The Advantages of a Shaftless Printing Press

Shaftless printing press technology really only got off the ground about 10 years ago.  Despite that, it has gained universal acceptance among printers as the standard for offset printing.  I made the transition in 2005 to a Man Roland Lithoman shaftless printing press and I certainly see the reason for its acceptance.  While I do agree that there are many advantages, I want to include some disadvantages to create a real picture from an operational standpoint.  So here they are.

Advantages of Shaftless Printing

Less Vibration
With all units connected by a single drive shaft, the conventional printing press would get less than a perfect image - that is to say, dot reproduction.  Any vibration that originated at the folder would travel all the way down the shaft of the press.  This ultimately could be seen in dot reproduction.  What this meant for us is that we couldn't necessarily trust the gain in dot size from a single sheet, but a group had to be collected to get an accurate reading.  Not any more.  One sheet taken and measured is a pretty reliable standard for what is happening in any one particular printing unit.  

Remote Diagnostics
Whenever we have a problem with the shaftless motors (and we do have them occasionally), we must have the press manufacturer connect to the press by internet to see what is going on.  This is new.  Now you have have a professional, the original manufacturer on the other side of the planet, diagnose your problem for you.  I love it!

It's Safer For The Press
On our press, even the chopper blade is on its own servo drive.  As soon as there is any kind of mechanical overload, it shuts down the press and the drive releases.  Pretty important stuff when you are dealing with a high speed chopper table running at 65,000 per hour.  

More Control
Needless to say, there is far more control over the timing of moving parts.  Register, driven rollers, chopper blades, and many other driven parts can be controlled with precise timing.  This gives the pressman a great amount of control.

Shorter Makeready
When each component of the press can be disengaged and worked on at the same time, possibilities making a makeready more efficient increase dramatically.  Each printing unit of the press can have plates mounted at the same time.  While someone is loading plates, another can do something in the folder, etc.

Disadvantages of the Shaftless Printing Press

More Technical
I don't know much about troubleshooting an encoder or an electric motor, but it happens from time to time that the motors will not time properly.  To be honest, it's usually after a brown-out or power failure.  But this is reality.  Sometimes it requires technical help beyond what the average pressman can give.

Expensive Parts
A shaft that drives an entire pressline may last the life of the press.  The servo motors do not last forever and they are not cheap.  Neither are the encoders.  Expect to pay more for when these items need repair.

In conclusion though, I say that our company is far more productive with this technology.  If you would like to see a few presses that use this technology and are among the fastest, click here.

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