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Double stuff

Jun 1, 2008 12:00 AM

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Among the excitement of inkjet products and press demonstrations from Fuji, Kodak, Screen and others at Drupa — which we'll cover next month — were a wealth of interesting and innovative offset press offerings, particularly in the perfecting department.

Size matters: large-format perfecting

KBA (Williston, VT) notes its large-format perfector experience goes back to IPEX in 1993, where it unveiled a Varimat press with convertible perfecting after the first printing unit followed by a 4/4 Rapida 104 in 1994. In 2002, KBA offered the first Rapida 162 perfector. The 44 × 63¾-inch press was configured with perfecting after the fourth unit.

“We've been installing large-format perfectors for five years,” declares Eric Frank, vice president of marketing for KBA North America. “Others can't deliver [presses in this format] until 2010.”

KBA has sold 1,000 large-format Rapidas since 1995, with about 15 percent equipped for perfecting. While some originally considered large-format perfecting strictly for book printers, KBA says the tide has turned as vendors and printers grasped the potential efficiencies of printing products with more than 32 A4 pages on a large perfector. Large-format Rapidas can print 32, 48 or 64 pages in perfecting mode vs. 16 A4 pages on a standard 41-inch perfector.

An automatic, single-drum convertible perfecting unit is the core component of the large-format 4/4 Rapidas. Conversion from straight printing to perfecting reportedly can be done in slightly more than 60 seconds. A video monitor at the console, with the aid of up to 13 cameras operating in real time in the press, lets operators see the impact of blower setting changes at the perfecting unit or the delivery. All job-specific settings for perfecting and air-blown sheet guidance can be stored for quick setup of repeat jobs.

Larger printable area

At Drupa 2008, KBA showed the Rapida 162a perfector with a larger sheet size. Previously, printable width in perfector mode was 43 inches on a reduced sheet width of 44 inches. It's now 46 inches and, thanks to the additional three inches, users can run the maximum sheet size of 47¼ × 63¾ inches.

Other Drupa developments included a high-performance package for Rapida 142 long perfectors. Users can control the sheet guides and suction stations remotely from the console. Only five print-free areas are necessary: 0.6 inch in the center of the sheet and in the quarterfold, and 0.8 inch at the outer edges. Reducing the print-free real estate lowers the minimum run length for cost-effective production. Expressed in terms of area, the saving is one sheet in every 110 printed.

An ICS inline slitter can be installed in the press to cut the sheets down to size.

As noted in our May 2008 issue (“Full speed ahead,”) KBA also unveiled new Rapida 75 and Rapida 106 presses as well as an upgraded Rapida 105. The vendor also detailed quality control innovations and a new consulting initiative, KBA Complete.


Productivity solutions

Doug Schardt, sheetfed product manager for Komori (Rolling Meadows, IL) says printers' quests for greater productivity is fueling perfector sales, with 4/4 and 5/5 presses among the most popular configurations.

At Drupa, Komori launched the next generation of its LS technology and the KHS-AI advanced intelligence print start system. (See “Productivity Push,” April 2008.) Perfectors playing a key role in Komori's Five Solutions theaters included the Lithrone S440SP and Lithrone S840P in the One-Pass Productivity demo, which also included Komori's System 38S web press. A 5-color SPICA 29P perfector was the star of the Fexible Multiprinting show. The Lithrone S40P, as well as the S26P and S29P, features a triple-double perfecting mechanism that, in combination with the double-size cylinders throughout the press, reduces the number of gripper changes for optimum performance at maximum press speed. An edge-to-edge air guide system enables on-the-run fine adjustments to be made to each guide. Moving at the same speed as the press, the delivery belt system eliminates the potential for marking during final delivery.

Best Press (Dallas) has ordered two Komori LS presses; a 10-color Lithrone S40 perfector as well as a UV-equipped 6-color Lithrone S40.

Komori's stacked perfector, the Lithrone S40SP, is based on the Lithrone S40 series design. Because there's no transfer cyclinder between printing units, sheet marking and scuffing issues are eliminated. A new air blower unit design increases the volume of air on the blanket cylinder and the blowing range for enhanced register accuracy. A reconfigured gripper arrangement, changing cam and pressure setting reduces the stress of gripper changing on the sheets.

Initially manufactured as a 4-color perfector, the compact SPICA has proved so popular that the range now includes 5- and 2-color models.


Speedy, smudge-free delivery

Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A., Inc.) (Lincolnshire, IL) showcased some sheetfed models from the Diamond V3000 Series first introduced in September 2007 at IGAS in Japan. Perfector highlights included an 8-color Diamond V3000R convertible perfector and a 10-color Diamond V3000TP Tandem Perfector. Visitors also saw a 6-color Diamond V3000LX with coater and extended delivery. All three presses accommodate sheet sizes up to 1050 mm × 750 mm (41.3 × 29.5 inches) and print at a maximum 16,200 sph. The convertible V3000R and dedicated V3000TP have a maximum perfecting speed of 16,200 sph, reportedly the world's fastest.

Four daily demonstrations on the V3000LX featured a strike-through varnish technique refined at Mitsubishi's Paper & Printing Research & Development Center. The V3000LX can print on sheets with thicknesses ranging from 0.04 to 1 mm. Various air management innovations facilitate smudge-free printing on thick sheets.

The Diamond V3000R's three-cylinder reversing unit with double-size reversing cylinders is said to ensure stable sheet transfer. The Diamond V3000TP builds on the strengths of the vendor's existing dedicated perfector platform. Maximum image area is 1,050 mm × 740 mm. The V3000TP can print on stock ranging from 0.04 mm to 0.6 mm; a carton press version can print sheets from 0.2 mm to 0.8 mm.

