By: Mark Vruno
Spanning 9,000 square feet, the News Print newspaper pavilion at September’s GRAPH EXPO truly was a show within the show. Responding to the need voiced by newspaper production pros for a dedicated section of their own a year ago, the Graphic Arts Show Co. added this area to fill the void left by the National Newspaper Association’s Nexpo, which has evolved into the mediaXchange show. The sold-out space (10 percent larger than its debut in 2010) featured more than 30 exhibitors devoted to the needs of newspaper printers and operations executives looking to cut costs, boost profits, develop cross-platforms, and make informed buying decisions. Vendors representing all phases of the newspaper production cycle were either in or adjacent to the pavilion: from offset and digital press manufacturers to prepress and postpress suppliers and cross-media software developers.
On the prepress side, Agfa Graphics was situated near the News Print pavilion. The firm highlighted its :N94-VCF next-generation violet, chemistry-free plate designed for newspaper and coldset printers. This eco-friendly plate offers run lengths up to 200,000 and is compatible with all mainstream violet CTP units emitting at 30 mW or higher. Because it is a chemistry-free plate, there is no need for developer, removing one of the main variables affecting image consistency. The plate is cleaned out with a pH neutral gum. It is available in a variety of sizes to support newspaper applications.
Despite GRAPH EXPO’s North American locale and flavor, Vince Lapinski, CEO of printing press manufacturer manroland, Inc. (North America), stressed his firm’s global perspective. If you want to talk about the economy or how technology has impacted print markets, you can’t have a myopic view, he explained. “We, as a supplier, cannot look at one market any longer. We segment the markets. Europe is ‘down,’ too (like the U.S.), but China and South America … places like Brazil … are very active,” Lapinski said. “Companies are making new newspaper investments in other parts of the world. So, making general statements doesn’t work anymore.”
In the United States, manroland has weathered the storm by implementing a strategic shift nearly a decade ago. “Even when equipment sales have been down, we’ve established a nice service business, which has kept us profitable,” Lapinski said. Suggesting that price erosion among printers is perhaps worse than ever before, he added that “efficiency is key.” At the show, with its “Digital Meets Offset Power” theme, manroland’s alliance with Océ, announced 10 months ago, was highlighted on a superficial level. The firms held a joint press conference. “We will show some future ‘things’ at Drupa (this coming May),” Lapinski said.
While manroland did not bring big “iron” to Chicago, it nonetheless touted the benefits of its DirectDrive technology as well as its 96-page Lithoman S web offset press, which produces an astonishing gross output of between 3.6 million and 4.3 million pages per hour. Supporting the firm’s efficiency message, these 112-inch-wide systems work particularly well in Europe, where six of the ultra-wide presses already have been sold. That’s because printed product sizes are much more flexible there. “In the U.S., dedicating machines for single products, such as magazines, may go away in the future,” Lapinski said. “This press is ideal for both small and large page counts.”
If and when a new production model is adopted in U.S. printing plants, Lapinski said he sees the Lithoman S ultimately challenging gravure for high-volume retail, catalog, magazine, and insert products. Computer-to-press prepress technology for web offset has considerable advantages in costs and throughput time compared with printing cylinder engraving and cylinder handling for the rotogravure process.
Lapinski also said the fast pace of innovation will continue. “We’ll see hybrid cold- and heatset presses, and more UV applications,” he said. And, of course, there’ll be more reconfigurations and upgrades. “Whatever can be added to machines for new products, new markets, and new revenue streams,” that’s the bottom line according to manroland and the other offset press manufacturers.
Even as newspapers investigate how to build their digital businesses, print remains the lifeblood of their operations. “Reinforcing Print in a Time of Transition,” a special session for newspaper printers and publishers, brought together representatives from U.S. and Canadian newspapers, who discussed investments they’ve made in technologies — from UV drying and full-color hybrid presses to next-generation digital printing systems — all aimed at improving their printing capabilities.
