Offset Press Update: world’s leading equipment manufacturers remain strong – and involved

Today we’re inundated with advancements in digital printing technology. And though digital is definitely growing and presenting us with some amazing value-added options in terms of packaging, short runs and finishing, offset still rules the printing industry landscape – by a wide, wide margin! According to print industry research leader Smithers Pira, by 2022 digital will be 19.1% in terms of value worldwide, but only 4.3% in terms of volume. The rest will be offset. That’s huge! It added that “offset printing processes will continue to benefit from increased productivity, and there are parts of the market becoming competitive in short-run printing.” So rest assured that world’s leading offset OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) will continue to raise the bar in terms of technology, production efficiency and print quality.

Strategic partnerships

Today, key strategic partnerships now allow offset leaders to offer in-shop digital technology that complements their presses. For example, KBA recently partnered with Durst to develop single-pass digital printing systems for folding cartons. Heidelberg just completed a “capital increase” from shareholder OEM Masterwork of China. The new funds will be used primarily to accelerate Heidelberg’s digital offerings. Another dynamic is that today’s commercial printers are becoming better educated about what their offset equipment is capable of – and that’s because OEMs have become, in essence, their ongoing and trusted technology partners and consultants. Here’s a glimpse of some of the world’s most popular sheetfed offset presses. I wish I could include all models, but that would take every page of this magazine and more.


The developments continue for both commercial and packaging print regarding Heidelberg’s peak-performance press, the Speedmaster XL106. Capitalizing on the overwhelming success of Heidelberg’s Push-to-Stop technology of autonomous printing, other features have been added to enhance productivity even further while reducing workflow touch points. For example, packaging customers are under pressure to reduce waste and defects. For that Heidelberg has introduced its Zero Defect Packaging. Using new features such as Inspection Control 2 in tandem with a Waste Sheet Ejector, allow for print errors to be removed from the good sheet pile. As well, start-up waste can be ejected and all sheets in the delivery are of the highest quality. This is all done automatically based on the parameters set by the press operator. As well, a new feature called AutoPlate Coating now allows automatic loading of plates in the Coating Unit in tandem with the print units. This is especially effective in presses with multiple coating units – a growing requirement in packaging printing.

In the commercial world, Heidelberg has had multiple installations in Canada of its Speedmaster XL 106-8P format, either with or without a coating unit. Push-to-Stop really shines in this sector as the press is usually printing 4-colour process on both sides of the sheet. Plus, with features like AutoPlate Pro, Inpress Control automated spectral measurement and register system, and new Quality Assist software, jobs can be autonomously produced with virtually no touch point for the operator.

Another success story has been Heidelberg’s subscription-based model for press ownership that removes the burden of capital costs. Heidelberg supplies the press, consumables, service and consulting, focusing on maximum productivity over the lifetime of the subscription. Overall Equipment Efficiencies (OEE) are measured monthly. Heidelberg currently has two large presses installed in Canada running under this model. “With many prospects in the pipeline, this concept is changing the way customers are improving their profitability,” said Heidelberg. “With drupa just around the corner, stay tuned for our next round of innovative solutions.”


KBA (Koenig & Bauer) is dominant in sheetfed automation, allowing customers to select specific features that significantly reduce makeready times. The other huge benefit is consistent colour throughout runs and written reports of the actual press run for clients. KBA’s medium-format Rapida presses have set benchmarks in makeready times, print performance, new processes and user-orientated configurations. In fact, ever since the worldwide launch of Koenig & Bauer’s Rapida 106 in 2008, the press has “stood at the focus of a continuous development process, all with the aim of further increasing performance, flexibility and economic efficiency,” said the OEM. Design optimization in the infeed and delivery systems, additional software packages, and a multitude of user-oriented benefits “have once again confirmed the Rapida 106 as the makeready world champion and the most efficient press in its class.”

Whether for commercial or packaging printing, for labels or one of the many special applications, the Rapida 106 offers configuration options and equipment to meet virtually every demand. Users simply select the technical features that are most appropriate to their individual job structure and production environment. The substrate flexibility of the press is similarly unrivalled said KBA – from lightweight paper to heavy board, from plastic films to corrugated packaging. The same can be said of its finishing capabilities – from gloss or matte effects, to full coverage or spot finishes, to single and multiple coating applications with dispersion and/or UV varnishes.

State-of-the-art automation modules make job changeovers and production extremely fast and easy for press operators. Particular mention should be made here of the press’s revolutionary DriveTronic technology – including its DriveTronic SIS sidelay-free infeed, DriveTronic SPC simultaneous plate changing, and DriveTronic Plate Ident plate identification systems. Quality management also plays an important role on this press, as it does on all KBA models. An entire line of sophisticated solutions and cutting-edge technologies for both inline and online quality measurement and continuous control are major benefits of Rapida presses.


