World record: Rotary die-cutting at 17,000 sheets per hour


Between 29 November and 1 December 2017, KBA-Sheetfed invited international print and finishing specialists to a series of Print & Postpress Innovation Days at the company’s facility in Radebeul near Dresden. Over 250 participants from 30 countries took the opportunity to gather information on the latest automation solutions for commercial, label and packaging printing, as well as innovative postpress solutions.

Ralf Sammeck, chief executive officer of KBA-Sheetfed, welcomed the experts and talked about the company’s new branding and vision while Sascha Fischer, head of product management, shed light on the several innovative solutions for an increasingly automated printing process being presented. Fischer began by speaking about a new generation of plate changers with significantly reduced change-times in half, medium and large formats, alongside the ability to load plates without prior bending of the rear edges.

New measuring system options such as Print Check and PDF Check make use of a single, common camera system and guarantee absolute inspection and control precision. LED-UV dryers for Rapida sheetfed offset presses are now manufactured by KBA-Sheetfed itself, and said to be even more finely adapted to the Rapida press series offering greater drying performance across all format classes, including large formats.

KBA 9The printing and die-cutting results – here with an IML film – met with great interest from the attending specialists

Autonomous printing with ErgoTronic AutoRun is about to be raised to a new level. “The future belongs to AutoPrint,” said Fischer – not least because the system will soon be able to program a complete job changeover itself, without any need for operator input. And the Rapida LiveApp is already in practical use in the field, with a further expanded scope of features. These include an info panel with press status display and print job information, while the maintenance manager and the consumables tracking module have been complemented with stock management controls and PressCall Mobile, a communication tool with chat functions for service and operator support purposes.

KBA 11Blanking of the in-mold labels using the Laserck Master Blanker

High performance and automation in practice
During the subsequent practical session, Dirk Winkler, head of print technology, demonstrated the printing of labels and folding cartons on a 6-color Rapida 106 coater press with reel sheeter and a Vinfoil Micro cold foil module. His presentation laid emphasis on the benefits of low-migration LED-UV production – the simple flexibility to incorporate cold foil application, and high-speed production at 20,000 sheets per hour both on reel-fed IML film, on cardboard, and self-adhesive label substrates from a pile.

On two 8-color perfector presses for 4-over-4 production with subsequent coating, Winkler and Fischer provided impressive proof of the performance capabilities of the Rapida technology in commercial printing with conventional and LED-UV inks. The conventional press ran six sections of the Koenig & Bauer Report, with fully automatic management of the entire job sequence by ErgoTronic AutoRun. As soon as the defined run length was reached – in this case 500 sheets – the next makeready process began automatically. PrintCheck and PDFCheck provided for continuous quality monitoring.

The LED-UV press produced six sections of the new Koenig & Bauer image brochure and, to conclude, a pencil box on folding carton board. Here, too, job changes were initiated automatically once the run length was reached, and the press subsequently returned to production without manual intervention. It was only the necessary substrate change for the last job which required manual intervention on the part of the operator.

Ultimate die-cutting performance – the rotary die-cutter
Under the claim ‘Ready for the next step,’ Mario Gerber, senior sales manager for postpress solutions, introduced the rotary die-cutter Rapida RDC 106 as a “game-changer for the die-cutting process.” He explained the design features of the rotary die-cutter, which many converters have been keenly waiting for. The design is similar to that of a Rapida printing press with the various converting process steps implemented in the individual towers. These range from die-cutting and hole punching for in-mold and other label applications, as well as embossing, creasing, cutting and stripping for the processing of packaging products, through to tailored variants for commercial users. The machines offer cutting output of up to 15,000 sheets per hour, depending on the substrate and the required contours, and can thus match the speed of a modern sheetfed-offset press. Productivity is increased by up to 300% for label applications, and folding carton producers can also look forward to a 65% increase in efficiency.

KBA 8World record: Die-cutting at 17,000 sheets per hour.

The visitors were able to witness this superlative die-cutting performance for themselves during practical demonstrations on two Rapida RDC 106 rotary die-cutters. The 4-unit machine began with a job requiring the creasing, cutting and stripping of a folding carton for pharmaceuticals. At the end of production, the machine was converted within just a few minutes for a completely different job, namely the pencil box printed during the morning session. Subsequent blanking was done offline on a Master Blanker from Laserck with a throughput of up to 20,000 sheets per hour.

The single-unit Rapida RDC 106 rounded off the day by processing the in-mold and self-adhesive labels, which had been printed on the 6-color Rapida 106 with coater and cold foil module. Despite the tricky job change from classic die-cutting to kiss-cutting, the machine was back in production in no time. As the final highlight of the show, the Rapida RDC 106 then ran the self-adhesive label production at a world record speed of 17,000 sheets per hour.

International exchanges of experience
Partner companies Wink and Esko accompanied the event with specialist information on rotary tables and process-integrated workflows for packaging production. The event afforded plenty of opportunities to talk shop and discuss experiences with fellow users from other countries and continents.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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