Mitsubishi 3 series

Lisa Berwin
Sunday, April 22, 2007

According to Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses UK managing director Thomas Doliwa, when the B1 Mitsubishi 3 series was first launched, comparing it to other machines at the time was like comparing "a Toyota to a Vauxhall". The most popular press manufacturer in Japan did not install its first press - the 3E sheetfed machine - in the UK until 1987.

This became the benchmark for all Mitsubishi presses that followed, setting a standard for high automation and strength of build.

A major draw for the 3E was that it was the world’s first press to have automatic plate change. “The levels of automation and the easy handling of the 3 series laid the foundation for our success here,” says Doliwa. “I would say that [Mitsubishi 3s] are almost over-engineered. They are built as solid as a tank, which makes them extremely reliable, long-term investments.”

Doliwa continues: “Colour and precision are very important to many of our customers, because we work with a lot of packaging printers. Even on the older machines, the image is very precise because the solid base of our machines keeps the dot strong – even after millions of impressions.” This occurs, according to Doliwa, because the strong frames reduce the vibrations that can diminish accuracy.

Faster press
The original 3 series was also fast – up to 13,000 sheets per hour (sph). Then, at the end of the 1990s, the 3H was launched, with an increased speed capability of 16,000sph – the fastest B1 press available at that time. The 3H also had a new feeder and delivery to handle the faster pages coming off the press.

“After speed, manufacturers tend to focus on the printing units – and that was all updated for the Diamond series,” Doliwa explains. The Diamond series was launched at Ipex 2002 and was the successor of not only the 3 series but also Mitsubishi’s 1, 4 and 5 series presses. In other words, adds Doliwa: “The Diamond series was not a quantum leap, but a natural evolution of our machines.”

There are 50 original 3 series machines still in operation in the UK. Three of these have now passed 400m impressions but are still used for many jobs, including carton printing for high-quality packaging. A new Diamond five-colour press can be bought for around £760,000, but many Mitsubishi customers have chosen, instead, to maintain and keep older machines running.
Mitsubishi refurbishes and sells on a couple of presses a year. “Demand is definitely greater than availability, as people do not replace them very often,” Doliwa says. Second-hand presses are likely to be bought by printers moving up to B1 for the first time. These machines are advertised on Mitsubishi’s website and requests can be made to be put on a waiting list for a specific model.

As good as new
A one-year warranty is given on all refurbished models, and they are tested and sold as if they were new. “The service is the same as for a printer buying a brand new model, so there is no gamble involved,” assures Doliwa. “If a printer then wants to move up, we’re happy to part exchange.” The main drawback with a used model is that makeready times are slower, but for long-run printers, that’s less of an issue.

Direct Press Marketing often sells secondhand machines from Europe and its managing director, Mark Sheldrick, confirms that Mitsubishis are robustly built and have longevity. “Sometimes machines can be refined again and again, but can’t take the punishment given to it on a daily basis by a busy printer. We hardly ever get call outs for Mitsubishi presses that we sell – they are the heaviest machines on the market and are built to last.” Roberts Graphics and Itec also stock used Mitsubishi presses.

A secondhand 3F five-colour model can be bought for around £400,000, including delivery and installation. Mitsubishi has spare parts for all machines at its Leeds warehouse, which supplies parts to the whole of Europe. It will also take on the work for customers who have not bought the press directly from them.±
SPECIFICATIONS
Speed
• up to 13,000sph
Paper size
• Min: 360x540mm
• Max: 720x1,020mm
Paper thickness
• 0.04mm to 0.6mm
Max imaging area
• 710x1,020mm
Price
• New: Diamond 3000 LS £760,000
• Used: 2000 3F-5 £400,000
What to look for
• Marking on the cylinders
• Sheet transport systems

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