With the aging of the skilled workforce in the printing and packaging industry, recruiting and training new recruits in the intricacies of printing becomes a problem. David Zwang takes a look at Canon’s press automation modules, which can simplify the process while maximizing quality and productivity for new and even older digital presses.
This article is sponsored by Canon as part of WhatTheyThink’s Print Software Product Spotlight series. In preparing this article, the editors of WhatTheyThink Print Software Section conducted original and extensive research into Canon’s press automation modules. This Product Spotlight describes what publishers believe are the product’s strengths in the marketplace. Canon checked the final article for accuracy, but had no editorial control over the content.
With the aging of the skilled workforce in the printing and packaging industry, recruiting and training new recruits in the intricacies of printing becomes a problem. Press automation modules can simplify the process while optimizing quality and productivity for new and even older digital presses.
Whatever printing and production technology you use, the fact is that skilled operators will get old sooner or later. Hiring new recruits and learning these inherent skills can take years, and as technologies evolve and change, they are a moving target for training new operators. Additionally, as consumer demands continue to shift toward shorter run lengths, the need for automation is critical.
To address these issues, we are seeing a move towards greater digitization of production equipment, including automated machine controls and even machine learning. Although this scan is built into some of the newer systems, it is also offered as an upgrade module for some of the latest models of equipment. This digitization generally aims to reduce the amount of manual routine work while improving production quality and efficiency.
Advanced automation modules
One of the newer methods of integrating optional advanced automation into digital presses is through the use of inline quality control systems. Canon’s new imagePRESS sensor unit is a prime example.
This optional unit can be integrated into a range of imagePRESS digital color presses, including the V1000, C10010VP, C9010VP and the C910, C810 and C710. This accessory is designed for front-to-back alignment and registration, cross-shade adjustment (color uniformity across the sheet), color accuracy (consistency throughout the run), and secondary transfer (transfer optimization of toner on different media) before printing.
Additionally, the sensing unit can measure and make any necessary adjustments to front-to-back alignment, registration, and real-time color accuracy on the fly during runtime. Without the sensing unit, the press preparation adjustments require operator intervention and above all time.
Many digital presses, including Canon’s imagePRESS, measure color bars off the transfer belt to ensure densities are consistent, but this does not take into account the effect of media. Most digital press operators do their initial testing early in the day or perhaps early in the week. The problem is that environmental conditions can change during the day and can impact print quality.
With the imagePRESS sensor unit, the operator can request it to check and adjust the color before the run and during the production run. The detection unit and the press do all the work for them. If you can place the 32 patch color bar target on the sheet, it will measure each sheet, if you don’t have room for the color bars, you can set the system to check after a user definable number of sheets. It will print a sheet with only the test targets and automatically send the sheet to the sensor unit’s purge tray so it does not interfere with the printed job. In both cases, the system adjusts the press on the fly if necessary in real time so as not to affect productivity.
In the case of the Canon imagePRESS V1000 and imagePRESS C10010VP series, there are also internal inline spectrophotometers (ILS), and if you have the PRISMAsync print server, printer calibration steps such as linearization, l G7® calibration, color profiling and even verification can be automated and completed in minutes with minimal operator intervention.
Registration can be critical on printed materials. With cut leaves there can be, and usually is, some variability in size. Many of the newer digital printers, such as the imagePRESS V1000, can duplex print up to 400 GSM sheets and now support 51 inches. support up to 300 GSM double-sided, so paper alignment and skew may cause problems with double-sided registration. Add to this the difficulty and quality of the papers currently available, an operator can spend a lot of time and waste ensuring the registration is within tolerance.
The sensing unit can check and adjust the alignment and front-to-back alignment of a job in less than a minute to ensure alignment is within tolerance before starting production. Just as with color verification, it can be set to verify registration on every sheet or on a predetermined number of sheets.
More productivity and less waste
The integration of automation module technologies such as the Sensor Unit can help operators of all skill levels reduce the time required to manually test, monitor and adjust color and registration on a digital press. By installing it on a new or existing supported imagePRESS, you can improve predictability and improve quality and productivity.
Brad Steven, CIO at Print-Tech in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said, “When we look at new purchases, it’s not just quality, but can we gain efficiencies so I can get things out of the machine faster or get out of the door faster. Looking at a new C10010, we decided to add the cooling and sensing units to both new presses. What made us spend the money to add upgrades to both machines was the time savings. I can now produce more jobs in a day more efficiently, but the quality is also there, thanks to real-time color quality checking and on-the-fly adjustment. These are real money savings in the long run.