Offset overview

Digital continues to grow, but offset holds its own. A look at five leading offset options. 

Market research firm Smithers-Pira recently released a new study –The Future of Digital vs Offset Printing to 2022. For offset OEMs, it was good news and bad news. The report predicted that digital will continue to grow in most sectors worldwide. In 2017, it revealed, digital accounted for an estimated 16.4% of global print and printed packaging in value terms – but only 3.9% of volume. By 2022, the report predicts, digital will be 19.1% of value – but only 4.3% of volume. So while digital continues to grow, offset still rules in terms of volume – and print quality. Here’s a glimpse at five of the world’s offset leaders. For this article, I selected specific models.

Goss M-600 Web Offset Press

Brothers Fred and Sam Goss founded the Goss Printing Press Company in Chicago in 1885. Today, Goss International has an impressive legacy of industry firsts – including the first web offset press and the first newspaper press. And while the OEM does boast some of the world’s best packaging and newspaper presses, for purposes of this article I’m going to look at its M-600 Web Offset Press. This 16-page workhorse has been continually enhanced since it was introduced in 1992. At up to 70,000 impressions per hour, its autoplate automatic plate-changing option, ultra-fast makereadies and waste-reduction features make it ideal for short-run applications. When you factor in multiple configuration possibilities, several folding and inline finishing options, automatic blanket adjustment, and a high-performance inking and dampening system, you can see why it’s so popular with both publication and commercial printers.

One particularly impressive feature is its ink train. Fifteen large-diameter rollers include three temperature-controlled oscillating rollers, three ink-form rollers, and a motorized temperature-controlled ink fountain roller. Bottom line: The M-600 produces high quality repeatable print, is highly automated, and is easy to operate and integrate into any workflow. It can print a wide range of products – from brochures and magazines to specialized items. Printers can even custom-design a system to meet their specific requirements, while having the flexibility to produce multiple formats.

Speaking of continuous enhancements, Goss is now offering a permanent upgrade to its M-600 bladder-actuated plate cylinders. This patent-pending solution operates using air cylinders to open and close the reel rod. It’s 100% retrofittable on existing bladder-actuated cylinders. All the operational parts are outside the cylinder’s body and can be replaced without removing it. Since there are no changes to the printing plate or operator interface, this upgrade can be done on a single cylinder.

Finally, having worked at the Toronto Star for 20 years, I must mention a major Goss press enhancement project that added full-colour panorama gatefold capabilities at The New York Times. It involved retrofitting two Goss Colorliner presses with a custom-configured Innotech Panorama Gatefold System. The new system now enables an additional 4-page-wide centerfold, a separate 8-page pullout section, smaller gatefolds or coupon folds at one or both edges, gatefolds in the cover page, or using the gate-folded section as a wraparound on the main section. This is just one example of Goss being a leader in this sector, as printed newspapers struggle to remain competitive and innovative.

Heidelberg Push to Stop technology continues its success

Heidelberg continues to focus on “The Smart Printshop” with its sheetfed presses and its Push to Stop technology. Last year saw several new installations across North America and more planned for 2018. Push to Stop (i.e. Navigated Printing) requires seamless integration throughout the entire production process and is ideal for its peak performance presses (VLF, XL-106, XL 75 and CX-102). “Heidelberg believes that its customers want to be shown how to improve their businesses through process integration and streamlined production, as opposed to ‘nuts and bolts’ conversations,” said Ray Fagan, PM/Sales Specialist for Sheetfed, Digital & Postpress at Heidelberg Canada. “Heidelberg’s Push to Stop takes print manufacturing to an entirely new level of productivity that was previously impossible to achieve.”

A Speedmaster operating in Push to Stop mode is autonomous. It takes all job parameters into account, presets all press functions, initiates the run, adjusts registration and colour, and even starts the good-sheet counter while inserting a tab into the pile – continuing to print unless the operator steps in to interrupt. Jobs are autonomously changed over without operator intervention. Using Prinect as the key integration component that ties multiple production processes together (i.e. MIS, workflow, ink-key data, substrate specs and press settings), Push to Stop executes the fastest changeover sequence possible. “With manufacturing this close to seamless, job throughput is dramatically improved,” Fagan added.