Komcan Incorporated (Georgetown, Ontario) is the sole authorized agent for Komori printing presses and auxiliary equipment, now serving all of Canada. It offers the complete line of Komori solutions – including sales, factory-approved service, parts and consumables. Since 2012, the Komori Lithrone G Series “has been an industry benchmark for productivity, efficiency and throughput,” said the OEM. As the flagship model of this G Series, the Komori GLX40 provides “unparalleled makeready times, run speeds, uptime and low cost of ownership.” Success globally, and particularly in Canada, has been unparalleled – with new GLXs being installed at a rate never before seen. Straight printing and more specifically packaging, has been the primary benefactor of the GLX’s proficiencies. Recently, however, Komori announced that the Lithrone GLX is now available with a perfector – making the leap “from packaging powerhouse to versatile journeyman.” The GLX40P adds a perfector to the GLX, and will be available side-by-side with the GL40P, which continues to experience success in the commercial printing market.

With a running speed of up to 18,000 sph, Asynchronous Automatic Plate Changers (capable of changing all plates in under 80 seconds), fully automatic non-stop delivery (among other key features), the GLX40 and GLX40P ensure that users produce the most quality sheets in as little time as possible. Additional options such as PQA-S full-sheet inspection and colour/register control, take more variables out of the hands of operators, allowing them to focus on top-end quality and improving productivity. Two of the newest installations of the GLX40 were at Ellis Packaging in Pickering, Ontario, and at Produlith in Boucherville, Quebec. “It will enable us to increase our throughput and capacity,” said Catherine Ellis of Ellis Packaging. “It’s the perfect press for our present and future needs to support our continuous growth,” said Shawn Desmarchais of Produlith. Komcan added that it’s confident that the introduction of the GLX40P perfecting press will elicit the same positive reactions from commercial printers. The flagship Lithrone GLX is supported by the rest of the Komori litho line – including the GLX-RP dedicated perfector press, the GL40, the GL29, as well as System 38 web presses. Komori has also strengthened its position over the past year with continued growth of installations of the Impremia IS29 and NS40 Digital Cut-Sheet Inkjet Presses.


Manroland Sheetfed’s Roland 700 Evolution continues in 2019 as the press of choice among printers who demand the highest quality in print, coupled with a press platform equipped with “unbeatable features”. Designed from the ground up and incorporating a sleek, futuristic look, the latest-generation Roland 700 adds some additional girth with a new size option. The R700 Evolution 106 incorporates new technological developments that give printers unprecedented levels of efficiency, productivity, operation and quality, said the OEM. These new developments include: a newly designed central console with touchscreen control; a new feeder pile transport that reduces waste; Manroland’s new suction belt sheet handling technology for a more even pile contour; all-new dampening units in the press; axial bearings in the impression and transferrer positions that significantly reduce start-up torque (and when used with the sophisticated software for practice-oriented roller washing cycles, further reduce downtime).

The result is enhanced productivity and print quality alongside a further lowering of production costs and “the highest net sheet outputs in the industry”.

Other features include print speeds of 18,000 sph, optional 750 x 1,050 mm sheet size for maximum multiple-up images, delivery and dampening units specially designed for high-speed production, and other unique features – including TripleFlow inking unit, intelligent speed compensation for inking and dampening units, effective anti-ghosting solutions and more.

Users of Manroland Sheetfed technology have pointed to its ProServ360  Program which incorporates production monitoring coupled with consultancy to ensure that users are maximizing the full performance of their Evolution Press. Factory-trained technicians provide three years of included servicing and support to minimize downtime.


KBR Graphics (Laval, Quebec) is the authorized distributor for RMGT Ryobi MHI Graphic Technology sheetfed offset presses in Canada – and its RMGT 9 Series Press is leading the way. RMGT was the first press manufacturer in the world to put LED-UV curing systems into commercial production for offset presses. A cleaner and environmentally friendly LED-UV system increases print quality since it instantly cures ink on the paper even at high speeds, producing a sharper images with exceptional vibrancy. It also provides faster turnarounds due to the instant drying of the ink – there’s no waiting time between running a second pass or moving a job to the bindery. Also, RMGT’s Insta.Color technology covers all facets of the make-ready process. Fast, precise plate changing with a choice of simultaneous, sequential and semi-automatic systems is available. In addition to LED-UV instant curing, 2-colour to 10-colour configurations are possible, as are convertible perfecting and automation packages.

The 9 Series features maximum print speeds of 16,200 sph, varnish coating, offset quality with short-run quantities, and a maximum sheet size of 24” x 36”. “For years, printers seeking growth beyond the half-size format press seemed driven to invest in the 40-inch market,” said KBR. “Nowadays, budget-consciousness printers choose more profitable press formats, such as the 8-up RMGT 9 Series Press. As a result, in recent years, RMGT has installed over 50 LED-UV presses in North America, including five in Canada.”

KBR cited several advantages of the RMGT 9 Series over other similar presses in the industry. These included a 33% lower investment, 34% savings on plate costs, a 35% smaller footprint, 70% less energy consumption, no spray powder needed and instant drying. “Offset printing is still the dominant print production method for commercial, packaging and advertising print,” KBR added. “RMGT’s rapid technological advancements have had the largest positive impact on the industry. In the past decade, LED-UV instant curing has made the most dramatic technological, financial and environmental impact on the offset print world – and RMGT has led that movement.



Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.