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Extensive information about large format offset in Eclipse Prague
Monday, 23 February 2004 00:00

Offset machine - Harris 77A Harris 77 large format offset printing machine has been installed In the Prague printing house of Eclipse. It is a modernised version of a machine made by an American manufacturer of the same name, working in a printing format of 2 x B0, or 137 x 197 cm to be precise.

The super-large offset machine is primarily designed to print billboards, citylight posters, furthermore, for the printing of large-format posters in general, and, last but not least, for POS products.

Following the installation, Eclipse now has at its disposal all three printing technologies used in large-format printing - offset, screen, and digital printing.

offset machineImpression

Since year 2002, Eclipse has been part of the holding company Impression, a pan-European network of large format printing houses specialised in advertising products. With more than one thousand employees and 150 million EUR of annual turnover, the group is without doubt the largest player on the ever more integrated European market. Apart from the Eclipse and Hecht brands, better known in our region, the Affiche Europeenne and Kingsway groups are parts of the holding as well.

Integration into the holding company brought some expected benefits to Eclipse: larger manufacturing capacity, exchange of technological know-how, a Europe-wide client base, financial background - all of this should impact positively on the quality of service provided to customers. Eclipse also gained access to the capacity of the offset printing house in Warsaw (Impression Poland), and in Cerknica, Slovenia (Hecht Slovenia). The Czech and Hungarian printing houses underwent an upgrade to offset technology as well. Offset represents a novel element in the manufacturing options available to Eclipse.

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Together with screen and digital printing, offset rounds up the group of three key technologies used in large format printing (mainly for the purposes of the advertising industry). The competition among these technologies is often mentioned. Contrary to these views, experience in Eclipse shows that these technologies are complementary, they all have their specific features and all are suitable for a specific type of jobs. Only a small part of jobs can be printed equally well by two different technologies. The debate about the competition of technologies is often started by those printing houses or sales intermediaries, who do not have access to all technologies. Key criteria for choosing the right technology include print run, the substrate, the usable life required, the motif, the viewing distance, delivery time, available manufacturing capacity, price calculations, etc. The choice of technologies depends on many parameters, which must be optimised by the technology chosen.

Impression group now has six large format offset machines at its disposal in Central and Eastern Europe. Two in Warsaw, two in the Slovenian town of Cerknica, and one each in Prague and Edelény, Hungary (currently under installation, launch of production is planned for June). All the machines are identical, operating in 137x197 cm format, made by the American company Harris. They represent a modernised version of these machines, originally designated for the efficient printing of books. Having been replaced by printing from roll in this function, the machines found a new application in the field of printing large format posters and billboards. They differ from classical offset printing machines in all features related to the large printing format, such as preparation of large printing plates, or the passing of the paper through the machine. Remote control of the colour box, or alcohol-based dampening is an essential, and standard feature of these machines. The machine can reach a printing speed of 4000 sheets per hour. Apart from printing speed, the time needed to prepare the printing process on each machine is a key parameter, as in the case of smaller runs, this time is comparable to the time of printing. The quite similar Michle machines represent an alternative to the Harris printers, also used by Impression in other printing houses in Brussels, Paris and London. The uniqueness of large format offset printing is also proven by the fact that the six machines mentioned above are the only ones in the Central and Eastern Europe including Austria, which can print the very frequent 175x118,5 cm city-light format.

Offset machineThe offset machines of Eclipse are used mainly to print billboards (the 504x238 Euro-format made of six sheets), and city-lights. Further products include all kinds of large format posters, and prints to be pasted on corrugated pasteboard and carton, as part of POS production.

Direct projection cameras are used in Eclipse to expose offset plates. The direct projection principle links two technological steps - the so-called "giant magnification", and the exposure of the plates. In other words, a 5 m billboard requires films as small as 50 cm, which are used for magnification and exposition directly on the printing plates. A euro-format billboard consisting of six sheets requires the exposition of 24 plates. Prior to exposition, the plates are activated by heat, reducing exposition time and increasing productivity. During printing, special UV-resistant poster inks are applied, which are also highly mechanically durable, as required by the process of mounting.

Due to the internal preparation of films in Eclipse, modern colour management and calibration techniques become available. Correction curves for various types of output from the imagesetter and chemical and digital proof are a matter of course. To set the colour box of the printing machine, information is transferred from the graphical workstation right to the computer that controls the colour boxes via the CIP3 standard, with no need to use a classical scanner for printing plates. The entire pre-press process in Eclipse is ready for the next step of modernisation - the CtP system. This step, together with installing another printing machine, is in the investment planning phase of the Prague printing house of Eclipse.