In St. Gallen, Switzerland, the Gallus Group has been manufacturing presses for more than 75 years. In that long period of time the company has seen the growth of flexography and rotary screen printing, along with the gradual decline of letterpress, which for years provided the bulk of the company’s manufacturing base.
Gallus is no stranger to offset printing, having offered the technology in its TCS 250 press for the past 14 years. Now, however, offset lithography is available in the Gallus RCS 330, the top of the line machine. Managers of the company, which is partly owned by Heidelberg, decided that the time had come to educate members of the converting community about offset and its benefits to the narrow web packaging printer.
For a week in October, Gallus executives educated and entertained converters and journalists, giving them insights into a technology that is not widespread in the narrow web world.
“Offset is the worldwide standard,” said Paul Mattle, marketing manager. “It prints the finest vignettes from 1 percent to 99 percent, excels at printing on structural surfaces, has beneficent plate costs, and is best suited for prime labels.”
The RCS 330 servo driven press has been available for flexo printers for several years. Offset capability, designed in concert with Heidelberg, was introduced last year at Labelexpo Europe. Marketing and sales of the offset version have been concentrated in Europe, says Gallus Group CEO Klaus Bachstein, so that the company can get ready access to the machines in converting plants to work out any bugs that might arise.
“The RCS 330 now offers flexo, screen, wet offset, UV gravure, hot foil stamping, cold foil application, and lamination (wet glue or pressure sensitive)” says Mattle. “All of these are interchangeable throughout the press.”
Among the speakers at the Gallus event was Karl-Friedrich Michel, a production director for Pago, one of Europe’s largest converting companies with operations in six countries, and employing nearly 500 people. Pago has installed an RCS 330 with offset capability at one of its plants in Germany, and Michel says it has made a positive impact on production and quality.
“With that press we have faster changeovers of cylinders, inks and even print stations,” he said. “We have less waste, run speeds the same or faster than our other presses, and less downtime for repair or maintenance.” Michel recommended that the converter wishing to install such a press should satisfy several requirements, among them the availability of the right resources; training and qualifying of printers; space around the press; prepress capacity; the proper number of units for offset and cylinder sets for flexo stations; and a helping hand for the printer.
With that new press in operation, Michel added, Pago has seen setup and wash-up times go down by 30 percent, run times decline by 40 percent, and material waste drop by 40 percent. “This is for a five-color offset job, plus varnish,” he said.
For the equipment demonstrations, Gallus invited several supplier partners to exhibit their products, among them Lüscher, which manufactures prepress and platemaking equipment for both flexo and offset printing.
So why offset now, at this stage in the development of narrow web printing? “We will bring to the label printer whatever processes are necessary for success and security,” said Bachstein. “We have brought servo technology, digitalized data, and now rotary screen to a new level in the narrow web industry. We are not saying offset is here and flexo is gone — no. Rather, offset is now at a stage