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Page churners

Apr 1, 2007 12:00 AM

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A few years ago, some industry observers doubted web offset's ability to compete with sheetfed presses' shorter run lengths, quality and technical advancements. But web offset press manufacturers have responded to the challenge.

The global market for commercial web presses (sold by all suppliers) has averaged about $1.1 billion per year over the past three years. MAN Roland and Goss reportedly control about 70 percent of the web offset commercial market. In 2006, Goss was the market share leader for commercial web presses on a global basis and in North America, according to its data. Goss could not share specific figures, but indicated that Goss Intl.'s sales volume and profitability have grown in each of the past three years.

Goss (Dover, NH)

“Our customers are taking some pretty innovating and exciting steps,” says Greg Norris, communications manager for Goss. “We see expanding opportunities and an expanding application range for web offset. The print quality matches sheetfed, run length thresholds are coming way down thanks to automation, and new technology is enabling some unique new production scenarios.”

Norris credits workflow automation and presetting tools with helping web offset customers profit on jobs under 1,000 copies without sacrificing speed. “Our Sunday presses run at up to 100,000 iph and our Pacesetter saddlestitching systems now net more than 25,000 customized books per hour,” says Norris.

No need to stop the presses

Another Goss innovation, Automatic Transfer (AT) technology, lets printers change jobs without stopping their presses. “As the first Goss AT presses have come on line, it is clear that the ability to print continuously without stopping for job changes is going to be a major catalyst in driving web offset run-length thresholds way down,” says Norris. “We are seeing a steady increase in interest in the AT technology for book printing, as well as publication and commercial printing. This is driven by the ability to bring the speed, print quality and economic advantages of the web offset process to the short-run applications publishers are now demanding. Printers and publishers are beginning to embrace the concept of print production becoming a continuous process rather than the start-and-stop process it always has been.”

AT technology, winner of a 2005 PIA/GATF InterTech award, is finding a receptive audience. “We shipped a dozen Automatic Transfer printing units in 2005,” Norris reports. “In 2006, we shipped more than 50 units worldwide.”

With two AT units, single-color changeovers, such as for edition, language, address or pricing changes, can be completed on the fly without stopping for a conventional makeready. Makeready typically is less than 100 waste copies. A press with eight AT units can handle complete four-color changeovers without stopping.

Operators bring one or more idle printing units on impression while simultaneously taking another unit, or units, off impression. The AT units have a straight web lead, can be positioned anywhere within the press line and print on both sides.

Goss' nonstop technology capitalizes on certain Sunday Press characteristics. Because Sunday cylinders do not require bearers, they can be mounted in pivot boxes to achieve the wide blanket-to-blanket throw off necessary for the web to pass through idle units without being diverted. Autoplate fully automatic plate changing complements the technology, reducing makeready time and effort on idle units.

Recent AT installations include commercial printer and direct mail specialist Japs-Olson Co. (St. Louis Park, MN); a Transcontinental book plant in Beauceville, Quebec; and Cox Target Media's “lights out” 470,000-sq.-ft Valpak manufacturing facility slated to open soon in St. Petersburg, FL.

“We're very positive about growth opportunities for web offset created by innovative technology and innovative ideas,” says Goss' Norris. “Timeliness, targeting, cost and impact of the finished product drives media selection, and we are delivering innovations in all four areas to make print more competitive and compatible with other media.”

MAN Roland (Westmont, IL)

For the first half of 2006, MAN Roland reported a significant gain for web offset — a 28 percent increase for order intake and a 24 percent gain in web press sales. “Our commercial web business had the second best year in our company's history in 2006 — the first came in 2005,” says Paul Pirkle, MAN Roland's vice president of commercial web sales. “I cannot tell you if [2007] will be another record year, but we are going to continue to work hard to show the industry why we have [earned our] reputation.”

During his 15 years in the sheetfed and web press worlds, Pirkle has witnessed some amazing achievements in automation. “When I first called on web accounts, makeready times were factored in hours, not minutes,” he recalls. “In the past five years, the automation has continued to gain strength, but the greatest change is the emphasis on press flexibility. Because one press may be replacing two or more machines, more demands are put onto that new press.”

