Why Germans Build The Best Presses

Let me start by a qualifying statement.  I am not German, I simply state a fact.  I have worked on the following equipment: Goss, Mitsubishi, Heidelberg, Man Roland, Harris, Miller, and News King.  Some of those presses I am more proud to have worked on than others simply because of the quality of how they were made.  So there is something that must define why Germany continues to dominate the printing industry since the days of Gutenberg.  Here are some reasons to consider.

1.  History.  Gutenberg was of course German.  Somehow it is still in the roots of the German psyche to print.  Starting from Gutenbergs press in Mainze, Germany, printing spread throughout Europe and to the rest of the world.  Notably, it was not inventors from other countries that came up with similar inventions (though this can be debated), but rather Germans travelled to other countries and introduced the idea.  German innovation spreads in the same way today.

2.  Innovation.  Take a look at many of the modern patents related to offset printing presses.  A good many of them are held by either Man Roland or Heidelberg.  Innovation spiked of course with Gutenberg, but has not let up since then.  I think two of the most innovative components of offset presses in the last 20 years have been shaftless presses and gapless printing.  I personally do not credit Goss with gapless innovation as it was in my opinion handed to them by Heidelberg.  An example that shows that Germany seems to maintain its dominant market share by means of innovation.

3.  Market share.  Between these three press manufacturers KBA, Man Roland, and Heidelberg, the world market is cornered.  Heidelberg alone controls 47% of the world market and is the largest manufacturer of presses worldwide.  Lets be honest, 47% of all printers in the world can't be wrong, right?

4.  Service.  I have helped install three presses purchased new from Heidelberg and Man Roland.  In all instances, the service was second to none.  USA Press manufacturer Goss has made many improvements to it's service.  I only remember dealing with Goss more than 10 years ago and in my opinion, the service was mediocre.  German manufacturers however have proved dominant in this area and kept offset printing press buyers coming back for more.

Japan (Komori) and Switzerland (Wifag) have produced some good presses, but Germany seems to maintain that dominant edge for offset printers.  Though a little more expensive, some of this equipment can be picked up used for a decent price.  Agree?  Disagree?  Leave a comment speak your mind.


  1. Erik Nikkanen8:24 AM

    There is no doubt that the culture of high craftsmanship in machine design and manufacture that Germany and also Switzerland have, has contributed to the justified opinion of their quality.

    On the other hand, I would argue that the level of science in the press manufacturing industry has not been of a high level when compared to other high tech industries.

    In Jan 2008, the Wall Street Journal presented some rankings related to printing.
    Quad had only 5 patents but scored high in science strength, industry impact and very high in research intensity.

    On the other hand, Heidelberg and manroland had 45 and 25 patents respectively but both scored very low in science strength, industry impact and in research intensity.

    The world outside the printing industry views things differently from those in the industry. More patents does not mean better science.

    I have looked at a lot of print industry patents over the years and I have always thought that they were not very innovative. Many patents describing almost the very same thing but without very much imagination.

    Sure machines can be built well but it is also important to look past that quality and look at the function. The functions that a machine incorporates is very much related to the level of science. It is very difficult for people to evaluate this unless they already understand what is wrong.

  2. Anonymous2:42 PM

    I would like to disagree with you on the gap-less technology comment you mentioned, that technology was being developed by Harris Web Corp prior to Heidelberg purchasing Harris so actual that was American based technology up to that point Heidelberg really didn't have much business in the web offset market. Also Goss still has the majority of the Newspaper market even with the on-slot of foreign press makers dumping their equipment at an unfair selling price.

    Don't take me wrongly the German's make solid presses but I have ran many types of presses also and have found they all have pros and cons to single out one as the best is short sited

  3. Interesting point. Well, Heidelberg bought Harris in July of 1988 and Heidelberg Harris was born. The patent for tubular blankets came 10 years later Patent for Gapless Maybe some at Harris were "thinking" about it, but nothing came of it until Heidelberg took over.

  4. Anonymous4:30 PM

    That was not fair you are right Heidelberg sheet feed presses are still as good as you can get. Manroland has over complicated things but still thier machine work is top of the line. I feel the germans could learn alot from the japs there electronics are far superior. I am a big fan of mitsi but have never ran a v press.

