Strategy is to make blankets cost-effective for newspapers

Blankets obviously play an important role in offset printing and thus, it has a major role to play in the newspaper industry. Over the years, as newspaper printing has gone through phases of technology changes, blanket manufacturers too have risen up to the occasion offering new and cost-effective products. Rahul Kumar talks to four blanket manufacturers — Trelleborg, Novurania, Kapoor Imaging and Fujikura

19 Sep 2018 | By PrintWeek India

What’s new?
According to Rishi Vidhavan of Fujikura, a trend in the newspaper industry is UV printing blankets for the web presses.

S Giridharan, CEO, Kapoor Imaging too agrees that the trend is moving towards UV printing. For this, Giridharan says, “Kapoor Imaging has launched its UV combi blankets successfully.” Meanwhile, he adds that high- speed narrow gap has moved to metal back blanket (MBB). 

The blanket market
With the Indian newspaper industry still reporting growth, what are the consumption patterns of printing blankets in Indian newspaper market?

According to Giridharan of Kapoor Imaging, the data varies due to the sudden slump in demand as most newspapers have raised their ‘goal post’ from seven million impressions to 10 million impressions.

“This happened due to the steep increase in newsprint prices. Every newspaper is affected by this and they are looking for ways and means to reduce cost. They have reduced pages, and they have started to take more mileage out of blankets,” he says.

Kapoor Imaging

At the exhibition, the company will showcase its metal back blankets, low chem violet plates and new fount to reduce newsprint waste. “We will also have the vice-president of RBP USA at our stall who will have direct interactions with customers on newspaper chemicals,” says S Giridharan, CEO, Kapoor Imaging, adding, “The vice-president will talk about the success in US newspapers and how RBP played a key role in newsprint waste reduction.” 

Giridharan says, Kapoor Imaging understands the situation and is trying to help the industry by launching some new products which can give more mileage.

According to Giridharan, his company’s share in the Indian newspaper market is between 30 and 35%.

Plans for newspapers
According to Vidhavan, the strengths of Fujikura rubber blankets have been with the newspaper industry. “We are constantly trying to improve the quality and value of the product at the customer’s end with better dot transfer and better mileage,” says Vidhavan.

Maniraju Bora, sales and technical director for the South West Asia region, Trelleborg, says, his company’s mission is to provide the Indian printing industry with training, advice and after-sales support that is unrivalled.


With Trelleborg’s printing solutions operation continuing to expand the capabilities of offset printing blankets for use in the newspaper industry, Maniraju Bora, sales and technical director for the South West Asia region, Trelleborg says that visitors at Wan-Ifra 2018 will be able to hear how these developments can be utilised to improve the productivity of their presses. 

“The comprehensive work carried out at Trelleborg’s R&D facilities at the Lodi Vecchio manufacturing facility in Italy has created offset blanket solutions that match the specific needs of the Indian newspaper market,” Bora says.

He says printers need the flexibility to customise blankets according to the type of stock they are handling, the press being used and other relevant factors, such as press age. 
“We are increasingly tailoring offset printing blanket solutions to suit individual printer’s requirements and over the last few years, we have been working ever more closely with newspaper groups to understand the needs of their pressrooms and how we can provide a blanket solution that improves productivity while maintaining consistent print quality,” he adds.

Trelleborg’s product range includes well-known names like Vulcan Metal Times, Vulcan 202, Vulcan Royal Web, Rollin Graffity Plus and Rollin Hipage. Bora says there are other products that industry-leaders in other countries are using which now the company is planning to launch in India with some modifications. 

Meanwhile, for the coldset web market in India, Trelleborg is launching several new products, include the Vulcan Alto ND2. It will be available in 1.71mm and 1.96mm.
Bora says at the Wan-Ifra exhibition, Trelleborg will have a team of technical experts at its booth enabling visitors to discuss the current and future blanket requirements of their single-width, double-width and commercial heatset presses. Visitors will be able to see a demonstration of a new QR code and a mobile application that provides ready access from a mobile phone or desktop to detailed product information about metal-backed blankets. Users can simply scan the code printed on the blanket to obtain comprehensive product and technical data, plus detailed advice on applications, usage and replacement options.

“The blanket is crucial to the profitability of the press and we increasingly help newspaper groups use blanket technology to reduce cost-per-copy on its presses. Our experts provide training on selecting the correct blanket, settings on the press, and maintenance and storage of fabric-backed and metal-backed products,” he adds.

According to Vishwas Dharm, regional manager, sales and tech support, Novurania, the depreciation of the rupee in the past six months had a negative impact on the overall industry. As a result, the import cost has gone up approximately by 10-12%. “It has been difficult to absorb this cost, as margins are already limited, especially in the newspaper segment. So, we are waiting for the rupee to get more stable and accordingly, we will plan for the Indian market,” he says.


Novurania is not participating at Wan-Ifra as an exhibitor this year, but Vishwas Dharm, regional manager, sales and tech support, Novurania, says the company will be present during the show. 

Novurania offers a wide range of products for newspaper industry depending upon substrate variation, speed of the machine and printing processes like heatset, coldset, and no pack blankets. 

For coldset, the company has NTR 116 for the slow-to-medium speed machines, NTR 112 for medium-to-high speed machines, NP 112 for the coldset machines where no packing is required. The company is also developing metal back blankets for coldset printing.

Meanwhile, Kapoor Imaging will be launching products that shall help newspapers reduce cost.

Lack of technology know-how
It’s a fact that most workforce on the shopfloor in the industry is not technically sound. Under the circumstances, is this lack of knowledge about printing technology a critical issue in the Indian print industry? If so what are the blanket manufacturers doing to address the issue?

Vidhavan agrees that it’s a serious issue. “Fujikura has seen that many of the operators are not trained, however, the trend is changing,” he says, adding, “In the last five years, there has been a trend among the presses to engage trained and educated operators who are more sensitive to printing machines and consumables that are used. They also focus a lot on the maintenance part of the overall press, as the entire machinery in the press is important and keeping that in check is beneficial for the organisation.”


Fujikura Rubber has Fit News Plus for the coldset web offset in 1.7, 1.97, 2.07 and 2.10mm thickness. For the heatset web offset, the company has Fit web plus having the same sizes as Fit News Plus.

Giridharan agrees. He says that today, all top newspaper publishers have their own training departments and most newspapers hire only printing graduates from reputed institutions.

“The fact is we learn from newspapers, as they are innovative. Newspaper publishers keep looking at new trends and we have to keep ourselves abreast of latest trends in newspaper printing to be able to help them,” Giridharan says.

He adds that Kapoor Imaging does offer training to operators on a new product. “Again, it’s a mutual learning, as they come back with some specific issues, and at times, we need to develop customised solutions. Working with Indian newspapers is like going to an open university. We learn from our customers,” he says.

Lack of knowledge is always a critical issue whether it’s a printing or any other industry, says Dharm. One must have enough knowledge to get the optimum output and utilisation of the product/ technology.

However, Dharm too agrees that in the recent times, the ways of gaining/ sharing knowledge has increased as compared to a couple of years ago by means of social media, internet, and online groups. “We keep on updating our customers about the new developments that we make in our products and also the other secondary products which are related so that there is an improvement at the final product,” he adds.

Bora concurs. “In-depth knowledge is becoming even more important because of the rapidly mutating landscape in the industry. For instance, the growing use of different stocks that have their own surface characteristics, the implementation of UV, low-migration inks, high-density pigment inks, neutral founts, FM screening and more have a major impact on the printing process and the printing blanket,” he adds.