Combo Printing's Final Frontiers
Will combination presses boldly go where relatively few have gone before?
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
THOUGH COMBINATION PROCESS is now and will continue to be a strong contender in the package print market, that strength, at present, is concentrated in narrow-web applications, and configurations most commonly involving flexo/screen pairings. While machines outside this perimeter have been built, they are relatively rare. Here, suppliers summarize combo print possibilities for not-so-fully explored worlds.
New World: Wider webs/CI formats
Today's platform combo presses afford printers a considerable luxury: choice. The combo press's ability to print using different methods, in whatever order necessary, means the printer can now "buy based on flexibility," according to Eric Short, president of RDP Marathon.
For example, Tom Kirtz, president of Telstar Engineering—which custom-builds combination printing presses—recalls creating a custom converting machine with die stations, laminating, diecutting, and sheeting capacities several years ago. Recently, the same customer asked Telstar to add UV screen and UV flexo print capability to the machine. The all-in-one solution, with its ability to adapt to future requirements, is a strong lure to a market facing shorter runs.
Such flexibility has historically been limited to under-24˝ webs, says Gallus Sales Manager Bob Yates, because of run speed concerns. For example, he says, "Combination process printing is not for wide-web flexible packaging, which a printer would want to run at higher speeds."
Another major factor in the development of wide-web combo presses is waste control. As Dick Chesnut, president of W.R. Chesnut Engineering points out, "Combination presses have a tendency to produce more start-up waste and running waste than conventional presses, particularly with offset and letterpress, where ink keys need to be individually adjusted for each color station." Because narrow-web presses are typically better at conserving waste, he concludes, combination applications have flourished there.