Heidelberg’s Speedmaster XL 106 8P+L with X4 delivery, is capable of utilizing any or all of three types of UV capabilities:  full UV, LE UV and LED UV. Its Customer Consulting Team helps printers decide which type of UV best suits their existing applications and operation. This hybrid also reaches speeds up to 18,000 sph with makereadies under four minutes. Heidelberg’s new DryStar LED facilitates up to 25,000 production hours, and users often produce over 50 million sheets per year!

Finally, industry marketing research firm Smithers-Pira, in its report Real Production Capability of Pre-Owned Sheetfed Litho Presses, analyzed the impression count of almost 450 pre-owned sheetfed litho presses under ten years old (not new presses) from five major OEMs. Result? Heidelberg presses were 24.1% more productive when comparing overall impression count in all formats. In the case of the Speedmaster XL 105 and 106, the press was 66% more productive and achieved 11% lower production costs per 1,000 sheets. Heidelberg actually commissioned the report from Smithers-Pira to confirm data that it had previously collected from the industry. The need for an independent report became apparent to Heidelberg when the data was reviewed.

KBA Rapida 106 LED-UV Press

KBA’s medium format Rapida presses have set benchmarks in makeready times, print performance, new processes and user-orientated configurations. Its Rapida 106 has been the makeready world champion in medium format offset since 2008. With production speeds up to 20,000 sph, it’s also the fastest press in its format class. Recently however, with the rise of UV and LED-UV technology, KBA North America is aggressively promoting its many benefits. For example, its new KBA VariDry LED-UV is a low-energy drying technology that delivers high print quality, the ability to stand out on uncoated and offset stock with sharp dots and high colour brilliance, no fold breaks even with high-ink coverage, and the elimination of printing powder. Also, its LED-UV consumes only 20% of the energy needed by conventional UV processes. KBA and its ink partners have successfully integrated this instant cure-to-print technology as a modular, interchangeable LED-UV curing platform into its renowned Rapida press lines.

Led by its flagship Rapida 106 Press, now with LED UV technology, the OEM continues to be a market leader in large format and packaging printing, while also offering digital web printing, die-cutting solutions, workflow solutions, metal decorating and the majority of banknote printing worldwide. Because of its unique automation solutions, such as a sidelay-free infeed DriveTronic SIS, job changes and media handling are extremely efficient. Quality management also plays a key role – and even includes inline PDF comparisons. Other unique features are simultaneous plate changing with its DriveTronic SPC, Flying JobChange within a few seconds, and its AniloxLoader with DriveTronic SFC.

One example that caught my eye was the first KBA LED-UV installation at Cedar Graphics in Hiawatha, Iowa, that has doubled productivity and strengthened its environmental status. “The driving force in our decision to purchase the KBA Rapida 106 press was its productivity and its LED-UV capabilities,” said Hassan Igram, CEO of Cedar Graphics. “We’re anticipating a plethora of benefits for our company and our customers, including twice the productivity, improving and streamlining our workflow, delivering the highest quality day after day, servicing our existing diverse group of customers with new specialty work, and supporting our own business growth. We felt that KBA offered us unique print features that no one else could offer, such as KBA SIS (Sensoric Infeed System) making super-fast press speeds possible, as well as KBA Plate Ident that recognizes and registers plates and automatically presets job information, thus preventing errors while saving time and money. We anticipate that LED-UV will become the next big trend, so we want to stay ahead of our competition.”

