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2 in 1 Perfectors maximize pressroom efficiency

Nov 1, 2009 12:00 AM


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Technologies for sheetfed perfecting have been on the market for more than 30 years. All of the companies AMERICAN PRINTER contacted already had the capability prior to their most recent installations of equipment for one-pass, two-sided printing.

Waiting for the 10-color Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105 perfector installed at Communicorp Inc. (Columbus, GA) last November was a 3/2 Speedmaster CD 102 acquired in 2007. In 2006, a 12-unit (6/6) Mitsubishi Double Diamond 3000R joined two other Mitsubishi perfectors in the press department at Buchanan Visual Communications (Dallas). Four years ago, McDonald & Eudy (Marlow Heights, MD) put in a 23 × 29-inch, 5-color Ryobi 755 perfector to optimize the workload on an existing pair of 40-inch perfectors.

Although none of the companies is a newcomer to one-pass, two-sided printing, some gained that experience via web presses, too. Unimac Graphics (Carlstadt, NJ), which has been operating a 6-color KBA Rapida 106 perfector for about four months, also has one full- and one half-size heatset web press printing 6/6. Prisma Graphic Corp. (Phoenix), doing two-sided sheetfed work on its new 40-inch, 5/5 Akiyama JPrint perfector, added 5- and 2- color webs to its sheetfed assets nine years ago. A full-size manroland Rotoman web and a UV-capable Didde web press complement a 10-color manroland 710 and two other manroland sheetfed perfectors at Knepper Press (Clinton, PA).

Significant labor savings

In most cases, the companies replaced one or more existing perfectors with significantly more productive equipment. Marcia Bonsell, vice president of production for Communicorp, says that her press department “took out 12 cylinders and two coating towers” by replacing a pair of straight-printing, 6-color Speedmaster CD 102s with the Speedmaster XL 105 long perfector. The two-for-one swap made sense because the older Speedmasters, even if rebuilt, “would still be a 1996 to 1998 technology,” she notes.

When the Mitsubishi Double Diamond 3000R replaced a 5/5 perfector and a straight-printing 6-color press at Buchanan Visual Communications, says owner Dave Johnson, “This cut our labor costs in half.” Now, instead of requiring four people to tend two presses, the same amount of work can be performed by two people crewing one machine — a significant cost savings in a plant operating three shifts a day, five days a week.

Robert Anderson, president of Prisma Graphics Corp., was able to retire two 40-inch presses — one perfecting, one straight — with the installation of the Akiyama JPrint. The manroland 710 at Knepper Press is a repeat purchase, having replaced an older manroland 710 perfector. Ted Ford, CEO, says that its installation coincided with the company's move into a new 100,000-sq.-ft. facility last year.

But, decommissioning older presses isn't always a given. At Unimac Graphics, the plan initially was to take out two presses upon the installation of the KBA Rapida 106. That changed, says COO Steve Rickett, when a growth trend in the business made it advisable to wait and see how much capacity would be needed to keep up.

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When Mike McDonald, president of McDonald & Eudy, installed the Ryobi 755 about four years ago, his intention was to shift some of the work from the plant's 40-inch perfectors to a press of a more suitable size. He reports that jobs such as covers, 20 × 26-inch posters, and brochures are a better fit on the Ryobi 755's 6-up format, and that makereadies are faster as a result. And, because press time sells at a different hourly rate on the smaller machine, producing appropriately sized items on the Ryobi 750 is more cost efficient than running them on the 40-inch presses. (xpedx Printing Technologies is the North American distributor for Ryobi branded presses.) Although their configurations vary, what these perfectors have in common is their precise fit to the needs of their production environments. Bonsell, for example, says that Communicorp had seen a shift in demand from 6-color perfecting to the kind of 5/5 work that its 10-color Speedmaster XL 105 is best suited for. Aqueous coating also ceased to be necessary when Communicorp installed the high-speed XL 105, which does not have a coating tower.

“I wasn't coating that much on the other two presses,” Bonsell explains, adding that with one-pass perfecting, “I don't have to coat the sheets to flip them.” The 710 HiPrint manroland at Knepper Press doesn't have an aqueous coater, and Ford says that's because it doesn't need one: 80% of what's printed on the press is 4/4, and the rest is 4/4 plus varnish or a spot PMS.

The KBA Rapida 106 at Unimac Graphics is a 2/4 perfector with interdeck UV curing and drying. The press is raised to accommodate high loads in the delivery, and an options package from KBA enables it to print on vinyl, plastic, foil, and Mylar in addition to conventional stocks.