While many printers still describe themselves as “web houses” or “sheetfed shops,” in recent years, mixed operations have become more commonplace. “As far as sheetfed vs. web [is concerned], printers are looking for a complete solution,” says Pirkle. “The most important strength of our company is that we have both solutions. The sheetfed and web teams work very closely together.”

In the past year, MAN Roland has become a separate entity from the MAN Group. “With the change in ownership, our new owner has every interest in mind to work to get us into a great place to go public,” says Pirkle. “This will have a very positive effect on the company. R&D will continue to be a great part of MAN Roland.”

Sweet 16 (and 24)

MAN Roland's ROTOMAN line of 16- and 24-page web presses cost-effectively automates commercial pressrooms. A 16-page web with a 38-inch web width, ROTOMAN is available with a cutoff length of 21.75, 22.75, 23.54 or 24.80 inches, and features a top operating speed of 70,000 cph. The press is capable of single- or multiple-web production and can be configured as inline, stacked or parallel presses. A 24-page ROTOMAN S also is available, and is built around sleeve blanket technology. ROTOMAN S utilizes a 57.48-inch web width and offers a range of cutoffs between 20.47 and 24.80 inches. It can achieve a top run rate of 90,000 cph, thanks to an array of innovations led by its sleeve-offset technology. MAN Roland's PECOM operating system controls all ROTOMAN models and configurations. The ROTOMAN can be equipped with Automated Plate Loading (APL). Both the ROTOMAN and ROTOMAN S can be equipped with automatic webbing-up and automatic washing systems to accelerate makeready and reduce waste. MAN Roland also offers a QuickStart program for faster press ramp-up and ramp-down sequences that save time and reduce waste.

Four wide and four around

MAN Roland has extended its commercial web press technology with UNISET — a four-wide by four-around system. When combined with a MAN Roland 2:3:3 double chopper folder, UNISET is capable of simultaneously delivering two different 16-page products, or one 32-page product, all at the top speed of 75,000 iph. At the heart of UNISET is MAN Roland's PECOM automation and press operating system. The PECOM PressManager (PPM) station allows press operators to preset makeready parameters for an upcoming job while current work is printing. This maximizes press uptime and promotes makeready savings. Optional PowerPlateLoading (PPL) automates plate positioning and removal to cut key makeready functions.

Stay tuned for some “big” news from MAN Roland. “We took an order this year for a new 32-page 4×4 press for the commercial market,” Pirkle reports. “This press is going to meet a great demand in the market. We will have an event later this year when this press goes into production.”

KBA (Williston, VT)

At Graph Expo last year, KBA North America announced that all web press sales, service and parts activities would relocate from its old York, PA, facility. The vendor recently opened a new 20,000-sq.-ft. facility near the Dallas/Fort Worth Intl. Airport to handle all web press parts, service and support.

“The Dallas Parts and Service Center is perfectly situated to cater to our web offset customers,” says Jim Kloepfer, director of KBA sales, Commercial Web Presses. “It is in a central location within close proximity of 85 percent of the web offset printers in the U.S. and minutes from the Dallas/Fort Worth and FedEx airports.”

KBA, which offers the biggest sheetfed press, the 80-inch Rapida 205, reports robust sales for its massive web presses. “Here in North America, we're seeing our 64- and 72-page web presses nibbling at the edge of the gravure market,” says Kloepfer. “In 2006 we delivered four machines, and, in early 2007, we have prospects for two more sales.”

Large and in charge

Kloepfer cited some additional highlights for KBA in these formats:

Quebecor World (Hazelton, PA), is installing a 72-page Compacta 818 NHSWO press. It is configured as a double-web press and can produce 6.5 million pages per hour.

Another Compacta 818 NHSWO, also in the 72-page format, is slated for installation at Stevens Graphics (Birmingham, AL). This press line, a single web, is capable of producing 3.25 million pages per hour.

Transcontinental Printing in Canada is installing a Compacta 618 HSWO press. The C618 is a 64-page press format and is configured as a double-web press. It can produce 96 10-inch square tab pages per revolution, or 4.3 million pages per hour.

