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How Low can you Go?

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 AM

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Makereadies have been drastically reduced over the past few years. Thanks to ink presets, automatic plate changing and other innovations, it's possible to switch from one job to the next in just 10 minutes.

For this feature, we asked some top press vendors to highlight technology that supports quick-turn, short-run work. Stay tuned — with Drupa around the corner we can expect more uptime improvements.

Faster, bigger, smarter

Doug Schardt, sheetfed product manager for Komori (Rolling Meadows, IL) says short-run lengths continue to decrease. While technology plays a crucial role in achieving maximum productivity, managers must do their part. “Someone with four or five older presses who buys an automated press typically doesn't ramp up their estimating or production standard to reflect the new addition,” says Schardt. “It's like a racehorse surrounded by Clydesdales.” Komori's customers can participate in “wellness checks” to ensure their presses are operating at peak efficiency.

Artificial intelligence (AI) (or advanced intelligence as Komori calls it) will continue to push presses to new levels of sophistication. “Presses can't think,” says Schardt, “But they can make choices based on data.”

Drupa is the coming out party for Komori's Lithrone SX40. Rated at 18,000 sph, the press can accommodate a 41-inch sheet. The press can start printing at 12,000 sph for significant time and paper savings. “When a press is accelerating, the ink and water aren't stable,” says Schardt. “At 12,000 sph, you're close to running speed, so [it makes sense] to start feeding sheets.”

Fully automatic plate changing makes it feasible to change six plates in less than two minutes, with nonstop plate removal. Further makeready savings are achieved via software that controls all inking functions, air and register presets.

Komori's On Demand Changeover Theatre will showcase KHS-AI on its sheetfed presses. A self-learning function memorizes any changes the operator makes to CIP4 download information and uses it for subsequent jobs. The press is “aware” of printing conditions and constantly updates itself to reflect them.

As variables change (for example, if rollers shrink), the self-learning function knows to adjust the ink key relative to the coverage required. “The result is that you're at target density very quickly,” says Schardt.

KHS-AI's Smart Sequence component automates color correction and adjustment. On a job-by-job basis, printers can choose the most appropriate of three preprogrammable automatic operations for complete press set up. These include de-inking, wash ups, pre-inking, plate changing and full automatic makeready so that, for example, the operator can select the pattern for “start of the day,” “job change” or “end of the day.”

For more on Komori's ( Drupa plans, see pg. 44.

Wash and go

At Graph Expo 2006, Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) debuted the Anicolor zoneless inking system for the 20-inch Speedmaster 52. Anicolor's keyless inking and anilox technology help it maintain a consistent ink film. An engraved anilox roller transfers ink from the chamber onto the plate form roller. From there, the ink is transferred onto a predampened, standard offset plate. A 4-color makeready on the press reportedly takes about seven minutes; the press is up to color in as few as 10 to 20 sheets.

“We are reducing makeready times to just hanging plates and washing blankets,” says Joerg Daehnhardt, director of sheetfed product management. “Once you've done those two things, you're ready to print.”

Anicolor incorporates elements of offset printing as well as flexography. “You're using standard plates, ink and a dampening unit,” says Daehnhardt. “On the other hand, you're using screen rollers as you would on a flexo or anilox coating unit.”

Unlike a conventional offset press that might require an operator to monitor 16 rollers, an Anicolor operator essentially deals with only with two rollers. “There's the screen roller and the form roller, and you're already at the plate,” says Daehnhardt. “It's a short ink path and train.”

Controlling the anilox roller's temperature is the key to ink metering. Operators raise or lower the temperature at the press console to transfer the desired amount of ink.

Built in Intelligence

"On Anicolor, we took out a lot of automation and built in color intelligence," says Daehnhardt. "With other small-format presses, you have to play with the ink keys, even if you have a prepress interface. It takes a long time to come up to color and ensure the color is right. With the Anicolor technology, [users get] the same ink laydown anywhere on the sheet, wherever there is a dot. The plate has all of the necessary information — there's a dot or no dot, you print or don't print. Rather than [using] electronics to figure out how much ink [to use] and how far to open the ink keys, we're taking standardization to the printer and to the shop floor."