‘That extra inch is huge’

Rickett says that one of most productivity-enhancing features of the Rapida 106 is its oversized 40-inch format, which enables the press to handle sheets up to 29.13 × 41.73 inches. According to Rickett, that extra surface area is bigger than it may seem: “Do you know how many jobs miss a 40-inch press by half an inch? There are a lot of jobs in which that extra inch is huge.”

Johnson says that Buchanan's Mitsubishi Double Diamond 3000R can run hybrid and standard UV inks in addition to conventional litho inks from Sentinel ink cartridges. It's configured with interdeck UV curing systems after the second, fourth, and sixth units; systems for UV and aqueous coating are installed after the sixth and 12th units. Perfecting takes place after the coating tower behind unit six.

About 95 percent of what is produced on the press uses hybrid UV inks, which can be run without the special rollers and blankets that pure UV inks require. Johnson says that the press can be changed over to print with pure UV inks for the remaining 5 percent, which consists of jobs on plastic substrates.

“I like the perfecting model of the web,” declares Anderson, referring to the blanket-to-blanket printing couples that enable web presses like those at Prisma Graphic Corp. to print both sides at once. His JPrint perfector, with its stacked-cylinder array, comes close to this method by sending sheets through five upper and lower printing units with air dryers in between. The upper and lower units print alternately against each other's impression cylinders, with those cylinders doubling as transfer drums.

With the perfecting device located after the second unit and the coater after the fifth, McDonald & Eudy's Ryobi 755 can print 2/2 or 2/3. Most jobs are run on 60-, 70-, and 80-lb. matte or coated stock and 12-pt. board. McDonald says only about 10 percent of the jobs run on the Ryobi 755 involve two-sided printing. Its primary role is to help the plant make more efficient use of its full-size presses.

Pedal to the metal

Today's perfectors are built for serious speed, typically just a few thousand sheets per hour less than their throughput in straight mode. Early-model sheetfed perfectors were not nearly this capable, and pushing them to what then passed for top speed often required the suppression of gastric butterflies on the part of their operators.

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Nowadays, though, the precision and consistency of high-speed perfecting have made that kind of hesitation mostly a memory. The Rapida 106 at Unimac Graphics prints at 18,000 sph in straight mode and at 15,000 sph when perfecting, and Rickett says that these speeds are attained “day in and day out” because his press crews have no qualms about reaching them. When operators are in the proper frame of mind for high-speed printing, he observes, “then the press will do everything it's made to do.”

According to Ford, Knepper Press's manroland 710 gets “pretty darn close” to its top rated speed in both straight (16,000 sph) and perfecting (12,000 sph) modes. McDonald reports that 13,000 sph to 14,000 sph, just under the Ryobi 755's straight printing maximum of 15,000 sph, is a speed range in which the press can operate “comfortably, all day long.” (Two-sided jobs can be produced at 10,000 sph.)

Bonsell says that Communicorp's Speedmaster XL 105 hits its top perfecting speed of 15,000 sph “98 percent of the time” as it runs almost nonstop in a four-shift, two-week rotation so complex that an outsider would “need a scorecard” to follow it.

The JPrint at Prisma Graphic runs consistently at its top speed of 13,000 sph, which would be equivalent, Anderson notes, to 26,000 sph on a straight press if a straight press could run that fast. Rapid throughput is a critical requirement at Prisma Graphics, which receives print orders 24/7 from 200 online storefronts it has created for customers. Because this flood of incoming work can run as high as 5,000 orders per month, says Anderson, “We really tend to push the speed barrier.”

Johnson says that Buchanan can run its Double Diamond 3000R at 10,000 sph, but observes that for some small-quantity jobs, peak speed isn't always essential.

The case for space

Multicolor perfectors need ample room, and long perfectors of eight or more units can make even bigger claims on square footage.

Sometimes physical alteration is necessary, as when Johnson removed a 15-ft. section of the wall between the pressroom and the bindery to accommodate the 120 ft. long Double Diamond 3000R at Buchanan Visual Communications. Or, the answer could be similar to what Bonsell calls “the whole choreography” of space reallocation that took place when Communicorp installed its 90 ft. Speedmaster XL 105. After dismantling and removing the two presses that the Speedmaster XL 105 replaced, Bonsell moved part of the bindery to the vacated area in order to make room for the incoming 10-color perfector.

