The number of installed special machines is growing continuously. “Brand manufacturers are passing on the innovation and cost pressure to their supplying partners,” reports Markus Leichtle, Senior Manager in Product Management Sheetfed. As a result, the variety of printing press applications and features also increases steadily. A few years back eight-color double-coating presses where a special configuration, but they are standard today.
Over the last three years, on average Heidelberg has produced one tailored customer press per week, which is more than any other manufacturer. The market leader in sheetfed offset has unique expertise and wide-ranging experience in designing special configurations. And both are needed. Eighty percent of the Speedmaster XL 106 series is now customized.
The common goal with our customers is to cover as many production processes inline as possible and, at the same time, deliver premium quality. The range covers everything from special equipment options to developing highly complex printing and finishing systems with up to 20 units, also including inline cold foil systems, and logistics solutions for pallets and printing plates.
A key driver is differentiation in the market. More and extraordinary finishing such as matt/gloss and metallic effects as well as spot or all-over finishing are demanded, and more and more often also on the inside of the product. On top of this, more and more folding carton manufacturers are relying on cold foil, fueled by the trend for substituting metalized cardboard with more sustainable production alternatives. This is another aspect driving the demand for press models fitted with the Heidelberg FoilStar cold foil module and a printing unit positioned after drying units, like the Speedmaster XL 106-8+LYY-1+L in the Print Media Center Wiesloch-Walldorf.
It is not, however, a question of simply packing more and more applications into a machine, but rather of finding the balance between what is technically feasible and what will deliver the greatest benefit. Customers are aware of this and trust in Heidelberg – time and again.
Due to the much higher net output as well as the additional differentiation potential, a luxury packaging company based in Western Europe only recently took up production with another half-format custom-made machine: a Speedmaster XL 75 with twelve units and perfecting device. The company can now print and finish shorter runs of high-end packaging highly economically on both sides and in one pass, including, for example for seasonal products or special editions. In straight operation, the three coating units can also be used to produce a wide range of special applications (e.g. matt, gloss, or gold).
Listening closely, consulting at eye level, and adapting the press exactly to the customers’ growth plans: “Nothing is impossible,” stresses Stephan Rudzewitz, Head of Customizing in Research & Development. He is also a member of the multidisciplinary team that takes on every customer request with knowledge and passion, no matter how challenging.
If necessary, expertise and innovations developed for other segments will be incorporated. Such as expertise in forgery protection and in processes for security printing or rotary die-cutting, which Heidelberg has perfected.
The integration of third-party products provides an even wider array of configurations. The Spanish folding carton specialist Egisa, for example, is realizing a range of different innovative metallic effects on a Speedmaster XL 106-8+LYY-2+L with cold foil module from an industrial partner, and thus is opening up additional competitive advantages.
Heidelberg sets up the press configuration in close consultation with the customers. “The solutions have to be economical,” emphasizes Leichtle. This calls for comprehensive consulting services. For example, whether a printing unit positioned after a coating unit meets the criteria of efficient and high-quality inline finishing, or whether the cost of the additional flexibility will be too high in relation to low utilization.
For perfect implementation, specialists for application, mechanical systems, electronics, and software add their expertise gained in many years of practical experience. “We go right to the limits of what is feasible,” says Leichtle. This is the only way to meet the typical Heidelberg quality standards: excellent printing, exceptional performance, and maximum availability – even for machines with 20 units.
Consulting and implementation go beyond press performance; they also include related subjects such as ergonomic operation, meeting safety standards, complying with standards such as REACH, material flow in the press room, and customized press installation. Space conditions in the print shops and operator know-how often are key issues. Heidelberg also provides support for these questions and offers much more than standard.
“Working with customers to realize their dream machine is what drives us to keep exploring the limits of what is technically feasible. Possibilities are continuously growing,” says Leichtle. The special machines on display in the showrooms in Wiesloch-Walldorf and Shanghai are proof of this. They include a Speedmaster XL 106-8+LYY-1+L and a CD 102-9+L – both with the FoilStar cold foil module – for test runs with prospective customers’ own print jobs. Well worth a visit!
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