  5. I am half german, and clean a 3 storey MAN 8 tower, and a 16 tower GOSS. From a cleanliness point of view the GOSS is far superior. The MAN has so many traps, from the step down tower caves, the punched holes in the cabinet doors, the 'turrets' at the rear of the first floor and their associated 'ponds' of overspray, the herringbone floor plate, the open sttairway treads, the air scoops blowing straight onto the windows, the folder pits - so much unecessary thoughtlessness into how the hell to clean it all... The GOSS on the other hand takes far fewer man hours - and stays alot cleaner despite it's opened tower set up.

  6. Anonymous12:11 AM

    Installed Goss HT60/70 during 90's.
    Installed and on the road for Man Roland through the noughties and can honestly say the Man Roland electronics are poorer quality and more prone to error and failure than the Harland Simon controls on the Goss.

  7. Anonymous11:24 AM

    G14's & G16's get my vote you need to remember a German is never wrong if it doesn't work it is your fault not the equipment - Only reason these great machines were lost to the world was stupid management at Rockwell

  8. Anonymous7:47 AM

    I've run a Man Roland, Harris, a few Goss's, Hantshos, Sandens, and a Mitsubishi to a lesser extent in newspaper, heatset and UV forms. The Man Roland would easily get my vote. The common issues that most presses suffer seem to be nearly eliminated by the engineering that went into modern MRs. Mechanical ghosting, roller bounces, gap marks are all things that I have never had to fight on a MAN. Even the Goss sunday with the gapless blankets and 3 oscillating ink forms had all of these issues.

    IMO gapless did nothing for the industry, at least in Goss's case. Goss's servo drives sometimes fail to realign on startup, something I've never seen on a shaftless MAN. The ink fountains on a Rotoman are far better than anything I've ever seen. As far as the electronics go, everything I've seen on that press was Seimens, It's hard to question Seimens quality.

  9. Well, as far as sheet-fed machines are concerned, Heidelberg only can acquire a fabulous percentage of marks, but as an old experienced guy in printing industry, Adast dominant and Fuji Sinoharas are much more operator friendly than that of a Heidelberg. Also, I think, all will agree with mw that in baby or mini offset segment Heidelberg's machines are nonetheless better ones comparing to that of Ryobi's or Toko's or Hamada's. Similarly in Web segment Heidelberg is in a rear position. But I personally a fan of Heidelberg's Printmaster, Quickmaster, Sord, GTO and all other models. I have a Heidelberg KORA of 60s, which still working excellently. MAN Roland and KBA are though not spread so widely, yet these machines are as good as Heidelberg. But we should not under estimate some machines like Komori, Mitsubisi, Color metal, Hasimoto, Sinohara, Adast Etc. which are even more easy to operate and quality oriented.

    1. Anonymous7:28 AM

      Years ago I was a Komori fan. I had spent 15+ years on Lithrones and LS"s and truly liked them ( LS not so much). Then it happened, I found myself running an XL105. I had been completely oblivious for the better part of 20 years. In total I spent 5 years on the XL and loved every minute of it. fast forward to now, I find myself running a brand new GL Huv. Same tired, old designs ( slow down wheels, archaic roller adjustments etc..) Also built like a Russian economy car. after less than 10 million impressions it looks like our company is goimg to get rid of it and purchase what we should in the first place, a BERG...

  10. Anonymous5:44 AM

    i am installing a 1995 cromoset heatset..
    its a coldset with a heater.. its semi commercial.
    My question is: will i be dissapointed from the quality outcome, compared to heatset machines?

  11. Anonymous9:22 AM

    Worked on Komori, Mitsubishi, Heilderberg, KBA, MAN ROLAND, SANDEN, and HARRIS and only the KBA and Man Roland required motor replacement and their electronics are prone to malfunctions, Komori and Mitsubishi are the real work horses.

  12. Anonymous9:21 AM

    yes, you have all made reason, I have work in the maintenance of the presses offset, intaglio and numerota of KBA, for the impression of banknotes, the rmange are the first from the technical point of my view, robustness and reliability of equipment