Something big is the new Heidelberg Speedmaster CX 104

Showtime event reveals ‘price performance’ theme

Speedmaster CX 104 sheetfed offset press
Speedmaster CX 104 sheetfed offset press

On 23 June, Heidelberg presented the new Speedmaster CX 104 sheetfed offset press live at China Print in Beijing and simultaneously at its global SHOWTIME! Virtual customer event. The Something Big reveal featured the new Speedmaster CX 104 press – projected as a unique and flexible press that incorporates a good bit of automation and a ‘universal press’ capable of handling various materials and weights. 

Heidelberg says that this allows customers to either do several types of work or migrate easily from commercial printing to in-mold labels and carton packaging. In addition, the automation extends to Push to Stop functionality – and the scalability to tailored configurations with as many as 15 printing and coating units.

“Excitement and goosebumps, but also satisfaction. I think those are the words to describe the emotion. Our team has worked for two to three years to bring this reality. We are all now very happy and looking forward to showing this machine to the world out there,” said Florian Franken, product manager for Speedmaster CX 104.

Florian Franken, product manager for CX 104
Florian Franken, product manager for CX 104

Franken said the Speedmaster CX 104 offers scalability and flexibility. He said that the base model could be configured for packaging but also commercial applications. If customers wish, the press can be further automated, reducing user interaction to the minimum. 

Several times during the presentation, Franken used the expression “price performance,” implying that the press represents something of a breakthrough for Heidelberg. He said that for this same great price, one also gets the company’s service and support, including its spare parts supply chain, its engineering and maintenance, and its in-country trainers.

A prospective buyer of the new Speedmaster CX 104 would have to probe more deeply into the ‘price performance’ promise. This is a new technology press with many of the new AI-driven or AI-based automation features built-in.

The expectation being created is that it should simply deliver quality and productivity with quicker changeovers and more stable printing using the Intellistart3 system for makereadies at a price that printers are willing to pay for these features. The other implication is that this generation of cloud-connected presses will benefit from algorithms generated by the combination of big data and the company’s domain knowledge of how the offset process works.

If Heidelberg delivers on its promise of price performance, it could reflect improvements in design, technology integration, and manufacturing costs. With the company claiming it is returning to financial viability, the implication is a better balance of both tasks and costs at its Wiesloch and Shanghai offset press building factories

For lack of clarity, we are presuming that the new machine may at first be produced in both locations and that it is designed for being built in the Shanghai plant for at least the Chinese and Asian markets.

Franken said that the press had been developed for those printers in Europe or North American who produce roughly five days a week and prefer the machine’s flexibility and high automation. At the same time, the Speedmaster CX 104 is meant for customers in other markets with a heavier use profile. For example, Heidelberg sees these printers in the Asia Pacific, or the Middle East or Latin American markets as volume printers who run their presses 24 X 7 for up to 15 million impressions a year. “These printers prefer the reliability of the machine,” he said.

The promise of an Intelli-press

The Speedmaster CX 104 has a new, ergonomic design with excellent accessibility offering an entirely new operating philosophy, i.e., Heidelberg UX, together with a host of assistance systems included as standard. These provide support for operators at the Prinect Press Center XL3 control station and at the press itself.

To keep makeready times short, the patented Intellistart 3 system automatically determines or anticipates the makeready processes required for the jobs to be produced. This involves continuously monitoring the press status and comparing it with the upcoming jobs. Then, Intellistart 3 initiates the makeready process and carries it out automatically.

The Intelliguide and the Intelliline color-controlled LED elements on the printing and coating units reflect the operating status at any given time and indicate any manual intervention required. In addition, the newly developed Intellirun software takes operator navigation beyond the makeready process, providing a preview of several planned jobs. This gives operators information prioritized according to the situation, which helps them prevent unnecessary downtimes by taking prompt action.

New coating unit of Speedmaster CX 104

The new design lighter weight coating unit of the Speedmaster CX 104 was highlighted at the unveiling. It is more user-friendly (the anilox roller is shown as being lifted out by a single woman operator). In addition, the company says it focuses on simplified operation, faster makeready, and a further improvement in coating quality based on XL technology.

Accessibility is optimized thanks to the arrangement of key elements. A 30% lower roller weight of the anilox roller makes the changeover process more ergonomic and far faster. A time saving of up to 75% based on one-person operation has already been confirmed under real-life conditions by pilot customers.

The new coating blanket cylinder will make changing coating forms easier and up to 25% faster. A combination clamping system for coating blankets and coating plates maximizes the number of possible applications. In addition, the pairing of a new, compact bearing unit and a new chambered blade concept ensures the application of homogeneous coatings, even at the highest speeds.

Inking and dampening

The inking and dampening unit on the new Speedmaster CX 104 are geared to optimum quality and productivity. However, additional functions are also available for customers looking to further boost the performance of the inking and dampening unit, especially in UV printing.

An automatic ink agitator ensures high printing quality by keeping the viscosity of the UV ink constant. An additional washup solution supply is optionally available for mixed operation with conventional and UV inks. There is also the anti-misting solution for inks when the press is run at high speeds that should keep the press and the press room cleaner and healthier for the operators.


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