With a gathering for waterless printers in September and an IfraExpo address by managing director Paul Huybrechts this month, developments at Coldset Printing Partners have been the focus of much attention.
Members of the Cortina Users Group - newspaper printers equipped with Koenig & Bauer's Cortina press - visited CPP in Paal-Beringen, Belgium, where a cooperation on automated control has followed a waterless extension of two existing offset presses.
Huybrechts says the retrofit added four towers, two folders and a varnishing unit to each press, enabling the company to close its Brussels plant.
The Paal-Beringen facility - which has solar voltaic power and a windmill to produce half its energy - prints seven nights and five days, 20 out of the 24 hours, with an increasing commercial workload. "More and more of our print business is coming from third parties and is of very high quality," he says.
CPP makes use of the flexibility of waterless on width, and its low waste makes short runs possible, using less energy than digital. It prints 1.4 million paid sale newspapers every night in Belgium and The Netherlands.
The company's origins go back a long way - the first Dutch newspaper was launched in 1656 - but CPP came into being in 2010 as a joint venture between the Belgian coldset printers of the family-owned Corelio and Concentra media groups. Since 2017, it has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mediahuis, which in August, acquired Independent News & Media in Ireland, which Huybrechts says is "our door to the world".
"Consolidation is going on in the print world, where we see our future," he says. "Our future is in digital too, but print will be vital for many years yet."
He told IfraExpo delegates that while there were declines in weekday circulations and digital was strong, "there is no decline in weekend numbers and more niche products are being launched".
The K&B press upgrade - achieved without having to seek outside production help for group newspapers - has been a big success. Five of 12 existing KBA Commander towers were removed and the two waterless Cortinas added. CPP also expanded mailroom capacity, reconfiguring existing Ferag equipment -
which had been upgraded between 2010-2013 - and adding new elements.
A project with QI Press Controls for closed loop ink density - together with an upgrade of the EAE controls to 11 towers and reelstands and three folders, and the installation of Techniweb blanket washers - has CPP achieving semicommercial quality with low manning. "Overall we have boosted the capacity of the plant and focussed on lean operations," Huybrechts says.
Delegates to the Cortina Users workshop in Paal-Beringen in late September had the opportunity to see for themselves.
Automated colour control had been thought an unnecessary luxury on the already highly sophisticated waterless press, but a project to integrate QI's IDS-3D system is delivering good results.
"Just as an aircraft pilot wants his plane to fly on autopilot as much as possible, we try to have our presses print on autopilot as much as possible as well," Pascal Coenen, CPP's head of technical services, told delegates. "We want the level of automation to be as high as possible."
He says the high degree of automation brings a number of advantages that are very important. "The increased consistency in the printed matter is worth a lot to us. Think, for example, of small colour differences in logos. This is highly undesirable, but more difficult to ensure without automatic colour control.
"In addition, we want to make the work of our printers as pleasant as possible - we really see them as supervisors of the system."
The Cortina's systems present unique measurement issues, its smaller error rate meaning that the smallest changes in variables can impact the printed product.
Coenen says the optimisation and integration project is progressing well, with cooperation between the three parties "a real showcase".
"Everyone is trying to bring this product onto the market in the best possible way," he says. "From the start, the discussions went well, a completely new interface was developed in a short period of time and the installation was completed within two weeks. Now it's a matter of adjustment, fine-tuning and adaptation."
Developer QIPC is hopeful the integration will trigger the enthusiasm of other Cortina users for automatic colour control, and ahead of it becoming fully operational by early November, Coenen says visitors have had an opportunity to see its potential.
At CPP, the combination of technologies is helping deliver the very high quality demanded with its increasing commercial workload.
Pictured (from top): Technical explanations from QIPC's Menno Jansen at the workshop; Paul Huybrechts - "print will be vital for many years yet"
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