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Small-format presses: AN IPEX PREVIEW

Apr 1, 2002 12:00 AM

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Most quick and commercial printers' pressrooms have changed radically from just a few years ago, says Paris Walker, a 25-year quick-print veteran. Walker retired several years ago, but the former owner of Crown Graphics (Chattanooga, TN) still enjoys staying in touch with his fellow printers via the popular e-mail listserv at

“Few printers are buying one-color presses, which may speak to the advent of faster and better-quality copiers,” says Walker. “Also, true two-color, small-format presses have established a place in many shops, although many quick printers are still making healthy profits with Townsend T-Heads — printing two colors from one blanket. The key is knowing your market and your customers.”

Another change that has surprised many old-line printers, according to Walker, is the number of shops doing process-color work. “Small-format presses are producing fliers, brochures and many other applications that were once printed almost exclusively on large-format equipment,” observes Walker. “For some quick printers, it's a way to transition to higher-quality work — eventually they might move up to heavy-duty presses.”

The former quick printer says that fewer printers are promoting “pleasing four-color” work. “This may be due to the emphasis on fast-turnaround [work], which has migrated from one- and two-color to four-color printing in the past five years.” Improved small-format presses are also a factor — Walker specifically cites improved inking, tighter registration and better control of a wider range of paper stocks.


Small-format sheetfed presses will provide many of the new product launches at Ipex this month. Most will focus on bringing the features traditionally reserved for halfsize presses down-market. Almost all of the new small-format presses offer press lockups suitable for both polyester plates and metal plates. (See “New day dawns for poly plates,” opposite.)

KBA (Williston, VT) promises a “new press with a compact design and keyless inking in the GTO-format class.” At Ipex, it will introduce the Genius 52, a 14 × 20-inch format that competes head on with the Heidelberg GTO-52.

The Genius 52 will be offered in four- or five-color versions. It will target printers that either still work with analog plates or already use CTP and are looking for an operator-friendly press capable of printing quality, short-run color quickly, economically and with minimal start-up waste.

The Genius 52 — like the 74 Karat and 46 Karat — is a waterless offset press. It will initially be available as a four- or five-color press; a four-plus-coater version for water-based coatings is in the pipeline. The printing units are positioned in V-shaped assemblies around a central impression cylinder. Each sheet is printed register-true in a single gripper bite, with no sheet transfer. Like the 74 Karat, the Genius 52 features keyless inking units with anilox rollers and doctor blades. The anilox roller, form roller, plate cylinder and blanket cylinder all have the same diameter to deliver a ghosting-free image.

The new press reportedly can handle a broad range of substrates from paper to carton and (in conjunction with a UV package) plastic and film up to 0.8 mm (32 pt.) thick. Presstek, KPG and Toray waterless CTP or analog plates can be used.

MAN Roland (Westmont, IL) will show its recently announced 29-inch press, the R205, a fully featured machine for the smaller-format printer, as well as its halfsize packaging press, the R500.

Heidelberg's (Kennesaw, GA) halfsize and smaller machines also will be shown with interesting add-ons. The popular Printmaster QM 46-2, for example, will be shown with inline perforating and numbering; the Speedmaster 52 will feature a new inline diecutter.

In April 2001, the company shipped its 2,000th Printmaster 46. Heidelberg reports that 95 percent of its customers opt for the two-color model over the single-color version.

For printers ready to move up to a larger press, Heidelberg offers the halfsize Printmaster 74. Rated at 12,000 sph, it can handle paper grades from .0012-inch India paper to .024-inch-thick card for single-sided printing, in formats ranging from 8.4 × 11.2 inches to 21.2 × 29.6 inches. A semi-automatic sheet-reversal device is optional.

At Print 01, Komori (Rolling Meadows, IL) showed both its Lithrone 20 and Sprint GS presses running polyester plates. The Lithrone 20, available in configurations from two to six colors with an optional inline coating system, is rated at 13,000 sph. At Ipex, look for more automation on the Sprint GS, a two-color convertible perfector press. Komori also will debut the four-over-four perfecting Lithrone 28P.


