News & Views Header


Facts, Fiction And Misconceptions About Carton Presses


Featured on Howard Direct

Featured on Howard Direct


By:  Nick Howard  |  Date: February 2013  |  Contact the Author
Part 1 | Part 2

Untruths often metastasize into reality all around us. Politics arguably provides the most consistent train of falsehoods becoming dogma, or perhaps it is the religious zealots of all faiths who polarize followers into believing we’re right, you’re wrong. The world of print too is not immune from basing opinions on guttural assumptions, particularly when it comes to advances in press technology.

This is an environment created by all of today’s press makers, as they compete for tightening market share with highly advanced offset press lines and associated workflow. For the past decade, printers have watched offset- press innovation – often not fully appreciated, because of the marketing dollars and future interests poured into toner and inkjet platforms – redefine traditional run-length boundaries.

News & Views - Calvin Coolidge

Today, offset press makers are also leveraging significant sheetfed advances, in particular, to redefine application boundaries. Their main target is the packaging sector, more specifically longerrun carton production, which is traditionally a field ruled by largeformat sheeted presses. KBA continues to lead this sector and has controlled a 50 percent market share, globally, in large-format offset for well over a decade. In 2012 alone, KBA held more than a 65 percent market share in North America’s large-format sheetfed sector.

It came as no great surprise during a recent conversation that a printer suggested, “There is only one company that makes a packaging press.” Most every production or operations manager holds strong opinions about the offset machines they run, whether it is the result of a close – often historic – relationship with their press salesperson or mechanic, or just a general likability of the press architecture itself. There are a myriad of reasons why pressrooms becomes entrenched in machine brands and their perceived positions in the market.

These historic positions, however, once so clearly defined in the printing world by application and run-length, and therefore press format size, are shifting more than ever. Large-format sheetfed will continue to dominate high-volume packaging for years to come, but today’s innovations in sheetfed – not to mention recent advances in toner and inkjet technologies – mean almost any modern press format size can impact packaging, which was certainly the case with several modern 40-inch sheetfed presses recently introduced around drupa.

In fact, any press printing to 1 mm (0.40 inches), which has skeletal transfer cylinders, double-size impression cylinders, air in transfers, and carton-attachment options like receding non-stop deliveries, large diameter in-feeds, press up-lifting features or UV capabilities, can be considered a packaging press. All five of the world’s major press makers can deliver such machines today within a very close measure of competence – depending, of course, on which features a printing company values most.

Okay – not every press maker builds machines with stock transfers exceeding 1 mm, but it is of little consequence for 95 percent of all packaging applications anyway. Even the most experienced press operators tend to ignore this fact because they are so deeply rooted in tradition and cannot see the forest for the trees, which became crystal clear on my recent visit to a high-end cosmetics printer. These types of plants – where double hits, overprint varnishes and unique combinations of inks and coatings are part of a press operator’s everyday life – are always pushing the print-production envelope. This particular cosmetics printer had just bought a new press that would soon arrive. I was there to inspect a used press on its way out the door and so I asked the lead pressman for his thoughts about the older machine.

“It isn’t a board press,” he replied. “We need a board machine here, not a paper press.” I just had to shake my head – double-size cylinders, 40-point capacity and skeletal transfers – bingo! – This is a board press.

News & Views - Calvin Coolidge

Unexpected surprises in the laboratory
During the late-1960s to 1990s, Planeta was long the most-common sight in the world’s packaging plants. The press maker became an unexpected carton favorite when printers discovered that, particularly following the launch of its Variant series in 1965, how good they were at running thick materials (in sizes from 4 to 8).

Based in Soviet controlled East Germany, with a cash strapped Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) government, Planeta needed western hard currency and sold presses to the market at prices significantly lower than their real value.

Big double-size cylinders were unheard of at the time and it even became possible to use these innovative presses for printing on micro-flute (F-flute up to 1.8 mm). Despite struggling with poor Robotron electrics and associated quality-control issues, the Planeta design still presented an enormous advancement over all other competitors – even if it took a while to impart the true potential of these presses to the marketplace.

Prior to 1965, Planeta, an old established builder, did not really find its sales imprint until after the war when the old English designed Mann Fast Five was duplicated and sold as a PZO and PVO series press. This design did not have any inherent positives for running carton. The Variant changed all that.

Harris, meanwhile, a US-based press maker from yesteryear, did have a unitized press with double-size transfer cylinders, but also single-size impressions. Nonetheless, Harris was able to run board on all its presses, especially in the 60-inch and 77/78-inch formats. The same held true for the American-built Miehle machines. During this period, Roland, Harris, Miehle, Crabtree and Nebiolo were the prime competitors to Planeta in most of the +3b sizes.

These historic companies over time were either absorbed or decimated by today’s modern press makers. Planeta was scooped up König & Bauer, known today as KBA. Before purchasing Planeta, KBA was focused as a web-offset manufacturer and beginning to make its mark with finely tuned Intaglio machines for currency production.

KBA also had a very popular stable of letterpress machines, as well as a range of smaller sheetfeds like the KRO and SRO, but these were mostly 72-cm (28-inch) machines. Early experiments with the 3b format brought out an array of odds and sods, one press in particular drew upon the Heidelberg Rotaspeed ’s mirror image platform. KBA then introduced a unitized RA 104 press in the 1980s. The purchase of Planeta provided the company with the market to advance its development of the 104, and subsequent larger sizes, into a respected worldwide sheetfed line.

Today, KBA’s RA142 (now RA145) and especially the RA 162a have done exceedingly well in carton shops, building on years of expertise that began with the Variant series. manroland, with its past link to Roland Ultra and 800, has also enjoyed historically significant placement in carton shops when it comes to large-format sheetfed.

The KBA Rapida 106-CX is the high specification press for paper and carton. Incorporates features from the 105 and 105U. Same cylinder arrangement as Komori, Heidelberg and Roland, Can offer press with “CX” package to increase range of materials..

Contact the Author


Head Office:

Quick LInks:

Products and Services:
800 Westgate Road
Oakville, ON L6L 5N2
Tel. (905) 821-0000
Skype: howardgraphic

      Bookmark This Page

  Archived Articles

  Archived News

  Archived Commentaries

  Archived Technology Reports

  Archived Featured Media

  Supply and Service of Printing and
Allied Equipment Since 1967

  Pre-owned and Reconditioned
Printing, Packaging and Bindery

  USPAP-Compliant Certified Appraisals
and Valuations for the Printing and
Allied Industries

  Asset Revitalization and
Refurbishment In Our 98,000 sq ft
State-Of-The-Art Facility

Copyright © 1967-2017 News & Views - Howard Graphic Group of Companies. All Rights Reserved.