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Up close & personal

Aug 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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This past May, KBA North America (Williston, VT), hosted a group of U.S. and Canadian printers at its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Radebeul, Germany. Highlights included product demonstrations on the Rapida 105 41-inch 5/5 perfector press as well as a large-format Rapida 142 56-inch 4/4 perfector press. Visitors also had the opportunity to see several nearby printing operations.

The group visited Ellerhold Grossplakate, one of the biggest poster printers in Europe, which laid claim to the world's first Rapida 205 81-inch sheetfed press in January 2004.

The next stop for the KBA tour bus was the sparkling, high-tech facility of a printer that specializes in orders generated entirely via the Internet. Sales have been doubling each year. Employees clad in all-white uniforms worked on 14 KBA presses ranging from a 20-inch model to a large-format machine, all linked via KBA's Logotronic management system.

Changing times

Touring Druckhaus Dresden, a 70-employee operation owned by the husband-and-wife team of Karl and Christel Nolle also proved to be a unique experience. Founded in 1908 as an envelope factory, Druckhaus Dresden was privately owned until 1961. Just before the Berlin Wall was built, the former owners fled to West Germany. In 1972, the East German government took control of the company. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Druckhaus Dresden printed one of the country's main newspapers.

In the wake of German reunification, the Nolles, who had run their own printing business in Hanover since the early 1970s, came onboard Druckhaus Dresden. Initially the couple intended only to offer their help and support. But in 1991, they had a chance to assume ownership of the company, which, for all practical purposes, was bankrupt.

The early days of the company were tumultuous. Obviously, government business had dried up, but good old-fashioned customers also were in short supply. Nonetheless, the Nolles promised their crew of 30 employees that no one would be let go. It was a promise that ultimately cost the company $10.5 million dollars.

In the early days, the Nolles struggled to cope with outdated equipment and a building that was practically crumbling. By the mid-1990s, Druckhaus Dresden had made considerable progress, having installed two Creo/Kodak Trendsetter platesetters with Staccato screening, and some modern presses.

Druckhaus Dresden's most recent installations include two KBA Rapida 105s. One is an eight-color perfector; the second is five-color with UV capabilities. Both machines feature KBA's Sensoric Infeed System (SIS), a sidelay-free infeed feature that GATF honored with a 2007 InterTech award.

SIS integrates sheet alignment/register into the first infeed cylinder. It reportedly results in better registration while dramatically reducing makeready times.

Both presses also feature fully automatic plate changing and KBA's closed-loop Densitronic-S X-Y scanning spectrodensitometer system.

Druckhaus Dresden adopted a central energy and process management system (EPMS) in the summer of 2006. Click here to read about the firm's environmental initiatives.

Extra-long delivery

The five-color press features a special delivery that is three times longer than that of a conventional press, as well as a special cooling system, innovations that Karl Nolle pioneered. According to Nolle, the delivery configuration on the UV press results in better overall print quality, because the paper is more dimensionally stable. Other benefits reportedly include faster turnaround times when printing both sides of the sheet.

The Nolles also detailed Druckhaus Dresden's energy saving initiatives. A special central-heating and cooling system, said to be the first in Europe, reportedly provides 30 percent more cooling efficiency with a 50 percent reduction in energy. Heat generated by the high-powered UV press essentially is captured and used to heat the building.