New Soma press with plenty of advanced solutions
The obvious change is width, it is now up to 1270 mm (50 inch) wide. Following on from the success of the Optima mid web press launched at K 2013 with over 35 presses sold, the wider web Optima 2 version was developed.
And the new Optima² boasts a broad range of advancements which were inspired by closely listening to both needs of printers, and ideas of the design team headed by Jan Verner.
The development of the Optima² started in 2013, and had three primary goals: faster set up, less waste and reduction of plate bounce.
The first step to a faster set up is to move the time consuming tasks like register and impression setting off the press. Together with the German manufacturer of high quality flexo printing presses Allstein GmbH, SOMA has integrated the ARUN plate mounting system which not only mounts the next job, but also calculates the registration and impression setting offline on the plate mounter, while the press is still printing another job.
Saving waste and time
The ARUN – zero meter set-up waste system requires a slightly modified sleeve. These sleeves are supplied by several sleeve manufacturers including PolyWest, Flint Rotec and/or Rossini. During the process of plate mounting on the ARUN mounter, the crucial data for register and impression setting are stored in chips in the sleeve. In total, this doesn’t take longer than 2-3 minutes. Extensive testing consistently prove that even 1% highlight dots remain unharmed by the very smooth topography scan of the combined sleeve tape and plate combination.
This information is later read by the Optima² for fully automated register and impression setting.
In tests the total waste for impression and register setting had been reduced to 5 meters (16.4 feet) or less, which represents the circumference of the central impression drum and the approximate distance to achieve press speed.
ARUN has a very rigid frame for stability and is available for sleeves up to 1650 mm (65 inch) wide and with 1400 mm (55.1 inch) repeat length. Numerous ARUN systems are already working at customers' printshops together with Allstein flexographic printing presses. The feedback of those renowned printers confirms the tests conducted by SOMA during the extensive integration phase.
With modern flexo presses printing at a high speed is not an issue any more. Yet there are phenomenons that won‘t allow the operator to achieve desired printing speed or quality which one needs to produce economically. Flexo printing press bounce may limit the maximum printing speed, or even cause print quality issues. Either one is not desirable and in the worst case scenario the whole job may have to be reprinted. To make a long story short, bouncing makes printers lose money.
Plate bounce may have plenty of causes such as the working condition of the press, printing form design, or repeat length. Even though most of those factors cannot be associated with the printing press manufacturer, SOMA has dedicated themselves to find a solution to let operators run their presses at their required speed.
SOMA's approach was to use a single block printing unit frame as this unique design provides optimal rigidity and damping capabilities. All of the frames used for the Optima² are solid and in average 130 mm (5.1 inch) thick, in some areas of the frame thick up to 200 mm (7.9 inch). This concept of using a single block frame is unique in the world of flexo printing presses and gives the new SOMA Optima² a distinct advantage over the competition.
This, quiet basic yet effective approach to reduce bouncing is not the only measure taken. The new built –in Advanced Bounce Control system is a highly sophisticated and complex means of achieving bounce reduction. This system has been inspired by the high precision demands from CNC machinery. Based on the ARUN development project with Allstein SOMA has also started to cooperate with Allstein designers on how to increase machine position accuracy, and stability and this cooperation was demonstrated on Advanced Bounce Control system. The bounce reduction capabilities of carbon fibre are well known, and therefore they also find an application in the new Optima².
Another positive effect of a reduction of bounce is that a more sturdy press reduces wear of ancillaries and parts, which subsequently saves customers even more money in the long run.
Save expensive ink
SOMA has developed a unique Ink Cartridge system which represents a first for CI flexo presses. Developed for the mid web Optima press, the Ink Cartridge offers a way to reduce ink costs on jobs where expensive inks for spot colours, special effects or a metallic look are required. These special inks are very expensive, up to 6 times more when compared to standard CMYK inks, and help to optimise profits.
On average about five to seven litres of ink are in the system (doctor blade chamber, pump, hose, etc). When the print job has finished, this ink returns to the bucket, yet one loses some percent on the way due to cleaning or residues. By using the SOMA Ink Cartridge, only a minimum of 1 litre (maximum up to 3 litres) will be in the system. Therefore the losses are much lower. Field tests show that on average almost 18% of the ink can be saved this way.
The SOMA Ink Cartridge works with solvent and water based inks, as well as UV inks. The Cartridge can be easily and toolless fitted to the doctor blade chamber. Features include automatic viscosity control, wash-up, touch screen control, and tool free maintenance.
The patented system is available for all SOMA presses, and had been installed on all delivered Optima since its launch.
Spot colour matching is the most time and labour consuming task an operator has to carry out during make ready of the printing press. SOMA's Ink Fix represents a spot colour matching solution which reduces waste and significantly increases the efficiency of on-press colour correction.
Main economical benefit for spot colour management is based on ink stock reduction, time saving for ink dose preparation and on material waste reduction. The Ink Fix ink kitchen consists of digital scale, touch screen control panel with mixing software and connection to on-line or off-line spectrophotometer gaining real delta E and L,a,b values from the print. The mixing software thereafter guides the operator through a simple ink correction to match required spot colour specification.
The trend to customize flexo printing presses is not new. Packaging has to meet ever higher demands when it comes to design and capabilities, therefore printers require printing presses tailored to meet with their exact needs. SOMA already offers a broad range of different designs of printing presses and modular equipment, but for the new Optima² the press designers came up with something special, and so far more or less only common in gravure printing: a plethora of downstream technology options.
Possible options are flying splicing, single shaftless winders, cantilevered winders, special winders for paper board, additional printing units and reverse printing units with turnbars, overprinting, gravure printing units for cold sealing, lacquering and coating units, inline slitting. There is currently a development project for adding inline lamination to the options.
Another very exciting project at SOMA is aimed towards a sophisticated supervision solution. This development will enable the management of a printing company to remotely monitor the printing press 24/7. The system itself will constantly check the printing press, analyse the performance, collect data for statistics, and inform about upcoming issues before they arise. This facilitates scheduling time to replace or repair parts before they will cause long and expensive unscheduled press stops.
The beta testing phase with installations at chosen printers will start soon.
Small changes with a big impact
Beside all the big and impactful changes described above, SOMA also made small further improvements of effective and popular features. One outstanding renewed feature is the cooling of the cylinder housings at motor side, similar to the cooling of the central impression drum. This prevents any temperature caused expansion, and hence dot gain. Another clever feature had been developed for the interdeck dryers. They now swing open by 90 degrees, similar to a door. This eases cleaning, and provide easy accessibility to the substrate and CI drum. The new Bosch Rexroth drives with IPM (Integrated Permanent Magnet) save up to 8% energy.
What's more is that SOMA has integrated a servo unit for in-register reprint of bar codes or any other ink/varnish layers across full web width etc.
The success of the 2013 launched Optima showed SOMA's ambitions to become a serious global contender and has forced the manufacturer to almost double their production with multi million Euro investments. Soon SOMA will launch a new 3 year reconstruction project to increase the assembly hall floor space. The total volume for this improvement is EUR 8 million. A 10 colour version of the Optima² will be launched soon, as well as a version with extra long repeat length of 1200 mm (47.2 inch). Normally, the repeat range of the Optima² is 300-800 mm (11.8.-31.5 inch).
The SOMA Optima² is also available with maximum printing speeds of up to 500 m/min (1640 fpm).