Midway Press (Dallas) is installing a Compacta 215 HSWO press. This 16-page press is configured as a single web and can produce 800,000 pages per hour.

Mitsubishi (Lincolnshire, IL)

Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses is best known for its Diamond 8, 16 and 32 MAX-M fixed cut-off models. But at Drupa 2004, the manufacturer attracted international attention with a prototype of the Diamond 16 MAX-V variable cut-off web press. The first Diamond 16 MAX-V was installed more than a year ago in Japan, and the vendor plans a North American introduction, although no plans have been formalized. The D16 MAX-V press will use metal-backed blankets and conventional flat CTP plates.

Recent installations for Mitsubishi include: a Diamond 16 MAX-M five-unit, one-web with a sheeter and pinless combination folder with single chopper at Web Offset Publications (Pickering, Ontario, Canada) in October 2006; a Diamond 16 MAX-M six-unit, one-web with a 22¾ × 38-inch format engineered with a double-wide pinless combination folder and a pinless former folder (single tower) at Cenveo's Anderson Litho (Los Angeles) in February 2006; and a Diamond 8 heatset six-color, half-size web at La Crosse Graphics (La Crosse, WI) installed in February 2006.

“Commercial web offset has changed,” says George Sanchez, Mitsubishi's director of web sales for the Central and Eastern regions. “New automation on press allows printers to produce print runs as low as 10,000 on a web press. Our MAX Saver software platform is devoted to reducing makeready and waste. Most of our presses are equipped with semi-automatic plate changing, and by the end of 2007 we'll introduce fully automatic plate changing.”

Komori (Rolling Meadows, IL)

Although Komori is best known in this country for its sheetfed presses, it is the leading web press supplier in Japan and now offers its System 38S in “American” cutoffs. Prior to drupa 2004, however, Komori wasn't an active player in the United States web press market.

“Our System 38S web offset press got great reviews for its quick makeready and low waste [at the show],” explains Robert Buongiorno, director of Komori's web offset division. “Everybody told us to bring it to North America where its features would dovetail nicely with new trends. We introduced the press with two new cut-offs, 239/16 inches and 22¾ inches, that suit the North American market. We've been very successful with it.”

Fully automatic plate changing

The System 38S is a 60,000 iph high-end, 16-page machine designed for ultra-short makereadies. Changeover reportedly can be done in as little as seven minutes — A videotaped Drupa 2004 presentation showed the 38S completing three jobs in less than 15 minutes.

Two key technologies enable these speedy makereadies: the DoNet-based press interface, KHS-AI, as well as fully automatic plate changing (Full-APC). Much of the technology on the 16-page System 38S also can be found on its big brother, the 32-page 38/1250.

Two U.S. printers are slated to install System 38 presses this month. Fry Communications (Mechanicsburg, PA), a publication catalog and book printing specialist, will be installing an eight-unit, two-web System 38S; CGI North America (Jersey City, NJ), a full-service general commercial printer, will receive a six-unit, one-web press for its worldwide print and communication businesses. During the summer of 2007, Komori will install another System 38S at Mitchell Press, Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as at another printer that prefers to remain anonymous.

The first System 38S in the United States was installed last spring at PBM Graphics' new facility in Durham, NC. PBM's model is a six-unit, 16-page Komori 38S press equipped with QTI closed-loop color and register controls.

What's next?

Web offset manufacturers see new growth opportunities ahead but caution that the U.S. retains its independent streak. “The North American web offset market is unique to the rest of the world,” says Komori's Buongiorno. “High-end commercial printers will install a five-, six-, or even eight-unit press. We're seeing a big surge in the 4 × 4, 32-page web, as well.”

Editor's note: For more web offset news and notes, see pg. 22.

Debora Toth is a freelance writer and editor who has been covering the printing industry for 26 years. She can be reached at

Goss then & now

Goss introduced the gapless Sunday 3000 press in 1993, allowing high-quality printing on wider webs at up to 3,000 fpm or 100,000 impressions per hour. Additional models followed, including the Sunday 2000 for commercial applications and shorter runs, and the Sunday 3000/32 press with a world first “2 x 8” design. In February 2002, Goss Intl. Corp. acquired substantially all of the assets of Goss Graphic Systems. In August 2004, Goss Intl. acquired Heidelberg Web Systems (HWS) and is now one of the world's largest web offset printing and finishing solution providers.