Achieving optimum results with Anicolor hinges on good prepress color management and precise alignment of platesetter calibration curves. Proofers, platesetters and the printing press should be calibrated so that the digital proof corresponds to the subsequent print results.

Taylor Corp. (North Mankato, MN) was the U.S. Anicolor beta site and has since added five additional SM 52 presses equipped with the technology. Predominantly a short-run printer with runs of less than 1,000 sheets, Taylor's makeready times have gone from 15 minutes down to just seven or eight minutes. The presses run 24/7 with each currently producing about three jobs an hour — the company's ultimate goal is four jobs

Steady On.

"You have to make sure you have the jobs," says Daehnhardt. "Anicolor is extremely productive and, at roughly 35 makereadies per eight-hour shift, not applicable to everybody. It makes the most sense if you have a constant flow of work."

Anicolor is currently offered only on Heidelberg's SM 52. It may eventually migrate to the vendor's larger format presses. "We can only move beyond the 20-inch market when we have Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors available for that machine," says Daehnhardt. "PMS colors [traditionally] used different ink thicknesses, depending on the color. But at Graph Expo 2007, Pantone introduced the Goe System, which is based on [uniform] ink film thickness. Obviously, Pantone's Goe is a perfect match for Anicolor, but it's still gaining acceptance."

Heidelberg ( recently held a press conference to unveil its new Speedmaster XL 142 (40.2 × 55.9 inches) and Speedmaster XL 162 (47.2 × 63.8 inches). See pg. 42.

Four-minute plate changing

"We consider a short-run job to be around 500 sheets," says Bob Treadwell, Akiyama's (Cerritos, CA) Eastern regional sales and marketing manager. "We're seeing a trend toward short-run web work coming to our sheetfed JPrint users. By that, I mean many jobs running between 500 to 20,000 run length on various substrates is better suited to a press like JPrint rather than a web press, where a job running from 20,000 or higher would be more beneficial. The JPrint also produces one of the highest-quality finished products available in a single pass for two-sided printing."

At Drupa, Akiyama will be demonstrating its brand new Mega Jprint 10-color patented inline double coater sheetfed press, first seen at IGAS 2007.

The new 4-color version achieves 15,000 sph, while the new 5-color version runs at 14,000 sph. The press features an ACC (Akiyama Color Control) operation stand that is seamlessly joined with the main press. The new ACC operation stand supports higher control speeds of the ink-key motors within the press, so that the values entered at the stand are enacted by the ink keys in half the time.

For short-run jobs, the new Mega Jprint will offer an optional Full Auto Plate Changer (FAPC). The FAPC performs all required operations — from ejecting the previous plate to setting the new plate automatically. The system only takes only about four minutes to change all plates.

The Mega Jprint offers an inline double coater commonly used on conventional straight presses. Mega Jprint's original inline single-pass coater significantly reduces the risk of rubbing or scratching. It shortens the time to the next process while dramatically lowering the use of spray powder.

See www.

Simultaneous Plate Changing

KBA (Burlington, VT) is addressing shorter run lengths on several fronts. "We're continuing to introduce new technology that helps our customers economically produce short run-length jobs," says Eric Frank, KBA vice president, marketing. "We invite everyone to stop at our Drupa exhibit to see the latest technology."

KBA's new direct drive system for plate cylinders, DriveTronic SPC (simultaneous plate changing) also provides electronic setting of the start of print; electronically controlled circumferential register; and plate changing parallel to other press processes. (DriveTronic SPC will be demonstrated at Drupa and will be available soon in the U.S.)

With DriveTronic SPC, plate changes are cut from the three minutes commonly required on a conventional six-color press to less than one minute. Simultaneous plate changing, in tandem with simultaneous blanket washing, can deliver substantial time savings at all printing units during job changes, particularly on long perfectors. (Look for more KBA Drupa news next month.)

