Presses Have Converter in Fine Form

With some 40 years' experience in the business forms industry, Sam O'Connor has seen that marketplace undergo dramatic changes — and not necessarily for the better.

The growth of thermal transfer and other types of computer-generated printing, for example, has all but displaced forms in a number of commodity industries, such as credit card slips. “The forms business has been dropping,” notes O'Connor, president of Colorweb Inc., Dallas, TX. “It's been hit and hit hard. I would have thought that continuous forms were here to stay, but what goes around comes around. It's just a different product and a different way of doing business in a lot of cases.”

That's why Colorweb expanded beyond the forms business six years ago by installing its first two A.B. Dick Century 3000 sheet-fed offset presses. Those 11×17-in., two-color units allowed the company to pursue light commercial printing, such as folders and pamphlets, while at the same time enhancing the quality of forms requiring multicolor printing.

Today, business forms remain a dominant portion of Colorweb's business, accounting for approximately 80% of its $3.8 million in annual sales. Fortunately for Colorweb and other traditional forms printers, while much of the commodity work has disappeared, there remains a demand for multicolor, multipart forms, at least some of which are best suited for offset printing.

Notes O'Connor, “In the market today, you'll find that very few forms go up to five parts. But color work has been increasing in the past five years. Everybody wants color — black and white has a tendency not to move nearly as much as it used to, for the simple reason that you can get that off a computer.”

Test Turns into a Sale
Colorweb again improved both its business forms and commercial printing capabilities last October when O'Connor agreed to have his company serve as the beta test site for A.B. Dick's PowerPro 34 twin-tower presses. Colorweb subsequently purchased two of the software-driven presses.

“I wasn't sold initially on the PowerPro 34 until I learned what it could do,” says O'Connor. In fact, he admits that he was “totally not impressed” with the press when it was first installed. Yet, in just weeks, he went from being virtually certain the press wouldn't meet his needs to wondering what Colorweb ever did without it.

“After we tested it, there was no question in my mind,” O'Connor says. “It does quality work. It puts out that kind of ink, it holds that kind of register, it's a dependable piece of equipment. In today's technological world, it gives us the ability and creativity to meet customers' quality issues and on-time demands. This equipment serves our niche market very well. It makes me proud to give my customers work like this.”

The PowerPro 34s are very similar in design and capabilities to the Century 3000, O'Connor notes. And the reliability of the original Century 3000s appealed to O'Connor because his customers — distributors, brokers, and other print shops in the Dallas area — demand both variety and consistency.

“We are a service-oriented company, so I prefer having overcapacity with my equipment and as many variations as possible. A.B. Dick has kept up with what the computer can do for our industry,” says O'Connor.

Big Features, Big Benefits
The PowerPro 34 offers many large-press features traditionally found with more expensive landscape-format presses, such as a motorized continuous film dampener with paper-sensing moisture control, notes O'Connor. He adds that a superior 100-0-0 inking system, traditionally found only in higher-end web presses, prevents ghosting through improved ink distribution.

According to O'Connor, with quick-wet and pre-wet switches, an operator can apply a quick burst of moisture to the plate surface on demand, and this is especially helpful when the company is running silver plate material.

O'Connor also praises a Stream Feeder with vacuum pull he says assures precise registration. And, while the PowerPro 34 contains 30% fewer moving parts than the Century 3000, what really caught O'Connor's attention was its automated setup and operating functions.

“You can always keep a two-color press busy, but you can't do the same with a four-color press,” O'Connor says. “I can set up two PowerPro 34s, one with black and cyan and the other with magenta and yellow, and run the job simultaneously. The inking and register systems are outstanding; the way it lays down ink, there is nothing comparable in its class. It's the same as doing four-color work on a four-color press. You can't tell the difference.”

The Rotary Side
In the rotary business forms side of the business, Colorweb operates four presses, including an 11-in., four-color Didde that converts roll-to-sheet; two three-color, 17-in. forms presses; and a four-color, 22-in. unit.

The sheet-fed department operates six A.B. Dick presses: In addition to the new Power Pro 34s and one of its original Century 3000 presses, the company operates a one-color, 17-in. A.B. Dick 9970; a two-color, 17-in. 9870 with a T; and a 17-in., one-color 9870. Colorweb also operates a Bourg BST stitcher/folder/trimmer/collator and a Baum folder in its finishing department; one Heidelberg Polar cutter and two CPM Milacron ProCut cutters; and two collators.

According to O'Connor, the Power Pro 34s are ideal for light business forms, where runs are typically less than 5,000 11×17-in. sheets. And because the Power Pro is “as tight a register press as there is on the market today,” Colorweb can deliver four-color quality by running jobs in two passes on the two-color press, O'Connor adds.

“I can put a job on that press and feel confident I can print quality equal to any other piece of equipment out there today. The amount of ink coverage that little press will give you will really surprise you. It's unbelievable.

“We've kind of formed a bond with the two sides of the business where we run some product on the light commercial side and some on the rotary forms presses and combine them to make a final product,” reports O'Connor.

“It certainly allows us to offer more to our customers.”

Colorweb Inc., Dallas, TX; 972/241-3676

A.B. Dick, Niles, IL; 847/779-1900

Didde Press Systems, Englewood, CO; 800-225-5799;

C.P. Bourg Inc., New Bedford, MA; 508/998-2171;

Baumfolder Corp., Sidney, OH; 937/492-1281; 800/543-6107;

Heidelberg USA Inc., Kennesaw, GA; 888/472-9655;

CPM Milacron, Grossefehn, Germany; +49 4943 9108 0;

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