Despite drupa Postponement, Heidelberg Launching Next-Gen Smart Presses as Planned
Regardless of the postponement of drupa 2020, Heidelberg will launch its new technologies as planned in June. The company made that clear in a statement last week, adding that it is working on an alternative for its customers and will send them further information soon.
“We plan to bring these innovations to our customers through obvious channels like our direct sales team, omni-channel marketing and customer focused events in our Print Media Center (PMC) Atlanta, as well as other industry events and trade fairs like Printing United and Labelexpo,” noted Hilde Weisser from Heidelberg’s Corporate Media Team in an email.
Heidelberg announced the new technologies it was planning to debut at drupa in a webinar last week. Long gone are the days when speeds and feeds dominated Heidelberg’s talking points when discussing its new offset presses. Executives focused instead on how Heidelberg is using artificial intelligence, process optimization and intelligent productivity to take the “smart print shop” into a new dimension.
CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer set the tone as he kicked off the press conference, stressing that Heidelberg’s goal is to facilitate the transition from a mere smart print shop environment to a “smart print media industry.” Key to this move is the next level of Heidelberg’s Push to Stop technology, introduced at drupa 2016. The technology uses job parameters to preset all functions of the press, then initiates the run, adjusts registration and color, and even starts the sheet counter, all while continuing to print unless the operator steps in to interrupt. Jobs are autonomously changed over without operator intervention.
The next generation of Push to Stop technology will extend through the entire print shop, he said, from prepress through post press.
“This will significantly help our customers to manage more complex business, shorter run lengths, and shorter delivery times,” remarked Hundsdörfer.
Solving Printers' Pressing Problems
He said Heidelberg will be launching solutions in June to the industry’s most pressing challenges. These include the growing complexity of print jobs, a lack of skilled personnel, fierce global competition, and the addition of digital platforms. Heidelberg’s vision, he said, was to develop a centralized platform for supplier and customer management, to include the automation of supply chains so that the machines themselves will order consumables, with no operator intervention.
“This will be the true revolution in the industry,” he predicted.
During the webinar press conference, Rainer Wolf, head of product management for sheetfed, took a deep dive into Heidelberg’s analysis of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) — an established metric of a machine’s productivity — on the Speedmaster XL 106 and detailed steps the company has taken to improve OEE. These improvements will be available on the entire Speedmaster portfolio, which will include Push to Stop functionalities and an interface to the Prinect Cloud as standard. This technology will enable comprehensive navigated and autonomous printing, which will increase productivity, process reliability, and profitability.
With the new Speedmaster 2020 generation, elements of artificial intelligence are finding their way into the pressroom and providing support where operators reach their limits. For example, Prinect optimizes job orders based on various parameters such as delivery date, substrate, or area coverage using the Scheduler.
Other New Technologies
Wolf also discussed other new Heidelberg technologies that will be launching in June, such as Intellistart 3, the third generation of the patented makeready assistant on the Prinect Press Center machine control station, available on all Speedmaster presses. A new feature on the touchscreen is the extended job queue, which displays all job data from the Prinect print shop workflow in a clear format. The job queue makes it possible to prepare for job changes using the automatically generated process view while production is still underway.
Wolf also touted Intellirun, which ensures continuous navigation during printing and automatically provides the operator with important indications and tips about what actions are required to avoid time losses. He compared Intellirun to the navigation system on a car, noting that even before the current job is finished printing, the operator can see at a glance whether anything for the next job is missing and can intervene.
Another new feature, Intelliline also brings navigation to individual printing and coating units. Color-controlled LED elements make it possible to see the machine status from afar, so if a unit’s LEDs light up blue operators know the press is printing good sheets; if the light changes to yellow, manual interventions are required.
Wolf touched on other helpful new technologies like Wash Assistant and Powder Assistant, as well as the new Prinect Press Center 3 / XL 3, the Speedmaster Operating System. Another new technology, Hycolor Pro, is a remote adjustable dampening unit.
The new Plate to Unit system provides automated infeed and disposal of printing plates. Through the use of a plate trolley, the correct plate is delivered to the correct printing unit, reducing the 23 manual steps that were previously required to just three. Plate to Unit enables a press to perform up to 20 different jobs an hour.
Heidelberg Subscription Expansions
With the success of the Heidelberg Subscription model, under which customers no longer pay for equipment, but only for the number of sheets produced, Dr. David Schmedding discussed expansions to the data-based contract business and additions to the Heidelberg Subscription portfolio. Customers now have a choice of four Print Site Contracts packages with different scopes of services and methods of payment. They range from a “Lifecycle Smart” contract that includes services and consumables to a “Subscription Plus” package that covers consulting, training, service, consumables, Prinect software, and equipment solutions. With its expanded contract portfolio, Heidelberg is making a more active contribution to improving print shop performance by using the wealth of data obtained via the link to machines.
Heidelberg will also unveil in June its Performance Advisor Technology (PAT), an AI-based process consulting tool that provides contract customers with specific instructions for improving their operational procedures. This involves adding an Artificial Intelligence module to the Heidelberg Cloud, a database with more than 18,000 connected machines and information relating to more than 50 million makeready processes. The module monitors measurements from Heidelberg equipment and compares them with anonymized benchmark groups from the Heidelberg Cloud.
The press conference also touched on post press and packaging innovations planned to launch in June. Jörg Dähnhardt, head of markets and products for postpress, announced the Stahlfolder P-Stacker robotic system, which securely grips and places down heavy signature piles, as well as the Powermatrix 106 CSB and Promatrix 145 CSB die-cutters, both launching in June. He also revealed that Push to Stop will now be available for Heidelberg Peak Performance folding machines.
Related story: drupa Postponed to April 2021
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.