Even a genius can get smarter

Short-run, quick-turn jobs are a natural fit for KBA's compact 20-inch sheetfed offset press, the Genius 52UV. Applications include individual cards for telephone and lottery use, prepaid cards, gift cards and membership cards, together with CDs and DVDs on a variety of plastic material such as PVC, ABS, PS, PE, PET and PC. The Genius also prints cardboard and paper in thicknesses ranging from 0.004 inch to 0.03 inch. The machine prints up to 8,000 sph in the conventional 14.2 × 20.47-inch format.

The Genius 52 UV's Gravuflow keyless inking units helps users achieve makereadies that reportedly are 40 percent shorter vs. a conventional offset press. At Drupa, look for a new quick-change ink chamber can be removed from the printing unit at any time without having to be emptied. While the Genius 52UV is printing, other quick-change ink chambers can be prepared for the next job; i.e., one entailing spot color in the fifth printing unit.

Other options inlcude an extended coater for adding high gloss inline.


Operator Can be Elsewhere

At Graph Expo 2006, Mitsubishi (Lincolnshire, IL) demonstrated SimulChanger, a fully automated, simultaneous plate-changing system that targets this time-consuming makeready step. This optional feature on the Diamond series presses is capable of replacing old plates with new plates at every printing unit in one seamless operation. On multicolor presses, SimulChanger allows plate changing on all printing units at the same time without the operator being present at the printing unit.

The complete plate-changing process, including the time required for old plate removal, new plate wrap-up and plate cylinder phase adjustments required for simultaneous plate changes, is just over one minute. Printing companies that are operating the SimulChangers are reporting plate changes of less than 70 seconds.

A typical automated plate change can take from 60 seconds to 90 seconds for each plate used to print a job. The SimulChanger alone can reduce makereadies on a 10-color press by almost 15 minutes.

Typically on sheetfed presses, a series of impression cylinder and transfer cylinder grippers are responsible for sheet transfer. If gaps on the plate and blanket cylinders come into contact with grippers on impression cylinders, a shock results. Cylinders are positioned to rotate so the gaps do not arrive at the same time. Positions of the cylinder are different for each printing unit when the press comes to a complete stop. For this reason, each plate cylinder must be positioned individually during plate changes.

SimulChanger's simultaneous plate cylinder phasing system makes use of the uppermost and lowermost adjustment settings for registration. Plate cylinders at each unit automatically turn and stop at the optimum positions for changing plates. This arrangement enables the plates at all units to be changed at the same time. Once the plate change is completed, the cylinders return to their proper phase for printing.

From a standing position, operators load new plates while the press is running. All other functions of the plate change, including automatic and simultaneous deplating of multiple units, can be done with the touch of a button at the Mitsubishi COMRAC press control console. Preloaded plates are taken up and mounted automatically as the old plates are ejected. Positioning of the cylinder, clamping and tensioning are automatically accomplished.

'A lot more work in less time'

MWM Dexter, Inc., (Aurora, MO) specializes in short-run publications, calendars and church bulletins. With average run lengths of 3,000 sheets, these jobs demand ultrafast makereadies and quick turnarounds. To accommodate this work, the commercial printer recently installed a new Diamond 3000S four-color press equipped with SimulChanger.

"With SimulChanger, we could conceivably schedule 50 makereadies in a 24-hour period," says Chris Dale, president. "We expect SimulChanger to cut makeready times by 50 percent. We can put a lot more work through here in a lot less time. We have a major account whose jobs are always 400 28 x 40-inch sheets. At 400 sheets, each of these projects is equivalent to a makeready."

Quick color adjustment

Mitsubishi's Drupa highlights include the Diamond Color Navigator. The Color Navigator automatically corrects all necessary ink key openings simultaneously based on the operator's visual color sense using a touchscreen color wheel. Mitsubishi's new color adjustment interface ensures fast and accurate fine-tuning of colors without the need for complicated ink key moves. Compared with manual ink key adjustments, the Diamond Color Navigator cuts color adjustment time in half and increases color reproduction accuracy by nearly one-third.

The system consists of upper and lower touch monitors attached to a separate console located next to the COMRAC control console. The upper monitor is used for selecting individual ink zones. The operator inputs the desired adjustments on the lower monitor and then sends the adjustments to the press. A hand-held spectrodensitometer also allows the operator to accurately color match specific spots on the sheet.


