New digital and offset presses are finding their way into packaging pressrooms around the country. Last spring, major vendors to packaging printers—Heidelberg, HP, KBA, Kodak, Komori, manroland, Mitsubishi, Ryobi, Xeikon, and Xerox—used the giant German trade show, drupa, either to debut brand new presses or to announce significant upgrades to existing models.Whether they are buying drupa introductions, custom-built models, or newer but proven models, packaging printers (and those who would like to be packaging printers) have been shopping. They all are looking for equipment that will increase their productivity and/or bring new capabilities to customers.
Digital presses such as the Xeikon 3300 are well suited to short- andmedium-run packaging work requiring variable-data imprinting such as bar codes.
Digital from drupa
One example from the digital press world is the upcoming installation of a Xeikon 3300 at Odyssey Digital Printing, Tulsa, OK. This electrophotographic digital press was unveiled at drupa and shown at Labelexpo Americas in Chicago in September, where it won the Innovation Award. It will be the fourth Xeikon digital web press for the 54- employee company, which also runs a Presstek 52DI and some large-format printers.
Xeikon, a division of Punch Graphix, bills the 3300 as an extremely fast digital color label press. The dry-toner based 3300 features a top speed of 63 feet per minute, a duty cycle of 2.3 million feet per month, and true 1,200 dpi resolution. Odyssey, however, will be using the 3300 to print folding cartons. "We have an older Xeikon 50SP on which we run folding cartons as well as POP materials," says John Roberds, president. "Our major folding carton business is custom golf ball packaging for Acushnet Golf who makes Titleist and Pinnacle golf balls." The company also works with a candle manufacturer and produces short run CD and DVD packaging for some replicators.
"With our 50SP we got resistance from many folding carton users for the image quality," Roberds says. "Though the 600 dpi image was good, it was not as good as finer offset quality, and many packaging prospects used that objection to reject our work. The new 1,200 dpi print heads are very close to the best offset image in sharpness and clarity, and the FA toner and new toner delivery system make solid colors much more consistent.
"The net of all of this is that we soon will be offering a better product to our folding carton customers.We also will be returning to some packaging prospects we approached before with the old technology to introduce them to the new image," Roberds concludes.
At drupa 2008, Heidelberg demonstrated its expertise in packaging printing with the premier of the Speedmaster XL 145 and XL 162 presses.
Heidelberg VLF in U.S. debut
Proteus Packaging, Franklin,WI, has become the first U.S. company to purchase a new Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 145—one of two very large format (VLF) offset press models Heidelberg unveiled at drupa. The 80-employee folding carton producer chose the six-color Speedmaster XL 145 with inline aqueous coater to upgrade its pressroom and keep the company competitive in a challenging marketplace.
Known since 1932 as Beck Carton Corporation, the company changed its name to Proteus Packaging two years ago and recently moved into a new 246,000-sq. ft. facility. Proteus serves the pharmaceutical, nutritional, health and beauty, and automotive industries.
Tim Wayman, executive vice president, says, "We're trading out aging equipment because the productivity is no longer what it needs to be. Our current size is 50" so we're going to a larger sheet.We often had to slow down our existing presses when running heavier substrates but from the demos we saw, this press does handle the wider and heavier substrates at high speed." The Speedmaster XL 145 has a top rated speed of 15,000 sph.
Some of the innovations on the 41.7" x 57" Speedmaster XL 145 include Prinect Inpress Control, which measures color and register on the fly; Prinect Press Center with Wallscreen, an advanced control console; and the Preset Plus Feeder for precision in sheet transport.
In addition to folding cartons, Proteus also produces blister packaging. "We see blister packaging as an opportunity," Wayman says. "The drying capabilities of the 145 will allow us to apply and dry water base blister coating inline."
Trend to hybrid presses
Besides in-line coating, UV curing, and drying, other capabilities such as die cutting, inkjet heads, flexo and gravure printing units, and foilers are finding their way onto what the market calls "hybrid" presses—platforms that combine offset with additional printing capabilities. An example is the new manroland HiPrint 700 series press with Prindor inline cold foiler at Nathen Printing Services, Burnaby, BC. The 10-color perfector also has full UV capability and is expected to increase productivity while improving quality, workflow, and environmental friendliness.
The manroland 700 HiPrint can be configured for two to 12 colors and a single or double coater as well as perfecting. According to manroland, sheet size and thickness changes and straight-to-perfecting mode changeover can be completed in less than a minute. Speeds are up to 17,000 sph in straight mode and 13,000 sph in perfecting mode.
