QUADTECH SEES DIGITAL DELIVERY OF INKS as the next dimension in press control systems, part of its long term goal of 'lights out' print production. The company has expanded from register control units to on press colour control and has now bought Controls Group Inc to give it a digital inking system.
The deal puts the page pack ink injector system and the surrounding patents in the hands of the Wisconsin print and engineering systems company. It is not a new technology, having systems installed in more than a dozen countries around the world, (including the UK), but most have been confined to newspaper and coldset applications. But Quad Graphics has been running two heatset presses equipped with the technology for 18 months. The success of these installations convinced it to buy the business.
THE PAGE PACK TECHNOLOGY USES SERVO motors to drive rotary pumps to deliver the precise amount of ink needed in replacement of open duct and ink key inking systems. The servo motor is connected to the prepress file used to image the plate and to the press speed so that as the press accelerates the pump continues to deliver ink at the required rate. It is this linear relationship that is a key benefit to the technology.
“The system has its roots in the newspaper business,” says Vince Balistrieri, director of engineering and general manager of commercial and newspaper, “and has been installing units on heatset presses. It is a replacement for open duct ink fountains and as it is digital, very rotation of the pump delivers a precise amount of ink. This means that the printer knows exactly how much ink has been consumed during the run. We have seen significant savings in waste and maintenance from the units we have.”
THE ADVANTAGES TO THE SYSTEM COME FROM A in start up waste and the speed of ramping the press up to full production. As the technology is linear, there is no lag in the acceleration phase and the correct amount of ink continues to be available to the press. “Because of this precise control there is no variation in density during the start up phase. And there is no maintenance because there is no wear between duct blades and rollers, nor between fountain balls and ink keys.”
There should be benefits in making it easier to match output across presses and to produce repeat jobs because the delivery of ink will remain consistent.
THE TECHNOLOGY IS AVAILABLE AS A RETRO FIT or can be specified with a new press. QuadTech was talking to press manufacturers about OEM deals during the recent World Publishing Expo (formerly Ifra) in Frankfurt. It has similar deals in place for other press control equipment, says Balistrieri. The unit is simple to fit, needing only an electrical connection to drive the servo motors and the inkfeed pipe. There is no need for a compressed air attachment.
Nor is there any need to make changes to the dampening systems. “We are not controlling water,” he adds. “We are controlling the way that ink is delivered to the press.”
IN THE LONGER TERM QUADTECH WILL INTEGRATE CGI’s technology with its other products to create a suite of tools to make a web offset press as close to a digitally controlled press as possible, including a feedback loop between the digital ink system and the colour quality systems. There will be opportunities beyond heatset and coldset web printing, these coming from packaging rather than sheetfed printing.
Karl Fritchen, president of QuadTech, adds: “Open fountain ink trains have been the standard method of ink delivery for decades. Now computer-controlled ink injection is providing much more precise density control at all press speeds. This technology enables printers to offer their customers greater print quality and consistency, while at the same time reducing costs.”