“We've done everything we said we were going to do regarding the acquisition: financially, organizationally and in terms of enhancing, products, service, execution and our commitment to R&D,” says Greg Norris, communications manager for Goss.

Combining commercial and newspaper strengths

A benefit of combining Goss and HWS has been a cross pollination of newspaper and commercial web technologies, according to Norris, who also emphasized that Goss is the only web offset supplier that manufacturers finishing systems. “We're seeing a convergence of newspaper and commercial web production requirements and business models, as well as an increased demand for advanced technology and integrated production systems to gain efficiency and create new opportunities. We have a unique combination of products and resources that is in step with these evolving demands.”

Rolling along with Rolands

MAN Roland's ROTOMAN line of 16- and 24-page web presses are popular choices among commerical printers. The vendor recently announced that ColorGraphics, Inc. (Los Angeles), has signed an agreement for its second eight-color, 16-page ROTOMAN. The new press includes Power Plate Loading, MAN Roland's PECOM operating and networking system, closed loop color control and preset commands for stock, ink and folding configurations. Beneifts include reduced downtime and less paper waste for lower overall manufacturing costs.

Dollco Printing (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) added a four-unit ROTOMAN web press to its array of sheetfed, heatset web and coldset web equipment last summer. The new press prints at speeds up to 65,000 iph. It is coupled to a MAN Roland high-speed single chopper folder to finish inline, with the capability to produce delta and double parallel folds, and four-, eight- and 16-page signatures.

In 2006, Hi-Liter/Inland Graphics (Burlington and Menomonee Falls, WI) purchased a 4 × 4, 32-page web press for its Burlington facility. In the six-year-old, state-of-the-art facility, Hi-Liter runs a variety of heatset web, coldset web and sheetfed presses. Its new 32-page MAN Roland is its largest press complementing the current 2 × 4 formats.

Last summer, Gateway Press (Louisville, KY) ordered a new eight-unit, two-web ROTOMAN press. Gateway anticipates that the new ROTOMAN's automation will enable it to makeready in half the time its existing presses do, due to its preset features and the closed-loop color. Similarly, the ROTOMAN's running speeds are expected to average between 50,000 and 60,000 signatures per hour, for a 50 percent gain over existing rates. Gateway also expects to use all eight units for particular jobs, along with different gloss and dull coatings to differentiate it from its competition that is limited to five or six colors.

Double coupon days

Cox Target Media (St. Petersburg, FL) is installing two eight-unit Goss Sunday 4000 press systems with AT technology to produce its Valpak direct marketing products at its new 470,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility. Cox Target Media is investing more than $200 million in the facility and an entirely new manufacturing process designed to produce twice its present capacity in less than half the time.

“We are going to run the AT presses around the clock, without stopping for makereadies, and we're going to do four-color job changes every 12 minutes,” explains Jim Sampey, executive vice president of operations for Cox.

The two Sunday 4000 presses will print up to 12 different products coming into a fully automated high-speed Muller Martini press delivery system consisting of a Floorveyor, inline deserting units, Topveyor overhead conveyors, and 12 PrintRoll twin winding stations. The complete press delivery operation will be controlled via Muller Martini's MACOS (Master Control System). Using JDF and JMF in the CIP4 protocol, the system will track all of the 12 products delivered for print finishing, and this “smart” press delivery technology will communicate real-time JMF messaging back to the press to commence auto transfer for the next set of 12 signatures. Bowe Bell + Howell is supplying custom integrated mailing systems.

Cox Target Media aims to more than double the 20 billion targeted direct mail coupons it now prints annually for the national Valpak program. The effort will depend on a workflow that turns rolls of paper into sealed coupon-filled envelopes without human hands ever touching the product.

Baker assumes MLP reins

In October 2005, Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A) announced Marke Baker, formerly vice president of customer service, would succeed K.G. Katayama as the company's president. Katayama has returned to the Printing Press International Sales Group of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI).

