MAN Roland Ultima 700

Karen Charlesworth
Sunday, April 22, 2007

Luxury packaging is a buoyant market. Largely untouched by the ravages of commoditisation that have such a stranglehold in the commercial sector, packaging printers have protected their margins effectively against falling run lengths and shorter turnaround times by adding more and more value to the average carton or pack. And now MAN Roland is giving the packaging printer even more firepower with the Roland Ultima 700, a new press aimed at completing all the various coating, printing and foiling jobs on a standard carton in a single, and therefore even more profitable, pass.

MAN has offered “special” configuration presses with unusual combinations of coaters and print units for a good few years, but at Drupa 2000 these were formalised under the Ultima banner. And at Ipex in April, the Ultima concept was further extended with the possibility of adding inline foiling. One-pass production, the current buzzword for many commercial and packaging printers, is the predominant theme of the Ultima. “If you can slap as many processes as possible onto the sheet as it goes through the press, you’re instantly more profitable than if you leave pallets of half-finished work lying around, or if you’ve got to put extra handling into a stack just to get it through the next process,” says Gary Doman, director of sheetfed sales at MAN Roland GB.

One-pass production
Due to its flexibility, even fully trained MAN sales staff have some difficulty in identifying what, exactly, an Ultima press actually is. Doman gives as good an answer as any when he calls it “a press with more than one coater, one of which is somewhere at the beginning or in the middle of the press”. The Ultima can be elegantly minimal (Southernprint in Poole has one with an infeed, coater and a delivery) or it can be a behemoth, like the Ultima installed at German packaging printer Leunisman, which scopes in coating, printing, perfecting, coating, printing and a final coater.

The Ultima is basically a Roland 700 – MAN’s tried and tested B1 chassis, originally launched in 1990 with a seven o’clock cylinder configuration and double-size impression and transferter cylinders. The 2006 edition of the 700 now has direct drive and the option for fully automatic plate changing, together with a top speed of 16,000 sheets per hour (sph). But, it’s unlikely, says Doman, that a customer would achieve that speed with an Ultima version of the machine: “It’s doing too many complicated things for that – you’d more look to run it at around 10,000-12,000sph,” he says.

The MAN coaters are standard anilox flexo-style doctor-bladed units, with the added advantage of being upside down – the negative chamber blade sits at the bottom of the unit, which allows gravity to feed the duct’s contents and gives the blade a full dose of varnish or coating.

Rapid changeover
With the Ultima, MAN also offers as standard a QuickChange coating mechanism. The QuickChange basically “does what it says on the tin”, says Doman. It allows users to swap one grade of coating or varnish for another in under 10 minutes (depending on the number of coaters). A dual set of chamber blades is provided, and a set of short pipes connecting the coater to hose pumps is unclipped and a new set, attached to the second chamber, is attached. The QuickChange system couples with a similar QuickChange wash system that flushes the entire coating unit automatically at the end of a shift (or other, user-specifiable interval).

One of the main strengths of the Ultima is the drying units that follow each coater. These can be UV, IR or hot air. Lamps are made by fellow German manufacturer Eltosch (although customers can specify any lamphead they wish) and housed in a MAN-designed Seccomatic unit that can be automatically adjusted for optimum distance from the sheet as it passes underneath.

MAN’s InlineFoiler can also be added into the basic Ultima coating/printing agglomeration, giving even more scope for added-value sheets. The InlineFoiler occupies two print units, with the first putting down the printable adhesive required for the cold foil to bond to the sheet and the second unit laying down the foil directly onto the glued sheet via the blanket cylinder. While the natural position for the InlineFoiler might be considered at the end of the print units, Doman says it might also sit at the beginning, before the inks are laid down. “If the foiler sat on the first two print units, you could then print over it to create coloured metallics,” he points out.

Makeready on the Ultima is slightly different than on the standard 700 model, due to the extra coaters: this also precludes the addition of the fully automatic plate changing that the 700 now boasts. But as Doman points out, the kind of added-value work that the Ultima produces can easily accommodate a few extra minutes’ makeready. “In this end of the luxury packaging market, it’s not the every-minute-counts scenario of the commercial sheetfed area,” he says.

MAN also recommends that users add in two final ancillaries: the InlineInspector system and the InlineSorter at the end of the press. The devices work together to apply a set of user-definable criteria to “each and every sheet coming into the delivery” says Doman, and will reject any that don’t meet register, colour, squareness or other quality criteria.

Quality control
MAN’s main customer base for the Ultima is packaging-focused. Specialist greetings cards printers, label printers, cartons and general packaging printers are the targets. “I can’t see these machines going anywhere near the commercial sector,” Doman says, “they’re too expensive and too specific unless there’s a particular application. But in packaging, they’re going down a storm.”

Doman’s words reflect the received wisdom about the commercial sector. But it’s interesting that over in the US, the world’s biggest Heidelberg user, Williamson Printing, has one of Heidelberg’s equivalent presses installed to handle commercial work: perhaps there is yet a future in added-value coating in the commercial sector? “Demand for customised printing is growing all the time,” says Steve Cavey, head of large-format sheetfed at Heidelberg UK. “We expect that printers from both packaging and commercial sectors in the UK will be interested in our machine.”

Max speed 10,000sph
Max sheet size 740x1,040mm
Min sheet size 340x480mm
Max stock thickness 1mm board
Price Six-unit Ultima with three coating units and driers: from £2m
Contact MAN Roland GB 020 8648 7090

Heidelberg Speedmaster SM 102
There is a Speedmaster SM 102 installed at Texan commercial printer Williamson – a 10-unit press with three of Heidelberg’s modular coating devices that turn print units into full-scale anilox coaters, allowing the ultimate flexibility in siting a coater anywhere on the press chassis.
Max speed 13,000sph (straight printing)
Max sheet size 1,020x720mm
Min sheet size 420x400mm
Max stock thickness 350gsm
Price From £2m
Contact Heidelberg UK 020 8490 3500

KBA Rapida 105
There are no KBA Rapida 105s with more than one coater in the UK, although KBA says it’s “more than capable” of configuring a press to suit packaging applications with multiple coaters. However, no foiling unit is available.
Max speed 15,000sph (straight printing)
Max sheet size 1,050x740mm
Min sheet size 500x350mm
Max stock thickness 1.2mm
Price From £2m
Contact KBA UK 01923 819922

Komori Lithrone S40
Komori installed a double-coater with the 440SP dedicated perfector that went into’s Manchester production hub last year, but as yet there are no machines installed with multiple coaters anywhere other than at the end of the press. No inline foiling system available.
Max speed 16,000sph (straight printing)
Max sheet size 1,030x720mm
Min sheet size 360x520mm
Max stock thickness 1mm
Price not supplied
Contact Komori UK 0113 279 9900

Mitsubishi Diamond 3000 LX-C-CE-C-LD
It is mechanically possible to add multiple coaters anywhere along the length of a B1 Diamond press although there isn’t an installed unit in Europe with more than one coater. Mitsubishi can also fit a third-party cold foiling device, although it doesn’t have its own branded unit.
Max speed 16,000sph (straight printing)
Max sheet size 1,040x740mm
Min sheet size 540x360mm
Max stock thickness 1mm
Price From £2m
Contact MLP UK 0113 240 7584


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