No Lethargy for Letterpress
Letterpress printers should stay sharp on options in combination process, web widths, and overall press design.
By Susan Friedman
Package printers who have grown sleepy at the helm of traditional letterpress operations should perk up: developments in various combination platforms, wider webs, and in-line designs could offer new business opportunities.
The potential for specific printing processes to partner with letterpress appears intriguingly open-ended. According to John Little, president of Nilpeter, UV screen and hot stamping are its most common complements, with UV screen typically used to lay down a solid white background or solid borders.
John Warwick, sales director at Ko-Pack, reports his company's letterpresses are combined most frequently with a UV flexo varnish station. "As for combining printing processes, it is very rare to combine UV flexo with UV letterpress," he notes, "because the quality of UV letterpress still exceeds the quality of UV flexo. The only advantage to combining the two would be for printing a very large solid."
Combination trends at Taiyo Kikai reveal a different perspective. "We are seeing more flexo units with letterpress because of UV technology," reports James Willingham, product manager. "We find customers are opting for flexo in lieu of screen because of quality, increase in production speed, and advances in plate technology."
If a range of combination process preferences continues to co-exist, can the same be said for web width configurations?
Little contends 8", as well as 11 1-2 to 12" widths, remain the most popular letterpress configurations. "Some suppliers have tried to go to 16", but at this width, offset is more suitable in terms of volume to fill the press, and return on investment," he states. Nilpeter treads the middle ground by offering a letterpress cassette on its 13" M-3300 combination platform press.
Gallus, too, has long favored the 8" width on its stack letterpress design. "Stack and central impression (CI) designs haven't, for the most part, gone wider because prime label production runs haven't typically dictated such a move," explains Sales Manager Bob Yates. Gallus' new RCS-330 press will combine a wider 13" web with an in-line design to offer more convenient interchangeability of print methods, diecutting, and hot foil stamping units.