• April 21, 2021

Automation & Manufacturing Innovations

In the last forty years, those who attended IGAS International Graphic Arts Show in Japan or Drupa exhibitions in Germany most likely witnessed how each time Komori attracted large crowds, mesmerized by viewing showcased novel technologies. 

The new Komori Lithrone press series elevated customer's expectations for automation and productivity within the Graphic Arts Industry. 

Since the introduction of the Lithrone press series, forty years ago at the Graphic Fair in IGAS in Tokyo, Komori revolutionized sheetfed presses' manufacturing by introducing the highest automation level ever assembled on printing equipment. 

Mr. Komori a Driving Force legacy remains alive today

Mr. Ichiro Komori. Courtesy of Komori Corp.


As we look back at the company milestones, in the mid-70s, Mr. Ichiro Komori had the vision of reinventing the Kony printing press. He understood the importance of the Voice of the Customer and how vital for the organization's success.

Mr. Komori's thoughts included rethink and redesigning the printing press, focusing primarily on the customer's increasing demand for equipment quality, reliability, and automation. He also recognized that active customer service was essential.

He commissioned Komori's R & D team leader, Mr. Sugiyama, to set in motion and embark on the most ambitious re-engineering project ever attempted by the organization. Mr. Komori inspired the R & D team members to re-engineer the printing press by establishing the marketplace's new press formats and standardize cylinder configuration to accommodate a broader range of materials. This strategy of building presses with a cylinder configuration of double impression and double transfer cylinders leads other press manufacturing to follow.


Mr. Sugiyama. Courtesy of Komori Corp.


To complement Mr. Komori's vision, the R & D team incorporated technologies in the newly designed printing press, such as a robust and accessible inking roller arrangement and a reliable reversed contact nip dampening system to improved printing quality stability.

These engineering design changes would include a direct remote operator's press central control console with a closed-looped process colour control system (PDC), enabling printers unprecedented automation. 

Remarkable press results during press trials in Canada

Data gathered during multiples press trials conducted by the author in the early 90s at the Komori showroom in Milton, Ontario, demonstrated exceptional quality and printing stability. The GATF test form used during Komori Lithrone press trials showed superior press printing stability, minimum dot gain, and consistently smoother printed solids. 

Data gathered during multiples press trials demonstrated exceptional printing stability. 

The dampening system responsiveness demonstrated ink and water balance stability from the start-up to ramp up production speed with the absence of printing defects such as rollers streaks, mechanical ghosting, and hickeys. 

During these press trials and capabilities study, the author's primary focus and interest were studying alcohol-free fountain solution interactions with environmentally plant-based friendly inks. These new-generation plant-based inks sought to substitute petroleum-made inks with vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean, or corn oil, to reduce VOC (volatile organic compounds) at high press speeds.

John MacPhee, impressed with the results, suggested doing further research and explained that dampening design has a close relationship to maintain optimum ink-water balance and printing stability, therefore, optimum printing quality.

Mr. John MacPhee considered the printing stability data remarkable for offset printing. 

Mr. John MacPhee studied ink and water balance interactions in offset printing closely and presented numerous papers at the TAGA Conference in the early nineties. Mr. MacPhee's career in research and development spanned over 50 years. During his tenure at Baldwin Technology as a scientist and inventor, he co-invented two of Baldwin's most successful products: the cloth/pressure-pad type of automatic blanket cleaner and the Delta Dampener. 

He also carried out many research programs that led to a better understanding of the lithographic printing process. Produced over 50 technical papers, including a book 'Fundamentals of Lithographic Printing.'


This article's perspectives and opinions are based on the author's research and supported by information obtained from Komori R & D senior team member Engr. Takeshi Yoshikawa at the Komori Tsukuba Plant. The author's first-hand field experiences expand several years—nothing in this article demerit other printing equipment manufacturers' technical accomplishments.