We recently welcomed a new addition to our plant: a KBA Rapida 145 large format printing press that was custom built in Germany. After approximately five years of research and waiting nearly a year for it to be built, the “blue beast” now has a new home here at Sonderen Packaging.

“KBA is the leader in large format printing. Initially we were going to invest in another small format 40” press, but then we realized that we can also run small sheets on this press, so it can fill both roles if need be and allow us the flexibility our customers require,” explains Keva Sonderen. “It also has UV printing and coating capabilities, which is a new offering for us. UV coating offers several unique finishes and UV ink is great because the ink is instantly dry once it is cured under the UV lamp. This means that we don’t have to wait for the printed paperboard sheets to dry, so we can move on to the next production process more quickly than we could before.”

“This press is equipped with inline color measurement and control: there is a camera located in one of the units that takes a picture of each sheet that goes through. It will highlight any blemish on the sheet before the naked eye can see it, it will then alert the pressman so he can remove the blemish before it becomes a problem. This system improves quality for our customers, but it also reduces our make ready time which means we can get more work through the printing process.” says Keva. “Changing the printing plates in and out is also very quick on this press. The top speed of the press is rated at 17,000 sheets per hour, which is incredibly fast considering that our old press was running an average of 9,000 sheets per hour. We are excited about the increased efficiencies and added capabilities that will contribute to the high level of quality and service that our customers expect from Sonderen.”

While our current presses can print up to six colors, our new KBA press can print seven and on a maximum sheet size of 57”. This enables us to batch or combo run multiple jobs for the same client, thereby increasing efficiency. For instance, we can run five different Stash Tea boxes, all different flavors, all on the same sheet and have enough colors to accommodate all items.

The 904,000 pound press was delivered in fourteen 53’ semis, each containing crates full of pieces of the heavy duty equipment. They were delivered over about four days’ time. The crates were on the water for nearly a month before delivering, coming over from Germany, where it was built over the course of a year.

“It was really interesting to watch the press assembly: they have to set up all of the units individually, making sure that everything is level and balanced. If anything is off, it will cause major problems. They were very thorough and quick to get it up and running. They travel all over the world doing these installs,” says Keva.

At Sonderen Packaging, we’ve always offered large format printing, but installing a press from a different manufacturer than you are accustomed to, comes with a learning curve. Keva compares it to driving Hondas your whole life and then switching to a Ford.

“It’s still a car and you know how to drive, but you’ve got to get used to the blinker being in a different spot,” she laughs. “We went with KBA because of their time-tested technology; they are the leader in the industry for large format. The training and the troubleshooting to run the press is pretty intense and involved: luckily the KBA support staff is great and is very responsive to our needs and requests. We have a trainer here right now who will be here for a couple weeks so we can thoroughly train all of our shifts to run it. Getting everyone used to the new press and its quirks, figuring out how to run the UV coating, etc, is a process.”

The KBA Rapida 145 has been an excellent new machine here at Sonderen, and it just had its inaugural customer press check last month. It was a long road getting it here, but it was worth the wait and we are enjoying its many added efficiencies and capabilities.