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Large-format perfectors: Extra format means extra productivity

(PresseBox) (Würzburg, ) "None Bigger, None Better" was the slogan which KBA placed on invitations sent out to representatives of major commercial printers from both Europe and overseas. Around 60 of their number took up the opportunity to attend a pre-Christmas open house at the KBA facility in Radebeul on 9th December, where the latest options for high-volume 4-over-4 production were placed in their practical context through a series of presentations and press demonstrations. The medium-format Rapida 106 already proved its ultimate productivity in short-run full-colour perfecting at drupa 2008, and so it was the turn of the Rapida 162a, which can now also play out its extended sheet format of 120 x 162 cm in perfecting mode, to capture the attention of the trade experts.

Large-format perfectors have been a configuration unique to KBA for many years, and numerous eight-colour presses have in the meantime been supplied not only to book printers, but also to larger commercial printers in various European and overseas countries. As previously shown for 64, 72 or 80-page commercial web offset or triple-width 6/2 newspaper presses, a switch to a larger format is according to KBA calculations an opportunity for larger commercial printing companies to further enhance their productivity and economic efficiency also in sheetfed offset. The large-format Rapidas can be operated with the same personnel as a modern medium-format press, and the once significantly longer makeready times have also been reduced drastically thanks to the increasing levels of automation.

Almost 4 m² printed area per sheet in one pass
Sales vice-president Ralf Sammeck welcomed the day's guests, before handing over to Jens Baumann from the KBA product management team, who went on to introduce the proven single-drum perfecting system of the large-format Rapidas. Since drupa earlier this year, the Rapida 162a is now also able to utilise the full sheet format of 120 x 162 cm in perfecting mode. The number of print-free corridors, moreover, has been reduced from the previous seven to just five. Together, these enhancements raise the available image area by up to 10%. At the same time, up to 52 mm of paper trimming waste can be saved, and maximum flexibility is achieved in respect of sheet layout. Numerous automation features, furthermore, give an additional boost to productivity, among them the automatically preset DriveTronic shaftless feeder and fully automatic plate changing with parallel washing of the blanket and impression cylinders.

Top quality with even less effort
With regard to quality demands, the ColorTronic ink duct is already an important detail of a Rapida large-format press, thanks to its high stability, the reproducibility of its ink settings and the minimal maintenance requirements. Nowadays, however, that is no longer enough. Print quality must now be monitored without interruption, and if necessary also documented continuously for the customer. This market development is served by the inline system KBA QualiTronic, whose sheet inspection and colour control functionalities are offered in two separate basic variants and a combined "Professional" version. The inline colour density control alone helps to cut startup waste by up to 50%. Measurement, control and documentation are here continuous processes with no need to stop the press. This increases net output appreciably. DensiTronic PDF is another KBA speciality for medium and large-format presses, and is already in successful use at various customers. A scanner mounted onto the measuring beam of the DensiTronic desk scans the sheet at a resolution of 330 dpi and is able to detect even the slightest deviations, e.g. text errors, through comparison with the original PDF. In this way, it is quickly possible to establish full monitoring of the printed content, but without the high expenditure in terms of both time and labour which is today otherwise necessary.

Rapida 106: Makeready world champion with a host of unique features
The similarly automatically convertible perfecting unit of the Rapida 106 can be characterised by its exact register, a broad substrate range and user-friendly air settings. The consistent automation concept DriveTronic is a further highlight of the makeready world champion in medium format. Two elements which are still unique on the market for this format class, and a source of invaluable benefits for the user, are the DriveTronic Feeder, for which all presettings can be handled from the press console, and the sidelay-free infeed DriveTronic SIS. Thanks to the plate cylinder direct drive system DriveTronic SPC, all the plates on the press can be changed simultaneously in just one minute, while parallel washing and conversion processes further reduce job changeover times. DriveTronic PlateIdent provides for exact pre-registration during automatic plate changing, and at the same time checks the correct assignment of the plates to the individual printing units.

When does 4-over-4 production pay?
Dr. Roland Reichenberger from the product management department recalled that a previous KBA open house - "5-over-5 in 3b or double the format straight?" - had already shown three years ago that economic considerations have an important role to play in format decisions. In the meantime, however, much has been achieved in both format classes with regard to automation and productivity, and this needs to be incorporated into the ROI calculations. Taking a variety of examples, he explained the economic impact of different equipment options for the Rapida large and medium-format presses. In large formats, a high degree of automation contributes significantly to capacity increases, and has a correspondingly positive effect on ROI. In the case of the Rapida 106, ROI diagrams indicate that the payback for automation is accelerated as the individual run lengths become shorter.

Enlarged area pays off for large-format perfectors
Product manager Anja Hagedorn used the example of a 128-page book (format 19 x 28 cm, art paper, run length 20,000 copies) to illustrate the benefits of the new enlarged print format of the Rapida 162a perfector compared to the previous smaller format. Instead of 48 pages, it is now possible to fit 64 book pages onto a sheet. Consequently, today's Rapida 162a is able to print the whole book in just two sections, whereas it used to be necessary to plan two sections of 48 pages and one of 32 pages. As a result, the required production time is almost two hours less, and production costs can be reduced by approx. €3,000.

Precisely this kind of job - a high-quality cookery book with bled-off images - was subsequently printed live during the demonstration of an eight-colour Rapida 162a perfector. The guests were able to follow the printing of both 64-page sections, including a complete makeready process, before inspecting the excellent print quality delivered by the large-format press. Anja Hagedorn and Wolfram Zehnle, head of the KBA customer centre, explained the individual process steps, and not least the benefits to the user of 7.5 cm extra print length and a reduced number of print-free corridors.

Automation - the lifeline as job lengths shrink
During a further demonstration on a ten-colour Rapida 106 with full DriveTronic and QualiTronic options, the guests were able to witness the breathtaking speed with which job changeovers are today possible, and saw that the production of 15 jobs per hour with 540 good sheets each, as practised at drupa 2008, is reproducible at any time. The three jobs printed at the open house yet again underlined the fact that, at least in the developed countries, further automation of the printing press is almost a matter of economic life and death as run lengths continue to become shorter and shorter.

Thomas Göcke, head of department for KBA-Complete, at the same time illustrated how an integrated workflow involving also the print customer taps further optimisation and savings potential. The decisive tool for process automation is a JDF-based MIS as a central control hub. With an appropriate MIS, the time devoted to process steps aside from the actual printing press, which can often account for 75% of the total production time, can be reduced dramatically.

Investing in times of financial crisis
The currently difficult environment for investments and financing was the subject of a presentation by Rüdiger von Fölkersamb, member of the board of Deutsche Leasing, who explained the procedures of a leasing transaction. His summary: Even in the present economic situation, leasing remains the financing option of choice for investments in capital goods. Reasons are to be found in the absolute cost transparency and the security for both vendor and lessee. Further services, such as cost and liquidity benefits through delegation of the export, tax-optimised leasing contracts or insurance cover for the leased printing press, are today standard elements.

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