Web Offset is Keeping Pace
Technologies such as shaftless drives and sleeves are leading the way for web offset productivity.
WEB OFFSET PRINTING is feeling the pressure coming from the improvements being made in flexographic printing. However, similar to the other printing processes, web offset is continually making strides to reduce makeready times and improve productivity. And it's doing this while playing off its inherent strengths and capabilities for high-quality printing.
Ted Barry, vice president of sales for Matik North America (a U.S. distributor for Codimag and Giebeler), lists some of web offset's competitive strengths as: printing characteristics similar to gravure and superior to flexo where fine screens are required; the low cost of offset plates in comparison to flexo and gravure requirements; and the ease and speed of plate production in comparison to flexo plates or gravure cylinders. "An easy explanation of a good fit for web offset is a job that requires gravure-quality graphics with shorter run lengths or versions," he states.
"One of the factors in web offset's ability for quality printing is that it prints without a relief plate," says Eric Short, president of RDP Marathon. "Because it doesn't require a flexible plate under pressure, it is able to print high-quality, repeatable dots, especially on sensitive substrates. This leads to quicker makeready times and reduced waste."
Building from the inherent process capabilities of web offset, press manufacturers have made great strides in the last five to six years. "There has been tremendous increases in capabilities of press and prepress, such as CIP3/CIP4 standards," says Short. "Also, vision systems have improved makeready with the ability to quickly setup the press and set color." He also adds that process control, especially in temperature regulation, has significantly improved in this time frame, with a big impact on productivity.
CIP3/CIP4 standards are designed to aid in the integration of print information from its development in prepress, through press and postpress. It comes from a vendor-based organization called the International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress. (Note: CIP3, originated in 1995, became CIP4 when the organization added the word 'processes' to its name. For more information, visit www.cip4.org.)