Me & my: Polar PACE cutting system
By Jon Severs Thursday, 19 July 2012
When an increasingly heavy workload led this business to seek out a new cutting system, it turned to a familiar and trusted supplier
Grant Drew, bindery manager at Leicestershire-based print group Taylor Bloxham, had a problem. While on the first day of their shifts, his guillotine minders would be lifting and transporting stacks of paper as if they were Styrofoam, by day three the cumulative strain of shifting the increasingly large and heavy stock the company was moving towards using was taking its toll and they were inevitably slowing down.
And it wasn’t just the humans. His two 10-year-old guillotines, a Polar 115 and a Schneider Senator machine, were both feeling the strain of having to cut and handle the heavier stock too.
"Our work was changing, with the sheets getting bigger and heavier," explains Drew. "We were using 70gsm paper a lot and cutting 1,000 sheets at that weight was getting harder to do as our machines were getting more worn out. And by day three of their shift, the operators were lagging a little bit too because of the strain of the work."
The solution to the problem was in finding a cutting system that could take some of the strain off the operators and handle the heavier stocks. Drew admits that in seeking out such a machine, the company did not look too far afield – indeed, there was only ever one manufacturer in the race.
"Polar, in my opinion, are the Rolls Royce of guillotines," he explains. "They are great bits of machinery that hold their value. So going with Polar again was always the preferred option."
That’s not to say the company did not put the various Polar options through extensive testing. Drew and his team took the hardest jobs they could find to the Heidelberg showroom and put them through the various Polar configurations. The machines performed extremely well and so the decision was quickly made to make an investment.
In the end, Taylor Bloxham opted for the Polar Cutting System L-R-137-T PACE configuration. This basically means manual preparation of the material, automatic loading onto the high-speed cutter, automatic cutting of undivided reams, manual unloading, then automatic piling of cut labels onto pallets.
The system works like this: the Autotrans M gripper-loading system takes the cutting ream, which has been manually prepared, and, via air tables that optimise the conveying process using air cushions, the material is transported directly onto the high-speed cutter rear table where it is aligned. During the transport, the grippers firmly hold the cutting ream, which ensures that the edges of the reams remain precisely aligned.
The Autoturn turning gripper with automatic aligning gauge then turns the ream on the rear table, either 90 or 180 degrees, to the right or left-hand side. Then an automatic gauge positions the ream. The cut is released automatically. If further cuts are needed, the operator continues the cutting job and turns the individual products manually. After cutting, the final products are manually pushed onto the Transomat transport pallet and, in automatic cycles, they are precisely stacked on the pallet.
Upping the pace
"The PACE is for customers with two to 16 cuts per ream and the configuration of cutter and automated materials handling can be tailored to specific customer needs. Operated by only one man, the Polar PACE has processed as many as 43 reams, equivalent to six one metre-high pallets, in one hour under test," reveals Paul Thompson, product executive for Postpress Packaging & Polar Cutting Systems at Heidelberg UK.
Installation occurred 12 months ago and Drew said it was a very smooth and professional process right from the off.
"Our site manager worked very closely with Heidelberg. They came down and did an assessment to make sure it would fit and there was access for the install, that we had the right power source and air supply," he explains. "And anything that needed to be done was completed before the press arrived so everything was ready."
Installation took a week and then a week of training followed. Drew says that the latter was not intended to teach the minders how to cut – they had been doing that for decades already – but more how to control the automated features of the new system.
"At a basic level, a guillotine is a guillotine, but we did need to be able to tell the machine how and when to do the things that the operator used to do," he explains. "You are in essence the brain for the machine and so we needed to be trained in how to ensure we did that correctly."
It wasn’t just the guillotine minders that went through the training, other members of the team also got a basic crash course in case they had to jump on the machine themselves. Fortunately, Drew says the touchscreen interface of the system is very easy to use, so this eventuality would not cause too much trouble.
Drew reports that the operators are very pleased with the system.
"The operators love it," he reveals. "I get short shrift if I tell them they are going on the Polar 115, which we have kept as a back-up – the return to the manual processes is not welcomed!"
Since installation, Drew reports that the company has not had a single problem with the new PACE system – which is just as well as it is the only gateway to the whole post-press process. The Polar 115 is only ever used in an emergency so the single machine is carrying the weight of every job that needs cutting.
"We don’t cut everything we print, we try and impose jobs so we don’t have to cut everything, but obviously we do put a lot of work on it all the same," he explains.
"As an operation, we are that diverse
that the work going through it is always different. One moment you could be cutting covers for a Kolbus binder, the next you could be cutting covers for a stitcher, then the next job could be going to the folder. The latter is a good example of the guillotine’s importance – it’s one guillotine to five folders here so the PACE has its work cut out."
Despite the workload, however, Drew says the machine has had a massive impact on the company. For starters, doing the job of two machines has meant that minders have been freed up to work on other jobs, making the department more efficient.
Ready, set-up, go
In terms of speed, he says the set-up times on the new system are much longer than with the two older guillotines, but that the time savings once the system gets going means the overall production time is
"A makeready that used to be 10 steps, could now be 20 or 30 steps as you are telling the machine to pull the work in, as well as when and where to turn it," he explains. "The gain is that the machine then does all these tasks on its own, leaving the operator to go and prepare the next job. So the overall time is reduced, because you have a robot doing a lot of the handling work, despite the slightly longer set-up time."
He adds that the set-up times reduce with time as it is possible to re-use information from previous jobs and tweak it to fit the new job.
As for quality, Drew says this is an area the company has always prided itself on, targeting as it does the high end of the market. As such, the old guillotines were high quality cutters and so the new system had to match that. He reports that it does.
"The quality of the cut is as good as our old guillotines," he says. "We target ourselves at the quality end of the market and so it has to be this way. If the cutting is bad, then the folding is then bad and then the stitching is going to look bad. It has to be of the highest quality as it is so integral to the final product."
The combination of less manpower, more speed and a maintained high quality has meant the company has met the demands for shorter turnarounds from its clients, says Drew. He adds that he sees the investment as his most successful at the company to date. Not that he thinks it will be suitable for everyone though.
"If you’re a little B2 printer, there’s no point in buying the machine, but for a large print house, it is perfect," he says.
He concludes: "It’s a good name, it is a good machine, it has been a great investment for us."
Max speed 45 reams/hr
Format (min) 500x500mm
Format (max) 790x1,100mm
Height of ream 30-140mm
• Turning 90° and aligning: 20s
• Turning 180° and aligning: 23s
• Four-side trim (four cuts, turning three times): 80s
• Four-side trim (four cuts, turning three times, loading and unloading): 90s
Price from £400,000
Contact Heidelberg 0844 892 2010 www.uk.heidelberg.com
Leicester-based Talylor Bloxham was established 73 years ago and offers print services including digital, litho and POS work, alongside design, fulfilment and procurement services. Aimed at the high-quality market, it says it has a turnover "in excess of £23m" and the capacity to print 17m A4 sheets a day.
Why it was bought…
Bindery manager Grant Drew explains that the company’s two guillotines were 10 years old and feeling the strain on the heavy workload. Also feeling the strain were the minders who were having to haul heavy loads around. Hence, a more automated and modern guillotine system was needed.
How it has performed…
Drew says it has been a fantastic investment for the company, doing the work of two guillotines, speeding up the cutting process and taking the strain off the operators while freeing them up to do other tasks. He says it has meant the company can meet increasing demands for shorter turnaround times and that the post-press department is much more efficient as a result of the purchase.
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