Baker joined Mitsubishi in 1988 as a field service technician and became a member of the company's executive staff in 2002. His previous responsibilities included director of customer service, web products specialist, web installation manager, and national service manager for web and newspaper presses.

Baker began his printing industry career in 1980 in the press maintenance department at book publisher Foote & Davies (Atlanta). He developed his knowledge of the industry over the course of eight years with the company, eventually becoming department manager.

George Sanchez, a 27-year-veteran of the web offset market, now handles sales for the Central and Eastern regions, while Mike Stock continues as Midwest and Western regional manager. The company has added Mike Abbeduto, a 30+ year veteran in web and sheetfed, as its director of customer service.

Lapinski succeeds Rogivue

Earlier this year, Vince Lapinski succeeded Yves Rogivue as the CEO of MAN Roland USA. Lapinski has been with MAN for 16 years and previously led the company's web offset division.

Lapinski earned a bachelors degree in Print Technology and Print Management from the Rochester Institute of Technology. As CEO, Lapinski reports directly to Gerd Finkbeiner, MAN Roland's executive board chairman.

Web news and notes

Print triumphs over the Web

The Chicago Sun Times recently informed readers it would discontinue the weekly television listing guide distributed with its Sunday edition. According to the paper: “Information on TV programming is becoming much more readily available in the daily newspaper, on the Internet and on the TV screen itself.”

The paper then went on to cite the benefits of the online guide: Readers could personalize their listings, more information would be offered including last-minute schedule changes, and so on. Well, readers weren't buying it.

“You were right and we were wrong,” the paper said in February 4, 2007 article. “The Sun-Times will resume publishing ‘TV Prevue’ on Feb. 25. The decision follows thousands of calls critical of the removal of the guide.”

Hats off to paper savings

Everyone wants to save paper, including newspaper publishers. In a May 2006 online column at, Joe Grimm of The Detroit Free Press commented on a little-noticed aspect of this change. No more old-fashioned newspaper hats for the press operators.

After the Free Press reduced its web width to 48 inches, Grimm unsuccessfully tried to make a newspaper hat like the old-time operators used to wear.

“The traditional pressman's hat is being downsized right out of existence,” Grimm wrote. “You can still make a pressman's hat. But if you want to make one that you can actually wear, you had better use The Wall Street Journal before it shrinks from its roomy 60-inch web to 48 inches. Or, use your tiny pressman's hat as a CD holder.”

Of course, as Grimm further observed, today's presses aren't as messy as their predecessors and, these days, ball caps are the preferred headgear in the pressroom.

Muller debuts label and packaging press

Muller Martini (Hauppauge, NY) is famous for its finishing expertise, but the company is a familiar presence in many direct mail pressrooms, too, with its variable-size equipment. “We've been in the web press business for more than 40 years,” says Andrew Fetherman, manager of the vendor's press division. “Our presses [accommodate] the variety of sizes direct mail printers need as well as the high speed and quality they require.”

Nine- and even 10-color jobs are no problem — Muller's direct mail presses routinely crank out high-end PMS jobs that meet exacting corporate color requirements.

No more web breaks

Alprinta-V, Muller's newest press, is designed mainly for packaging applications. Fetherman describes the new press as “providing the ulitmate in variability.” The 1,200-fpm press features a continuously size variable insert system. The printing insert remains in the press during a size change — only the actual size parts — the blanket cylinder and the plate cylinder — are exchanged. The web remains intact during the changeover, which doesn't require any tools.

The Alprinta's carbon fiber cylinder design lets users switch quickly from one job to the next. Dozens of sets of inserts can be stored in racks on the side of the press.

“Flexo and gravure have dominated the packaging and label market for the last decade, but more people are looking for offest quality,” says Fetherman. Applications for the new press range from self-adhesive labels to base material, to bottle labels made of paper or plastic film — produced in a single pass and delivered on rolls or in sheets. Cooling cylinders are available for UV curing shrink sleeves and other temperature sensitive materials.

Paper or plastics

Sample jobs produced on the Alprinta range from a 38-micron plastic transparent film printed with stochastic screening to a direct mail job with heavy coverage produced on 10-pt. coated stock as well as paper and shrink sleeve labels.