Fully automatic plate logistics with a set of plates ready for changing

German commercial printers show how it's done

The global pandemic has hit commercial printers especially hard. Orders placed by customers in the tourism, hospitality, art & culture and retail sectors, in particular, have dried up across the board. At the same time, print companies are especially dependent on advertising budgets. And yet who is going to kick off a new advertising campaign when they are fighting to make ends meet, and are not even sure that they will survive the crisis? Moreover, the companies will only begin stocking up their advertising budgets once their own economic situation has improved significantly. Many print companies will need to remain patient, as they will only profit from the upswing with a considerable delay.

Technology & Innovation
Read time: approx. 7 minutes

Even so, there are quite a few print companies that are putting these times of crisis to good use by preparing themselves for challenges to come. They are conducting tests like there’s no tomorrow in the search for new print products, new finishing options, or interesting processing solutions that could help to grow their market share. They are investing in new equipment that will allow them to produce more efficiently, to win over potential customers with perfect quality, and to get themselves set up for the future. And there are still a number of commercial products that have boomed over the past months – for example books, which are now more likely to be printed at home rather than abroad, or advertising materials for distance selling.

All of which means that there are plenty of reasons why now is a good time to invest. And there is one technology platform which is establishing an ever-stronger foothold among German commercial printers: the Rapida 106 X – the new high-end printing system for medium formats. 

Three commercial printers with completely different business models have installed the Rapida 106 X as pilot users. With great success, as the first results show.

Fully automated – plate logistics at Krüger Druck & Verlag

Krüger Druck+Verlag, a full-service print provider based in the small town of Merzig in Germany’s Saarland, operates an eight-colour Rapida 106 X for 4-over-4 perfecting with an additional inline coater. The press is integrated into a fully automatic plate logistics system. With operating speeds of up to 20,000 sheets per hour – which also extends to perfecting – the Rapida 106 X now represents the backbone of the company’s production facilities.
Markus Weisgerber, owner of the family-run business: “The comprehensive automation features enable us to significantly increase our productivity and efficiency.” Faster makeready, reduced start-up waste, high production speeds and a fully digital workflow from the MIS through to the control console of the Rapida 106 X optimise the individual process steps. Other benefits are provided by inline colour control and sheet inspection with QualiTronic PDF: “The inline comparison of each printed sheet with the customer PDF has allowed us to measure the actual print quality for the very first time, instead of just the colour values,” as Weisgerber reports.

Krüger Druck+Verlag prints a large range of different flyers, folders, magazines, books and many other commercial products with either wire stitching or adhesive bindings. The run lengths for many of these products are on the decline, while, in contrast, page counts are simultaneously increasing and the demand for multiple versions and variants is continuing to grow, thereby making fast makeready a decisive advantage. The simultaneous makeready processes, however, make the Rapida 106 X virtually unparalleled in this regard. The modular PlateTronic plate logistics system, which links the platesetter directly to the plate changers on the individual printing units by means of a plate magazine with a capacity for 256 plates, represents another invaluable contribution to production automation.

  • The press at SDV stands out due to its exceptionally high production speeds and fast job changeovers, even where extensive inline finishing is involved
  • The Rapida 106 X is the new centrepiece in the printshop at SDV. The complex installation has been warmly welcomed by all concerned (left to right): printer Silvio Kopte; Norman Thomas, production planning and control, SDV; Franz Schiederer, managing director, SDV; Robert Brunner, production manager, SDV; Oliver Fuchs, sales, Koenig & Bauer Germany; Markus Schmid, managing director SDV
  • Markus Weisgerber, owner of Krüger Druck & Verlag: “In combination with fully automatic plate logistics, the 20,000 sph Rapida perfector has enabled us to take a giant leap forward.”
  • Fully automatic plate logistics with a set of plates ready for changing
  • The Rapida 106 X is the eye-catcher in the press hall of the ARNOLD group. It provides 4/4-colour ecological offset production with additional inline coating at speeds up to 18,000 sph
  • Managing directors Max (left) and Andreas Arnold are delighted with the performance capabilities of their Rapida 106 X

Printing, coating and die-cutting in one – SDV in Dresden

A fully equipped CutPRO X rotary die-cutter unit for creasing and cutting of the print products has been integrated ahead of the printing units for the Rapida 106 X at SDV in Dresden. It is followed by eight printing units with a convertible perfecting unit for 4-over-4 production, as well as a coater and extended delivery. This configuration allows the press to realise fully automated inline production of high-quality finished direct mail products, all in a single pass.

Franz Schiederer, one of the company’s two managing directors, explains: “This press reflects SDV’s attitude to life. It is innovative and contributes to the future viability of our company.” It is seen as a ‘must-have’ for an information logistics specialist whose primary value chains are found in other fields. Complex print products can be realised in a single production run and with fewer staff. This, in turn, optimises logistics, saves intermediate storage space, and achieves shorter production cycles with lean processes.

The maximum production speed when using the die-cutting unit is 15,000 sheets per hour. It is only when especially demanding substrates, such as lightweight papers, are used that the Rapida 106 X runs a little slower. Alongside the high production speed, which is around 20 per cent higher than the press that was previously installed, SDV enjoys the benefits of the exceptionally short stops for makeready. The managing director's overall impression is that production has become “more stable and more efficient” since using the Rapida 106 X. And this is a good thing, because dialogue marketing is another field where today's jobs are shorter and more diverse than they were in the past. This makes makeready times and high flexibility essential concerns.

The finest in eco-printing – the Arnold group on the outskirts of Berlin

A brand new Rapida 106 X started production for the ARNOLD group in Großbeeren near Berlin at the end of last year. Right from the very first day, the eight-colour press with perfecting unit and an additional coater boosted output by 50 per cent and enabled makeready times to be slashed by half. Managing director Max Arnold: “Whenever I come into the press hall, I see the bright red number 18,000.” And it is not only in terms of speed, but also in regard to its technical features, that the Rapida 106 X meets all the demands of modern, efficient and future-oriented print production.

Alongside its printing facility, the ARNOLD group also operates a pre-press studio and an advertising agency, and all three conduct intensive reviews of each and every process from the perspectives of ecology and sustainability. ‘Think green’ is not just a slogan, but also the company's guiding principle. Process-free plates are used, with production being based solely on alcohol-free printing with mineral-oil-free bio-inks, and green electricity from the company’s own photovoltaic installation contributes to an outstanding ecological footprint.

The Rapida 106 X perfectly complements this approach. After all, it handles production processes that would otherwise require two presses. 4/4-colour print products are completed in a single pass, including any necessary coating refinements. The convertible perfecting unit also makes it possible to print using more than four colours in straight production, for example for packaging. The power consumed by one such press is, of course, lower than for two presses, while all sorts of special features allow the ARNOLD group to benefit from ecological print processes, and to reduce waste to an absolute minimum.

The journey continues

These three print companies are perfect examples of all the things that modern production methods and high-end technologies can achieve. And, of course, there are many others who have also invested in new Rapida 106 X presses: Bonifatius Druck in Paderborn, Grafische Groep Matthys in Belgium, or Gutenberg Werbering in Linz/Austria. And the list doesn't end there. But it already goes to show: creative ideas, industrial production methods and future-oriented equipment features are exactly what commercial printing companies hoping to master the challenges of our time need – and are what will allow them to preserve their often age-old traditions well into the future.