Tulsa World Going Shaftless p.18

The technology that U.S. newspaper publishers love to talk about ? but had been reluctant to actually install ? will be printing papers in Oklahoma by early 1998, if all goes according to plan.
The Tulsa World lit a fire under all shaftless press vendors with its announcement at Nexpo that it is buying two Wifag OF 370 GTD (Gearless Transmission Drive) offset presses to replace the letterpress presses that have printed its paper since 1974.
Indeed, the Wifag announcement was the talk of what, it was widely agreed, was an otherwise dull Nexpo.
"Acceptance of shaftless by U.S. publishers has been slow . . . but now the rate of change is changing," said John C. Jellovitz, vice president and general manager of ABB Industrial Systems Inc.'s Printing Systems Division.
ABB and Wifag, both Swiss-based international companies, jointly developed the Wifag shaftless press. In the Wifag approach to shaftless, the main drive, vertical shafts, clutches and gears of conventional press drives are replaced with individual motors at each printing couple within a tower, as well as at the folder, driving rollers, autopasters and infeed units.
The Tulsa World purchase includes 66 printing couples, two 96-page 2:5:5 heavy duty jaw folders, 12 infeed units and 12 reels.
World Publishing Co. President Ken Fleming said the newspaper made the decision after watching the Wifag OF 370 in action last April in Bern, Switzerland.
"I watched them put it up to [a running speed of] 70,000 [copies per hour], put it into an emergency stop and bring it up and then down again. I have personally never seen a machine control a web as well as this one did," Fleming said in a show floor press conference. "The registration is unbelievable ? it looked like commercial press registration."
While operators put the press through its paces, there was no web movement, Fleming said. "Look, I know presses. I was on the [American Newspaper Publishers Association] Technical Committee 20 years and it takes a lot to impress me. And I was impressed," he said.
Especially impressive to Fleming ? who also oversees the publishing company's commercial printing operations at a separate location ? was the press's fast start-up and how quickly it was producing salable copies, the executive said. After emergency stops, the second-to-last copy in the delivery stream was still in register, Fleming said, and the press "cleared up" within four or five copies after restart.
"It has very, very low waste," Fleming said.
Tulsa also has hopes that it will take fewer people to operate than its current letterpress units, he said.
Fleming added that he had a very high confidence in the Wifag shaftless technology.
"We're not afraid that we're going into a pioneer phase with them," Fleming said. "It's true shaftless will be new . . . but after watching, I think [the technology] is there. They went through that demonstration, and guess what? It worked. I've seen hundreds of [new press technology] demonstrations where you sit around all night, waiting for the machine to do what it's supposed to. This did what it was supposed to," Fleming added.
The Tulsa World order does not include two cutting-edge optional features of the Wifag OF 370: the flying Page Changing Unit (PCU), or its so-called "short" non-anilox keyless inking system.
PCU is a software-driven component that stops and locks individual printing couples to permit plate replacements without interruption of production on other couples. A related unit, known as PCU+, permits operators to change the number of pages in a product without interrupting production.
The Tulsa World typically makes few edition changes in a run. Instead, the benefit it most wants from shaftless is improved registration, web control and low newsprint waste, Fleming said.
"We run a good letterpress operation. It's just we hope not to lose any more readership because of, quote, reproduction problems," Fleming said.
His confidence in the technology accounted for the relatively quick press decision, Fleming said. The World also gave serious consideration to presses made by Goss Graphics Systems, MAN Roland Inc., TKS (USA) Inc. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries/Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses Inc., Fleming said.
The press purchase is part of a $10 million pressroom and mailroom expansion at the paper's downtown plant. The Wifag presses are expected to take over for the letterpress presses by spring 1998.
The Tulsa paper has a daily circulation of about 169,000 and a Sunday circulation of about 232,000. The a.m. daily produces a six-section paper daily with weekly supplements zoned six ways.
?(Wifag's first shaftless newspaper printing press sale in the United States was was to the Tulsa World.)[Photo & Caption]
June 22, 1996 n Editor & Publisher #


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