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Printing for the future

Converting Today recently caught up with Christian Knapp, UK managing director of press manufacturing giant KBA. He outlines the company’s ongoing developments in the packaging sector and when customers can expect the latest technology launches from the German business

Converting Today: How did KBA perform in 2012 following its successful showing at Drupa in May?

Christian Knapp: KBA performed well at Drupa both in its presentation of the new and exciting products as well as in the sales successes. There was a higher than anticipated number of sales agreed with the orders placed that are now coming to fruition, and a broad range of technology unveiled that will help us to continue to support our customers as they adapt to the challenges presented by the current economic climate. The KBA Group forecast is sales of more than €1.2 billion and we expect to see a steady profit improvement in the past and current financial year.

CT: What measures is the group taking to improve its offering in the packaging sector?

CK: At Drupa we demonstrated a number of technologies designed to further expand our portfolio of solutions, including the new 400m/min Varius 80 web offset press for flexible packaging as well as technology upgrades and new press launches of our Rapida sheetfed offset range. The Varius 80 is aimed at the high growth flexible packaging market, the modular, variable format press is waterless with keyless inking units and a UV dryer. It delivers amazing print quality on flexible, non-absorbent substrates with a minimum of start-up waste.

And with an eye on costs, offset plates are much cheaper than the sleeves required for a flexo press. Run-up to saleable colour is in just 100m of web – a waste saving of around 80% compared with other presses – ideal when run lengths are diminishing and job changes are becoming ever more frequent.

In the pipeline too is the RotaJET 76 high volume inkjet press being developed at KBA Würzburg in Germany in co-operation with RR Donnelley in the US.

The energy saving VariDryBLUE dryers previously offered only with large format presses are now available for all formats. And we are not stopping there. At the end of 2012, the successful Rapida 162 was replaced by the new Rapida 164 (maximum sheet size 120.5 x 164mm) with the same automation features as the new Rapida 145 and an increased maximum production speed of 15,000 sheets/hour. The new Rapida 164 is particularly interesting for packaging and POS printers in markets like the US and the UK, where users often prefer the larger format and this interview is the first time we are announcing it in the UK.

CT: What are the key trends you are witnessing in the packaging print sector?

CK: we are seeing more and more commercial print operations move towards delivering packaging services. This is why our developments have resulted in our flagship Rapida 106 now running at 20,000 sheets/hour. It also has an extended list of features that include DriveTronic simultaneous coating-forme change, AniloxLoader automatic screen roller change, an optimised AirTronic delivery for high press speeds, and an all-new ErgoTronic console with user-oriented wall screen. These join DriveTronic Simultaneous Plate Changing, Flying JobChange and the CX thicker substrate packages for faster makereadies, quicker job completion and broader job capabilities.

CT: What packaging clients are you currently working with and how are they using KBA technology?

CK: One example is Clifford Press, an independent trade printer for the POS, POP, and packaging sectors, which has invested in a second KBA Rapida 162a 6-colour press with our QualiTronic inline colour measuring system to lead its drive to ISO 12674-2 certification. Clifford offers a confidential trade service, which is why it chose to maximise its press options with conventional inks, thick stock capability, combination coater and UV dryer. Independent print and packaging group CRP Print & Packaging chose a 9-unit (6-colour plus double coater), large format Rapida 162a with KBA’s CX package to help it improve its production for the shelf ready packaging and displays market.

CT: There is a lot of talk about digital printing for packaging for short run areas. What developments are you noticing in this area?

CK: I would look at our Genius 52 UV as an effective alternative to short run digital. This is since its B3 sheet size is usually ample for any packaging requirement and its anilox inking system delivers colour vibrancy. It can handle print on non-absorbing materials such as plastics and it delivers low waste, making it an attractive option.