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Waterless Eases Newspaper Printer’s Transition to Commercial Printing

30 Oct 2010 3:35 PM | Keiji Obata (Administrator)

Articles featuring the users of KBA Cortina waterless web presses may seem inappropriate to the majority of WPA printer members.  Even though the Cortina is a waterless machine, it was designed for the newspaper industry and not for commercial printing.  In the newspaper segment of the printing industry, the use of waterless printing would normally be inconspicuous.

But the situation of newspaper printer EPC (Eco Print Center) in Belgium is not unlike that of many commercial waterless printers.  This is best reflected by a quote from the leading German print magazine, Deutscher Drucker, Issue 9 of March 2007: “while parts of the newspaper industry are concentrating (only) on reducing costs, other publishing houses are investigating new, innovative technical possibilities and uncovering the inherent opportunities to establish further competitive advantages on the publishing market.”

74Karat Digital press

EPC has pioneered the use of heat-set operation on the KBA Cortina normally used for cold-set newpaper printing. This gives the firm the flexibility of being able to print higher quality magazines, inserts and supplements normally out sourced to sheetfed printers.

Until now EPC has been devoted to the printing of three different newspapers, one with a daily run of approximately 400,000 copies.  The other higher quality newspaper components like full color magazines, supplements, and inserts, were sourced to sheetfed printers.  Now, with one of the three ordered Cortina presses already installed, these products will now be printed on EPC’s new waterless machines.  (The two remaining four-tower Cortinas will be installed later in 2008.)

Faced with the decision to invest in a new press, to add to the existing 4 MAN Colorman, EPC carefully studied waterless offset technology for three years before they decided to switch to it.  EPC investigated the feasibility of printing with cold set inks for the newspaper contents and then to heat-set for the magazines, inserts, supplements, brochures and leaflets the group was producing.  The results, after 8 months working in such a way, are quite satisfactory and once the two remaining Cortina presses are installed, the old presses, reduced to two, will print just the black and white financial papers.  Does the Cortina match the higher offset quality usually achieved by the commercial presses in the market?  “The offset waterless Cortina is not a substitute of the fully featured commercial press,” says the press manufacturer.  It may cope with around 80% of the commercial products usually distributed in the market, especially for the ones that require fast delivery and up-to-the minute- information accompanied by a reasonalbe cost.

To accommodate the new printing machinery a totally new building, strategically placed in Lokeren, not far from Brussels, was erected.  With approximately 39,000 sq meters of floor space, more than 100 million euros have been invested.  It will house three Cortina presses, each with four towers, in eight printing pairs.  EPC facilities have been fitted with the latest technology designed to handle, at the beginning of 2009, the daily production of between 400,000 to 600,000 full color newspapers.  About 25% of the operating time of the presses is intended for the Flemish local population of six million people.  The printing of color magazines, brochures, leaflets, inserts, etc. will occupy the rest (75%) of the presses’ production time, non stop, from Sunday evening until early Saturday morning.

The yearly paper consumption will be approximately 70,000 tonnes while the plate consumption should reach 150,000 to 180,000 sq. meters a year.  EPC forecasts the yearly print in this first phase of the project with three presses of the six planned, around 200 million newspapers of the “Berliner” size, 100 million tabloid copies in cold-set and 120 million, also tabloid, in heat-set.  Yearly ink consumption will be between 750 and 1,000 tonnes.

ECO stands for Ecology plus Economy at EPC.
What are the goals behind the huge investment by EPC?  They not only relate to the printing equipment to produce newspapers like, DeMorgen with 70,000 daily copies, Het Parool with 80,000, Het Laatste Nieuws, around 400,000, and the commercial Magazines, Nina and several more.  Mr. Rudy Bertels, Managing Director of the Persgroep Publishing stated in front of 100 graphic professionals that “by heavily investing in this project EPC has responded to the challenge their newspapers are facing in the immediate future.”  At the same time, due to the fact that the presses Cortina are able to print with both cold-set and heat-set, thereby achieving maximum utilization, the return of their investment will be much faster.

Codimag Press

The huge installation at the EPC factory is worth 100 million Euros.