To highlight the merits of Mitsubishi's “SimulChanger” fully automatic plate changing system, the V3000TP ran three different jobs during each presentation.


The path not taken

Ryobi had Drupa attendees abuzz over its foray into the 40-inch market with the Ryobi 1050. The press is slated for delivery in 2009, with a perfector model expected to follow in 2010.

Tim Kirby, national sales manager for xpedx Printing Technologies (Kansas City, KS), the exclusive North American distributor for Ryobi branded presses, says marking issues on perfectors largely have been conquered, even on thicker stocks.

“The double-triple-double cylinder configuration on our 520 series and the double-double-single cylinder configuration on our 750 series put far less stress on the sheet [because there's no] radical turn in the paper path,” says Kirby.“This allows for the perfecting of heavier coverage jobs on a wider variety of stocks.”

Ryobi presses also boast specially treated transfer cylinders following the perfector. An optional “butterfly” transfer cylinder design on the 750 and 1050 presses, as well as an optional air cushion in the delivery, help optimize print quality.

Inline effects and LED UV curing

Additional Drupa highlights included an inline UV casting and foiling option for Ryobi's 755 6-up model.

As noted in our April 2008 issue (“How low can you go?”), Ryobi teamed with Toyo Ink to develop an LED-UV system for a concept demonstration on the 525GX, a 14 × 20-inch press. Rather than conventional UV lamps, the system incorporates LEDs said to reduce power consumption by 70 percent. According to Ryobi, LEDs also last 12 times longer than conventional lamps. Components include an LED-UV IR system from Matsushita Electric Works and special Toyo ink. (As with conventional UV inks, the ink is VOC-free.) The LED-UV 525GX is slated for availability in the U.S. in 2009; Ryobi plans to extend the system to its 750 press in the future.


Set it and forget it

Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) unveiled a perfector version of its Speedmaster XL 105 press, and while no release date has been set, the company currently is testing an XL 145 (41.73 × 57.09 inches) equipped with a perfector. (See “Big boxes,” April 2008.)

With a rated speed of 15,000 sph in perfecting mode, the XL 105 can print and perfect up to 24-pt. board. Makeready times are reduced via the operator's ability to input storable presets for blast and suction air in the feeder, sheet transfer, perfecting device and delivery.

The XL 105-P features a three-drum system, which Clarence Penge, vice president of sheetfed product management, describes as “double storage, double transfer and then an eccentric single-drum device.”

The storage drum features channel supports that help maintain front-to-back registration and stability as the sheet is turned over. “A flimsy sheet of paper running around a cylinder at high speed has a tendency to become wavy,” Penge explains. “The channel supports have a vacuum that automatically adjusts to sheet thickness [which helps keep the sheet flat to the cylinder].”

Before a sheet is turned over, a device underneath the perfector called Dynamic Sheet Distance Control measures the sheet distance as it comes off the perfector and starts to make the transfer. “A sensor measures the sheet and addresses any air volume [changes] to keep the sheets from dropping down and hitting any of the guide plates,” says Penge.

Once the sheet is perfected, the next challenge is to get the sheet, with wet ink on both sides, through the rest of the press. The solution: venturi guide pans equipped with air jets. “The air nozzles blow air up from the guide pan to keep the sheet to the cylinder as it is starting to make the transfer,” says Penge. “A heavier substrate will naturally [tend to] fall down — the air jets lift it to ensure it stays off the guide pans.”

As a sheet approaches the XL 105's delivery, two suction segment disks pick it up for safe and smooth transport around the sprocket wheel shaft. “The segment disks really improve sheet travel and quality as the sheet goes from the last printing unit to the delivery,” says Penge.

Prior to entering the delivery, the sheet encounters the PowerStar AP Duo. Powder is applied from above via three powder spray tubes and from below by an additional powder bar, producing an even coating on the sheet.

The first U.S. XL 105-P installation, a 10-color press, is currently underway (details to be released soon). Penge is encouraged by feedback from several European installations. “The customers running these presses are achieving at least 30 percent more productivity vs. machines from 2000,” he says.


Compact press, inline double coater option

Akiyama's (Cerritos, CA) new Mega Jprint dominated its Drupa booth. First introduced in 1994, the 10-color patented inline double coater press represents the fifth generation of this non-convertible perfector.

The new press is faster: A 4/4 version runs at 15,000 sph vs. its previous 13,000 sph; 5/5 is rated at 14,000 sph. Feeder improvements include a suction tape guide. Two transfer units after the last printing unit help ensure a smooth, stable sheet transfer in the delivery. A belt-style sheet guide minimizes marking.

As Eastern regional sales and marketing manager Bob Treadwell told us recently (“How low can you go?” April 2008), the Mega Jprint features an ACC (Akiyama Color Control) operation stand that is joined seamlessly with the main press. It supports higher control speeds of the ink-key motors within the press, so values entered at the stand are enacted by the ink keys in half the time.

The optional Full Auto Plate Changer (FAPC) takes only about four minutes to change all plates.

The Mega Jprint offers an inline double coater commonly used on conventional straight presses. Mega Jprint's original inline single-pass coater significantly reduces the risk of rubbing or scratching. It shortens the time to the next process while dramatically lowering the use of spray powder.

Akiyama's straight press, Bestech, has been reborn as the Supertech 40 series. Rated at 13,000 sph, its unique cylinder configuration can print on substrates ranging from thin paper to thick board.


Katherine O'Brien is editor in chief of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at