KBA North America

New Ideas and Investment Strengthen Printed Newspaper

With 46 per cent of all contracts for new web presses in the global newspaper industry in 2011 and 2012, Koenig & Bauer (KBA) is number one worldwide.

However, even the inventor of the cylinder printing press has had to adjust its capacity for the newspaper sector to meet significantly lower demand caused by media shifts. Compared to the time prior to the financial crisis in 2008, the annual investment volume in newspaper press technology has shrunk by more than 60%. Growth can only now be seen in populous threshold countries such as India and China, in Asia, the Middle East, peripheral regions of Europe as well as in parts of Africa and Latin America. KBA CEO and president Claus Bolza-Schünemann pointed this out in his presentation “The printed newspaper in a shifting media world” at the World Publishing Expo (WPE) in Frankfurt am Main.

More possibilities in a smaller market

Despite a drop in investment activities in the industry, KBA continually launches new technology and innovative processes into the market to strengthen the printed newspaper’s financial stability as a brand carrier for additional online activities, to make it more attractive to readers and advertisers and to open up new sales opportunities to media enterprises for printing extraordinary supplements and semi-commercial products. Examples of this are the introduction of automated plate changes, waterless offset printing, user-friendly compact design as well as new solutions for finishing newspapers inline. In the meantime other manufacturers are following the trends initiated by KBA.

Creativity wins over readers and advertisers

Modern newspapers with less text, striking images and graphics are becoming more and more like magazines, which demand a high print quality. In addition to this, the newspaper industry is looking for new, eye-catching advertising formats for brand owners and trade companies. Therefore KBA delivers a high number of newspaper presses with optional modules for stitching, gluing, half covers, four-page centre spreads plus Zip’n’Buy perforation, hot-air dryers including quarterfold capabilities for semi-commercials and hybrid production in coldset/heatset. Bolza-Schünemann says: “Print can secure additional brand advertising with creativity.” He showed a supplement from the Main-Post in Würzburg printed on a Commander CT as an example. The so-called “Give me 5” ad insert creates five different ads when opened in the correct way by creative folding, gluing and perforation of three centre spreads with two “zips” for tearing off.

Excellent quality with overprint varnishing

The second and very impressive example of new, high-quality options in coldset printing was a customer newspaper for the prominent René Staud photostudio in Leonberg near Stuttgart. It was printed on a KBA Cortina waterless offset press at Freiburger Druck (Badische Zeitung). Using a coater embedded in the Cortina’s superstructure, the 16-page Berliner-format newspaper was finished inline with dispersion coating. The coater, which KBA developed together with Harris + Bruno, can apply aqueous coating on both sides on the web in varying widths and only needs a IR/thermal-air dryer instead of energy intensive hot-air dryers common in commercial presses. Overprint varnishing prevents the often unavoidable smearing and set-off when producing coldset products with high ink coverage and images run over the fold. The printed product has a commercial-like quality and pleasant haptic properties. With overprint varnishing post-press is possible immediately, as well as the combination of coated and non-coated webs and the use of normal and improved newsprint. This form of inline coating, developed by KBA in cooperation with SunChemical and Freiburger Druck, is only possible in waterless printing on the Cortina. KBA acknowledges that this is not a replacement for heatset, but an option for Cortina users, who aim to print smaller and medium-sized print runs for demanding target groups.

Streamlined KBA press portfolio

Christoph Müller, who as executive vice-president of web press engineering, marketing, sales and service, presented KBA’s press portfolio which has been streamlined to meet current market demands. This includes the single-width Continent (2/1) and Comet (2/2) web presses which are well-positioned on the global market, the very flexibly automated new Commander CL in 4/1, 4/2 and 6/2 configuration (up to 1,730mm/68in web width) and the two extensively automated high-end Commander CT (wet offset 4/2 and 6/2) and Cortina (waterless 4/1, 4/2 and 6/2) presses. KBA only offers the traditional Commander with 9-cylinder satellites for 6/2 production in wide web widths from 2,100mm (82.7in). Over the past years contracts have focused on the technological advantages of the four-high tower blanket-to-blanket printing process.

Medium-term option: Digital printing with the KBA RotaJet

KBA has noticed keen interest from the newspaper industry in the RotaJET 76 digital press, which was showcased at Drupa. According to Christoph Müller with the high-volume inkjet web press, which is currently available with a web width of 781mm (30.7in), the company is addressing the books, direct mail and advertising market segments which digital printing is especially suited given their print run structure and individualised requirements. In newspaper production digital printing, with a market share of significantly less than 1 per cent, is not yet widespread due to its typically high print runs and associated economic reasons. Notwithstanding as a second step KBA will also offer the RotaJET in suitable formats to such printing houses, which alongside printing newspapers in smaller print runs aim to economically produce supplements and other products digitally also. In his overview of the market, Christoph Müller pointed out regional differences in development. The negative impact of the sovereign debt crisis and a weak economy in many countries has caused demand for new web presses in 2012 to be somewhat below last year’s. This is particularly true in southern Europe, but also for other countries. However, KBA has recorded installations and new projects especially in Germany, Scandinavia, Middle East, Africa and China. This contrasts with the current reluctance to invest in Central Eastern Europe, south east Asia, Australia and Latin America. In addition to this, the slump in investment in the USA persists. Decisions and financing take much longer than prior to the financial crisis. Investment in replacements dominates in industrial countries. Expanding capacity can only be seen in threshold countries.

Cortina order from Europe and first Commander CL for China

Following a large Cortina hybrid press which recently went live at Gulf News in Dubai, Christoph Müller reported of a further order of a Cortina with three printing towers and two hot-air dryers from a European user (Separate press release to follow asap). In the high-tech sector, the Commander CT is the leader in the newspaper sector regarding new installations with 25 presses, most of which are already in operation.

In the past twelve months alone, twelve double- and triple-width Commander CTs have gone live in Germany, England, Austria, Sweden and Italy. Given current market conditions, the Commander CL (=CLassic); showcased at IFRA Expo in Vienna a year ago, has had a very successful start. Along with five presses going to Germany and the USA, shortly before the tradeshow in Frankfurt also the first Chinese newspaper house has opted for a semi-commercial Commander CL with two four-high towers and a hot-air dryer (See press release “Guiyang Daily in China orders KBA Commander CL”).

Retrofits, upgrades, specialists on-site etc.

Along with new products and processes in the printing sector, KBA has continually expanded its service portfolio for the industry. This applies to the expansion in consulting services up to so-called turn-key projects for new installations. Automation experts are on-hand from EAE in Ahrensburg to support retrofits for older web presses, which are becoming increasingly in-demand in the market. Experienced professionals from the new subsidiary PrintHouseService (PHS) have been stationed on-site at several large German newspaper printers providing technical support for web presses and other equipment. In addition to this, KBA offers enhanced upgrades of existing web presses as part of a customised service package, also to equip these technologically for new advertising formats.

Honorary prize for KBA from Bavarian prime minister

Only four days prior to the World Publishing Expo Claus Bolza-Schünemann accepted an honorary prize from the Bavarian State Government on behalf of Koenig & Bauer for its outstandingly innovative engineering at the Bavarian Print Media Awards 2012 in Munich. He pointed out the proven credibility and sustainability of print advertising to newspaper printers and suggested that they take more advantage creatively of the unique acceptance of the newspaper both locally and regionally. Bolza-Schünemann says: “The printed newspaper must not be saved to death. It has to win readers with its visual qualities and content as an established brand. The supply industry is able to add new ideas and intelligent innovations to the visual qualities, target-group orientated structure, topicality, effective advertising. This is what KBA is focusing on.”

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