Prisma Graphic Corp. also had to accommodate a 10-unit press, but one consisting of five stacked pairs of two instead of 10 units in a row. The JPrint's comparatively small footprint suits Anderson, who says he likes a compact pressroom through which people and jobs can move quickly.

On the other hand, when floor space is abundant, machine size becomes moot. Even with its 12 ft. extended delivery, the six-unit Rapida 106 at Unimac Graphics isn't classed as a long perfector, and Rickett says that there was plenty of room to install it in the 146,000-sq.-ft. plant. Ford, likewise, says that because Knepper Press's new plant was built with expansion in mind, there were no concerns about housing the long manroland 710. “We designed the building for everything we have, and for everything we might want,” he says.

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Although the five-unit Ryobi 755 at McDonald & Eudy is nowhere near to being a long perfector, its dimensions definitely mattered when McDonald decided to install it. He explains that one reason he chose the press was its compact size, noting that its space-saving configuration — combining a coater and a short delivery — was available only from Ryobi.

Automation's abundant advantages

Regardless of its size or brand, any new sheetfed perfector has an impressive array of automation, including automated or semi-automated plate changing; ink fountain presets from prepress data; automatic blanket and cylinder washup; densitometric color management; and touchscreen console. These features have helped printers make impressive — and measurable — gains in the efficiency of their two-sided printing.

Bonsell says that compared with two-sided printing on a straight press, makeready waste “has been conservatively reduced by 66 percent” in the switch to perfecting. Where the straight presses that were replaced by the Speedmaster XL 105 might consume up to 1,200 waste sheets in two separate makereadies, a color OK can be obtained on the perfector by the third pull which translates into 300 to 400 sheets. Bonsell says the time savings is equally impressive, with makeready complete on the Speedmaster XL 105 in 20 min. vs. 1¼ hours on the old equipment.

McDonald tells a similar story of makeready efficiency at McDonald & Eudy, where press setup times on the Ryobi 755 are about half of what they were — 10 to 12 min. vs. 20 to 22 min. — on an older press that used to run the kinds of jobs that are now are produced on the 6-up perfector. At Buchanan Visual Communications, says Johnson, “It takes about a minute to hang a plate [on the Double Diamond 3000R],” enabling two press crew members handling six units each to replate the entire machine in about 10 minutes.

Thanks to automated plate changing on the JPrint at Prisma Graphic Corp., says Anderson, makeready time has been cut by “well over 50 percent.” He reports that plates can be hung on all units in as little as eight minutes, never taking longer than 10 to 12 minutes in any job.

Rickett notes that quantifying time and cost savings can be “a very subjective area” in the shifting rhythms of a busy plant like Unimac Graphics, especially when customers are present. Nevertheless, he says, “There definitely is a huge savings and a huge advantage [in the automation features of the Rapida 106].”

Because Knepper Press changed from half-web to sheetfed production a relatively short time ago, the plant hasn't accumulated legacy sheetfed equipment for meaningful comparisons vs. the new manroland 710. But Ford is confident that whenever his long perfector goes to work, “waste is very minimal, and makeready is very fast.”

Printing ‘a whole lot more in a lot less time’

Although trimmed-down waste and makeready numbers are sure signs of continuous improvement in any plant, they aren't goals in themselves. One-pass, two-sided printing is about increasing the volume of deliverable printed product, or, as Bonsell puts it, printing “a whole lot more in a lot less time.”

It's also about making corresponding gains in cost efficiency as the volume goes up. This is what has happened at Prisma Graphic Corp., where, says Anderson, “I've already taken two crews out of this plant” by the letting the JPrint do the work of two former pieces of equipment. He measures the worth of a perfecting press by its capacity to take out “touch points” — the time-consuming manual interventions that occur wherever the process hasn't been automated or optimized.

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In two-sided printing on a straight press, turning the sheets for second-side printing is a touch point. So is bringing the customer back to the pressroom to check the second side. Two-sided printing in one pass, says Anderson, eliminates “a minimum of seven or eight touch points” while cutting production time in half and improving speed of delivery to market.

Ford thinks that the overall benefit of perfecting at Knepper Press has been obvious: Production and press check time has been cut in half. There's also the benefit of knowing that with one-pass, two-sided printing, “We only have to charge the customer for eight hours of printing instead of 16.”

Having offered one-pass, two-sided printing at Buchanan Visual Graphics for 15 years, Johnson sees two principal advantages in perfecting. One is that it enables him to send “more product out the back door per hour”; the other is that it cuts time-consuming press checks in half. For example, he says, printing a two-sided job with two forms on a straight press would entail four press checks and all of the downtime in between. Perfecting, on the other hand, limits the customer's obligation to two, “allowing clients more time in the office.”