Higher Profits With DI

"Printers are looking for a more effective way to address 4-color printing in the 250 to 10,000 run length range," says Mark Levin, president, Americas region for Presstek (Hudson, NH). Citing InfoTrends research, Levin says job profitability is 13 percent higher on a DI press vs. a conventional press. When compared to a production color toner-based digital device, the DI press reportedly saves 50 percent on average per letter-size page.

For high-quality, affordable personalization, users can print offset shells using the Presstek DI and then overprint using a toner-based or inkjet device. The Presstek 52DI's stream feeder can be adjusted to handle envelopes. Capabilities are further expanded with the DI's ability to print on substrates ranging from onion skin to heavy card stock; including plastics and magnetic paper.

Beefing up the value-added solutions

In February 2008, Presstek announced it will offer Press-sense's portfolio of web to print and business management software as part of its ongoing plan to surround its digital offset product portfolio with value-added business solutions. Presstek will offer both licensed software and hosted versions.

Press-sense iWay, the central component to the Press-sense Business Flow suite, is a web-based, end-to-end, print-on-demand workflow and management solution that allows users to create, customize, order, print and deliver in one streamlined operation. Liberty Graphics (Calgary, Alberta), a small commercial print shop, was one of the first to install a Presstek 34DI digital offset press along with Press-sense iWay. Jesse Schneider, graphic artist and partner, says iWay simplifies template creation for the DI press while automating the imposition process. "Our iWay templates automatically place the color bar on the sheet," he says. "We can select a range of jobs in the queue and have iWay automatically gang them, imposing them in the template in the most logical way based on size, paper stock and color. About 90 percent of the jobs that we produce on the DI are in runs of 1,000 to 1,500."


Bigger and Faster

"We've definitely recognized the demand for shorter runs," says Tim Kirby, national sales manager for xpedx Printing Technologies (Kansas City, KS), the exclusive North American distributor for Ryobi branded presses. "We've adapted automation that allows faster makereadies with less waste, ultimately resulting in more profit for the printer."

Kirby says ink key automation, coupled with fully automatic plate changing, dramatically reduces makeready times. Ryobi's ink volume setter (IVS) software uses prepress data to calculate the image area ratio for each ink fountain key opening volume. All necessary data, including the printing start position, and the number and the width of the ink fountain keys are input in advance — the operator just specifies the press type.

Ryobi's Program Inking puts a precise amount of ink down for start up. "You're not chasing color on the next run," says Kirby. "You're right there."

Program Inking automatically sets the conversion curve for each color according to the image area ratio calculated at prepress. The ink key settings, ink fountain roller speed and number of contacts by the ink ductor roller are all controlled based on the conversion curves to assure the optimum ink volume. During job changes, the system automatically corrects ink density to match various printing conditions, reducing downtime and paper waste.

The Ryobi 784, a 6-up press, is offered with semiautomatic plate changing. Operators can prepare for the next job while plate changing is underway.

Kirby says the 6-up format provides excellent versatility. "It's perfect for the 2-up printer moving up. He can do 11 x 17-inch jobs work and turn, with one makeready instead of two. If a printer has succeeded with short run jobs, chances are those customers have other projects and, with the 784 or 750 series, they can pursue additional business."

New 40-inch press debuts

Ryobi's Drupa highlights include a new 40-inch press, the Ryobi 1050, as well as an inline UV casting and foiling option for its 755 6-up model. A 2-up 525GX concept configuration incorporates an LED UV curing system. Ryobi also will show the 24 × 36-inch Ryobi 924 as well as the Ryobi 3404E DI.

The 1050 will ship to U.S. customers in 2009; a perfecting model is slated for introduction in 2010.

Currently rated at 16,000 sph, the 1050 will be offered in "S" (41.73 × 31.5-inch) and "XL" (41.73 × 33.46-inch) configurations.

Skeleton tranfer drums with moveable shells minimize scratching and marking. When printing on heavy card stock, the shell sections are stowed inside the transfer drum.

