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Big Finish

Dec 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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As noted in our July issue (“Iron Giants”) there's a definite VLF press buzz. Some commercial printers are pushing beyond the 40-inch format to achieve production efficiencies and access new markets.

KBA (Williston, VT), MAN Roland (Westmont, IL), and Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses USA (MLP USA) (Lincolnshire, IL) currently offer VLF equipment; Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) will introduce the Speedmaster XL 142 (40.2 × 55.9 inches) and Speedmaster XL 162 (47.2 × 63.8 inches) at Drupa 2008.

Veteran packaging and folding carton printers face few surprises, but newcomers must evaluate their existing infrastructure. Is there enough horizontal and vertical space for a VLF press bay? Is the pressroom's floor load rating sufficient for a hefty VLF machine? Moving the big units in for assembly might require widening doorways, cutting new ones, or even breaching entire walls. And don't overlook the prepress department — are you prepared to make XXL plates and proofs?

On the finishing side, Dan Maurer, Heidelberg's director of postpress product management, says VLF newcomers should evaluate material handling, productivity and new application requirements.

“The substrate sizes are challenging for operators, so consider material handling automation. A Transomat loader on our Polar cutter is an example, as is the Polar PACE system for handing the large sheets.”

The postpress department also must keep pace. “Consider the impact of a press printing 6,000 sph faster than the one it replaced,” explains Maurer. “That's an additional 48,000 sheets per shift.”

An older 12,000 sph press will produce 96,000 sheets in an eight-hour shift vs. a new 18,000 press that will crank out 144,000 sheets in the same time frame. “That's 50 percent more production,” says Maurer. “And if you slit the VLF output at the delivery, you are looking at 12,000 more sph.”

Heavy lifting

Printers adding packaging format presses typically only are making a few cuts — many jobs will proceed directly to a die cutter or folder gluer. Rob Kuehl, Heidelberg's director of postpress packaging and cutting systems, says the T176T (previously called System 3) is a good fit for many VLF applications. The two “Ts” in the product name refer to a Transomat loader and unloader for the 69-inch cutter. “It will take the lift off a skid, automatically load it and then bring it to the rear of the cutter,” explains Kuehl. “The operator just slides it over to the Transomat unloader. We can add more automation if it's required.”

Those expanding their range of services with folder gluers and die cutters have a variety of options. “The majority of sheetfed folding carton work is done in the 56-inch format,” says Maurer. Heidelberg's Diana X 115 and 135 folder gluers can be paired with the SM XL 142. High-volume folding carton producers might team the 56-inch press with a Dymatrix 145 CSB die cutter.

For short-run packaging application, the vendor offers a range of options: Dymatrix and Varimatrix die-cutters as well as the Diana folder gluer and the new Easygluer 100 folder-gluer.

Those opting to stay within the world of traditional commercial applications also can reap some VLF postpress benefits. Consider the dramatic productivity improvements made possible with 32-page folding.

Heidelberg's offerings include the large-format TD Stahl folders (94/112/142) as well as TH82 with pre-cut sheets.

Heidelberg acquired Jagenberg in 2003. “Our die cutter and folder gluer strategy is proceeding on plan,” says Maurer. “We've shown our commitment to the technology and [intend to be] a technology and quality leader, as we are in the sheetfed market.”

See also

“Now cut that out!” (June 2005) highlights XXL new and used cutter options from Colter & Peterson, Heidelberg and Perfecta. See