Rickett, who says that 50 percent of the jobs at Unimac Graphics require customer OKs, agrees that one-pass, two-sided printing can reduce the frequency of press checks. However, he won't go as far as saying that a perfecting press can cut their number in half. Because some customers spend more time poring over their sheets than others, he says, “It's very difficult to predict when people are involved.”

Benefits of single-pass production

Ultimately, though, the value resides in the printed jobs themselves, not in the number of times people inspect them. As the printers profiled here have discovered, a perfecting press can add value to the finished product in more ways than one.

Johnson, for example, says that thanks to the Double Diamond 3000R's UV capability, printed and cured sheets are ready for folding immediately because there's no waiting for drying. “You can go straight to the bindery,” he says, and if the bindery has two folders that can handle 16-page signatures, “you can keep up with the press.” He estimates that doing away with conventional drying eliminates one to two days from the production cycle — a time-to-market improvement that can be crucial to retaining customers producing time-sensitive materials.

With the help of perfecting on the JPrint, says Anderson, the press department can do gang runs, print publications in short runs, and convert existing two-sided jobs to one-pass production. He notes that printing in one pass cuts production costs in all of these jobs, improving their profitability to Prisma Graphic Corp. — even in quantities as small as 250 to 300 copies, which he claims to produce economically on the JPrint. In effect, he says, ”we run a 25 × 38-inch sheet with a bunch of ‘digital’ jobs on it,” offering the buyers of these jobs the convenience of short-run printing with the added value of offset quality at offset prices.

Communicorp is the in-plant printing facility of a leading provider of health insurance products. As an in-plant, Communicorp prints brochures and other collateral material for the parent company's field force, but it also serves commercial accounts that provide up to 45 percent of its volume. Bonsell says that both the in-house and the insourced portions of Communicorp's workload have benefited from the high productivity of single-pass production.

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“It just makes us a whole lot more efficient,” she says, citing a commercial job in which the Speedmaster XL 105 printed both sides of 600,000 sheets in 50 hours. On a straight press, it would have taken 120 hours to compete the job.

Like Bonsell, Ford says that perfecting on the manroland 710 has improved market opportunities for Knepper Press across the board, enabling the company to offer better value to all of its print customers. Johnson credits his UV-capable Double Diamond 3000R with enabling Buchanan Visual Graphics to add plastic printing to its repertoire. By offloading work from McDonald & Eudy's 40 inch presses to the 23 × 29-inch Ryobi 755, McDonald was able to book the open time on the larger presses for jobs that made more efficient use of their full-size format. He's also seen a corresponding increase in orders for posters and other kinds of work that fit nicely on the Ryobi 755.

Putting the perfect in ‘perfecting’

There are some kinds of work — for example, folding-carton production — in which one-pass, two-sided printing isn't necessarily essential. But in other applications, a perfecting press is the most logical way for printers to do more of what they are already doing well.

Rickett maintains that “the only way for a printer to make money today is to be automated with the latest and the greatest” — a legitimate argument for investing in a highly automated perfecting press. But, like the process itself, the case for perfecting has two sides.

“It's not about the equipment; it's about the marketing solution that we offer our clients,” says Anderson, noting that one of the biggest dividends of perfecting is the one it pays in customer satisfaction. A press that does the whole job in a single pass, he adds, is “one part of that solution.”


Patrick Henry is the director of Liberty or Death Communications (www.libordeath.com).

Why buy now?

Why are you investing in new equipment? That's the question Komori put to Creative Printing Services' Haves McNeal, Angstrom Graphics' Wayne Angstrom, J.S. McCarthy's Rick Tardiff, and NextDayFlyers.com's Dave Handmaker at PRINT 09.

Creative Printing (Des Plaines, IL) added two 6-unit presses, one with perfecting and the other with UV. “In this recession, despite our good relationships [and partnership initiates], buyers are worried about saving money,” said McNeal. “We needed to improve our technology, competitiveness and pricing.”

The new presses provide the capacity of six legacy presses as well as the information customers crave. “The KHS-AI software is just as important as the press technology,” McNeal said. “It gives us data we can share with customers on a real-time basis. More customers want to know if a job is on press, when it's shipping, when it will be delivered and so on.”

Tough times drive efficiencies

Tardiff also cited economic realities. “We're printing for less this year than last year,” he said. “But due to automation and the investments we made, we'll generate a higher profit this year than last year, and last year was a record year for our company.”

