A prototype "variable size" offset printing press shown at Ipex is expected to be commercially launched at the end of this year. And the first delivery of the model VSOP machine is likely to be by the middle of next year, according to press builder Drent Goebel.

"New standards will be set in speed, productivity, flexibility, profitability and ergonomics," says the company. The technology used is said to combine the advantages of offset with those of flexo. "It spells the end for traditional size groups." Size change is achieved with lightweight sleeves – in no more than one minute per tower. Printing length can be steplessly set from 15 to 30in (381 –762mm). And Drent claims that the quality of print is comparable with gravure yet is less costly. Small runs are profitable. UV inks can be used instead of solvents.

Partners involved in the development with Drent Goebel include Pechiney Flexible Packaging, Sun Chemical, Agfa, Rotec, IST and Indramat.