RMGT 9 Series Offset Press

“At Print 17, we proudly announced the sale of the 50th RMGT 9 Series Offset Press purchased in North America, which joined more than 700 installations worldwide since its release in 2008” said Karl Belafi Jr., Vice President of KBR Graphics Canada and the exclusive Canadian distributor of RMGT – RYOBI MHI Graphic Technology sheetfed offset presses in Canada. In December alone, two additional presses were sold in Eastern Canada and will be delivered and installed in the coming months. “The RMGT 9 Series presses can do anything a conventional offset press can do – but in a smaller footprint and with more profitability. In fact, they’re so productive and versatile that some of our customers have started moving some of their digital work back to offset for shorter runs,” Belafi added. RMGT offset presses are available with LED-UV technology and convertible perfector. LED-UV ensures instant curing at full press speeds while reducing power consumption, eliminating the need to wait for the ink to dry, while delivering consistent print quality that’s completely “finish-ready”.

The A1-size offset press easily handles 8-up A4-size printing at a 6-up price. The 9 Series also features printing speeds up to 16,200 sheets per hour and varnish coating capabilities for added value. KBR is also a founding member of Graphic Systems North America (GSNA), the largest independent source of printing equipment, technical service, and parts in North America. GSNA delivers exclusive access to the RMGT 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 11 Series of offset presses for commercial, packaging and in-plant printers across Canada and the U.S.

So how does this play out in the pressroom? Last year, Capital Colour in Edmonton invested in an RMGT 9 Series press. “It allows our shop to compete on most of the work that would usually require a 40″ press, without actually having to invest the money or the space in such equipment,” said President Brian Todd. He emphasized that he’s now able to produce work in-house that he previously would not have even bid on, or would have outsourced to a competitor. Previously, Capital Colour ran a maximum sheet size of 20” x 28”. But now, with its RMGT 9 Series, it can print on a maximum sheet size of 25” x 36” – a significant advantage, since this facilitates more multiple-ups on a single sheet. The company also replaced its two half-size presses with the single 8-up RMGT 9 Series Offset Press.

Roland 700 Evolution

Manroland Sheetfed’s Roland 700 Evolution is the latest version of the OEM’s established Roland 700 series of B1-plus format presses, but with new capabilities and a new look. For starters, it offers a new optional sheet size of 740 x 1,050 mm to enable more multiple-up pages. A wide choice of configurations includes up to ten units in both straight and perfecting options. Equipped with Simultaneous Plate Loading (SPL, where printing plates in all units can be changed at the same time), the blanket and impression cylinder can also be washed simultaneously with the plate change.

Additional advancements give printers unprecedented levels of efficiency, productivity, operation and quality. These include a redesigned central console with touchscreen control, a new feeder pile transport that reduces waste, new suction-belt sheet handling for a more even pile contour, new dampening units, and bearings that significantly reduce vibration. The result is more productivity, reduced downtime, exceptional print quality and ultimately, lower production costs. Smarter control software and colour and press presets also contribute to reducing time between jobs. Other features include print speeds of 18,000 sph, a TripleFlow inking unit, intelligent speed compensation for inking and dampening units, effective anti-ghosting solutions, and much more.

Because of its versatility, the 700 Evolution it is not aimed at any specific market – but it’s absolutely ideal for both packaging and commercial printing because it can produce short runs (via its Direct Drive technology), as well as long runs. Options include InLine colour control and register, InLineInspector and LEC (Low Energy Curing) UV technology. Bottom line: The combination of all these innovations and options have made this press a model of flexibility – and users have also found it to be intuitive and very user friendly. To go with the 700 Evolution is Manroland’s Proserve 360° Performance Program – a combination maintenance and service contract that also includes usage analysis.

I recall reading about Daehan Printech, a printer in Seoul, South Korea. Using its new Roland 700 Evolution, it completed 108 print jobs in 12.5 hours, breaking new production records at the company. As mentioned, with SPL, the printing plates in all units can be changed at the same time. The blanket and impression cylinder can also be washed simultaneously. So, up to seven minutes can be saved per job change, depending on press configuration. In other words, if the company needs 108 job changes a day, it can save up to 756 minutes – or the equivalent of 12.6 hours – per day!


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.