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J.S. McCarthy added two 40-inch presses, one straight and one perfector. “Before we installed the two Komoris, we were doing around 1,000 sheets in makeready [with an average time] of an hour and ten minutes. We cut that in half and, [when we add] the AI technology, we expect to cut that in half again.”

Angstrom Graphics is using cutting edge technology to carve out a short-run niche in the publication world. “We had to retool,” says Angstrom noting that the some accounts have runs as small as 5,000 copies. “We added our first Komori System 38 web press in February 2008 and the second in March of this year. We've had amazing success with them.”

Consistent quality

NextDayFliers.com prints postcards, business cards and multipage booklets for small and midsize customers. The 11-year-old company's need for more capacity led to its installation of an LS540/4045 with UV capabilities. “Customer acquisition is expensive,” says Handmaker. “If someone buys from us once, they have to come back [for us to be successful]. If you order from us on Tuesday and come back on Thursday, you'll get very similar looking products, which is difficult to do when gang running jobs.”

Sheeter powers ‘Ultimate Map Machine’

Founded in 1993, 15-employee Signature Printing bills itself as “Map Printers to the World” and its 40-inch Komori LS 840 perfector as “The Ultimate Map Machine.”

“It's our primary press,” says vice president Tom Walback. “When we installed it, we got rid of two 40-inch presses, a 6-color and a 4-color, because the capacity of the new press meant the other two were underutilized.”

Potential paper savings prompted the printer to equip the press with a Magnum (www.magnumweb.com) sheeter. “We run primarily the same stock day in and day out,” says Walback. “The efficiency of buying in rolls [was appealing].”

Signature Printing evaluated some other sheeters and liked Magnum's design best. “We were impressed it did the same job as other sheeters but with less complexity, [which we felt] would decrease the likelihood of downtime,” says Walback. “It doesn't rely on as many servos and things like that.”

In addition to paper savings, Signature has been pleasantly surprised by another sheeter benefit: reduced material handling. “Press crews are handling paper much less,” he reports. “The roll doesn't have to be changed for 1½ to 2 hours. Operators are free to monitor the press run and prepare subsequent jobs.”

Editor's Note: MPH Graphics recently acquired Signature Printing. Walback has joined MPH as vice president. The combined shop is moving to a new 25,000-sq.-ft. location in Markham, Ontario, Canada.

For more sheeter success stories, see “Roll Goals” (June 2007).

Smarter presses join the war on waste

With three presses on display, there was no iron shortage at Komori's PRINT 09 booth. But the real star of the show, according to Doug Schardt, sheetfed product manager, was the KHS-AI software. “We believe it can reduce start up waste up to 50 percent, and when paper is the most costly consumable in a printing plant, that's a significant number,” he said. “As we get into shorter makeready times, the value of [paper] stock is becoming one of the largest job factors. Right now, saving stock could be more valuable than saving time.”

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The KHS-AI software continually learns the conditions of the press to maintain peak operational efficiency. Users reportedly can achieve target density in around 20 sheets. Komori incorporates self learning into inking by integrating the spectrophotometer with the console. When color deviates from standard, the scanner automatically updates the inking program to compensate for the deviations on the next job.

The AI technology can save air settings with a specific job and can also use learned air settings on jobs that have never been run. AI also presets register, including skewing and fanout, before a single sheet is wasted. With its SmartSequence and Smart Feedback features, KHS-AI further eliminates downtime between jobs and speeds on the fly density changes.

“We're not reducing time between jobs, we're eliminating time between jobs,” said Schardt.

Trio of iron

At PRINT 09, Komori showcased the Lithrone SX40, Lithrone SX29 and, for the first time in a United States exhibition, the 5-color Spica 29 convertible perfector press.

The LSX40 has a maximum running speed of18,000 impressions per hour and a larger sheet size: 29 × 41inches. Fully automatic plate changing with nonstop plate removal to speed let users change six plates in two minutes. The press starts feeding at 12,000 sph so the press is close to ink and water balance before the first pull, dramatically reducing makeready waste.

An LSX29 press, equipped with KHS-AI kicked off each day's demos with a nonstop 60-min. press run of 200-sheet jobs to highlight its fast job cycle time. Other LSX29 demos featured packaging, specialty and general commercial types of work. The LSX29 also can be equipped with inline foiling, embossing and diecutting.

With its small footprint, the Spica 29P convertible perfector appeals to printers entering the multicolor marketplace or larger format shops seeking a complementary press in shops to handle overflow work.