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Feb 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Offset printing currently accounts for about 20 percent of package printing, with folding cartons and labels representing the most popular applications. For this feature, we've highlighted printers producing labels, boxes, maps, point-of-purchase, signage and more.

Litho Press Inc. (Indianapolis) largely credits its new manroland 900XXL 73-inch, 6-color press with UV coater for its strong showing as 2008 drew to a close. Since it became fully operational in August 2008, the press helped boost business in the second half of 2008 by nearly 10 percent.

“We had to farm out large-format work with our previous [legacy] 64-inch press,” says Bernie Lacy, vice president. “Now we can do it all in-house and also do printing to the trade, for printers with smaller presses who get large-format jobs. We've definitely been able to take on new accounts. It is a much faster press; we can absolutely get more work done, every day. We added a lot of automation with this press, which shortens make-ready time and reduces waste.”

Two other 6-color manroland presses — a 41-inch ROLAND 700 and 56-inch ROLAND 900, both with UV coaters — handle a wide range of commercial and package printing applications. After analyzing several options, Lacy and his brother John settled on the 73-inch ROLAND 900XXL.

“Good experience with manroland in the past helped make our decision easier,” adds John Lacy. “So did the overall 900XXL package.”

The package includes manroland's printnet operating and workflow integration system, power plate loading (PPL), automatic adjustment of blanket-impression cylinders for substrate thickness, and more. Litho Press can print on substrates as thin as onionskin flysheet paper and as thick as 48-pt. microflute board.

Jobs produced on the ROLAND 900XXL include everything from box wraps, top sheets and maps, to large in-store signage and POP displays, large folding cartons and general commercial print jobs.

“We are a customer-focused company, and more customers need the large-format output this press provides,” says Bernie Lacy. “We can also be more competitive on 36-inch x 50-inch configurations, by running them two-up. We saw plenty of new business opportunities when deciding on the manroland 900XXL. Now those opportunities are becoming a reality.”

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Proteus changes with the times

Proteus Packaging (Franklin, WI) is the first U.S. company to install Heidelberg's VLF Speedmaster XL 145 press. Founded in 1932, as Beck Carton Corp., the company changed its name in 2007. Its motto is “adaptive packaging for a changing world” and, indeed, Proteus has proven itself to be as versatile as the shape-shifting Greek god that inspired its name.

The 80-employee company specializes in pharmaceutical, nutritional, health and beauty, and automotive packaging. In 2007, after two years of extensive planning and construction, Proteus moved into a modern new facility. It previously occupied three 100-year-old, five-story buildings in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. After exchanging its vintage digs for a 246,000-sq.-ft., single-story manufacturing and office building, the company was ready to replace some of its legacy 50-inch press iron.

The folding carton company's two 25-year-old presses had served the company well. “Quality was never an issue,” explains Tim Wayman, executive vice president and COO. “But speed, efficiency and labor costs made it difficult for us to stay competitive with these presses.”

Proteus could go smaller (40 inches) or bigger (56 inches or 64 inches). “Bigger” fit best with the company's existing 50-inch platform. The printer serves several hundred customers, so fast makeready and running speeds were essential for its job-shop environment.

Heidelberg unveiled its Speedmaster XL 145 (41.73 × 57.09 inches) and XL 162 (47.24 × 63.78 inches) presses at Drupa 2008. “The timing was perfect for us,” explains Wayman. “As we began to discuss our upgrade plans, we were poised and ready to listen to what Heidelberg had to offer.”

Wayman joined three other Proteus employees in evaluating press options from the leading vendors. Heidelberg's success with the 29.53 x 41.34-inch XL 105 impressed the group — they further noted that the XL 105's color management and makeready features also figured prominently in the VLF platform presses. Wayman and the team visited some XL 105 installations as well as the Print & Media Demonstration Center (PMDC). A visit to Heidelberg's R&D facility in Wiesloch, Germany, for an in-depth look at the XL 145 won them over.

Key features that impressed the Proteus reviewers included:

  • Rated speed of 15,000 sph.
  • Prinect Inpress Control, which measures color and register in the quality control strip on the fly.
  • Prinect Press Center with Wallscreen, a state-of-the-art control station that combines press operation with color and register control in a single, central console.
  • Single suction belt feeder, for precise sheet transport.

