W&G Baird invests in automation

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, July 26, 2021

Commercial sheetfed printer W&G Baird has become the first company in the UK and Ireland to order robotic Stahlfolder P-Stackers from Heidelberg.

The P-Stackers will be installed in September
The P-Stackers will be installed in September

The Northern Irish printer already operates four Heidelberg folders and the P-Stackers, due for installation in September, will complement its two high-speed Stahlfolder TX 96 buckle plate folding lines, which were installed around six years ago.

In summer 2019, the business bought its other two Stahlfolders – a BH 82 buckle model with round pile feeder, and a CH 78 combination model with pallet feeder – to replace two ageing models that it had run for nearly 20 years.

W&G Baird operations director Andrew Watson said: “Over its history, W&G Baird has always been at the forefront of new technology in print. We are the first commercial printer in Ireland to run our presses from reels instead of sheets, having invested in reel sheeter technology last year, including a Heidelberg CutStar 105.

“We have been very closely following the developments of robotics in folding machines, so when Heidelberg brought the P-Stacker to market it was an obvious step for us to make, to improve the productivity of our bindery department as we have with printing over the past five to six years.”

He added: “We expect to see at least a 10% improvement in output thanks to this investment, by allowing the operator to focus on setting up and optimising the machines and keeping them constantly supplied. This in turn will improve our supply to our customers.

“We also expect to see our run speeds increase as most of the physical element of the job will now be handled by the robot.”

Heidelberg UK product manager post-press commercial Ian Trengrouse added: “The highest level of productivity is easily handled by the P-Stacker, leaving the operator to concentrate on other tasks. This could even be a second machine; we already have users running in excess of 30,000 folded sections per hour across two machines with only one operator manning both machines.”

While this will be the first P-Stacker installation in the UK and Ireland, Trengrouse said it will be “closely followed by more already ordered elsewhere in the UK marketplace”.

For W&G Baird’s operators, the new robotics will make a significant improvement to the ergonomics of their role; they are currently lifting and stacking paper by hand, something that the robots will now do.

The company’s customers, meanwhile, will benefit from the reduced lead times and increased throughput enabled by the robotics.

W&G Baird also runs two B1 eight-colour litho presses – a Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106 and a Komori GL840 – at its 2,800sqm factory, as well as Xerox digital printers and a raft of wide-format and finishing kit.

2022 will mark the 160th anniversary of the Antrim-based business, which serves clients in the educational and B2B sectors, producing sectional and leaflet work. The company also has sales offices in Dublin and Nottingham.

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