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Full speed ahead

May 1, 2008 12:00 AM

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In April, Koenig and Bauer (KBA) gave international customers and the trade press a preview of its Drupa plans at its headquarters in Radebeul, Germany. Key announcements included the new Rapida 75 and Rapida 106 as well as the upgraded Rapida 105. The vendor also detailed quality control innovations and a new consulting initiative.

KBA, best known for its packaging presses, emphasized its comprehensive range of equipment from the new 29-inch Rapida 75 to the 80-inch XXL Rapida 205. Additional highlights included perfecting possibilities on the Rapida 142 and Rapida 162a, and environmentally friendly waterless presses: Genius 52UV, Rapida 74 Gravuflow, 74 Karat DI and Cortina.

KBA has teamed with MIS specialist Hiflex to create an independent consultancy called KBA Complete. It's billed as “one-stop workflow optimization and strategic investment planning.”

Meet the Rapida 75

The 15,000 Rapida 75, successor to the Rapida 74 and Performa 74, has a slightly larger sheet size (23.75 × 29.5 inches) and is offered with two to eight colors plus coater and perfector. Features that have migrated from KBA's large-format presses include: pneumatic suction sidelays, an open inking unit design, gripper systems and KBA DensiTronic density measurement and control from the console.

On the 41-inch side, KBA unveiled a revamped Rapida 105. Rated at 15,000 sph (16,500 sph with a high-speed package), the press can be configured with up to seven printing units with coating, UV and hybrid options. Automation includes a shaftless DriveTronic feeder, semi or fully automatic plate changing and washing. Video-based automatic color register control and DensiTronic closed-loop densitometry boost quality and production efficiencies.

KBA's new Rapida 106 will be the centerpiece of its 36,600-sq.-ft. Drupa stand. The 18,000-sph press has a 29.5 × 41.75-inch sheet size. Expanded automation on the 106 includes KBA DriveTronic dedicated drives, feeder presets and sidelay-free infeed (SIS). SIS eliminates manual intervention during paper stock changes and reportedly provides a smoother sheet travel than mechanical or pneumatic systems.

DriveTronic SPC supports simultaneous plate changing in less than 60 seconds, regardless of the number of printing units. Makeready and washing up can be done simultaneously, dramatically reducing changeover times. A demonstration showed three 500-run jobs entailing 24 plate changes completed in less than 16 minutes.

Another DriveTronic SPC innovation, DriveTronic Ident, reads registration marks imaged on the gripper margin on the plates to set a theoretical zero register on all plate cylinders, ensuring precise registration from the first proof. A data matrix code imaged in the gripper margin is scanned, enabling DriveTronic Plate-Ident to identify the color separations of the plates in each printing unit, eliminating potential confusion and waste.

On the perfecting front, an eight-color Rapida 142 will be shown in a 4/4 configuration to demonstrate large format productivity benefits for book and commercial printing. An extended 46-inch print length on the 63-inch Rapida 162a lets printers use the full sheet in perfecting mode.

Quality control highlights include the following:

QualiTronic is an inline sheet inspection system for midsize and large-format presses. It scans each sheet as it enters the delivery or perfecting unit and compares it to a reference sheet.

QualitronicMark tags off-spec sheets for subsequent automatic ejection from suitably equipped die stamping or folding machines.

QualiTronic Professional is an inline density measurement and control systems for straight or perfector presses that can normalize density in 60 sheets.

DensiTronic PDF helps package, book and other printers with quality control and documentation on sensitive substrates. A scanner attached to the measuring arm of the DensiTronic system scans the sheets at 330 dpi and compares them to the original PDF. Even minimal deviations can be detected and automatically recorded in a quality log.


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

New service promises optimization & process innovation

Under the banner of KBA Complete, KBA will offer customers independent consulting services to analyze, optimize and automate their workflows. Although the company is teaming with Hiflex, using the JDF-based Hiflex MIS isn't a prerequisite; KBA Complete can help companies with other programs in place. Additional technology partners include Kodak, MBO, Muller Martini, IPM and ClimatePartner.

The consultancy will help clients automate and optimize operational information (such as costing and scheduling) and integrate it with JDF-driven manufacturing. KBA Complete also can help clients implement e-business solutions, as well as climate-neutral printing and RFID.

The right direction

This is Holger Garbrecht's first Drupa as president and CEO of KBA North America (Williston, VT) but the event is something of a corporate reunion. Group president Albrecht Bolza-Schünemann is president of Drupa 2008, as well, and Garbrecht's predecessor, Ralf Sammeck, also will be on hand in his role as executive vice president of worldwide sheetfed sales and member of the KBA management board.

Be prepared

Garbrecht assumed the KBA North America reins from Sammeck in the fall of 2007 and says the transition has been smooth. In addition to calling on Sammeck's knowledge of the U.S. market, Garbrecht visited about 80 North American printers as well and took an active role in industry association meetings over the past few months. “I've worked on every continent, but each [market] is different. Before determining our [North American] strategy, I needed to see how the market is functioning,” says Garbrecht. “After visiting these printers and getting their feedback, I'm well prepared.”

He has observed a disparity among U.S. printers, with some floundering and others thriving via expansions and acquisitions. “About one-third of the printers are growing their business, with three full shifts, six or seven days a week,” says Garbrecht. “They can hardly take on new orders. But others are concerned — printers who didn't invest can't compete with high productivity.”

Drupa 2008 will mark the debut of some new competitors in the 56- and 64-inch press sectors, a development that Garbrecht says confirms KBA's strategy. “It proves we've been going in the right direction — even companies who weren't considering large format one or two years ago are now approaching us for quotes. We've been in large format for 80 years, and of course we'll do our utmost to maintain our leadership position.”

As a packaging specialist that has increased its share of the commercial print marketplace in recent years, Garbrecht said the company's diversification will serve it well in both sectors. The executive stressed KBA's UV and perfecting strengths and said the company will leverage its training, installation and engineering experience.

“Our competitors are talking about what they'll be doing [with large-format] perfecting in the future, but we've been doing it for years,” said Garbrecht, citing installations at Unimac Graphics (Carlstadt, NJ) and Branch-Smith Printing (Fort Worth, TX).

Unimac purchased a KBA Rapida 142 56-inch, 8-color perfector plus coater at Graph Expo 2004 to complement its 5/1 Rapida 162 64-inch perfector purchased in 2000. Branch-Smith has been producing 32-page 4/4 signatures on a 51-inch KBA perfecting press with a Grafech sheeter since 2007.

Overall, Garbrecht said the company is pleased with its growth in North America. While confidentially agreements precluded specific details, the executive alluded to some custom large-format perfector configurations involving multiple coaters and dryers. On the web side, earlier this year, KBA announced the New York Daily News will install a triple-wide, 120-couple Commander press that will enable it to print full color on every page in 2009. The 15-tower press is configured as three sections capable of delivering 90,000 cph.

Just be there

While North American visitors typically are in the minority at Drupa, KBA anticipates good traffic from a variety of printers seeking custom solutions. “We've already made a lot of appointments and expect a lot of activity,” said Garbrecht.

Remember when?

In 1814, Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer used their new steam-powered double-cylinder printing press to print The Times in London. (This replica is in KBA's museum.) Three years later, they established Schnellpressenfabrik Koenig & Bauer near Würzburg, Germany.