Heidelberg brings autonomous printing to Drupa

Heidelberg has unveiled a new vision of autonomous printing presses at Drupa with its 'Push to Stop' philosophy promising massive increases in productivity. It will also ship the first Primefire 106 B1 inkjet press to a packaging printer by the end of the year.

The press manufacturer described Push to Stop as “charting a course towards the industrial print production of the future”, and said it would pave the way to potentially double the net productivity of a press. 

Chairman Gerold Linzbach said the firm was showcasing “the new Heidelberg”.

“It’s like the birth party for the new Heidelberg. We have changed our mindset, culture and approach – everything is open,” Linzbach said.

“In the past we were sometimes talking without doing, and this is worth nothing,” he stated.

Heidelberg (Hall 1) is showing the Push to Stop concept on two Drupa-generation Speedmaster XL 106 presses: a six-colour with double coater targeted at packaging and label printers, and an eight-colour perfector aimed at commercial and web-to-print printers.

“Whereas today the operator must actively start processes on the machine, in future the machine will, wherever possible, do this itself,” explained Stephan Plenz, Heidelberg board member for equipment, who likened the technology to autonomous driving systems. 

Faster makeready times are achieved through the new Hycolor Multidrive system, whereby inking and dampening units operate independently from the main drive.

Prinect Press Center XL 2 and Intellistart 2 software, in combination with the new Wallscreen XL, provide operators with an easy-to-use interface.

“All customers who have seen this so far are delighted,” Plenz added. “Today we are already capable of printing jobs with a similar structure completely autonomously.”

Rainer Wolf, head of sheetfed product management, said the average overall equipment efficiency (OEE) on presses today was about 25%.

“We believe in 10 years’ time we will double this. Then we will double the output and this is a revolution,” he stated. “With Push to Stop, the moment the press can go it does go, and that saves a lot of time.”

Wolf said “a handful” of companies were achieving 50%-60% OEE today.

Existing XL 106 users cannot retrospectively upgrade to the autonomous printing system because it requires a combination of hardware and software that is only in the Drupa-generation machines

Also new is Heidelberg Cloud, a cloud-based service platform that uses 'big data' gathered from more than 10,000 networked presses worldwide with the goal of scheduling preventive maintenance before problems actually develop.

Drupa also marks the worldwide premiere of the 2,500sph, 1,200dpi Primefire 106 seven-colour B1 sheetfed inkjet press, developed jointly with Fujifilm. The press costs around €2.8m (£2.1m) with seven colours and varnish.

In an apparent reference to Landa, which is yet to ship a press despite launching at Drupa 2012, Plenz described the Primefire as “the first commercially available, industrial digital printing system in B1 format”.  

Commercial shipments are scheduled to start early next year, but the first beta press will be installed at a “huge packaging printer” by the end of this year.

In the Drupa demonstration, which involves three Kuka industrial robots wielding display screens, the Primefire was shown printing a packaging job immediately followed by a poster job. Key customers will be able to take away samples.

A new feature, Perfect Stack, means only good sheets arrive at the delivery pile and operators can output test sheets by simply pushing a button on the control panel.

Landa is also claiming the lowest total cost of ownership, but Plenz said: “We can’t judge TCO on competitors’ numbers. We are using the best heads in the world and see a sweet spot for this press in short-run packaging.

“If customers have enough short runs it will pay for the machine, and they can then develop business ideas such as versioning and personalisation and add more volume to it.”

Ironically, Landa is now using the same Fujifilm Dimatix Samba heads as Heidelberg, having switched from the Kyocera heads it was understood to be using at Drupa 2012.



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