Out of the Woods
Nestled in the woods in Durham, New Hampshire is a press manufacturer that is bringing a different approach to the business of package printing. And it’s one that may offer a viable alternative for shops with high volumes and customers demanding offset quality printing for packaging applications.
Goss International has been offering its Sunday press, a high-speed, high-volume offset printing press for several years to newspaper, catalog and publication printers. In addition to offering fast changes for plates and blanket cylinders, the presses feature gapless blankets that last longer than traditional blankets and reduce the non-print area on the cylinder, allowing printers to choose shorter cutoffs and reduce substrate waste. Now, much of that technology has trickled down to the Sunday vPak 500 and 3000 presses that were recently rolled out to a variety of package printers and converters, some of whom had active input into its design. I wasn’t on hand for that event, but had a chance to make the hour drive to Goss for an up-close look at the new systems.
The Sunday Vpak is a variable sleeve web offset press specifically designed from the ground up for flexible packaging, folding carton, label and pre-print producers. It comes with many of the same features Goss offers on its bigger Sunday presses: quick-change plate and blanket cylinder sleeves, gapless blankets, plus inking, dampening, and control systems that deliver consistent quality via a 200 lpi line screen with stochastic screening. The Vpak 500 can be configured in 20.5”, 33.5” and 41.4” versions, while the Vpak 3000 has four models ranging from 44” to 75”. They can be configured with coaters, splicers, rewinders, hot-air dryers, UV and EB curing, video inspection, inkjet printing, and more. What’s more, they can accommodate a range of flexible, label and folding carton substrates, all at speeds of up to 1200 feet per minute. But this is what you’d expect from a company like Goss with a legacy in developing and bringing to market high speed presses.
What is ultimately important is the quality of print. Peter Walczak, director of product management packaging and Mike D’Angelo, managing director, Goss North America, brought out some print samples, many on very thin substrates including one on cellophane, plus a couple on folding carton stocks. Still others were arrayed on a wall in the company’s demonstration and technology center. I would have liked to do a side by side comparison with the same jobs run on a flexo press, but in a light booth using an illuminated 8X loupe, I couldn’t find much to complain about. The stochastic screening ensured smooth gradations, excellent vignettes and the overall print quality was certainly enough to keep brand owners happy. The samples used just four colors (plus white), but Walczak says expanded gamut offerings with three additional colors will be available in 2015.
A lot is made these days of shorter runs and changeover times. Several flexo press companies have made huge strides in this area, and I was surprised that the Vpak is keeping up. Watching the process and steps involved, I’m guessing that I could probably change both the plate and blanket cylinders on the smaller version of the machine in a couple of minutes, even though I’m not a trained operator. It’s some very basic mechanical steps that translate to minimal downtime between jobs. After a change, Walczak says the press can get up to color in about a press length of material, or roughly 150 feet. Not bad when you consider that the web can be up to 75” wide and that multiple jobs could be spread across the web.
The machine set up at Goss is replete with unwinders, rewinders and splicers to accommodate all manner of demonstration, testing and development needs, but what was absent was any type of finishing. We all know that it is easier to diecut and waste-strip, and stack a folding carton than it is to slit, trim and cross cut labels and stack them. So I asked about it.
“Finishing can be done inline or offline,” says D’Angelo, “It usually depends on the final product, and also whether the finishing system can keep up with the press. There are already finishing machines in the size ranges that the Vpak touches so it really is up to a converter whether they have enough capacity to take up the Vpak output or if they need to add inline or offline options.”
The Goss Vpak 500 and 3000 are hardly the first offset presses to offer up options for labels, flexible and folding cartons, but it is the technology being brought to bear that makes these machines interesting. The sleeve-based plate and blanket cylinders, software-driven inking controls, print speed, and the range of substrates are compelling arguments, especially when you add in the coming capability to run seven colors. For all the buzz about digital presses becoming more important, it’s easy to forget that the majority of package printing still requires long runs, and with brand owners always seeking better print quality, offset presents an attractive way to produce high quality packaging quickly, consistently, and in large quantities. Finally, as Goss well knows, the market for this press goes far beyond North America. Goss already sells all of its presses on every other continent, and there’s little doubt that some Vpak series machines will find homes in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Along with a few right here at home.