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More web presses for Blue Star – LIA event

Friday, 04 August 2017
By Patrick Howard

Mark Stevens, head of digital with Hugh Chisholm group GM showed the LIA around Blue Star Silverwater.

The announcement of a new manroland Rotoman 65 web press to replace an aging Polyman was just one of the insights provided during a tour of the Blue Star Silverwater plant organised by the LIA on Wednesday night.

The new press is part of an ongoing expansion by the Ive Group printing company that includes the establishment of a new green-field site at Huntingwood to accommodate the recently merged Franklin Web in Sydney. A further manroland Lithoman press is due to come on line there in October.

The company opened up its Silverwater printing plant, web and sheetfed, to the LIA visitors who were part of a record-breaking turnout for the venerable industry association. Only a small number of industry professionals, those deemed to be competitors or with a similar conflict of interest, were not allowed to walk through the state-of-the-art plant.

The visitors remarked on the generosity of the Blue Star management as top line managers, such as Hugh Chisholm, group general manager and Mark Stevens, head of digital, escorted them through the different factories. Later Matt Aitken, COO, spoke to the group during the traditional dinner, detailing the development of the publicly listed company since it emerged under current ownership in 2012.

The Silverwater plant can lay claim to being perhaps the most complete printing site in the country, encompassing not only the web press hall with its three manroland presses, a Harris and a Goss, but also the sheetfed plant with its battery of full-size offset Heidelbergs.

During the tour of the web plant we were shown where the new Rotoman would go between the established presses. In addition to the web presses there is the latest Heidelberg sheetfed press, an UV enabled SM 106 10-colour with coater that produces covers for the books coming off the big webs.

Next door in the mailing room, a Ferag Unidrum inserter is utilised for standard formats. It can assemble up to 30,000 units per hour. On the other wall a Muller Martini 10-station Primera is used for more complex productions.

Among the many highlights was the striking level of automation of the Kolbus binder as publications went through the system to be boxed and palletised. Just two employees oversee the entire operation that was running at a blistering 11,950 units per hour.

A notable feature was the overall housekeeping of the site, with scarcely a scrap of waste. The cheerful morale of the operators throughout told its own story of the human relations at the plant.

First stop when we got to the sheetfed plant was the enabling of a new Kodak Magnum 800 processless printing plate engine. Pushing through 62 plates per hour it is a significant addition to the site where plate usage is around 75,000 m2 per year. According to operator, Eddie Doyle, the new CTP is working like a dream. The entire Silverwater site uses Kodak printing plates. The intention is to move entirely to the new processless Sonora plates, thereby saving upward of a million litres of water per year.

Thumbs up for the new Kodak Magnum from Eddie Doyle.

Down the corridor at the sheetfed hall the fully Heidelberg operation has four 10-colour presses – two SM 106s, two SM102s – plus a SM 76 six-colour with coater. Facing them in the same space was the massive HP T300 inkjet web press, presenting a fascinating mix of printing technologies.

Reassuringly all the presses, including the T300, were going flat chat during the night. There is no shortage of printing work at Blue Star.

The HP T300, under the careful watch of Mark Stevens, was pushing work through while we were there. He maintained the job running through the huge press would use 10.2 kilometres of 630 mm wide paper over four–five days with every print containing variable data. “It’s a hungry beast,” said Stevens. He also showed us the “printing plant within a printing plant,” where two HP Indigos, a 7600 and a 7800, worked with Horizon BQ270 finishing kit. He runs it in an autonomous fashion as though it was a separate business and “very profitably too,” he says.

Luke Wooldridge, Kodak with Matt Aitken Blue Star.

The hugely successful tour ran over time, of course, before we all adjourned to the Carnarvon Golf Club where Matt Aitken reinforced the understanding that we were engaged with one of the most technology-adept and progressive companies in the industry. He explained the diversity of the company’s divisions, from web, to sheetfed and display as well as logistics. He dwelt on its commercial success, as well as the enlightened human relations strategy that underscores its operation. It became ever more obvious to the visitors why the Ive Group is rapidly becoming the star of the printing industry.

Warrick Rodden, on behalf of the LIA, expressed the general feeling of gratitude to Aitken and the rest of the Blue Star people for what was a marvellous night.


A further account of the LIA tour will feature in the next issue of Print21 magazine.


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