Gulf News goes water-free into new markets

Gulf News
By investing in a waterless KBA Cortina 4/1 press with Toray plates , the printing unit at the UAE’s leading broadsheet has raised quality and opened new markets in commercial print.


With its recent shift to a new site in Dubai Investment Park (DIP), the printing unit of the UAE’s leading newspaper faced a pivotal investment decision. In the 10 years since its previous presses had been purchased, both the country and the paper had transformed beyond recognition. What technologies could best match expanding print runs – and keep pace with further development – while meeting rising demand in quality and environmental responsibility? By picking a combination of Toray waterless plates with a KBA Cortina 4/1 waterless web offset press, Gulf News has not only met its commercial objectives but maintained its reputation for quality, says production manager Michael Condon. ‘Gulf News has the best quality and to be able to keep and maintain the quality we chose the KBA Cortina,’ he said. While its location in the arid Gulf region adds to the newspaper’s motives for picking waterless print technology, the broadsheet’s technological shift is in line with a choice already made by about 20 leading newspapers around the world. For papers such as France’s Le Figaro, a winning combination of KBA Cortina with Toray waterless plates has already proven its ability to raise print quality, reduce waste, improve handling and cut the environmental footprint. What’s more, the technology enables newspaper printers to use downtime between delivering each day’s issue to expand into new markets. Designed to deliver cost efficiency and meet environmental goals, the Cortina press can handle a broad range of formats and stock weights. Meanwhile, practical automation such as PlateTronic plate changers have proven performance over thousands of runs of newspaper and semi-commercial production.


A swift upgrade

For Condon, the tremendous gains at Gulf News have been achieved without an equivalent disruption in the print unit’s operation. ‘In some ways it was a huge challenge and in some ways it wasn’t,’ he said. ‘The big difference the printers had to adjust to was understanding the new ink metering and temperature control systems.’ The temperature-controlled Cortina inking unit brings you into colour quickly and without stress, and then maintains a stable print result over the whole length of the run, he said. The unit is designed to provide dot-sharp brilliant images in 70lpc (175lpi) and FM screens. With a heatset capability, the KBA Cortina can print coldest newspapers and heatset semi-commercials using the same ink, eliminating the time-consuming ink changes necessary in conventional offset. For the Gulf News printing team, the switch into waterless technology also brought an almost instant benefit in smoother operations, despite the need to master unfamiliar procedures. ‘Once the printers realised the approach, they kept telling me how relaxed they are when running this press – and it is true,’ said Condon. ‘When they start off the press, they are quite busy checking the cut-offs, the registration, looking at the ink density. But the sort of mayhem that usually happens when a press starts up quickly subsides with the KBA Cortina. The printers can very quickly set their ink because they are doing it right across the whole page in one step.’ Condon sees the new press’s automatic plate loading system as ‘a huge boon’, enabling plates to be changed with an additional lining in six minutes. ‘The other benefit is the quick start-ups,’ he said. ‘Once we run and save a product, the KBA memory remembers the settings of all the cut-offs and registrations – it’s faster when we run the same product again.’


Higher quality at lower cost

In marrying waterless offset with newspaper production, the Cortina has boosted quality levels, enabling the press’s users to regularly win top rankings in IFRA’s Colour Quality Club. Waste can be cut to about 60 copies during start-up or edition changes in full-colour production with the NEWSFLOW keyless inking system, according to KBA. Slashing waste then brings large gains in the bottom line by cutting the use of paper, which can total 80% of material consumption. The combination of a KBA Cortina with Toray waterless plates is also a mature technology that can deliver high quality results through inherent advantages in how ink is transferred to the page. Waterless offset with the Cortina ends the challenges of achieving and maintaining the correct ink/water balance and web tension. The switch also removes fan-out and the associated misregistration in full colour printing, while preventing ink misting and the need for continual corrections. For Gulf News, enhanced quality through Toray plates and the Cortina press is clear from advertisers’ feedback, said Condon. ‘For me, I judge this from the number of complaints I get about the printing,’ he said. ‘In Dubai, the print buyers are very critical and they know and can spot minute details.’ ‘The quality of the KBA Cortina for commercial work, especially with the 60gsm paper, is much better, mainly because of the heatset and the minimal dot gain giving a much crisper, sharper image. The products do look a lot better,’ he said.

