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A Big Package for Small Printers

Oct 17, 2006 12:00 AM

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Special Report

Lean, mean and focused on their customers. That describes today’s smaller commercial printer. Often underrated, these small, but ambitious small to mid-sized printers face the same problems as their bigger competitors—but with fewer resources to meet the challenges. As a result, business owners are looking to support business growth in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.

“We need to compete with larger operations to stay in business,” says George Emmanuel, vice president and co-owner of Chromatech, based in St. Petersburg, FL. “As a small business owner, we need someone in our corner—companies that we can count on to give us an affordable price and ongoing support.”

Meeting the Challenge
Responding to the needs of their customers, Komori and Fujifilm Graphic Systems have partnered to provide a total prepress to pressroom package in order to help small to mid-size printers grow their businesses. Featuring the Komori Spica press and Fujifilm’s Dart platesetters and PRO-T processless plates, the package is designed to work with a variety of workflows to create a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution. Small printers looking for a way to compete more effectively with larger companies now have a technology solution to handle high-quality four-color work in a productive, efficient manner. All backed by the support of Komori and Fujifilm Graphic Systems.

“Our companies share similar goals, so it made it easy to marry our product lines. We’re both focused on the customer, and for the printer who is moving into the four-color market, this turnkey solution provides a one stop shop, making it simple to move into new markets,” says Jacki Hudmon, Komori America’s Vice-President of Marketing and Sales Administration. As businesses evolve to the next level, printers often look to the pressroom as a means to upgrade their services. Today, there are many choices available, but offset remains one of the most flexible. Small sheetfed presses now feature large-press functions that allow them to handle a wide range of ink and coatings, a variety of stock types and critical color consistency.

Komori’s Spica 429P offset press is suitable for both four-color work or two colors on each side. The reversible perfecting design is CIP4-ready, easy to operate and features a small footprint—all important for today’s small printer facing tough competition. “Many printers are trying to move into half-size presses and can’t do it,” says Chromatech’s Emmanuel. “The Spica is the only solution on the market today that allows a small company to move up affordably.”

The Latest in Automation
Beyond its affordable price, the Spica press offers the latest in automation features to shorten makeready, reduce costs and lighten the workload for operators. The Komori press features a Pre-Inking and Removing System with tool-free clamping for plate-changing. With Fujifilm’s computer-to-plate system and plates, plus the appropriate workflow, printers enjoy one-step register adjustment and color matching.

The press features a precision ink key system to help achieve outstanding print quality. The ink fountain uses a 35mm split-blade design and can be operated remotely from the delivery-side operation console. The console is integrated with the press for a space-saving design.

Changeover from four-color single-side printing to two-color front/back printing is fully automatic. Once the mode is selected, extensive automation, including tool-free plate changing, automatic blanket washup and pre-inking, speeds set-up times and reduces waste.

In addition, plates do not require a tail bend, eliminating the need for a plate bender. The continuous dampening system is ideal for non-alcohol printing. The Komorimatic dampening system feeds a consistent supply of solution directly to the plates, using the minimum amount of water for high quality. In addition, plates can be easily adjusted by remote control from the operation console touch-panel. Operators can control circumferential, lateral and skewing adjustments.

“The Spica’s advanced automation features replicate the technology found in larger Komori presses,” says Emmanuel. “Its single-touch panel makes it efficient and easy for operators to use.” Chromatech reports it can get on press in less than eight minutes due to the fast makeready capabilities that provide for a fully automatic mode changeover from four-color to single-side printing, extensive automation for reduced set-up times and an IT-driven design that makes it possible to implement advanced digital workflows.

“The Spica is the perfect solution for printers ready to move up and profit from the four-color market,” says Hudmon. “We are pleased that the Spica 29P is helping companies such as Chromatech achieve its goals and grow their businesses.”

The Prepress Connection
As important as performance is in the pressroom, the steps printers take before printing often make for a competitive advantage. Computer-to-plate (CTP) is now accepted in mainstream printing companies for both large and small printers. Those who haven’t made the leap into CTP need have no fears. Today’s systems are reliable and consistently output plates with dot sharpness and registration accuracy. This translates into outstanding process control and fast makeready times.

Fujifilm’s Dart 4300S and 4300E are specifically designed to provide versatility in plate production for four-page and two-page presses. The Dart 4300S is a high-speed model that can consistently output up to 21 plates per hour. The Dart 4300E is an affordable entry-level system that offers the same features as its bigger relative but provides output at up to 11 plates per hour. Both models have an external-drum design and come with the option of inline punching blocks to help ensure perfect on-press register.

“The Dart’s dead-on registration helped cut our makeready time 50 percent. You don’t have to adjust a thing,” maintains Brent Pflederer, plant manager for Art & Print in Washington, IL. “Plates are punched internally on the machine, so they’re always consistent. The entire printing process is streamlined.”

Complementing the Komori Spica press, the Dart 4300 E/S features automatic drum balancing, which enables recording of different plate sizes with no manual adjustments. The Dart 4300S offers six resolution levels from 1200 to 4000 dpi to fit a wide variety of jobs. There is no quality for size sacrifice, as the Dart series can handle Fuji Co-Res 300lpi and Fuji Taffeta stochastic screening. Fully automatic, continuous operation with auto-loading options and a processor bridge are available (for use with non-PRO-T plates).

The Dart system can handle plate requirements for larger-format four-page presses. Both support a maximum plate size of 32 21/32 x 26 inches (830 x 660 mm) and are also capable of supporting some smaller two-page presses with a minimum size of 12 3/4 x 14 9/16 inches (324 x 370 mm). Auto-balance allows uses to handle different-sized plates without making any manual adjustments for correct drum balance. Operators select the type of plate they wish to use and the Dart automatically makes the necessary adjustments. The CTP device also features separate loading and unloading bays, so that one plate can be readied for loading while another is being exposed.

