White Paper: Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed Increase Press Uptime by Improving the Quality of Wash-Ups

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1 White Paper: Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed Increase Press Uptime by Improving the Quality of Wash-Ups By Chris Nolin Market Development Manager Flexo Concepts, Inc. Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed page 1

2 Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed Increase Press Uptime by Improving the Quality of Wash-Ups Threatened by electronic media, digital printing, increasing competition from offshore printers, commodity price increases and environmental pressures, today s traditional sheetfed offset industry is fighting for survival. Printers must maximize press uptime to stay competitive. One way to keep presses running and stay profitable is to optimize press wash-ups. This paper will explore the current state of the offset industry and explain how a small investment in the latest wash-up technology can help printers maintain profitability. State of the Industry Today s sheetfed offset printers are facing a variety of challenges. First, electronic media has considerably reduced the need for printing. More and more publishers are choosing to distribute their content in electronic format due to consumer lifestyle trends, more timely delivery and the lower relative cost of distribution. Magazines, newspapers, books, brochures, banking statements and envelopes are a few examples of media that are being affected by this trend. At the same time, digital printing has acquired some of the traditional offset market and caused a reduction in run lengths. Shorter runs are moving from offset to digital for economic reasons, and longer-run jobs are being split into shorter runs that can be printed digitally to help print buyers reduce their inventory costs. For the long-run jobs (that are not time-sensitive), there is growing competition from offshore printers. Overseas print quality now rivals that of domestic printers. Improvements in technology and communication have eliminated some of the obstacles to sending work overseas such as: turnaround times, language barriers, shipping costs, and complications with submitting and managing jobs. Like all industries, the offset printing market is being impacted by global trends in commodity pricing. As the dollar weakens and oil prices rise, the cost of press wash, ink and paper goes up. In a highly competitive environment, printers are unable to pass along these additional costs to customers through increased selling prices. There is also a growing movement, supported by legislation, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The printing industry is especially targeted due to the use of large volumes of chemicals and inks that contain VOCs. Tighter environmental regulations are driving up the cost of waste ink and press wash disposal at the same time that a decrease in run lengths is increasing the number of wash-ups and press wash consumption. The health and safety of Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed page 2

3 press operators is also an area of increasing concern. While low VOC solutions are eco-friendly and safe, they are often much more expensive and less effective. Effects on the Industry These dynamics are creating overcapacity in the sheetfed offset sector which is evident in the widespread plant closures, massive industry consolidation and substantial drop-off in new equipment purchases. The smaller independent printers are struggling to find ways to improve their competitive position and survive. Impact on the Printer Due to these industry trends, sheetfed offset printers are seeing more press downtime and incurring increased selling costs and reduced selling prices to win jobs. They are also experiencing an increased number of press wash-ups due to shorter runs as well as growing production costs from rising consumable prices and environmental compliance costs. While the impact may vary depending on a printer s individual wash-up requirements, the net effect of these changes is an overall reduction in revenues and bottom line. Reactions to the Changes Many plant managers are choosing to participate in some of this change by investing in digital printing technology. Others are expanding their list of offerings with value-added customer solutions such as design and mailing services. A lot of plants, especially in California, are converting from traditional press washes to the newest in low VOC press washes. Some are upgrading to more automated offset presses to improve efficiency. Still others are cutting back on purchases of new equipment, cycling out older, less efficient machines and retrofitting presses with the latest efficiency-enhancing technology. While all of these solutions can help offset declining revenues and margins, few options can make as large an impact as the TruPoint QuikWash System. A press can be retrofitted with the latest wash-up blade technology to dramatically improve the quality of wash-ups and cut the time required for wash-ups in half. By reducing the time required to do a wash-up, a printer can offset some of the downside associated with shorter press runs. More efficient wash-ups not only reduce press downtime but also decrease press wash consumption, labor and disposal costs. Plastic Wash-Up Blades The benefits of the QuikWash System are derived from the use of a plastic wash-up blade. Using a plastic wash-up blade to improve the quality of wash-ups is a concept that has already been proven in the industry; several major press manufacturers including KBA, Komori, manroland and Muller Martini are currently installing plastic blades in new machines. The QuikWash System allows printers to upgrade their existing press equipment to get the same benefits without making a large capital investment. Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed page 3

