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Druckzentrum Neckar-Alb takes newspaper printing into the future with KODAK SONORA XTRA Process Free

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Newspaper printers are being forced to look for ways to streamline their operations and become more efficient due to generally declining circulations and sharp increases in the price of paper, energy, and other materials. Druckzentrum Neckar-Alb GmbH & Co. KG of Reutlingen in southwest Germany has experienced one result, which is the conversion of production to the KODAK SONORA XTRA Process Free Plate for Offset Printing, greatly streamlining platemaking.

Druckzentrum Neckar-Alb is a newspaper offset printing company that was founded in 2000 by six local newspaper publishers. The printing facility, which only specializes in newspapers and related products, employs about 70 people. A two-section Wifag OF470 press line with six towers, three folders, and six-reel stands is used to print the portfolio, which also includes eleven different daily titles, seven weeklies, six weekly gazettes, and numerous third-party and special products. The majority of these products can be produced on 45 g/m2 newsprint, but external and special contracts require 52 to 70 g/m2 enhanced newsprint.

Kodak's thermal CTP technology and plates were initially chosen by the printer in 2011. Two KODAK GENERATION NEWS Platesetters offset printing with high-resolution KODAK SQUARESPOT Imaging Technology have since been installed by the company. The newspaper CTP systems offset printers have so far been used to image the wet-processed KODAK THERMALNEWS PT Plate.

The road to process free technology by Kodak.

Due to the two platesetters' advancing years and the increasing frequency of unannounced service calls, the company's management addressed the issue of how to move platemaking into the future last year. "Internally, we talked about all the options. Ulrike Köhler, the managing director, says, "We even thought about giving up thermal entirely and switching to violet CTP. "But what we really wanted to do was improve the consistency, effectiveness, and streamline of our plate production. Because of this, we ultimately decided to introduce process free rather than move away from thermal plate imaging.

The results of tests with KODAK SONORA Plates offset printing, which had already been conducted approximately two years earlier on Kodak's advice, served as the inspiration for the printer's choice. We were immediately ready to go after the Kodak technician simply adjusted the laser power of one CTP system for the process free plate. On one half of the press cylinder, we printed using standard thermal plates, and on the other, we printed using SONORA Plates for offset printing. The dampening and all other press settings were kept exactly as they were, according to Köhler. "It's incredible how simple it was for us to use the SONORA Plate on our offset printing press. The SONORA delivered the same printing quality as our standard plate and showed excellent behavior on press during the trial run."

Next-generation GENERATION NEWS

The transition to process-free occurred while Druckzentrum Neckar-Alb invested in cutting-edge CTP technology. Current GENERATION NEWS Two new models of the same type were used to replace the platesetters. Each of these fully automated CTP systems offers a throughput of 300 plates per hour for the 346 x 530 mm broadsheet format that is typical in Reutlingen in the Z-speed version that was chosen. The platesetters have four plate cassettes that can hold a total of 1,600 plates each. The average weekly demand for plates is 5,000, so the CTP systems for offset printing only need to be restocked with new plates every few days.

The SONORA XTRA Process Free Plate for offset printing is imaged using the new platesetters that went into operation at the beginning of May 2022. The SONORA XTRA, according to Köhler, "provides significantly enhanced image contrast and is less scratch-prone than the SONORA generation with which we conducted our original tests." Our press operators were concerned that they wouldn't be able to read the information that is imaged in the plate bending area for positioning the plates on the press cylinders, so this represents a significant advancement. But they didn't need to worry. The registration marks on the plates are easily captured by the camera system of the punch units. Additionally, the SONORA XTRA for offset printing can run as cleanly and quickly as the same printing properties on press as the plate we were using before."

The SONORA XTRA Plate far exceeds the printing needs of Druckzentrum Neckar-Alb with a specified run length of up to 400,000 impressions in coldset web offset printing. There are some very long runs, around 100,000.

Platemaking now more efficient and more profitable

The two plate processors could be disassembled because they were no longer necessary after switching to Kodak's process free plates for offset printing. GENERATION NEWS, the new Platesetters, Nela register punching and bending systems, and a plate sorter were then rearranged in the CTP room, which is next to the press area, making a significant improvement over the previous crowded design.

Along with the plate processors, the associated chemical, electrical, and water consumption was also reduced, and there were no leftover liquids that needed to be disposed of, which had clear financial and environmental advantages. The processors also needed to be completely cleaned and emptied every four weeks, which took about three man-hours, says Köhler. "Additionally, we had to pay for the upkeep and repairs of these equipment. Now that's all in the past, we're saving between 15,000 and 20,000 euros annually in addition to some very time-consuming tasks. She believes that, if anything, the SONORA XTRA Plate for offset printing efficiency improvements in the daily production process are even more significant: "Unlike the earlier instance, our platemaking procedure is now completely unattended. The press shift supervisors simply start the plate output, and the printers then collect the imaged plates, sorted by tower, from the sorter and mount them on the cylinders."

More than satisfied with process free

Ulrike Köhler believes that newspaper offset printing's future lies in production using the SONORA XTRA Process Free Plate for offset printing. "Without having to compromise on the stability and quality of our printing process, moving to process free has provided us with the efficiency and cost advantages we were looking for. For our printers, nothing has changed at all." Her judgment: "With this plate technology, we are more than happy. And the weekend we invested in implementing the new technology in the platemaking division was a complete success. The preparations were first-rate, and Kodak, Nela, and our cooperation ran smoothly."

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