Optional featues include an inline printing quality control system that controls ink density during the print run. The Ryobi PQS incoporates a CCD camera mounted at the delivery section. The digital image is used to measure the density of the color bar on the printed sheets. Values needed to correct the color densities to match those of target densities are calculated and provided as feedback to printing control system, which adjusts the ink fountain keys as necessary.

In-line fancy effects

For its 6-up 750 series, Ryobi will show an inline UV casting and foiling system. Both casting and foiling can be done inline with a single unit. When not in use, the lamp unit rises up out of the way. Conventional printing and varnish coating also are possible. In the UV casting process, the relief texture and pattern of the film are transferred to the UV varnish. The printed surface is cured by UV light to product the holographic effect.

In the foiling process, first the UV cure glue is applied with the printing or coating unit. The film-based foil then is covered on the printed surface. The UV lamp fixes the foil on the printed sheet.

Ryobi teamed with Toyo ink to develop an LED-UV system that will be shown on the 525GX. Rather than conventional UV lamps, the system incorporates lower-power consumption LEDs. Components include an LED-UV IR system form Matsushita Electric Works and a special Toyo ink.


Debora Toth is a freelance writer and editor who has been covering the printing industry for 26 years. She can be reached at

Katherine O'Brien is the editor in chief of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at

The quicker picker upper

Sappi Fine Paper (Boston) has launched Tempo. The coated paper reportedly lets users cut standard ink setting time in half, enabling quick backup.

"Customers told us they needed a product that allows them to produce a finished product faster," says Mark Gardner, president and CEO, Sappi Fine Paper North America. "We are guaranteeing the paper will set ink in under 30 minutes and dry ink for processing at the bindery in under two hours."


A long perfector alternative

"We are clearly seeing an accelerating trend on the web side for shorter run lengths," says Greg Norris of Goss Intl. (Bolingbrook, IL). "Web printers are routinely printing run lengths well below 5,000 copies and completing multiple makereadies per hour with extremely low waste levels."

At Drupa, Goss will debut a new dryerless web press intended as an alternative for some traditional sheetfed applications. Utilizing standard 16-page Goss M-600 printing units and new sheeter technology developed exclusively with VITS, the press is designed to print high-quality sheeted products on coated stocks without a dryer. Live demonstrations will emphasize fast makereadies, low waste and short-run efficiency. "The simplified, dryerless configuration makes the footprint approximately the same as that of a long perfector, but the speed will be more than double," explains Norris. "We feel the productivity advantage, combined with the print quality, lower paper costs and overall ROI will create a compelling new alternative for some printers considering perfectors."

Introduced in 1996, Goss' Autoplate fully automatic plate changing option is installed on 400 presses worldwide.

The vendor's Automatic Transfer (AT) system allows on-the-run print transfer. While the press is printing, operators can complete a makeready for a new job on idle units and then bring those units on impression while simultaneously taking the units printing the previous job off impression. Bypassing the AT feature also allows printing of up to eight colors. The Goss AT system addresses the increasing market demands for versioning and for producing a higher overall volume of jobs with shorter individual run lengths. (See "Page churners," AMERICAN PRINTER, April 2007).

Goss also notes that sheetfed printers are continuing to expand into web offset. North American sheetfed printers that recently purchased their first web presses — both Goss Sunday 2000 systems — include Boyd Brothers (Panama City, FL), and Trade Secret Printing Inc. (Toronto).


Inkjet that's 'offset class'

This past January at Messe Düsseldorf's International Media event, Kodak's (Rochester, NY) Graphic Communications Group (GCG) offered a preview of its Drupa plans. The vendor will demonstrate its Stream Concept Press, a continous inkjet machine with resolution in excess of 600 dpi, small droplet size and production speeds that reportedly exceed 500 fpm. It can print on a variety of coated and uncoated substrates. Pigment-based inks are said to provide good color satuation and permanance.

