Decisions to invest in new printing equipment are influenced by many factors, not least the job spectrum to be handled, the required level of automation and other in-house circumstances. That is also perfectly justified, as the purchase of a new sheetfed offset press must not only make sense economically – it must contribute equally to an optimisation of production and quality.

But there is one further objective which is no less worthy of consideration in the forefront of an investment decision: Increased operational safety. This aspect is in fact decisive for a company’s overall productivity. Sustained employee motivation depends on a healthy working environment. The elimination of potentially hazardous activities, such as work in unnatural postures, heavy lifting, repugnant odours or stressful operating procedures, can noticeably reduce or even avoid the occurrence of chronic illnesses and work accidents. At the end of the day, every employer should feel obliged to consider investments in the latest available technologies, in order to minimise the risk potential at every single workplace.

Avoiding dust and odours

Equipment features to enable IPA reduction are an effective means to combat undesirable odours. That includes, for example, roller coatings for low-alcohol printing or production using an alcohol substitute (in both cases for conventional, UV and hybrid inks). EES (Emission Extraction System) serves a similar purpose in UV printing and finishing applications. It prevents unpleasant odours occurring around the delivery, and thus at the press operator’s main workplace, and at the same time extracts dust. In some special cases (e.g. UV printing) extraction in and around the inking units can also be expedient to minimise ink misting.

Making processes simpler and safer

Modern technologies often achieve great impact. One example of this is the DriveTronic SIS sidelay-free infeed on Rapida sheetfed offset presses: It dispenses with setting and maintenance tasks and relieves the operator of manual interventions in harmful postures. Injuries are excluded. The high level of automation, furthermore, eliminates sources of error.

A further example is the provision for essentially automated blanket changes: It takes around 65 to 70 pulls on a torque wrench to open the blanket clamps fully. And then the same again for closing. The task takes approx. 8 minutes. It is furthermore physically tiring and highly stressful for the operator’s joints. With this in mind, KBA-Sheetfed offers appropriately suitable cordless screwdrivers, which make the work much easier and reduce the time needed by a third.

A plate lift also saves the operator a lot of physically demanding work, especially in connection with long or raised presses. Large-format plates, in particular, can be rather difficult to handle and entail a risk of injury if not transported correctly. With a plate lift, it is a much simpler matter to lift the plates up to the gallery level. The press operator or assistant then only needs to insert them into the corresponding plate changer magazine.

The non-stop rollers at the delivery similarly enhance safety. Modern deliveries are already designed such that the press is automatically stopped if the operator or any foreign object violates the defined boundaries of the delivery. This safeguard is taken one step further on a Rapida press, where the non-stop rollers are activated as soon as the pile plate is lowered while the press is running. The operator is thus safely protected from the still passing gripper carriages. Once the press has come to a standstill, the rollers can be retracted at the press of a button.

Greater comfort with AniSleeve, AniloxLoader and SFC

KBA’s coating units are further examples of how previously manual processes can be automated and made safer. For example: Anilox roller exchange. AniloxLoader is the corresponding option for the medium-format Rapida 106. Up to three anilox rollers can be stored in the coater magazine. Anilox roller changing takes place automatically and parallel to other makeready processes. That saves time and relieves the operator of a great deal of heavy lifting.

The situation is similar in large format: With the AniSleeve system, the changing of anilox roller sleeves is child’s play and can be handled by a single person, despite the dimensions. Once the bearings are released at the sides, the sleeves can be pulled out and placed in a sleeve depot using a simple lifting system. A new sleeve with a different cell volume can then be pushed back into the coater – again with a minimum of effort. Large packaging printers use this automation option almost without exception.

On Rapida presses, coating forme changes are accomplished in a matter of seconds with SFC (Simultaneous Forme Change), doing away with time-consuming clamping, bolting and tensioning. That lightens the operator’s workload and enhances process security. Furthermore, coating forme changes can take place parallel to other makeready processes at the printing units.

When it comes to health and work safety in the printshop, there are possibilities to implement much more than is prescribed in the official regulations. It is up to the individual company to decide whether to make use of the available potential, in order to guarantee employees a safe and ergonomic workplace.