"We now have the capability to lay down foil inline during the print run," says Cameron Anderson, Nathen's general manager. "Not only will it accent aspects of the image in silver or gold, but it can additionally print CMYK over the foil to create an entirely new image impression or printed piece.With the addition of the UV, we can print 4/4 with inline dry trap varnish, another capability that gives us an edge.
"We also have the ability to die-cut inline but only for larger runs, for example 100,000 golf ball boxes. That way, all we have to do is assemble the boxes," he says.
Nathen's does general commercial work as well as packaging, primarily for the golf ball industry. However, with the new press, the plan is to expand to pharmaceutical work and other packaging segments. "We're going to look at applications that people have shied away from in the past," Anderson says. "We're asking our staff to think outside of the box."
Besides turning out higher-end, upscale carton work, a key issue for Fleetwood- Fibre Packaging & Graphics in the decision to purchase the new ROLAND 700 was to drive down operating costs.
More digital deliveries
At drupa, HP launched the HP IndigoWS6000, a liquid-toner, digital offset press that is expected to ship sometime in early 2009. The new press will primarily address higher volume customers (over 300,000 linear meters/ 984,252 linear feet per shift) and the medium runs up to 4,000 linear meters (13,000 linear feet). The HP Indigo press ws4500—the third generation of this web-fed press series—is designed for high-volume 24/7 operation with a run length of 2,000 linear meters/6,500 linear feet.
Weber Marking Systems, a label printer in Arlington Heights, IL, is adding a ws4500 to its equipment lineup— its first digital press. "Although we've purchased scores of presses in the last 20 years, never has the ‘new press' excitement level approached that of our soon to be delivered ws4500," says Thomas G. Michalsen, director of marketing. "We're extremely eager to begin transitioning existing jobs to improve profitability and to start drawing new customers to our company with digital technology."
At drupa, Kodak introduced speedier new models of its NexPress electrophotographic digital press series—the new S-Class, including the S3000, S2500 and S2100 Digital Production Color Presses. They offer up to five-color digital printing capability at speeds ranging from 2,100 to 3,000 sph. However, some customers find that the "classic" machine fits their needs.
Matthew Davis, who handles prepress and print production for Reliance Vitamin Inc., Somerset, NJ, recently took delivery of a newly remanufactured NexPress 2100. A NexPress customer for over five years, the company uses its NexPress exclusively as a label printer. Reliance offers private label supplements to an extensive list of suppliers.
"We're not a print house," Davis says, "and we have color critical customers. The NexPress allows us to offer print on demand while holding color accuracy.We used to print the color on shells and run the labels through a laser printer. Going digital expanded everything we could do. We now have a master file of 800 different labels for different customers.We print on 80 lb. text and then cold or hot glue in our warehouse."
Blanketing the country
Independent Printing Company, known as IPCO, has installed a six-color, 41" Speedmaster XL 105 with aqueous coater from Heidelberg. The new press is the first Speedmaster XL 105 for a Northwest plant. Among its productivity features are real production speeds of 18,000 sph; and Hycolor integrated inking and dampening for superior quality at the highest speeds.
Headquartered in Martinez, CA and with a plant in Ashland, OR, IPCO provides a wide variety of products from annual reports to sophisticated packaging and pointof- sale materials for national customers in the food, beverage, retail, and lawn maintenance industries. Their services include design and artwork.
Owner Kurt Brombacher says, "The press capabilities enable higher speeds and color control. That will let us go after larger runs and be able to get them out efficiently. Color control is a huge thing for us in packaging. Clients expect their labels to look uniform even if they are on different products printed at different times. Consistency of color is critical for branding."
Jones Packaging Inc. has placed an order for what is believed to be the largest capacity, multi-coater 40" press in Canada. The specially configured, 13-unit Komori LS40 sheet-fed press features nine printing units, two tower coaters, two drying units, and a full complement of UV drying equipment.
In Los Angeles, Ultimate Paperbox has purchased a six-color KBA Rapida 162a coater press with double extended delivery. It is the first new-generation Rapida for the company, which is already active in the large-format sheet-fed sector.
Orange County Container (OCC) Group has replaced a veteran seven-color, 56" carton press with a 56" Mitsubishi Diamond 6000LX equipped for inline aqueous and UV coating. In addition to packaging board and synthetic substrates, the eight-color Diamond 6000LX can print on the sensitive thermoplastic materials used in the creation of lenticular images. Lenticular printing is a market segment the OCC Group is developing thanks to the new press.
A Xerox iGen4 press is headed for Keiger Printing in Winston-Salem, NC, marking the first installation in North America. More than 400 new parts and subsystems as well as new patented technologies help the iGen4 generate its high-definition image quality.