The UK arm of A.B. Dick (Niles, IL) is also the distributor for Japanese manufacturer Hamada (Brea, CA), which will be present both at its own and at A.B. Dick's stands. At the A.B. Dick booth, it will launch its new 52-cm model, the B552A-I (the “A-I” relates to its automatic plate changing and ink-key control system). The machine on show will be fully loaded with aqueous coating and an infrared dryer; interestingly, it will have five units, as the migration to color in this market is gathering speed.

“There's a fundamental belief [among smaller-format printers] that they need to move into color presses,” says an A.B. Dick spokesperson.

On its own stand, Hamada will unveil its Impulse 452, a heavy-duty machine from its Hashimoto factory. When run in conjunction with a CTP system, the four-color perfector reportedly can be made ready in less than five minutes.

Fast setup and changeovers will also be the focus at Ryobi (Hiroshima, Japan), which will show its new 524HXXP press, a two-color perfector, in conjunction with a CTP system. The company claims that startup is so quick that the 20th sheet is saleable. Ipex also will mark Ryobi's entry into the B2+ market with the new 755C, a 75-cm press with coater, which features all of Ryobi's “smart printing” features. Ryobi presses, are distributed in the U.S. by the xpedx Import Group (Lenexa, KS).

Sakurai (Schaumburg, IL) is expected to highlight its 458 series four-color presses, which can run four-up 8.5 × 11-inch sheets or two-up 11 × 17-inch sheets with bleeds. The 458 series has a maximum sheet size of 18.125 × 22.25 inches, reportedly giving it a productivity edge over similarly priced 14 × 20-inch presses.

At Print 01, Sakurai introduced the 26-inch 466 SIP. This perfector press includes the same features as the 458 series as well as automatic settings, including sheet-size presets, an ultrasonic double-sheet detector and a color console with an optional CIP4-compatible interface.

More quick-print news

PrintImage International (Chicago) recently released the following reports on wages and benefits, as well as pricing:

  • The “2002-2003 Wage & Benefits Study” reports on the wages and compensation practices for 18 key positions in the industry, broken out by five different market sizes, six profitability categories and five annual sales categories.

    Printers that participated in the survey receive a free copy of the study, which costs $75 for PrintImage Platinum members, $125 for Gold members and $195 for non-members.

  • The “2001-2002 Pricing Study” details responses on product pricing from nearly 10,000 survey forms sent to quick printers, copy shops and small commercial printers. It includes a breakdown of paper markup practices, pricing of brokered services and pricing for products that use special binding. The study is available to association members for $125 and to non-members for $195.

  • The PrintImage Basic Job Description Set provides definitions of such key positions as bindery operator, customer service rep, outside sales rep, graphic designer/desktop publisher, press operator and production manager.

Available on CD-ROM in both Mac and PC formats, the Basic Job Description Set costs $119 for members and $129 for non-members. A Deluxe Set, which gives descriptions for additional job titles, costs $189 for members and $199 for non-members. For more information, call (800) 234-0040.

New day dawns for poly plates

“The Market Potential for Polyester Printing Plates: 2001-2005” concludes that polyester plates are suitable for a wide range of work, and up to about 25,000 impressions, depending on the condition of the press and the quality requirements for a specific job. William C. Lamparter, principal, PrintCom Consulting (Charlotte, NC), conducted the research and found that polyester plates are suitable for most printed products, including those with halftones, screen tints and heavy coverage.

The study notes that an increasing number of printers will be forced by their customers to become virtually 100 percent digital in the next five years. Many printers, particularly those operating small-format offset equipment, are reportedly overlooking the opportunity to adopt CTP technology by using digital polyester printing plates.

“The Market Potential for Polyester Printing Plates: 2001-2005” was distributed exclusively to Graphic Arts Marketing Information Service (GAMIS) (Alexandria, VA) members. For more information or to become a GAMIS member, contact executive director Jackie Bland at (703) 519-8179.