Kodak says that with the Stream Concept Press, inkjet technology is moving to offset class quality, reliability and cost of operation. The press targets commercial printers that produce montly page volumes of 10 million or more. Jobs that were once restriced to traditional offset now have the potential to incorporate variable data, short-run personalization or versioning. Applications include direct mail, catalogs and freestanding inserts.

Nexpress News

Applications for Kodak's Versamark VL2000.include billing, account statements and direct mail produced in volumes of 1 million per month or more. It uses drop-on-demand technology with 600 × 600 dpi image resolution and has a production capacity of 1,090 letter sized impressions per minute.

On the electrophotographic side, Kodak will debut S-Class NexPresses (S300, S2500 and S2100). The presses offer up to 5 color digital printing at speeds ranging from 2,100 to 3,000 sph or 70 to 100 A4/letter pages per minute. Input feeder options offer up to 11,000 sheet capacity, collation capability of up to five different media and both cut sheet and roll fed paper on the same press. A near line glossing unit can add a high gloss finish in spot or full page coating. New MICR printing options enable check and transpromo jobs to printed from blank sheets rather than preprinted shells.

Kodak's NexPress M700 has a new feeder module, a finisher that can stitch documents up to 100 sheets thick, a bookletmaker, booklet trimmer, punching unit, cover inserter and a high capacity delivery.

New versions of Kodak's Insite VDP system and Prinergy workflow are moving its Unified Workflow futher upstream in the print planning process.

CTP introductions include the Magnus 800Z as well as the XLF 80 Quantum. The Magnus 800Z can image up to 60 8-page plates per hour. The XLF supports large formats up to 80 pages and can produce up to 48 plates per hour at resolutions up to 2,400 dpi.


Wide-format inkjet, hybrid workflows and more

Participating in Messe Dusseldorf's January pre-Drupa event, Fujifilm Corp. (Itasca, IL) outlined its wide-format inkjet strategy, its partnership with Xerox, a chemistry-free violet plate and workflow products.

Fujifilm Sericol is the worldwide distributor of Inca Digital's flatbed printers: the high-end Onset and lower cost Acuity. Onset is capable of up to 5382 sq. ft. per hr. or 100+ full, 5 × 10-ft. sheets. The Acuity HD 2504 provides photographic-quality printing at speeds to 174 sq. ft. per hour on flexible or rigid media up to 1.9 inches thick.

The vendor plans to introduce additional inkjet products. A special area of its booth will show the business case for commercial printers to diversify with print on demand and wide-format inkjet.

Diagnostic tools

'X' marks the spot

The Fujifilm/Xerox alliance began with a joint venture in 1962 that established the Fuji-Xerox Co. in Tokyo. Fuji became a Xerox digital press reseller in 2003. At Drupa, the two vendors will demonstrate digital and offset print solutions and supporting integrated workflows, color management and print on demand.

Fujifilm will launch the Brillia HD PRO-V chemistry-free violet plate. Sensitivy and productivity are the same as the current conventional violet CTP plate, Brillia LP-NV. Run length is 150,000 to 200,000 impressions, depending on printing conditions.

Pressmax is a new range of environmentally friendly chemistry. It includes fountain solutions, blanket washes, anti set-off powders, coatings, glues, silicone emulsions and auxiliary products.

Based on Adobe's PDF Print Engine, Fujifilm's XMF workflow is a crossmedia workflow. Enhancements include collaborative online proofing and Web communication and more hybrid workflow options. XMF Remote provideas a 3D mock-up of the actual imposed job. Dynamic Color Management and Appearance Matching Model take soft proofing one step further. Users can simulate a job's appearance, including the type of paper and ink used.

XMF C-Fit automates the process of analyzing and improving RGB images that arrive from various sources (for example, photos for a school yearbook).

Taskero Universe is a suite of diagnostic tools that helps users monitor hardware from prepress throught the pressroom. The ColorPath Verified module let users set and track standards (such as SWOP or customer defined) for color consistency on monitors, inkjet and digital halftone proofers, platesetters and presses. A Server Performance Management component ensures each customer's server is performing properly. Finally, a Harware Performance Management module monitors hardware and the environment, such as a platesetter, processor, temperature and humidity and provides an early warning of potential problems.