Advantages and Disadvantages of Gapless Blanket Printing

When it comes to web offset printing, Goss International struck gold when it patented and constructed a tubular gapless blanket.  It has zealously protected its patent against other commercial press manufacturers such as Man Roland, against whom they settle out of court in 2008.  Since then, MAN has produced their own gapless presses.

As there are only a handful gapless presses in the world, the question now begs: What advantages have become apparent to both the pressman and publisher?  I had a chance to visit a Sunday 3000 press installation in 2010 and got to talk with both.  Here is what they told me.

MAN Roland now has it's own gapless presses.
1.  Paper savings.  With virtually no gap (and I say virtually since there is a tiny gap on the plate cylinder), must less paper is wasted.  Whereas some older presses cannot print on 3/4" of the impression, gapless printing allows you to utilize almost all of it.  Couple that with a pinless folder and you have a serious money savings.
2.  Less impact on the environment.  Goss claimed that it had already saved 2.2 million trees by 2009.  That's wonderful and all, but let's honest.  Saving forest is unfortunately still much less of an incentive as saving money for printers.  Definitely a plus though.
3.  Ease of installation and removal.  I had a demonstration of a blanket change.  It took less than a minute and the pressman didn't even break a sweat.
4.  Higher speeds.  At 3000 feet per minute or 65,000 impressions per hour, these presses take second place to none.  Though Man Roland and other manufacturers are hitting these speeds, Goss is not taking back seat.
5.  Less noisy.  A minor point, but the pressman liked not hearing the pounding of the gap when running.  Come to think of it, I'm not crazy about it either.
Another noteworthy point was that the blanket did not stay stationary on the cylinder.  It slowly moved.  The pressman claimed that this did not effect quality in any way but did help reduce piling.

Pressmen are happy with the technology despite any disadvantages.
That's right, disadvantages.  You'll never hear about them in a press release, only if you actually talk to the guy on the floor running the press.  I must say though, that all I spoke to agreed that the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages, but here they are anyways.

1.  Blankets more expensive.  The pressmen said they were about $700 each.  That's a significant jump in price, and an ongoing one at that.   
2.  Maintenance of blanket pressures.  The price to pay for having blankets that slide on as a sleeve to the cylinder is that you cannot have bearers.  The blankets would not be able to slide past them.  Hence pressures between blankets and plates are adjusted by means of wedges.  The pressmen stated that it was a simple procedure, but nonetheless one that had to be monitored a little more than one would bearers.
3.  Service.  The pressmen would not go into detail, but they expressed that they were less than satisfied at times with the service from Goss.

Despite some disadvantages, the pressmen raved about the product.  Goss definitely has a winner.  MAN now has it's own gapless presses on the market.  I only hope that one day I can work on one.