KBA celebrates 200th Anniversary

It’s 200 years since Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer installed their first printing press. And to mark this milestone the company has announced a new, larger inkjet press.

The 1814 award celebrates the first ever powered press to be installed in November 1814 to print the London Times.
The 1814 award celebrates the first ever powered press to be installed in November 1814 to print the London Times.

Koenig and Bauer, better known today as KBA, has reached an impressive milestone, celebrating 200 years since it developed and installed the first powered ever press in London to print The Times newspaper on the 29th November 1814.

Although Gutenberg had invented the hand press some 360 years earlier, printing was still a labour intensive process in 1814. Friedrich Koenig hit upon the idea of using steam power and developed a rotating cylinder printing process. He teamed up with Andreas Bauer, a precision instrument-maker to build the press for the Times.

This double-cylinder press had an hourly output of 1,100 printed sheets compared to 240 by Gutenberg’s hand press. Printing and distributing thus became faster, more up-to-date and cost-effective. The “Times press” printed paper sheets on just one side (straight printing). However, Friedrich Koenig applied to patent his perfecting press almost at the same time. The presses became increasingly more refined and more powerful, and print quality improved.

The same principle could be applied to many other substrates as individual sheets or as a web from a roll, over a rotating cylinder and to print directly or indirectly (over a blanket cylinder in offset) using a mechanically inked printing form is still used in analogue printing today. Digital printing is at times contact-free (inkjet), nevertheless, even this process involves rotating cylinders and drums for the paper run.

On 9 August 1817, the two men founded the world’s first printing press factory Schnellpressenfabrik Koenig & Bauer in a secularised monastery in Oberzell, near Würzburg. Today Koenig & Bauer’s (KBA) main production facility can be found on the opposite side of the river Main. All other German press manufacturers originated, either directly or indirectly, from this Franconian cradle of press engineering, as qualified staff sought to go into business for themselves in the 19th century.

In 1876, KBA delivered the first web rotary press to Magdeburgische Zeitung. In 1888 Koenig & Bauer shipped the first four-colour web press to St. Petersburg. The very first special presses for printing luxury colour products followed at the beginning of the 1890s. Additionally, the company’s interest in banknote printing awakened, a field in which KBA has been a leading press supplier for more than 60 years.

New Inkjet

Nor has KBA rested on its laurels, announcing a new inkjet press. The company has already announced the new Rotajet L series of modular presses, which cover sizes from 895mm up to 1300mm. These are completely modular so that customers can start with a monochrome press in the smallest size and add more colours, and increase the print width all the way up to a 4/4 model in the largest size.

But KBA has now announced an even larger model, the VL series with a new RJ168 model. This will have a print width of 1681mm and run at 150mpm.

Oliver Baar, KBA’s project manager for the digital web presses, calls it “the widest, most productive web press ever built”. He likens the first Rotajet 76 to a rubber dinghy, calling this a battleship and adding: “We are fully committed to the aircraft carrier if necessary, which would be the 225 size.”!

Baar also says that the company intends to offer higher resolutions as newer heads become available. The Rotajets currently use Kyocera printheads with 600 x 600 dpi resolution but a new 1200 x 1200 dpi head is on the way.

The 1814 award

A few years ago KBA instigated the 1814 award to commemorate that first steam-powered press and to celebrate the achievements of its customers. This year’s winners are APS, which rationalised its presses a few years ago. This involved replacing four ManRoland 700 presses with two Rapida 106 10 colour perfecting presses, complete with DriveTronic SIS, SPC, Plate Ident; CleanTronic Synchro; ErgoTronic; QualiTronic; LogoTronic; DensiTronic. Print production manager Gareth Jones told me that they still had 30 to 40 percent capacity to spare. Part of this is because KBA, as part of its consultancy service in helping APS determine the best specification, recommended switching from two to three shifts.

APS won the 2014 annual 1814 award. From left, Andrew Pang, managing director of KBA UK, Stephen Goodall and Gareth Jones of APS, with Chris Scully, responsible for KBA sheetfed sales.
APS won the 2014 annual 1814 award. From left, Andrew Pang, managing director of KBA UK, Stephen Goodall and Gareth Jones of APS, with Chris Scully, responsible for KBA sheetfed sales.

The award was given for ‘consistently exceptional productivity throughout 2014 on short, medium and long run work,’

The APS Group offers a range of marketing communications from creative services, digital publishing, data management and cross-media campaigns to logistics, fulfilment and project management. Throughout its operations Lean Manufacturing principles play a major part in minimising carbon footprint and delivering quality and cost efficiency to its global business partners.

KBA also used the awards event to announce Dorset-based printer Blackmore Ltd as the UK’s first company to install the new LED printing system based on AMS curing technology. The company has put in a 4-colour B1 Rapida 105 LED press with thick stock option to replace a Heidelberg CD74.

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