Service also factored into the decision. “Heidelberg's service organization provides the best coverage in the industry,” Wayman said. “There are simply more people available to help.” As with all new presses from Heidelberg, the shop's XL 145 will be protected by Systemservice 36plus, which includes all repair services, parts and 24/7 support for three years.

Proteus is currently installing the Speedmaster XL 145 with inline aqueous coater and expects to be in full production by mid-May. The company will eventually replace its remaining legacy press — the format is still under discussion. Also on tap: a new die cutter and sheeter to support the larger press.

“Our growth has been double digit in past couple of years,” says Wayman. “We are a long-term supplier to many customers, and it's been an exciting time.”

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PGI: Expanded possibilities with 40-pt. board

A trend toward more 40-inch work prompted Pacific Graphics Inc. (PGI) (City of Industry, CA) to add a Mitsubishi Diamond V3000LX sheetfed press.

“The larger sheet size and wider stock range were very attractive to us,” says Bill Wasson, production manager of the family-owned shop. “Those features will give us the added capabilities we need to keep up with demand in our market.”

The six-color Diamond V3000LX handles a maximum sheet size of 291/2 x 4111/32 inches. The press is engineered to print on different stock types across a thickness range from 0.0016 inches to 0.040 inch.

“Our existing presses printed up to 24-pt. stock,” notes Wasson. “Accommodating heavier board up to 40-pt. will enable us to branch out into the packaging end of the business.”

Founded in 1988, PGI runs an extremely lean operation. The company employs 17 people at its 13,000-sq.-ft. facility. It generates $5 million in annual sales printing high-quality annual reports, marketing materials, promotional pieces, brochures and presentation folders. Run lengths of approximately 20,000 impressions are typical.

The Diamond V3000LX, which debuted in the United States at Graph Expo 2008 last October, is PGI's third Mitsubishi press. A 6-color, 28 x 40-inch 3F-13 was installed in 2000, followed in 2005 by a 6-color, 20 x 28-inch Diamond 1000S. Digital capabilities include a Xerox iGen3 110 production press.

“At the time, most of our work was in the 40-inch size, and we bought the 28-inch press to be more competitive on shorter runs,” Wasson says. “With this latest press purchase, we wanted to significantly reduce makeready times. The Diamond V3000LX provides even quicker turnarounds on short-run, multiform jobs.”

The Diamond V3000LX is equipped with SimulChanger, Mitsubishi's fully automated system for simultaneous plate changes. PGI also added Diamond Color Navigator, a newly developed color adjustment system that automates the fine-tuning of colors without complicated ink key moves.

“These automated systems improve the speed and efficiency of two key aspects of makereadies — plate changing and color matching,” Wasson says. “We are looking at very fast makereadies. We are excited about the time savings that will bring to smaller projects.”

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Large & in charge at Edison Litho

Founded in 1958, Edison Litho & Printing is one of the largest large-format litho printers in the Northeast. Last spring, the printer added a second KBA Rapida 205 81-inch press, a five-color configuration with coater and custom plastics package. With this installation, Edison can claim bragging rights as the only printer in North America to operate two such large presses in the same facility. Edison's pressroom also includes a KBA Rapida 162 64-inch, 6-color sheetfed press with aqueous coater, installed in January 2007.

“Being able to print on different substrates on the Rapida 205 81-inch press sets us apart,” says George Gross, Edison's president. “The short-run plastic styrene market is growing and we've got the press to produce these jobs. Customers like the fact that the substrate produces a beautiful application display that is pliable and holds up well in a variety of conditions, such as moisture and humidity, yet will not curl. “We're also producing point-of-purchase signage, packaging displays, huge posters, and outdoor signage materials, such as opalene with backlit and Flexcon's Busmark self-adhesive vinyl. All of these specialized jobs give us higher margins and a double-digit increase in our profits.”

Edison Litho's newest Rapida 205 is equipped with UV coating and chillers on the cylinders to enable long runs and facilitate printing on challenging substrates. “The Rapida 205 enhances the speed and quality of this specialized type of printing,” says Gross. “Having the additional capability of printing on substrates like plastic, vinyl, and styrene really rounds out our ability to service our customers with their entire large-format printing needs. We've found that there are very few printers who [can do this].”

