Used Offset Printing Machines

A Guide to Buy Used Offset Printing Machines

“While searching for a used offset printing machine the quality of the machine and the associated value that the purchase will bring to the buyer should be given a higher priority than the price. Remember, the cheapest machine may not be the best value for your money.”

-Shikha Aron


Value Proposition While Buying a Used Offset Printing Press

Buying a used offset printing machine is not an expense; rather it’s an investment that will yield you future returns. Like all other investments, it requires due diligence to ensure a hassle-free future revenue. Although the price of used equipment is an important consideration during any purchase decision it cannot be the only deciding factor. The cheapest option doesn’t necessarily guarantee the highest returns.

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You might think that you got a discounted deal and saved a small amount of money today but in fact, the only thing you will get in the future is a machine that will doubtlessly cost you a fortune. Today, a perceived saving of a small amount could potentially lead to a much higher ‘total ownership cost’ for the machine if the equipment goes through frequent breakdowns and starts demanding a major overhaul shortly after installation, which is generally why the machine is low priced.

All printing equipment goes through a three-phase life cycle. The first phase is the start-up cycle which is the period that the equipment is newly installed at the printer’s facility. In this phase, a new piece of machinery takes some time to ‘set in’ and traditionally goes through a few initial breakdowns mainly due to incompatible materials, poor workmanship training, and improper installation of new equipment. However, these initial breakdowns do not require the owner to be concerned as the financial harm is partially covered by equipment warranty.

The next phase is the ‘money producing’ cycle which is when the investment is paying its returns. This is the period when the machinery is producing more than what it is costing to run. An experienced press owner will typically try to keep their machinery in this cycle for the longest time possible with the help of Preventative Maintenance (PM) practices. Analyzing the PM practices that the owner or factory operator can provide is the main thing to consider while determining if a machine has been maintained well. The immediate consequence of maintenance negligence may not be apparent to the owner immediately but the subsequent machinery buyer will pay the price later.

The last phase of the cycle is when the machine is breaking down and has started needing frequent repairs. Most moving parts are worn down and in need of replacement. The cost of ownership at this stage is more than the value of output that machinery produces. Every machine will reach this stage sooner or later. However, how soon the machine will reach this last stage is determined by how well it has been maintained in the past and the amount of misusing/abusing the equipment has been through.


What To Look At When Buying a Used Offset Printing Machine?

When buying a used offset printing machine always try to find a machine which is still in phase two. These machines, although sometimes priced higher, will provide a higher Return on Investment (ROI).  It’s hard to find high-sought after machines such as Heidelberg 102V / 72V or Komori Lithrone 640 that are still in the ‘money producing’ phase of its life cycle, and the search will even be more difficult if you’re looking for these machines from an older date – 1980 to 1995 -. Most of these machines available ‘abroad’ are not in the desired condition and being sold by the printer as they have already entered the last phase of their life cycle. In many cases the current seller in fact bought the machine as a used printing machine from the original owner while it was still in its ‘money making’ phase and is now selling it – the new buyer would be the 3rd or in some cases even the 4th owner of these machines. Such purchase would definitely not yield the desired ROI.


Following are a few tips that could help you find a used printing press that is still in phase two of its life cycle:

  1. Opt for machines that are bought from the 1st owner: Original owners, printers who bought the equipment brand new from manufacturer, mostly will not wait till the machine has totally finished its useful life cycle before selling it. These printers usually upgrade their printing presses quicker and buying from such a plant would mean the machine still has substantial mileage left in it before it reaches the critical breakdown point.
  2. Opt for machines from a big plant that is professionally run: used machinery from a reliable plant with a professional maintenance team is usually well-maintained. Such plants will also schedule regular maintenance stops for the equipment and ensure that any breakdown is handled professionally. If any part requires replacement it would usually be with an original part. In comparison a smaller, owner operated, printing press might cut corners in regular maintenance of the press or resort to duplicate parts in case of a breakdown.
  3. Opt for Offset printing machines from Western Countries: Used offset equipment from regions like the U.S.A, Canada, U.K, and Western Europe is usually well maintained. There are three main reasons why.
    1. In these countries an offset printer charges a much higher printing rate as compared to other countries. A higher-income enables the printer to spend more on regular machine maintenance and, in case of a breakdown, use original parts for replacement.
    2. The machine operators and pressmen in these countries are highly skilled and well-trained. They follow the standard operating procedures laid down by the original equipment manufacturer and don’t cut corners when it comes to proper maintenance.
    3. Printing presses take out heavy equipment insurance in these countries. The equipment has to be serviced by the manufacturing company’s technicians regularly once it’s insured otherwise the insurance stands void. Fearing such insurance lapse, the press owners in these countries ensure that only the original equipment manufacturer does regular servicing and maintenance.
  4. Involve a local dealer of repute: Always involve a local dealer of repute while purchasing a used offset printing machine. Check the market reputation of the dealer and ask for a list of past clients. A dealer of repute will never knowingly deceive you as they will not want to ruin their reputation for selling one machine.
  5. Ensure that the dealer you choose has a strong international network: Ensuring that the dealer you choose has a strong network in original country of purchase of the used machinery is as important as checking their reputation. A dealer who buys majority of their stock from the U.S.A will have much more information about an American machine versus a dealer who only occasionally buys from that market. If possible try to find someone who exclusively works on only one or two trade lanes, say U.S.A and U.K, as these dealers are experts in their chosen markets as their 100% focus is only on used equipment in those countries.