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Customer Case  | Roularta Printing, Roeselare, Belgium  | 23 November 2017

Roularta Printing – Automation results in well-oiled plate production

Roularta Printing is one of Belgium’s leading offset printing companies, printing both magazines and newspapers home and abroad. With its two Avalon N40 platesetters and pallet loaders, the company’s prepress department exploits automation to the full.

Roularta Printing’s turnover is in excess of € 90 million, making it Belgium’s largest commercial printing company. The rotogravure printing facility in Roeselare uses two CtP Avalon N40 platesetters from Agfa Graphics. Each is equipped with two pallet loaders, which automatically load the offset plates from pallets. The installation can be operated by one person.

– Reused with permission of trade magazine Grafisch Nieuws –

Roularta Printing’s plate production department is located on the first floor of the printing works, next to the newspaper presses. The layout means that work in both departments can be organized optimally, and automation exploited to the full. The two plate departments have four shifts, which operate six newspaper and magazine printing presses continuously. “At Roularta Printing, we are very demanding when it comes to installing new machinery. Our rigorous internal quality standards, which guarantee maximum return on investment in a production environment, must be met. A printing works has to be a well-oiled machine, requiring a minimum of curative interventions,” says William Metsu, Managing Director of Roularta Printing.

Meticulous air-conditioned plate department

William Metsu’s words are confirmed by a visit to the plate department on the first floor. The two Avalon N40 platesetters with four pallet loaders are installed in a spotless and uncluttered white room. The area is equipped with a high-pressure air humidifier system with RO water (water purified by reverse osmosis) and the most modern HVAC technology (heating, ventilation and air conditioning). This climate-controlled area allows the plates to be processed in ideal conditions. Connections to the platesetters are made underneath them, so no wiring or pipelines can be seen anywhere. That is in fact the case throughout the printing works, where all services are led to the machinery via an underlying infrastructure, which forms a complete system of spacious gangways. Paper waste and shredded paper from the saddle stitcher are also removed via these gangways under the machinery by conveyor belts which lead to the compactors. The production area, which was built in 2006-2007 for the printing works and covers more than 22,000 m2, and the new plate department are an example for manufacturers and their potential customers of how to set up automated production effectively.


Two years after the installation of the Avalon N40 platesetters with skid/pallet loaders, we spoke to Peter Leroy, Production Manager Roularta Printing. Roularta is very enthusiastic about their highly efficient, automated plate loading system, which handles 185,000 m² of Agfa Graphics’ Energy Elite Pro printing plates per year.



“With the Avalon N40 + pallet loader, we can work for 40 hours without having to load plates”

Peter Leroy, Production Manager Roularta Printing


Pallet loaders

The Energy Elite Pro offset plates for Roularta Printing’s heatset printer are exposed on the two ne Avalon N40 CtP systems. The plate capacity of these presses amounts to about 100,000 m² per year. The plates for newspaper products (another 100,000 m2) are produced in a different department, also on Agfa Graphics platesetters. They are used on two hybrid Colorman newspaper presses which are equipped with drying ovens (together, 64 pages broadsheet or 128 tabloid pages in one single run in full colour on magazine paper).

Agfa Graphics manufactures its Energy Elite Pro plates in Wiesbaden, Germany, where they are packed in a special foil and stacked on pallets. In 2009 Agfa Graphics introduced the first pallet loader. Gradually, they could handle larger and larger plates. This idea has been a great success worldwide.


Pallet loaders load the offset plates into the CtP systems.

Platesetters operated by just one employee

At Roularta Printing, there is a choice of three different plate formats, which depends on the rotogravure presses used to perform the order concerned.  Lithoman 72 presses can handle up to 600 0.40 mm thick plates per platesetter simultaneously (300 x 2 pallet loaders), while the smaller Rotoman can handle up to 1200 plates per Avalon N40 platesetter. It only requires one employee to send files from the server to the platesetters. Little daily manual intervention is required. William Metsu: “An investment of this nature is recouped through the automation. Before we installed Agfa Graphics' Avalon N40 CtP system, the plates were manually loaded and unloaded in three platesetters, placed on the roll conveyor to the processing machine and then stacked. Now, this process is fully automated. The error rate is virtually zero.  The plates end up on trolleys, which are collected by the printers. We modified these trolleys ourselves so that they can transport plates from the first floor to the ground floor without any vibration. The plates only have to be handled again when they reach the rotogravure press."