4 TruPoint DeltaFlex Plastic Wash-Up Blades Due to the material they re constructed from, TruPoint DeltaFlex plastic wash-up blades have exceptional wear properties compared to rubber tip blades. DeltaFlex blades possess a lower coefficient of friction which allows the The ongoing restructuring of mergers, acquisitions and plant closings has resulted in a decline in the number of U.S. printing plants from a high of over 54,000 in 1994 to around 36,500 at the end of 2008 or at a pace of 1,250 per year. Printing Industries of America Flash Report, Volume 10, October 2009 blade to wear evenly across the length of the roller. Rubber tip blades can be subjected to excessive wear on the ends caused by the oscillating motion of the roller. When this happens, manual cleaning is necessary to clean up the ends of the roller where the blade fails to maintain sufficient contact to achieve an effective wipe. The even wear pattern of DeltaFlex plastic blades allows for more effective cleanup across the full length of the roller, eliminating the need for manual cleaning. The natural characteristics of plastic give DeltaFlex wash-up blades lubricity when wiping the roller and prevent damage caused by tack from the rubber tip when the roller runs dry. By speeding up the wash-up process, DeltaFlex blades can also prolong the life of the rollers by reducing chemical exposure and friction from the blade. Plastic blades last longer than rubber tip blades so blade costs are reduced. DeltaFlex plastic wash-up blades are relatively inexpensive and easier to change due to the QuikWash System design which accommodates blades without notches or holes. With access to inexpensive blades and the ability to change blades quickly, operators can replace blades regularly to further improve wash-up performance, chemical use and environmental impact. Contact Area A finer contact area with the roller, however, is the primary reason for the superior blade performance of DeltaFlex wash-up blades. The rigidity of the plastic material allows for a relatively small blade thickness which enables the blade to maintain a fine area of contact with the roller even when worn. Similar to flexographic applications where achieving a precise contact area is fundamental to the blade s metering performance and resulting print quality, precise contact with the roller is required in order to complete an effective wash-up in offset applications. This fine area of contact enables the blade to wash up the roller in a single wash-up cycle compared to rubber tip blades which typically require 2 or more cycles to be effective. To illustrate the difference, a new rubber tip blade provides an approximate contact area of.041. As the blade wears, the contact area increases to as much as.125 at the ends, and the contact area is too large to achieve an effective wipe. When this occurs, the blade must be replaced. Often times, the operator tries to compensate by cranking down the blade instead of changing it out. This results in excessive pressure on parts of the blade which can cause accelerated blade and roller wear and diminish wash-up effectiveness. A DeltaFlex plastic wash-up blade, on the other hand, starts with a contact area of.008, or 5x smaller than that of a new rubber tip blade. At its worst wear point, the contact area may become as large as.015 which is still substantially smaller than a rubber tip blade when new. Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed page 4

5 Benefits to the Press Operator Press operators appreciate some additional benefits of the QuikWash System. Faster wash-ups mean quicker make-ready times and more time available for other tasks. Blade changes are easy because the system is engineered to hold a straight plastic blade with no notches or holes. Blades can be switched out by simply loosening the bolts, sliding the worn blade out and inserting the new blade. There is no need for the bolts to be completely removed from the tray. Cost Savings As shown below, the annual savings with the QuikWash System are calculated at over $8,000 per wash-up unit. With press time estimated at $350 per hour, there is a significant cost associated with shutting the press down for wash-ups. The table shows that the true value of the QuikWash System lies in the press uptime which is recouped through faster wash-ups. The savings calculator conservatively assumes that the press operator is washing up one unit two times per day. On an automatic press, the time spent on wash-ups would not increase as any number of units can be washed up in tandem. However, the estimated savings would increase significantly for a manual press where each unit is washed up separately making the time devoted to wash-ups much higher than indicated. Either way, due to more efficient wash-ups, the number of wash-up cycles required with the QuikWash System is reduced by 50%, so solvent and disposal costs are also reduced. Annual Savings with the TruPoint QuikWash System Total Number of Wash-Ups per Unit per Day: 2 Drum Disposal Cost: $350 Gallon Cost of Wash-Up Solution: $10.00 Wash Consumed Per Cycle (oz.): 12 Hourly Rate for Press Time: $ Current Number of Wash Cycles: 1 Current Wash-up Time per Unit (Minutes): 6 % of Wash Cycles With QuikWash: 50% Retro-Fit Cost per unit: 40" - $170 Number of Units per Press: 6 Calculated Wash-Up Time and Labor Costs Wash-Up Time & Labor Costs Current With QuikWash System % Diff Annual Total (Hours) Annual Value of Lost Press Time $18, $9, % Calculated Solvent and Disposal Costs Solvent & Disposal Costs Current With QuikWash System % Diff Solvent Consumption per Year (oz.) Number of Drums Consumed per Year 1 1 Total Drum Disposal Costs $ $ Unit Wash-Up Cycle Cost $0.94 $0.47 Total Annual Solvent & Disposal Costs: $ $ % Calculated Annual Savings Current With QuikWash System % Diff One Time QuikWash Clamp Retro Fit Cost $0.00 $1, Total Annual Costs $19, $10, % Annual Savings per Wash-Up: $8, Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed page 5

6 How It Works The TruPoint QuikWash System is comprised of an aluminum clamp which mounts to the existing wash-up tray and secures a plastic wash-up blade with no holes or slots. The system is compatible with most press models and requires no modifications to the wash-up tray. The average cost to retrofit a press is under $1,000 which is quickly made back in press uptime. QuikWash System Reduces: > Wash- Up Time > Press Wash Usage > Labor Expense > Disposal Costs > Blade Change Time > Tack and Manual Cleaning > Blade Costs TruPoint DeltaFlex Wash- Up Blade Conclusion In the challenging environment facing today s sheetfed offset printer, adapting to the changes taking place in the industry is vital for survival. A small investment in the latest wash-up blade technology can improve the quality of wash-ups, reducing the time devoted to the wash-up process and creating more time for serving customers. By retrofitting presses with the TruPoint QuikWash System, printers can gain press uptime, maintain competitive advantage and sustain profitability. Maximizing Offset Press Efficiency is Critical to Succeed page 6

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