Mr. Wim Maes, Technical Director at EPC for four years, and an expert in commercial offset printing, stated some key facts that confirm that “some publishing houses are investigating new, innovative technical possibilities,” such as the fact that the Company has gone from the “Belgian” format (520 x 365 mms.) to the “Berliner” (470 x 315 mms.) resulting in a 21% paper reduction.  Accordingly, the paper supplier was required to deliver the paper reels with a diameter of 1500 mms., not of 1250 mms. as before.  The number of reel changes were reduced by 44%.  The handling of the paper webs, from unloading the shipments until they are placed in the reel stands, is fully automatic which, further to the safety it represents to the operators, avoids waste, as it does at starting the press.  Usually 2.7% of the webs experience breakage in conventional offset presses: it is not the case at EPC.  In several weeks no web break was experienced.  This may be due to the fact that the printed paper is not wetted.

Eco stands for ECOLOGY which at EPC is written with capital letters as per the steps undertaken, showing their respect for environmental matters.  Rain water is collected to use in the toilettes, the light comes from natural sources controlled by sensors, the paper tubes of the web reels are collected automatically, assembled and packed for recycling.  The inks, with a consumption of more than 750 tonnes, are automatically fed to the printing presses at a temperature of 30º to 32º.  The water for cooling the Cortina comes from the nearby North Sea and, in this windy part of Belgium, a portion of the electrical energy necessary to drive the printing equipment comes from local wind farms.  The forementioned, added to the environmental benefits of the waterless offset printing is something to highlight for publicity purposes.  “We are very well positioned with regard to commercial printers,” say Mr. Maes by showing the printed magazines delivered by the Cortina.  Everything is positive with the waterless printing?  No problems experienced switching-off to it?

Although the Toray waterless plates are rated at 150,000 impressions with cold-set inks, sometimes 200,000 have been reached, “and in heat-set the impressions achieved are not below this figure.”  Usually the commercial products printed with heat-set inks at EPC in the Cortina are between 100,000 and 380,000 copies.  During our visit to the Company, the PreMedia Newsletter, number 1, Volume 12, with 80,000 copies and sixty pages, was printed.  On the cover: PRINTED WITH KBA CORTINA.  Dr. Ing. Karl Malik, editor of the Magazine distributed in US, South Africa and Australia, was amazed: “After five copies at start-up, the Cortina was delivering saleable copies.”

Although Toray RL7 plates are used at EPC, Kodak supplies to a German newspaper printer the Scorpion X 54 waterless plate.  The three major plate manufacturers, Fuji, Agfa and Kodak have shown interest in delivering their own plates due to the high consumption of the seven Cortina press lines producing 70 million newspapers, plus supplements, magazines and community titles per month. Total offset waterless plates newspaper consumption is almost 500,000 sq meters.  World offset digital plates manufactured are 504 millions sq. meters.  Quite a success if we consider that the Cortina waterless press was introduced for the first time at the Drupa 2000.

To switch from the conventional offset printing to waterless means a change in the behaviour of the operators.  Hermann Asal of the Badische Zeitung, agrees that it is necessary to be a printer to operate a waterless press like Cortina, although some say that even a butcher or a baker could print with such a simple printing method.  At Gráficas Roldan in Barcelona, two weeks training were scheduled by KBA.  After just one week the operators were so well trained that they wanted to “go too far,” aiming at getting even better results.  The manufacturer of the printing presses has trainers from the printing sector; they are or were real printers, some acting as consultants under KBA.  Obviously, not all operators learn in such a quick way as they should.  Important is that the press manufacturer is always at hand and in close contact with the project manager, Peter Benz, fixing matters and obtaining good results, conscious of the importance to have a printing press running smoothly.

Conclusions: Not the biggest but the fastest

“We are glad: 95.5% of the paper consumption of yearly 70,000 tonnes is saleable newspapers, 1.7% is waste from the actual printing process.”  A figure that would be hard to match with existing conventional offset printed newspapers, quoted as being worldwide 10.104% (a 13 percent increase from 2001), according to WAN (World Association of Newspapers).

Mr. Manfred Werfel, research director, Ifra (the leading organization for newspaper and media publishing), after hearing the lecture delivered by Mr. Maes at the Barcelona Ifra meeting asked: “are you yet a newspaper printer?”  Maybe in ten years many newspapers will be printed as described by Mr. Maes; with cold-set and heat-set inks at the same time”.  As the path of the technology evolves and the pressures the society puts on it due to the climate burden, it is most likely that it will not take ten years time to change.  EPC, with newspapers of long runs is showing the way.  Other (Badische Zeitung and 6 more newspapers printers) have already placed their bet on waterless offset.  As the German trade magazine stated: “newspaper printing in waterless, is not something exotic; it is a real fact.” (By Bienvenido Andino, European Editor Waterless Currents)
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