19 July 2018 Analogue Printing Technologies

Automation at the right level at K&B

Koenig & Bauer has brought to market a true non stop printing press, though less demanding users will find much by way of automation to help their operations.

As a demonstration of press automation it cannot be bettered. An eight-unit sheetfed press is split into two four unit sections. When printing on the first four units, the plates are loaded on the second four units. As the number of copies is reached, the press slows, the first four units come off impression and the second four come in and the press accelerates, in register and colour. Only a handful of sheets and no time has been wasted.

Unsurprisingly there are few takers for this monster of a press that will gobble up work. One in the US is used to handle fast turnaround of point of sale posters, customised to stores in different states or cities; others with two units either side of a perfecting drum are used to print book sections. But this will never be a mainstream press.

On the other hand the range of technologies that Koenig & Bauer has been able to offer customers in recent years to reduce and automate makeready is standard. SIS infeed is unique to Koenig & Bauer and beloved of press operators who say feeding problems have disappeared.

Plate Ident uses a three-point system to identify each plate and ensure that it is loaded in precise register; electronic controls can stretch the length of the image area by making micro adjustments to cylinder speeds, while cameras and scanners both measure colour and check for consistency of what is laid down on the sheet.

But the mechanics of automation is only the start. For companies to be able to exploit this properly, the press needs to be part of a wider management system. This is enabled through the LogoTronic press management system. As well as on press functions, including quick loading of coating cylinders, this feds back data to the central system.

“While value added services based on the performance data of machines installed worldwide are still in their infancy at other companies, they are already firmly established at Koenig & Bauer,” the company says.

There is a close integration with the Optimus Dash MIS, its fast response open architecture MIS developed for ease of operation.

There are also inspection cameras scanning for colour accuracy and making closed loop adjustments and cameras which identify faults in the printing. This is crucial for carton printing applications where the sensitivity to blemishes is much greater than on commercial work.

Comparison between the printed sheet and the PDF that has been approved for print is automatic, and any sheets falling short in the critical areas will be discarded.

This is, however, just the start towards the Industry 4.0 era. The data collected from the press is returned to the user each month in the form of a dashboard view of overall performance data and statistics against the company’s KPIs. The information gathered can be used to identify potential problems before they develop into the problems that cause a break down and result in a visit from a technician.

The company is working on Google Glass type technology to take the technician into the heart of the press to help identify and solve a mechanical problem. A screen mark up system will help the remote technician guide the operator to the right spot for a close up view. It is not so much about automation on the press itself, but a means of minimising down time and as important to optimising production as fast on press makeready.

Gareth Ward