“Over the years, plate consumption has remained more or less stable. It is true that there are fewer orders, but more versions are often required within a production run. We have to do more and more in an increasingly tight timeframe.  The Energy Elite Pro plates are only baked if 350,000 or more copies are required. Baking is mainly a result of the current quality of uncoated papers that leave more dust behind and are more aggressive for the offset plate."

Part of a major investment programme

The Avalon N40 platesetters with pallet loaders, conveyors, intermediate stations and stackers were installed in November 2014. Every month, Roularta Printing exposes about 4500 to 5000 VLF (Very Large Format) plates.  These are then used in the four magazine presses: two Lithoman IV models (72 magazine pages), one Rotoman (16 magazine pages) and a Mitsubishi BT1S (48 magazine pages). The newest press, a Lithoman 72, was installed in 2011. Since 2007, Roularta Media Group, the parent company, has invested more than € 100 million in its new printing works in Roeselare.  The most recent investments were in a new saddle stitcher and copy frame.  A second automatic palletizer will soon be installed next to the Colorman newspaper presses, along with a second pallet film wrapping machine. The loading and unloading bays are also going to be redesigned shortly.

Roularta Printing employs 340 people, and prints around 80,000 tonnes of paper annually (newsprint, magazine products, brochures, advertising, etc.).  In addition to the publications of the Roularta group (Knack, Le Vif-L’Express, Trends-Tendances, Sport/Foot Magazine, etc.), the production facility also prints orders for external customers. These account for about one third of total activities.

Roularta prints around 80,000 tonnes of paper annually

Pallet loaders: a solution for large plate sizes

Agfa Graphics’ Avalon N VLF (Very Large Format) CtP systems are based on thermal 830 mm external drum platesetters equipped with patented Grating Light Valve (GLV) imaging technology. The Avalon N40 model as used by Roularta Printing is suitable for plates to 40-up. The maximum plate size on this type is platesetter is 2280 x 1600 mm, while the minimum plate size is 650 x 550 mm. Dual mode imaging is also possible up to a maximum plate size of 1060 x 1600 mm.  Together with the pallet loader, the Avalon N40 can handle up to 600 plates online, depending on the plate thickness and the plate size. Agfa Graphics’ Avalon N VLF series also includes N16, N24, N36 and N48 models.

Pallet loading of the platesetter is the ideal solution for large offset plates, which become very difficult to handle manually once they reach a certain size. Having all the plates available on a pallet means that the whole plate production process - loading, imaging, development and stacking - can be streamlined, automated and run smoothly without human intervention.

Roularta Media Group

  • Multimedia company
  • Leading player in Belgium in publishing and printing news and niche magazines, newspapers and free magazines, as well as in audio-visual media and electronic publishing.
  • Operating in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Slovenia and Serbia
  • Turnover of € 477 million in 2016
  • 340 employees
  • One of the founders of the Ghent PDF Workgroup
  • 22,000 m² of prepress & printing production space
  • Two Agfa Graphics Avalon N40 platesetters with (skid) pallet loaders and an annual consumption of 185,000 m² of Energy Elite Pro printing plates
  • Annual paper consumption around 80,000 tonnes
Energy Elite Pro

Energy Elite Pro

With a durability beyond 100,000 copies, Energy Elite Pro is the perfect printing plate for more demanding, longer-run markets such as consumer magazine and catalog printers.

Avalon N VLF (16 to 48-up)

Avalon N VLF (16 to 48-up)

The Avalon N range of thermal VLF (Very Large Format) computer-to-plate engines are star performers in quality- and efficiency-driven plate production. They will handle any plate size from 16 to 48-up.


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