Zero Setup Time & Waste—Myth or Reality?

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Well-known member
By Walter Chumra
Vice President of Technical Sales
Koenig & Bauer

A printer who can achieve zero setup time with zero setup waste while maintaining consistent high quality output, is going to be miles ahead in terms of bottom line profitability. As the twenty-first century opened, Koenig & Bauer had already anticipated the need for the coexistence of conventional and digital printing, and had begun to develop the technology that is today empowering offset printers to meet those challenges.

The company understood that automation offered offset printing the most realistic pathway to achieving significant improvements in productivity and competitiveness, and established the goal of: “Zero Setup Time, Zero Setup Waste”. Nearly 20 years ago Koenig & Bauer began laying the groundwork for the Rapida series of printing presses, simultaneously accompanied by the development of their Autonomous Printing Technology. They unveiled their initial concept in the form of the Drivetronc drive system at Drupa 2008. In the interim, they have introduced an impressive array of automation features, the sum total of which have revolutionized sheet fed offset technology.

Toward Zero Setup Time
In order to allow printers to respond more effectively to the demands of shorter runs and faster job turnarounds, the ErgoTronic AutoRun was developed for the Rapida series. This is the core element of the company’s automation initiative and is embedded into ErgoTronic TouchTronic software. Among other functions, AutoRun automatically manages makeready, initiates job changeover and production start up, plus color and register control.

A Rapida operator is able to monitor all press operations on a single screen and can change settings with a single tap—One-Button Job Change. Once the operator has loaded all jobs into the console, AutoRun coordinates the existing automation modules on the Rapida and controls the entire print process. The intelligent system can manage all of the automation functions across a production shift.

When production of any print job concludes, ErgoTronic AutoRun initiates an automatic job change sequence, then begins the next run when makeready is complete. It loads the plates, pre-sets the ink fountains and proceeds right into the next job without human intervention.

Among its features, AutoRun is able to optimize the order of printing jobs based on a number of parameters, allowing the press to seamlessly cycle from one job to the next. The operator sees an interactive jobs list that allows them to rearrange jobs any time it becomes necessary. An important feature allows the makeready process to be reconfigured at any stage of production.
For example, AutoRun can automatically rank job order according to estimated ink coverage. Data on expected ink coverage is displayed for each run, enabling jobs to be sorted in accordance with their individual color assignments based on ink film thickness. Using this information, the operator can customize run order as they choose and set other parameters, as well. If desired, the operator can select job rotation starting with light ink coverage to heavy ink coverage, minimizing both washing times and start-up waste. The operator can also order jobs according to other parameters, such as substrate type or page format.

Unprecedented Operator Flexibility
The most recent addition to the ErgoTronic AutoRun feature set is Rapida LiveApp, a press monitoring app that loads to a smartphone. Wherever the operator is located, they can manage details of the job on press and determine what next steps are required.

LiveApp also provides a wide range of press performance metadata, including information on paper and ink consumption. This capability extends the Autonomous Printing model beyond the actual printing process into such realms as maintenance scheduling and inventory control, further automating production beyond the immediate press run. For example, relevant maintenance work tasks can be scheduled so as not to interrupt production. The app even includes an online maintenance manual.

With AutoRun in command, press crews simply monitor the process sequence, while being free to attend to other tasks. Operating staff are required only to supply new plates, substrates and consumables, along with removing printed product from the area.

Simultaneous Plate Change (SPC) / Plate Ident
An essential component of Ergotronic Autorun is Simultaneous Plate Change (SPC), which operates on all printing units. In the basic scenario, all lithographic plates are removed and reinstalled in approximately 50 seconds. The unique design of the SPC system deploys Koenig & Bauer technology called DriveTronic direct drive. The system is engineered with dedicated high-torque motors on the plate cylinder.

Alternatively, the Fully Automatic Plate Change (FAPC) option can remove and reinstall the lithographic plates on the fly in 1:34 seconds, bringing the effective plate change time down to virtually zero.

