Q: What trends and growth drivers do you anticipate will have the largest affect on printing press design in the near future?
A: We see a continuing trend toward short run jobs, an aging workforce, focus on reducing our carbon footprint and increased productivity.
It’s not uncommon for converters to spend 40%-50% of their press changeover time on color matching. Press designers are responding with press-side systems that can achieve the targeted color specifications with significantly less time and waste.
There will be a continued effort on ergonomics, especially as the average age of our workforce increases and more women operators enter the workforce. This means press designers will incorporate automatic roll handling systems for the winders and robotic systems to handle the plate and anilox rolls or sleeves, which are particularly cumbersome on wide-web presses.
The packaging industry has become very attuned to meeting the sustainability objectives set forth by retailers and CPGs. New printing presses are designed to minimize energy consumption in every facet of the printing operation. This includes less electricity consumption by using high-efficiency motors, automated systems that can setup a job and achieve color with less waste, wash-up systems that utilize less solvent, and dryer control systems that use less energy and maximize the solvent concentration of exhaust to the incinerator (for solvent-based inks).
Energy curable inks could also have an impact on future press design and need to be evaluated as the technology progresses.
Q: What habits or practices formed as a result of the economic downturn do you believe will have lasting affects with converters and printers even after the economy begins its recovery?
A: During this economic downturn, we see customers looking to improve the productivity of existing machines with product enhancement packages and by conducting preventative maintenance tasks that had previously been delayed.
Converters also justify replacing existing machines with new presses that are more efficient and have greater productivity. Depending on the vintage, one new press can replace two to three older machines. Not only does this result in greater productivity, but also reduces energy consumption and personnel required.
Q: Of all the groups in the supply chain, retailers and CPGs are pushing hardest for sustainability improvements. How can printing presses address this trend while delivering the cost performance that printers are seeking?
A: There are many shared objectives between press design and the sustainability initiatives of retailers and CPGs. Both focus on reducing costs by lowering the amount of energy and waste required to produce a product.
For example, new presses are designed with systems that minimize waste during setup and color matching. These systems not only help customers save money by reducing waste, but also help meet the sustainability objectives of retailers and CPGs. As CPGs put more pressure on their suppliers to achieve future sustainability goals, in turn resulting in more pressure on flexible packaging producers, press suppliers will react as needed to ensure that equipment meets these increasing demands.
Windmoeller & Hoelscher