Related industry events co-located in Chicago last month to coincide with GRAPH EXPO included:
• International Newspaper Group (ING)
• KBA Users Group Conference
• manroland Users Group Conference and Board of Directors meeting
• Muller Martini Conference and Board meeting
Growing with Newspapers
For the first time, Muller Martini Mailroom Systems had a separate booth in GRAPH EXPO’s News Print newspaper pavilion, where visitors experienced the latest in innovative mailroom solutions. The unit showcased both its mailroom machinery and software. Company representatives and product experts provided visitors with a firsthand look at the equipment and work-flow technology that’s driving the industry forward, including:
• SLS3000 — The mailroom’s recognized workhorse, this efficient and reliable inserting system is designed for the most demanding zoning needs as well as for the processing of a large number of inserts.
• SAM — This software planning and control system coordinates information and product flow from all areas of an operation.
• WinLincs — This innovative design structure provides the most advanced and sophisticated inserter control, communication, and data management tool to each of its users, be it operator, maintenance technician, or data analyst.
• SLS3000 Gripper Upgrade — With a longer length and fewer parts to wear out than previous models, the SLS3000 gripper upgrade takes a firmer hold of the product so there’s a lot less worry and a lot more uptime.
• Rebuilt and Refurbished Equipment — Muller representatives demonstrated a variety of Muller rebuilt and refurbished equipment, including rebuilt SLS1000, 2000, and 3000 inserters.
Booth visitors also could request a free copy of Muller Martini’s latest white paper, “Success in Motion.” The report provides a detailed overview of the challenges facing the newspaper industry within the past years and provides a host of new strategies and solutions that are revitalizing revenues for publishers, manufacturers, and advertisers.
In addition to Muller’s presence in the News Print pavilion, Muller Martini engineers and experts in a separate display provided insight and ideas about how Muller’s innovative technology and work-flow solutions can help printers and binderies “Connect with MM Digital” and grow their businesses.
Final Run for Tribune Tabloid
The Sept.2 newsstand issue of the Chicago Tribune may be a collector’s item of sorts. The newspaper has pulled the plug on its commuter-friendly tabloid edition and is returning to its traditional broadsheet format for single-copy sales. Launched in January 2009, the experiment in publishing two formats of the same daily newspaper failed to knock out rival tabloid Chicago Sun-Times, as some had predicted. Thanks to joint circulation and printing agreements, the two newspapers are now more dependent on each other than ever. “Elimination of the tabloid helps us streamline operations, reduce costs, and thereby support investments in our broadsheet edition and on the Web,” Tribune editor Gerry Kern said in a statement.
Japanese Newspaper Printer Achieves Greater Color Precision
A 16-tower deal puts Sankei Shimbun Printing Co.’s plant in Osaka on target to deliver precision quality with QuadTech’s AccuCam color-control and register-guidance technology. The publisher/printer enhanced four of its Goss Newsliner presses with the AccuCam color-control and web inspection system, MultiCam register-guidance system, and ICON integrated communication platform. “QuadTech worked very closely with us to meet extremely high standards of color quality, meeting the proof to NSAC standards,” said Toru Uesaka, director of the production bureau at Sankei Shimbun. “With the AccuCam, we are confident that we can provide a high-quality paper that satisfies both readers and advertisers.”
Kentaro Kanoya, of Sankei Shimbun’s production bureau engineering department, added that the plant where AccuCam is installed now produces the best color quality in the Sankei group and has established the color standard for all other Sankei plants to meet.
The Sankei Shimbun, published by the group and founded 1933, is Japan’s sixth best-selling daily newspaper, with a circulation of nearly 2.2 million copies. The publisher is also responsible for a number of popular consumer newspapers, including the million-selling daily, Sankei Sports.
PuzzleFlow @ GRAPH EXPO 2011
PuzzleFlow showed GRAPH EXPO visitors several ways to streamline processes, reduce consumption, eliminate errors, and improve quality. Integrated Ad Pre-Processing, for instance, is new and innovative to newspaper production. This technology currently is installed and saving time and money at dozens of newspapers. And now is the time to jump into ink optimization or to upgrade older non-PDF ink optimization systems. Ink optimization not only reduces daily costs, but it also improves quality and opens the door for additional sales revenue.
Mark Vruno is a business writer reporting on the North American print communications industry for more than 20 years. Follow his daily Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/MarkV_Chicago, and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.