HT Media’s Greater Noida plant relies on Boettcher’s rollers

Good rubber rollers key to newspaper quality and low wastage

Rubber rollers by Boettcher for newspaper presses

HT Media’s mother plant in Greater Noida is heavily invested in rubber rollers by Boettcher for its newspaper presses. It runs Colorman double-width double-circumference (4 x 2) presses; TKS double-width single-circumference (4 x 1) presses and Manugraph Cityline single-circumference single width (2 x 1) presses at the plant with automated reel splicers and Ferag mailrooms.

Germany-headquartered Boettcher has a sophisticated plant for recovering rubber rollers in Faridabad, which is also in the Delhi/NCR and not very far away from the HT Greater Noida plant. Boettcher’s Indian plant is well equipped with the latest state-of-the-art equipment for rubber covering, annealing and grinding equipment and precision measuring instruments. The chemical rubber compositions used at Boettcher Faridabad are completely imported from the mother plant in Germany.

BS Shesh, vice president of Supply Chain, Print Excellence and Technology at HT Media, explained to us that in a professionally run quality print plant, rubber rollers are not damaged easily. They do, however, get worn out with extensive use. On its part, HT Media conducts periodic checks to ensure that the rubber Shore hardness measurements are within tolerance and that the diameter and frequency are also intact. The rollers are periodically cleaned and the bearings are checked and maintained in good condition. At most, only the surface of the rollers gets damaged, and in that case, they are generally replaced. The plant always keeps spare rubber rollers in its inventory for easy and immediate replacement if needed during a newspaper press run.

Rubber rollers last for 4 to 5 years on a newspaper web offset printing press that uses coldset inks. This is largely because of the maintenance team at HT Media, which ensures that the manufacturer’s instructions are followed while using the rollers.

Diving deeper into the subject, Shesh said, “The amount of paper and paper dust in our newsprint reels is very little, and thus the paper and paper dust which goes into the ink trains in our machines is less. So even if there is a web break, the automation systems prevent too much paper travel or wrap around reaching the rubber rollers. That is the reason why we don’t damage the rollers.
“Meanwhile, the testing of rubber rollers is very simple – we regularly change the bearings, check the hardness and diameter. We check for any swelling on the edges. There may be a loss of diameter with wear, but if the rollers are in tolerable condition and specification, we keep running them. But mostly, it is the Shore hardness of the rollers that is the issue. We use rubber rollers only within the prescribed settings.”

Explaining the quality checking procedure of rollers at the plant, Prasada, manager of Supply Chain at the plant, said, “Basically it is the hardness of the rubber rollers that matters. Once in a quarter, we check whether the diameter of the rollers is shrinking or expanding and if the rollers are hard enough for the job. It depends on the run lengths. If I am running the press for 8 hours every night, the rollers will need to be changed faster.

“Since the rollers are porous, ink gets accumulated on the corners of the edges, which obstructs the transfer of ink. So it is important to take them out or you will not get uniform ink supply. Once a week, we apply chemicals including Calcium Fix with hot water. Also, in order to maintain the rollers, we use rejuvenating chemicals to condition them.”

Speaking about the quality of the rollers, Shesh said, “They are good in terms of quality; we can appreciate and realize this in the speed of our machines. There is minimal wastage. Also, in comparison to other vendors, the Boettcher rollers are at par. And when it comes to their life, they give a long enough life.”

Industry is challenged currently

Sharing his view on the newspaper industry, Shesh said, “It is a challenging time for the industry. It is very clear that advertising revenue is coming down. The young population doesn’t read newspapers anymore. And we all know that internet penetration, even in small cities, is very high. The newspaper companies in small cities make profits but the ones in big cities are in trouble.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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