In a trend that has been emerging for a long time now, a growing number of print shop customers are demanding printed products with sophisticated coatings and special effects. This development is particularly striking in folding carton and label printing, with branded goods manufacturers aiming to generate a steady stream of new purchasing incentives through the use of particularly effective, stand-out packaging designs.
However, print shop customers in the commercial segment also want to run their marketing campaigns with custom-designed print products that stand out from the crowd thanks to striking and sophisticated coatings and special effects.
At Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg), these market requirements are being met by presses with increasingly long custom configurations and a wide variety of equipment. As many as 20 printing and coating units with interdeck and end-of-press dryers as well as multiple cold foil modules can be installed in one press.
“The general market recovery is also being clearly reflected in the demand for customized machines,” comments Heidelberg CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer. “The trend toward print products with increasingly sophisticated surface finishing is still growing and is boosting the profitability of branded goods manufacturers and print shops in equal measure.”
Special configurations of the Speedmaster XL 106 in particular demand
Over the past three years, Heidelberg has delivered an average of one customized press per week in the 70 x 100 centimeter, and 50 x 70 centimeter formats. No other manufacturer has, as they claim, supplied as many customized presses. Presses with customer-specific modifications currently account for 80 percent of all the Speedmaster XL 106 presses delivered. The customers ordering these bespoke machines are primarily based in Europe, the USA, and Asia, with the principal market being Japan.
The market position of Heidelberg is due to its unparalleled expertise in building sheetfed offset presses and its in-depth understanding of the associated applications. This includes development, production, and service equally. Over the past 15 years, Heidelberg has installed approximately 200 presses with twelve and more units worldwide. Typically, these are dual-coating presses. Around half of the very long presses in use on the market handle double-sided printing and surface finishing. This is where the specific expertise Heidelberg has in sheet travel and perfecting technology really comes into its own, particularly when ever more demanding printing stocks such as recycled paper and ultra-thin materials are being used.
Great potential for the new Speedmaster CX 104, too
The new Speedmaster CX 104 also has a great deal of potential for long configurations. Heidelberg has already sold more than 1000 printing units since the machine’s market launch in summer 2021. In the key packaging market of China in particular, the company is seeing a rapid growth in demand for long special machines that print shops can use to meet local demand for packaging that features sophisticated coatings and special effects. The first Speedmaster CX 104 systems with twelve and more units have already been delivered from the production plant at the Shanghai site. As a result, Heidelberg is further expanding its strong position in the key market of China and in the Asia-Pacific region.
Customer benefits come first
The long presses combine numerous different processes in one inline workflow. The aim is for the final products to be available quickly and for outlay on logistics to be reduced to a minimum. However, it is not just about packing as many applications as possible into a press. Instead, the challenge is to find a proportionate solution that balances what is technically feasible with what will bring the biggest benefits for the customer.
This is why Heidelberg collaborates very closely with customers to specify the dimensions of their press. “We work with our customers to cover as many processes as possible inline and in premium quality. Ultimately, it is about manufacturing the type of press that the customer can use to produce their products cost-effectively,” explains Markus Leichtle, Senior Manager, Product Management Sheetfed at Heidelberg.
However, how a press is configured with printing and coating units is not the only key consideration. The amount of automation involved is just as important. As print runs get ever shorter, the ability to execute job changes quickly becomes particularly important. Heidelberg meets this requirement in two ways. Firstly, fully automated systems are available for changing printing and coating plates. Secondly, intelligent assistants in the Speedmaster Operating System safeguard makeready processes that run on a largely automated basis. Operators are systematically guided through all the processes at the Prinect Press Center XL 3 control station.
Subscription options also available for special presses
The Heidelberg Subscription Plus and Subscription Smart contract models are also available for customized presses and are proving to be increasingly popular with customers, primarily because they focus on boosting productivity. Under the Subscription Plus model, for which Heidelberg has secured MunichRe as a strategic financing partner, customers obtain a full package of services that includes the sheetfed offset press, the Prinect workflow, consumables, service, and performance consulting. Under the Subscription Smart model, the press is not part of the contract. This means Subscription Smart can be taken out for presses that are already in use, including presses manufactured by a third party. Both models are billed based on the number of sheets printed per year.