web press.

The web presses typically are used for financial and direct mail jobs, while the perfectors leave very little for the 40-inch straight press to do. "We can run up to 12-pt. board on the J Prints," explains Bob "Ski" Nowosielski, Graphic Services’ plant manager. "The only time we use a conventional press is when a job has aqueous coating or is heavier than 12-pt."

Nowosielski says the perfecting presses eliminate paper distortion problems caused by spray powder, water and heat. "When you run a job on a perfector, you’re using virgin paper—every job you run is like running the first side through." Other benefits include good fit, especially on heavy coverage jobs.

One and done
In addition to eliminating paper handling issues, the perfecting presses streamline jobs that previously required days of drying time, such as a marine map printed on 4.2-mil plastic. When printed conventionally, the paper tended to curl as one side of the map dried. "You’d go to back it up and it was horrendous," recalls Nowosielski. "It was all over the place—the press couldn’t hold the fit. On the J Print, we run it through once and it’s done."

The Akiyama perfectors use one gripper edge all the way through the press, further alleviating fit problems. "If the job were flipped over, you’d have a different gripper on the last four colors. And when you’re tumbling stock like that, if you’re off 1⁄16 of an inch on one side, the job will be off by twice that much," explains Nowosielski. "With the J Print, once you get your fit, it stays—your stock doesn’t have to be back trimmed."

With a typical perfecting press run averaging 9,000 sph, Nowosielski says, "We can do more work than we ever did. On a regular shift, we can do 10,000 sheetwise forms work-and-turn and have them wrapped and ready to go in the morning. No other press can do that."

No more marking on coated sheets
"The 40-inch Speedmaster 102 in eight, 10 or 12 units is our hottest selling perfecting press," says John Dowey, Heidelberg’s (Kennesaw, GA) vice president of product management, sheetfed presses.

Improved feeders and deliveries are said to boost productivity by up to 10 percent. The Preset Plus feeder has no guide rollers—it uses a single central suction tape. "Since there are no brushes or wheels, there’s no distortion," Dowey explains.

All peripheral devices can be controlled via the Prinect CP2000 center. To help prevent marking, the press’ transfer cylinders feature improved ink-repelling properties courtesy of TranferJacket Plus. On the impression cylinders, PerfectJacket Plus provides a fine-textured surface said to result in excellent print quality even with thick ink application. Dowey notes that the "Plus" jackets can be retrofitted to most Heidelberg presses currently using Perfect Jackets.

At Graph Expo, Heidelberg showcased the Speedmaster 102’s optional Perfecting Coating Solution (PCS). "PCS lets printers switch between coating or printing," says Dowey. "They’re not restricted to a dedicated coating tower." On a 10-color press, for example, PCS would enable a printer to choose between four colors plus aqueous sealer on both sides or 5/5 ink perfecting without the coating.

Dowey adds that some printers with long perfectors are opting for the paper savings associated with Heidelberg’s CutStar sheeter. The sheeter also relieves label printers’ headaches: metallized papers and synthetics.

O’Neil Printing (Phoenix) is almost 100 years old, but the $12 million, 85-employee printer is young at heart when it comes to equipment and services. The all-Heidelberg shop includes a six-color Speedmaster CD with aqueous coater, a 102ZP two-color perfector, a six-color 20-inch press with aqueous coater and a GTOZ two-color press.

In August 2004, O’Neil replaced a circa 1989 five-color, 40-inch straight press with an eight-color Speedmaster 102 long perfector with aqueous coater. "It gives us the option to go 4/4 or eight-color plus coating," explains Tony Narducci, O’Neil’s general manager. "We do a lot of eight-color work, but we also wanted to be more competitive in the short-run publication and direct-mail arenas."

Narducci is impressed by TransferJacket Plus. "Before, you were limited to matte or uncoated sheets—this makes perfecting on coated sheets a reality. We’re printing coated sheets as heavy as 80-lb. cover stock."

The 102 and O’Neil’s existing six-color CD have automated plate hangers, blanket washers and ink-key setting. As both presses also have integrated closed-loop densitometry, O’Neil can produce covers one on press and text on the other without color worries.

O’Neil soon will extend its perfecting range with a six-color, 2/4 perfecting Speedmaster 52. "It will complement components of direct-mail campaigns that might be run on the larger presses," says Narducci. "We’re excited about this new perfecting capability and what it will mean to our productivity and competitiveness."

Akiyama’s comeback
Remember Print 97? Akiyama made a big splash with its J Print, a perfecting press with a stacked design. But in subsequent years, the company became mired in an expensive patent fight and, in 2001, declared bankruptcy for the second time in its 56-year history. (A 1993 filing marked the first.)

In January 2002, China-based Shanghai Electric Group (SEC) acquired Akiyama. Manufacturing operations resumed at Akiyama’s factory in Ibaraki, Japan, and in March 2002, the company re-established a U.S. sales presence. Bob Treadwell, Akiyama’s Eastern regional sales and marketing manager, stresses Akiyama’s financial security. "We’re not the same company as before," he declares. "We’re now owned by a $6 billion company."

SEC, Akiyama’s parent company, describes itself as "the pioneer of the Chinese mechanical and electronics industry." SEC’s subsidiaries include six companies and 132 joint ventures. In addition to the J Print perfector, Akiyama continues to manufacture half- and full-size Bestech straight presses. At Drupa, the company introduced the "eXtreme" 40 series, a redesigned 40-inch sheetfed press offered in two- to eight- color models with aqueous/UV coating and extended delivery. It can run 0.0016- to 0.04-inch substrates at 16,000 sph.

Akiyama (Cerritos, CA) will be an exhibitor at Print 05 (Sept. 9-15, Chicago).

Part 1 | Part 2