There is a neon light running down each side frame, changing colours according to the status of the press, giving the production manager the chance to understand if his press is running with no more than a glance across the pressroom. LED lamps are also being introduced at the operator’s console for digital control over lighting. This is able to toggle between different standard lighting conditions, D50 and D65, with and without the UV element in daylight that will excite any OBAs in the paper coating.
The console had played a crucial role in the 2016 version of the press. That continues with the latest version, allowing a user to trigger job changes and set up the sequence for the next job change while a job is still running. There is access to additional functionality, the Wash Assistant for example, where the automated process can be over ridden. The user interface has undergone a redesign, drawing on the latest thinking about the presentation of information and the way that information is absorbed.
There are improvements to the plate changing, wash up systems and machine set up to shave seconds from each of these functions and so create a more sellable production time. It is the philosophy of marginal improvement that has been pioneered by Sir Dave Brailsford and Britain’s Olympic cycling team.
For Heidelberg, these refinements now include Hycolor Pro, a means of making fine adjustments to dampening roller pressure settings from the operator’s console. Settings can be recorded and recalled for a repeat job or similar job. Adjustments can made to settings on one side of the roller to enable the operator to respond to changing press conditions. And as the settings are recorded, analysis of the impact is possible via Remote Service.
Four out of five ink problems reaching the service desk relate to inaccurate dampening roller settings, Heidelberg says. The ability to quickly make adjustments without resetting the rollers should save a significant amount of time.
The most dramatic introduction is a plate management system that automatically takes plates from the platesetter, delivers and loads them on the press ready for use. The plate to unit system cuts an estimated 23 touchpoints to three, reducing the risk of accidental damage or mix ups. At the present time few printers will be able to justify the investment, though Covid-19 may alter calculations. Currently this suits companies that are handling hundreds of jobs a day – online printers, for example, where it is impractical to carry and load plates manually.
An intermediate approach is a ‘plate to gallery’ system which loads the plates in sequence on truck to transport them to the press which then lifts the plates to the gallery running the length of the press units, so saving a lot of the physical fetching, carrying and lifting required in normal production.
Automation of plate handling means that software to identify and to track each plate on its progress from imposition to print unit is essential. The job sequence will be optimised at any one time, frequently reflecting jobs that need to be rushed through or those which arrive late from customers. The press needs to be aware of which jobs are arriving on press, using bar codes to check that the plates are being delivered in the right order to minimise makeready times while taking into account delivery dates, inks and coatings, paper style and formats.
An inkjet head in the feeder of the press can apply a unique code to each sheet before it is printed, linking to Impress and other quality control systems on the machine, to identify whether any sheets are below the required quality threshold and can therefore be recycled. Inline waste sheet rejection is also possible and will interest carton printers.
Heidelberg's updated inline foiling system can create cast, cure hologram effects and, on the right paper, can apply cold foil for in mould labels. Non stop printing is now as practical for label papers as for cartons thanks to a rack system in the delivery.
Not every customer will need or want non stop print production, but will want to minimise lost time. This is not just at makeready; indeed saving a few seconds at each makeready is less important now than implementing the correct flow of jobs to the press. The absence of plates, because these have not been exposed at the right time, will cost more in lost time than a faster mechanical changeover can gain. It is about optimising the whole system.
Likewise other areas of inefficiency around the press are the focus for Heidelberg. The trend towards shorter run jobs means more plates and more makereadies. Here the savings can certainly mount up. A one minute time saving at each makeready will results in hundreds of additional hours a year, paving the way for a commercial printer to achieve 100 million impressions a year.