Print Perspectives

Kodak solutions drive high-volume plate production at The Villages Daily Sun

June 02, 2022

The Villages Facility

Nothing has a more voracious appetite for litho plates than a newspaper offset web press. The Villages Daily Sun, a newspaper and commercial printer in Central Florida is keeping its web offset equipment well fed on a diet of KODAK SONORA Process Free Plates served up by a pair of KODAK GENERATION NEWS thermal CtP platesetters – a combination that gives the pressroom the volume and the versatility it needs to stay ahead of a rising demand for the things it produces.

The Villages Daily Sun has a long-standing reputation for quality as a coldset web offset printer. Its flagship product, The Daily Sun newspaper, grew from a small hometown paper into one of the largest daily papers in Florida. Specializing in newspaper printing, the company also handles a significant volume of commercial printing from around the state.

The main press at The Villages Daily Sun is a Koenig & Bauer Commander CT web with a total capacity of 96 plates in three printing towers and a top speed of 90,000 copies per hour. Keeping up with it in prepress created a demand for plate throughput that the plant’s two original CtP devices were far from being able to satisfy.

“When we are in full production, we require just over 200 plates per hour at 1,200 dpi to meet our full replacement requirement,” says Steven A. Infinger, Director of Operations. Working in tandem in Z-speed mode, the GENERATION NEWS devices are more than up to the task with their doubled outputs of 115 plates per hour at that resolution in a 36-inch plate format.

“We needed faster output speeds for a wide-format plate, and GENERATION NEWS was the only choice for our new facility,” Infinger says, referring to The Villages Daily Sun plant in Coleman, FL, where the Commander has been in operation since April 2021. “We run a 36-inch plate, and that allows us to put three 12-inch broadsheet pages across a single plate. It was a clear choice for us because the other equipment that we looked at didn’t meet our needs for speed and output of that size plate.”

Automated high efficiency

The extensive automation of GENERATION NEWS Platesetters enables them to hold up to 1,600 broadsheet plates in four cassettes for fully automatic loading and long periods of continuous operation without operator intervention. According to Infinger, this is a capability that the Village Daily Sun’s pressroom is taking full advantage of.

“The auto plate loading of the cassettes in GENERATION NEWS is the most beneficial aspect, so that we have a larger number of plates that we can put through,” he says. “It has four cassettes that let us run different sized plates for our presses inside one machine. The GENERATION NEWS will pick the right size plate for the job.”

Built for the large dimensions of newspaper printing, the Kodak devices can easily accommodate the Commander CT’s 72″-inch, double-wide plate cylinder configuration. This feature is the key, Infinger explains, to the variety of products the press is capable of producing.

Printing in web offset’s collect mode – two plates around the cylinder, as opposed to one in straight mode – the Commander CT can produce a 72-page broadsheet for a total of 144 tabloid pages in a single production run. Within that pagination, says Infinger, “we can produce a 12-inch, an 11-inch, and a 10-inch broadsheet and tabloid format. That gives us six significantly different types of formats, which is unusual for most presses. We can also produce an 18-inch long tab and similar products that are quarter-folded.”

The common printing denominator for all of these products is the SONORA Process Free Plate, the only type used in the GENERATION NEWS Platesetters and the two older devices that remain in service. Because of its unique composition, SONORA Plate technology eliminates the need for wet processing along with the costs and the harsh chemicals that go with it. After the SONORA Plate is imaged in a CtP device and mounted on the plate cylinder, its surface emulsion is removed within the first few rotations of the press. This exposes the ink-receptive image to be printed.

Early adopter of process free

“We moved to thermal process free plates many years ago,” Infinger says. “We preferred the quality, the reduction of maintenance, and the overall performance of process free plates. SONORA, for us, was a better option than what we were running. It gave us what we needed for our new facility.”

“We found that our startup waste was significantly reduced with SONORA,” Infinger adds, noting that the manufacturing defects encountered in other brands – for example, emulsion and graining problems – are not issues with SONORA.

The plant that houses the GENERATION NEWS Platesetters and the Commander CT is a 100,000-sq.-ft. facility built as a greenfield project in the Governor Rick Scott Industrial Park in Coleman. Business is brisk, and the key to handling the workload, according to Infinger, is the plant’s ability to turn out more than 200 SONORA Process Free Plates per hour on its twin GENERATION NEWS Platesetters.

“We see a significant increase in the number of weekly and monthly products running smaller circulation volumes,” he says. “We have a lot of products that may not be in the 100,000-circulation range, but they fit into the model that we’ve put together, which is rapidly replating different products and providing print services for them.”

The steady output from the GENERATION NEWS Platesetters “allows us to replate those products one after the other in quick succession, so that we can turn from one product to the next very rapidly,” Infinger says.