As a production leader, your main responsibilities are meeting shipping dates, realising short delivery and lead times, consistent print quality and the lowest cost price. To accomplish these objectives, it’s crucial to optimally control your printing process. A manually controlled printing process leads to a significantly higher risk of human error and could keep you from achieving your goals. That’s where printing automation comes into play. Automation is an essential part of a viable and fully optimised printing process. Read on to find out more about the why of printing automation, see several examples, and learn what you can do to implement it.
The importance of printing automation
Printing automation optimises your printing process in two different ways: it eliminates errors, and makes repetitive tasks a thing of the past.
If you automate your printing process, the required settings are automatically generated by the printing presses. This means you are no longer dependant on differences in operator press settings and adjustments, the course of events on a day, or work shifts. Automation eliminates errors which unintentionally can be made by your employees, no matter how well-trained they are.
However, if errors still occur, it’s also much easier to detect them. After all, you have recorded your printing process.
Printing automation doesn’t just optimise your printing process by eliminating errors; it also ensures that repetitive tasks belong to the past. It enables you to recall settings you’ve previously used if you receive an order you’ve already run. By recalling settings, you’re sure they are exactly the same as the first time. Therefore, you don’t just eliminate the risk of errors, you also save time.
In short, printing automation ensures optimal process control which leads to:
- Saving time, which enables you to run more jobs per day
- Less waste, because human errors are kept to a minimum
- Higher quality, because of the elimination of human errors and ensured required settings, over and over again.
4 examples of printing automation
Printing automation can be implemented in numerous ways. I’ll give you four examples.
1. Automated print pressure
With automated print pressure, you are sure there isn’t too much pressure on printing plates. Therefore, print results and print effects, like dot gain, will always be exactly the same. This ensures a consistent quality.
2. Automated adjustment of the anilox roller
With automated ink settings, the right quantity of ink with the right density will always be applied. This results in high-quality products and less printing waste because erroneous prints are limited.
3. MPS / AVT Presco system
MPS / AVT Presco system is an automatic plate & anilox pressure pre-setting & control. In the process control stage, it measures the pressure settings of the anilox and print sleeves and adjusts it automatically. This generates transparent and standardised press settings for jobs and ensures feedback when pressure setting problems occur.
4. Auto teach technology
Every job you run has different converting options. One time you are laminating after printing three colours, the other time you adjust cold foil after six colours, or you need a web turn after two colours. This generates different web paths for every job.
The auto teach technology automatically teaches the press how the current web path is used. Colours are automatically registered without any operator’s interference and without any predefined web paths. This enables you to quickly change from one job to another.
The first step to start implementing printing automation
There’s no reason to skirt around it: if you want to automate your printing process, investments are needed. You need to invest in printing presses that contain servo motor-controlled adjustments with a very high accuracy.
The degree of automation, however, depends on the product portfolio of your printing jobs. If you mainly print on a certain type of material, a limited degree of automation is enough to achieve your objectives. If you’re printing on a wide range of materials, extended automation is needed to reach the same goals.
The more you want to optimise your printing process, the more printing automation is recommended. The foundation is always a printing press that contains automated features.
I understand it’s a big leap to invest in a new printing press. However, I hope this blog can be a trigger to start thinking about printing automation, since it’s an essential part of a viable, future-proof printing process.
If you are curious to find out to what extent your printing process is viable, we have a useful tool that helps. By answering 9 short questions, you receive an indication on the viability of your printing process. It helps you find out to what extent you should consider implementing process optimisations, and in what areas.
Bert van den Brink is one of the founders of MPS. He has a broad knowledge of innovations in the printing industry and the technology in printing presses, including connectivity.