Edison recently completed a job for a customer that required a large-format sign printed on styrene. Unhappy with previous silk-screened attempts, the customer asked Edison to produce it on the Rapida 205. “We got the job at 11 a.m., output the file, and printed, cut, and delivered the job in one day,” says Roger Morel, Edison's quality control manager and prepress supervisor. “The customer couldn't believe the high quality and speed with which we produced this job on 30-pt. styrene for them.”

Edison runs the 208 around the clock, cranking out commercial printing, POP, packaging, poster, retail signage, and other high-quality jobs for both existing and new customers.

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Bring on the SX40

Graph Expo 2008 was the U.S. coming out party for Komori's (Rolling Meadows, IL) 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. 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.

The LSX40 also features Komori's proprietary new advanced interface (AI) software that can reduce job cycle times up to 50%. The AI technology allows all press functions to be preset from the console, saving time and money. In addition, the AI software also has self-learning technology that progressively updates press settings over time to reduce waste.

At the show, Komori announced that Jones Packaging (London, Ontario) has placed an order for what is reportedly the largest capacity, multicoater press in Canada. The 13-unit Komori LS40 sheetfed press, configured specifically for Jones Packaging, features nine printing units, two tower coaters and two drying units. Automation highlights include fully automatic plate loading system, PDC-S close-loop color control, fully automatic press wash-up, KHS-AI high speed inking, and inker declutch on all units.

On the cover

Our cover incorporates part of a striking logo designed by artist Eric Kass of Funnel (Indianapolis). “It is a memorable and fun logo,” says Kass.

“It immediately expresses the Litho Press experience and strong work ethic and it also reproduces well. All of the elements work together to create the message, but I like the handkerchief best. It speaks to the craft of printing, the ‘roll up your sleeves, wipe the sweat from your brow’ art Litho Press has practiced for decades.”

Kass' work has appeared in more than 20 national magazines, 30 books and 21 galleries.

Show Notes

A packaging ‘Odyssey’

The 2009 IADD FSEA

Odyssey will take place May 6-8, 2009 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta. The show targets die cutting, die making, foil stamping/embossing, folding carton, corrugated, and specialty markets.

Large-format printers strut their stuff

GlobalShop will be held March 23-25, 2009, at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas. It is the largest annual tradeshow of its kind in the world, with more than 800 exhibitors of fixtures, digital signage, merchandising and in-store marketing products. .

Getting started with digital wide format

SGIA will hold its Intro to Wide-Format Digital workshop in Fairfax, VA on Feb. 26-27. It covers digital technologies, ink chemistries, printer manufacturers and media choices.

Wide format beyond offset

As noted in “Grand Times,” (January 2008), wide-format inkjet equipment initially faced a hostile reception. Certain sectors within the industry at large perceived digital print as a threat. Some screenprinters feared it would spawn fierce competition for short-run work. But in recent years, these machines have gained ground, even among traditional commercial printers.

“Print buyers are increasing their own efficiency by working with vendors who can provide an expanded array of integrated imaging solutions,” says Mike Robertson, SGIA president and CEO. “Wide format imaging is high on the list of valued imaging solutions. The ability to provide short run, large graphics such as displays, point-of-purchase materials, posters, booth graphics, floor graphics and window graphics is helping many offset printers keep existing customers and open doors to new markets. It's a relatively low cost imaging capability that adds value.”

Las Vegas Color Graphics' UV perfector is twice as nice (LVCG) installed an 8-color Komori .Lithrone perfector with double coaters in December 2008. Larry Scheffler, LVCG's CEO and founder, says the unique UV-equipped press will go far in helping the company expand its already extensive range of specialty services.

“We considered the needs of our customers as we determined our ‘idea’ configuration,” he explains. “[Factors included] high-end job production, ability to print on exotic substrates such as foils and boards, and dedicated UV flexibility.” Extended dryers let LVCG switch from UV to aqueous coating on demand.

“LVCG's creative management team provided us with their vision of what a new printing press needed to [for] the ultracompetitive Las Vegas printing market,” says Dan Quenzer, district sales manager for Komori America. “They have installed the highest level dedicated UV perfector press we have ever produced. It includes every automation, color control, and quality checking device we offer.”

Founded in 1978, Las Vegas Color Graphics occupies 85,000-sq.-ft. and employs 160 people. It is one of the largest privately-owned, integrated printing and mailing services providers in Nevada.