Both the Dart 4300S and 4300E can be paired with the SAL single-cassette autoloader. This unit can hold up to 100 plates and automatically removes interleaf paper before loading each plate. The MAL multi-cassette autoloader comes standard with three cassettes and enables up to 300 plates of three different sizes to be loaded and imaging without operator intervention. The SAL-E is another option. It has a capacity of 50 plates and requires manual interleaf removal.

“The Dart is incredibly efficient. And, it’s fast! Since installing it, our makeready time has improved dramatically. Plus, the Dart’s accuracy is phenomenal. The plates fit perfectly every time,” says Todd Tiefenthaler, president and owner of West Port, WI-based Kramer Printing.

Optimized Consumables
Another benefit to the Komori/Fujifilm bundle is the inclusion of consumables optimized to perform both on the platesetter and on press. Toyo Inks, for example, are ideally suited to the Spica presses, and chemicals from FujiHunt are formulated to perform best on this equipment.

Finally, plates from Fujifilm are optimized to perform best both while imaging and in the pressroom.

Brillia LH-PJ plates or Brillia PRO-T plates both run equally efficiently on the thermal Dart machines. In fact, a printer can install a Dart with processor and PJ plates initially and then upgrade to a chemistry-free environment with the addition of the PRO-T plates.

All Brillia plates are made by applying a complex grain structure consisting of primary grains, honeycomb grains and micropores to an aluminum support. This multigrain structure produces a plate that results in outstanding printing efficiency, rich tone reproduction, long press life and simple platemaking.

Enhanced multigrain plates use only aqueous chemicals and offer better scuff resistance and excellent tone reproduction for high definition printing.

The Brillia PRO-T processless plates require no chemistry to develop, therefore there is no effluent and no equipment between the platesetter and the press. A true processless plate, according to Fujifilm experts, the plate develops on press. Simply hang the PRO-T plate. The dampening action permeates and dissolves the coating, while the tackiness of the ink moves the solubilized non-image layer by transferring it to the blanket and onto the sheet. There is no extra makeready waste. And it delivers better ink/water balance for high quality finished products.

The processless plate system frees operator time and requires no extra start-up time. No filters, chemistry or maintenance contracts are required for the processors since they are no longer needed.

“We went processless because we didn’t want to have to worry about disposing chemicals or keeping the developer fresh,” says John Harris, vice president of Target Information Management in Okemos, MI. “We were very impressed with the image that’s on the plate. Having a visible image is an incredible advantage. If there’s a mistake, we can see it before it even goes on press. That saves us the plates and a lot of time.”

Technical Support
Today’s small printer may be concerned about moving so aggressively into larger-sized four-color work. After all, with a smaller staff and less experience in four-color, printers worry about delivering the topnotch consistent quality customers expect.

These are legitimate concerns, but smaller printers won’t have to worry when working with the Komori/Fujifilm partnership. “We are here to support day-to-day operations,” says Fujifilm. “With our Print Performance Team, which includes 25 pressroom sales specialists and 50 color specialists available across the country and a reputation for helping companies deliver outstanding print quality, Fujifilm has the products and solutions to support the small printer.”

“Komori’s service and parts availability are outstanding,” says Chromatech’s Emmanuel. “When you are buying a press, you are really buying the whole company. As a partner, I give Komori five stars across the board.”

FTS&S (Fujifilm Technical Solutions & Support) is unique in the industry, bringing customers a “Print Performance Team” that provides a wide range of service and support to all types of printing companies. FTS&S has established itself as a key value added component of Fujifilm’s overall product offering. Customers can look to the group for hardware and software installations, post-sale support, training and fast, expert response when problems arise.

Core services include around the clock access through a toll-free phone number and a full staff of technical experts available from 7:00 am to 7:00 p.m. CST. The team resolves a high number of issues remotely, resulting in less downtime for printers. Even when a remote fix is not possible, the team is able to assist the field with parts, needs analysis, failure tracking and problem escalation.

Fujifilm’s field staff is fully trained and certified on most devices sold by the company. This group also works closely with the local technical sales groups to ensure that no matter where the service call has originated, the staff is able to find a resolution.

“Fuji has always provided us with good service,” says Tiefenthaler of Kramer Printing. “The folks from Fuji are terrific, hands-on people. They know the equipment and are always there if you need them. We’ve enjoyed our partnership with Fuji and benefited from the relationship over the years.”

Print Excellence
Fuji’s strength in workflow, color and print technology allows the staff to work with printers on projects such as process control in prepress and the pressroom, matching color proof-to-press and press-to-press, implementing ICC-based color management and advanced screening technologies. For small printers moving up, these services are especially important.

Print Excellence Consulting is provided for anyone who wants to improve print quality, maintain print consistency and reduce print cost. Working with the printer, FTS&S and its Print Performance Team define objectives and then use a systematic project-based approach to achieve their goals.

“We were very concerned with the longevity of the products we were choosing, and that’s one of the main reasons we chose Fujifilm. We wanted to go with a company and technology that was already established and had a good reputation. We wanted something we could trust,” says Emmanuel.

John Harris agrees. “Fujifilm spent the right amount of time to optimize our pressroom to ensure we were operating in an ideal environment. I was impressed with their professionalism and knowledge.”

For more information on Komori’s Spica 26P and 29P presses, visit to see the Spica Video Demo or contact Komori America at 1-800-247-2670.

For more information on Fujifilm Graphic Systems Dart platesetters, Brillia HD PRO-T processless plates or FTS&S services and support, visit or call (800) 877-0555.