‘Competition from new technology makes existing technology better’

-says Klaus Schmidt, senior vice-president marketing/corporate communications, KBA-Group

Each printing process has its strengths and limitations, but the good thing is: competition from new technology makes existing technology better. Twenty years ago, when Benni Landa presented the first Indigo presses, nobody thought that makeready times of high-end sheetfed presses would drop to only a few minutes and make them competitive for many jobs with a few 100 copies. conveyed Klaus Schmidt, senior vice-president marketing/corporate communications, KBA-Group in his presentation on ‘integration between offset printing and digital printing’ at China Print Summit 2013, held on the sidelines of China Print expo in Beijing.

Offset is still the dominent process based on print volume. “This will remain the fact for years to come, with the exception of flexible packaging printing, where flexo and gravure play a major role. However, digital printing gaining ground in commercial and publication printing. In the packaging segment, digital printing is so far concentrated on labels, displays and packaging samples, said Klaus, emphasising that sometimes it makes sense to combine offset and digital printing methods to create individual print products at a reasonable cost.

“Digital printing means more than lower costs per copy for short runs. The possibility of personalisation and individualisation permits extended or new business models with additional marketing serivices for the customers. If you already have offset presses and you only need more capacity for your growing print volume, the decision is relatively clear: You should invest in a new offset press with higher productivity to increase output and reduce costs. If you have problems with filling your existing presses with enough profitable orders, if you see an ongoing trend to shorter and shorter runs with very tight delivery times or if you are looking for a possibility to escape the pricing pressure in mainstream market segments, you should make a new invesment with a business analysis. When investing in new printing kit, the decision pro offset or pro digital should not be made at the beginning but at the end of this process,” he explained further.

“For static-non-personalised-print - the decision for offset or inkjet printing is in many cases not a technical but an economical issue, since inkjet output is lower and ink (and paper) costs are higher. If ink area coverage is much higher than thirty percent and the print run is not only 100 or 200 copies, it can be difficult for inkjet to compete cost-wise,” mentioned Klaus. Typical products with less than thirty percent ink coverage include (educational) books, transactional print, newspapers or mailings.

Talking about book production, Klaus stated that the average run lengths of books has been dropping for years, especially in highly developed countries, like Germany, due to two main reasons: fewer readers and publishers who shy away from the financial risk to keep thousands of unsold books in stock. Therefore hybrid production digital/offset during the lifecycle of a new book - depending on demand - can make economic sense. Starting with a lower, digitally printed volume and – if the new publication is successful - printing the main edition in offset and using the digital process again for the shorter backlist, may ensure optimum business outcomes.

In this scenario, meeting the emerging trends, KBA covers almost all market segments with the broad product range in the industry. “This permits us offer tailor-made solutions for individual produtions needs. With the KBA RotaJET, we had a high-speed inkjet web press on our stand at drupa 2012, together with a raft of Rapida sheetfed offset presses and web offset machines for commercial, newspaper and packaging printing. This important milestone in our 195 year-old history as the oldest press manufacturer in the world shows that we recognize and accept the technological change and new players on the marketplace. However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in the existence of offset, flexo and other analogue printing techniques for the forseeable future. Many years ago Bill Gates envisaged a paperless office and world without printed newspapers. But both are still here and I personally would miss them if they were not,” conveyed Klaus, optimistic approach to the future of print.

Group Publications