SPC relies on Koenig & Bauer’s PlateIdent technology, which identifies the location of printing plates using registration marks. The registration marks determine whether or not a plate is present, and also if it is positioned correctly in the plate clamps. If the positioning of the new printing plates is correct in all the units to be changed, the automatic process is enabled and the plates can be clamped, mounted and tensioned. Reading of a data matrix code verifies that the plate in position is the correct plate for the current job.

Simultaneous Wash Up
Another massive time saving component is DriveTronic Simultaneous Roller Wash (SRW), which occurs during the automatic plate changing process while a live job is running. With conventional offset printing systems, washing the roller train along with blanket and print cylinders cannot proceed until the job has finished running, expending valuable time.

An ancillary benefit to a thorough wash is the assurance that accurate color matches can be achieved more quickly at startup, providing additional time and waste savings. The capacity to perform multiple tasks at the same time reduces the makeready cycle to almost nothing, and is integral to the Autonomous Printing concept.

Automating Color Control
Augmenting Ergotronic AutoRun is the company’s Qualitronic Color Control System, developed to further shrink makeready times by minimizing the waste prints associated with bringing the press up to color to assure consistent color throughout the run. The Qualitronic system is built into the Rapida, and provides fully automatic color control for selected parameters within a given job, and according to defined targets.

Qualitronic is based on a proprietary optical color measurement device, which is integrated with an LED illumination source. The system enables fully automatic measurement of color control strips positioned either at the front or center of the sheet. As soon as printing starts, the control strips are scanned directly—inside the press—at which point solid density values are displayed in real time on the control screen. Simultaneously, the data is analyzed to create a basis for fast, dynamic inline color correction. Inline measurement reports can also be generated in PDF format.

At the beginning of the print run, each measuring patch is scanned on every printed sheet, until the maximum printing speed is achieved. Ongoing color corrections are made immediately after the press starts, with color consistency maintained via control measurements every ten sheets. The system automatically adjusts ink levels to maintain target densities, thus reducing waste associated with rejected sheets due to unacceptable color variations.

In addition to reducing material waste, the QualiTronic system contributes to labor savings related to color control tasks.

ErgoTronic ColorDrive / ErgoTronic ColorControl
Koenig & Bauer’s online measuring system (as opposed to the Qualtronic inline measuring system) can also provide time saving automation for makeready. Using this alternative, density mea-surements are taken off press using a spectro densitometer. Based on the measured data, the system will recommend control parameters that will be implemented once the operator accepts them. Adjustments of the parameters are made directly via online connection to the control console.

The motorized measuring head is able to scan control strips at any position on the printed sheet. After scanning of the control strip, the measured solid densities are presented on the screen as a graphic display. The measurements can then be confirmed as a basis for single or dynamic corrections of the ink key settings. After setting up the measuring system, including calibration for the substrate, the print operator takes a sheet from the press delivery and places it on the console inspection desk for measurement. Subsequently, the proposed corrections can be accepted and transmitted to the press for automatic modification of the ink profile.

Autonomous Printing: The Future
Today, Koenig & Bauer sees a continuum connecting digital printing and sheetfed offset, rather than a hard and fast line. These are co-existent print production strategies that should work alongside each other to increase total sales.

At the same time, the company is confident about the future of the offset industry. Offset tech-nology is the most efficient and cost effective printing solution, now and for the future, for run lengths of all quantities. The more copies customers require, the more cost-effective offset technology can be, and the tie-breaker is almost always the lower total cost of ownership (TCO) of offset printing presses.

In the modern era, clients expect to have a large range of substrate types, with different custom finishes available. For these scenarios, Koenig & Bauer can custom build a Rapida press with up to 19 unit’s inline, allowing the print buyer access to special custom inks and or the Pantone® extended color gamut. New technologies also offer great advantages in their particular markets, but they will have to find a way to coexist with offset rather than looking for a way to replace it.
Even though many of the features KB have presented are effective, their goal of zero set up time and waste is still a Myth with the direction they are still taking. Not very imaginative in their approach. There is really no excuse for the ignorance of the core problem that they claim to want to solve. There are lower cost technical approaches that will have higher performance for colour control than what is offered on this path.
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