Mega press review

Me & My: Koenig & Bauer Rapida 145

Vince Breary: Detailed planning ahead of installation also ensured business as usual for customers during the mammoth project

Back in March Offset Print & Packaging started the complex installation of the latest, whizziest iteration of Koenig & Bauer’s large-format Rapida offset press, the 145. This is the first one in the UK.

It’s a super-sophisticated, multimillion-pound B0-plus format press, 38m long, weighing 167 tonnes and stuffed full of automation and energy-saving devices. It has seven colour units and two coaters, each of which can run both UV and conventional inks. It takes sheets up to 1,060x1,450mm and thicknesses up to 1.2mm thick. 

The Offset group is a long-standing Koenig & Bauer customer and this one replaces a Rapida 142. It has been chosen to lead a drive into special colour and special effects work for packaging clients. 

Edward Bone, managing director of sales, says that the company’s high-profile customers are “always looking for packaging finishes to make their product stand out. The Rapida 145 will vastly increase their options in terms of cost-effective production of highly decorative packaging, and on a large-format scale”.

When Koenig & Bauer launched the new generation Rapida 145 and the even larger 164 (1,205x1,640mm), it claimed they represent new benchmarks in their sector, though to be fair this claim isn’t uncommon. Key points are production speeds up to 18,000 sheets per hour, fast makeready and “the ultimate in automation and precise inline quality control systems”, the company claims. 

Impressive, but not all that unusual. Where the specs start to get interesting are in the relative compactness given the format and the touchscreens and apps used to control and monitor pretty well everything including job changeovers, production and quality control processes. Live production data together with additional details such as CO2 emissions are displayed in real time. 

Other features include fully automatic plate changing, AniSleeve technology on the coaters for fast anilox roller changeovers, energy- saving VariDry Blue drying technology, ErgoTronic and QualiTronic closed-loop colour control, pile logistics at the feeder, and an extended delivery. 

Large format history 

The company was originally set up as Offset Productions and Technical Services, launched by the current chairman Hugh Jarvis. Initially it operated from an old waterworks at East Farleigh, Maidstone. Expansion allowed a move in 1991 to a far larger, modern freehold premises in Aylesford, Kent and the name was changed to Offset Productions Ltd. 

In 2016 Vince Brearey and Edward Bone bought into the business and created Offset Print & Packaging Ltd, with Brearey as managing director of operations and Bone as managing director of sales. 

Why buy another Rapida?

Changing markets and market opportunities, basically. Bone says: “This investment has taken quality, colour management, make- readies and waste minimisation to the next level, even over our previous acquisition of the Koenig & Bauer 106 press – now five years old. Our customers have also pushed for higher-quality work, with more colours and finishes to ensure their work stands out and is differentiated by the consumer. The decision to move to seven colours with double-coat and two drying units was a direct response to customer demand.”

“Deciding on when to replace a machine is difficult, especially when one is still performing well,” Bone says. “The 142 is still an excellent machine, but the 145 takes print production to the next level. Technology has progressed significantly over the past 10-15 years and advances the new machine delivers cannot be ignored. The culture at Offset is always to maintain our position as a cutting-edge manufacturer and this investment is a part of that.”

Why seven colours?

Bone says: “The configuration and features available on the 145 enable us to produce seven colours and special-effect varnishes all in one pass. This results in a high-quality job, with little waste and at high-speed.

“Although the press is configured for extended-gamut work, there has been little demand for this. Most customers’ requirements are from additional spot colours and varnishes/varnish effects.”

Instead, he says: “Customer demand for ‘something different’ has resulted in how we have specified the press. We have enough work to justify investing in the additional features of the press.”

How does it save energy?

Koenig & Bauer uses a drying system it calls VariDryBlue that recirculates heated air for a claimed energy saving of about 30%. 

How is it working out in practice? “We have noticed a significant improvement in energy savings for the 145,” Bone says. “We have ambitious environmental aspirations for reducing waste and energy consumption and improving production efficiencies and this is part of being able to offer to customers the best manufacturing option available at this time. Despite what we are told, we believe UV-LED drying technology is still to be proven, and associated ink and varnish technology has still to catch up. When this does happen, we will be able to retrospectively fit LED to the press.”