Waterless plate gains

KBA attributes much of the established success of the Cortina waterless setup to ‘a broad alliance of leading consumable suppliers involved in its development’. The collaboration between experts across various areas of technology can be seen in the inking units, their printability on standard types of newsprint, their density at different press speeds and their de-inkability. The new approach also offers an absence of linting during ink application and less print-through of saturated solids than in wet offset. Toray has also worked assiduously to perfect its technology’s application with the Cortina press, to which Condon attributes much of the Gulf News’ success with its technology shift. ‘We have a lot fewer problems with it than we do with a conventional plate,’ he said. ‘It’s a good plate to put through the platesetter’ In its dealing with Gulf News, Toray has also demonstrated great professionalism and commitment, he added. ‘They have been very proactive. They’ve helped us with every issue we’ve had – they’re very contactable.’ Another advantage for the broadsheet in working with Toray is the plate making specialist’s constant effort to perfect its products through interacting with users at existing installations, he said. ‘They’ve worked quite closely with the KBA Cortina users group and know a lot more about the press’ overall performance,’ said Condon ‘This has made our job a lot easier. And Toray has come up with a new plate called the MX-10, which is another improvement.’


MX-10 cuts plate changes

For Gulf News, the new Toray TAC MX-10 plate also brought clear, quantifiable benefits, he added. ‘With the MX7 plate, the newspaper had experienced image/silicon wear with abrasive substrates – but now, with the MX10, even with abrasive substrates it gives us longer run length and does not have image/silicon wear,’ he said. ‘It has reduced the extra plate changing or plate making by at least 70–80%. That is a big bonus for us. Especially in the night shifts when we print the main newspaper sections, which have a time constraint, we don’t have to stop the press and change plates due to plate wear when we only have 20,000 to 30,0000 impressions left to finish the job.’ As well as completely ending the need to change plates due to wear, the Toray TAC MX-10 plate delivers a better overall performance, he said. ‘In short, we save time and money and we have less plate waste. With regards to plate life, run length and durability, the plate is definitely much better than the previous version.’ With the planned opening of the new Toray factory in the Czech Republic in early 2014, Gulf News also feels comfortable with entrusting its production to Toray waterless plates, he said. ‘It could be a concern for the management and me to have only one factory producing these plates in Japan.’ he said. ‘But now, having the second factory at the other side of the world, Toray has two factories that can cater to our needs. For us, being located about in the middle between Japan and Czech Republic, it is going to be a big bonus – like having two suppliers, which makes us feel secure.’

Making the switch

For KBA, a waterless setup such as its Cortina press in combination with Toray plates opens a clear route to expanded production time. As the Cortina can even print hybrid coldset/heatset products on different types of stock and deliver them via a common former board, the press is ‘an ideal tool for streamlining and standardising the print run and thus increasing net production time’. For customers in the newspaper industry, this benefit can also support the ongoing shift towards automated print production. So how has Gulf News’ implementation of the technology reflected this potential for enhancing commercial performance in line with operations and quality? In fact, within a few months of the switch, the printing team had already begun to explore the full benefits of the new setup. ‘Once the printers understand the temperature settings they can adjust the density very fast,’ said Condon. ‘This took the printers a few months to understand but once they got that, they are now very comfortable with the operation. They are even experimenting to get better mileage from the ink.’ Along with the crucial production benefit of quick start-ups, Condon says his team is also reaping the benefit of ‘a much clearer picture’ through the smaller dot gain. ‘As the print process is waterless, the question of emulsification does not arise, said Condon. With waterless, we have a constant reaction with the silicon and the ink. So nothing changes throughout the process.’


Gearing up for new markets

In tandem with KBA’s Cortina press, the switch to waterless plate technology is also transforming Gulf News printing operations so that the paper can compete in new markets with a leaner team and streamlined procedures. ‘One of the greatest gains in moving from conventional print is in overall staffing levels’, said Condon. ‘Automation is the key to this change’, he added. ‘We had manual blanket washing: now it’s automated. Previously, we had manual plate mounting: now we have automated plate mounting.’ As the printing team gear up to tackle new markets, they also have the security of a further crucial benefit from their upgrade into waterless technology – enhanced reliability. ‘We have a huge reduction in web breaks compared to our previous press,’ said Condon. ‘The press is a very clean press. Before, the press minders always had ink on their overalls and boots, but now we have been able to change from less traditional dark blue overalls and black boots to grey pants and light blue t-shirts. It’s a culture change for the better, I would say.’