How did the installation go?

It took a lot of preparation to fit in the huge press. “There was a significant amount of planning, building and infrastructure work required to accommodate the new press, and ensure it was located and positioned in such a way it operates most efficiently through the factory,” says Bone. “The press may be small in comparison to its competitors, but it is significantly larger than the 142.” 

Three years in the planning, this involved removal of a 40m-long mezzanine floor above, moving three die-cutting machines elsewhere within the factory, then reinstating the floor over a 5.5m deep hole with rebar steel/ concrete to support the new press. 

The press delivery was undertaken over a two-week period, requiring 16 Koenig & Bauer trucks. “After a great deal of planning by Offset and Koenig & Bauer, the installation process went smoothly, taking eight weeks from start to finish,” says Bone. “We had teething issues, which has been true of all installations, but the installation process could not be faulted.”

The company’s existing finishing systems are suited to the new press. “Large-format is one of Offset’s key strengths in the UK packaging market,” says Bone. “We were already invested in a 142 press and associated die- cutting and gluing. As a part of our investment plan for plant across the business we had already installed a Koenig & Bauer Iberica 145K die-cutter, including blank separation. Our folder-gluer capability was already well served for the slightly larger-format work, as part of our ongoing investment plan.”

However, the extra 30mm width from 142cm up to 145cm meant that a new platesetter was needed. This is a Screen Ultima, supplied by Offset P&P’s plate partner Fujifilm. 

Some operator training was also needed to convert to the new systems, Bone says. “Although our operators are long-term users of Koenig & Bauer equipment, because of the advancement in press technology, even over our Rapida 106, we sent eight minders to Radebeul over a two-week period to undertake refresher training, instruction and best-working practices on the advancements.”

How has it been in practice?

Bone is enthusiastic. “Not often does the reality match the sales pitch. On this occasion, however, the whole experience of the sale, training, installation, performance and promised efficiencies of the press have exceeded our expectations.” 

Any problems? “As with any machine installation there have been niggles and teething problems, but these have been minor,” says Bone. “As usual, these have been addressed positively and in a timely manner by Koenig & Bauer, so an issue doesn’t turn into a problem.” 

How would he sum up the pros and cons? “The benefits are definitely improved efficiencies, improved environmental impact through less waste and energy consumption, and an enhanced offering to existing customers and opportunities to pitch to new ones. 

“The biggest minus – a large hole in our bank account! Not only to purchase the machine but also expensive and considerable infrastructure changes at our current site in Aylesford to accommodate such a beast!”


Max sheet size 1,060x1,450mm

Max substrate thickness 1.2mm

Max speed 18,000sph with high-speed package

Configurations Max 10 printing units, or up to 8 printing units with single or double coaters

Price “Certainly the biggest investment in the history of Offset. Not just purchase price but ancillary infrastructure of heating and lighting, moving other machines, etc”

Contact Koenig & Bauer 01923 819922


Offset group employs more than 100 people, including six apprentices, and supports local community programmes for student work placements.

Turnover was over £25.8m for the year ending 30 April, with significant growth anticipated in the current financial year. 

It serves a broad array of sectors including home entertainment, IT, high-volume and speciality food, confectionery, snacks and beverages, gifting, advent calendars, homewares, beauty and DIY. 

Presses are mainly Koenig & Bauer, with the new Rapida 145 joining a 142 and 106 model; Iberica 145 die-cutter with blank-separating, two Bobst SPanthera die-cutters; Heidelberg Diana 115, Bobst Starfold 145 and K&B Omega 145 multi-point folder-gluers; Esatec pick-and-place window patchers; and a Heiber+Schroder window patcher.

Why it was bought...

“We see increasing demand for additional colours and special print/varnish effects,” says Bone. “It also enables us to build on our unique proposition of size and specification to benefit from higher levels of added-value work to customers.”

How it has performed...

Bone says: “Not often does the reality match the sales pitch!”