There’s little doubt that as the printing industry continues to digitize and become increasingly automated, the human role in the production process will change. As Komori approaches its 100th anniversary, the company has brought a new mindset to the forefront of the industry, developing highly automated equipment, which encourages the creativity to flourish on the human side of the industry.
According to Eiji Kajita, director and executive operating officer, group GM, global sales and service group and management for Komori’s Digital Printing System (DPS) business unit, by embracing “smart factory” concepts, print shops can become less reliant on human intervention in manufacturing.
“Digitalization in the printing industry seems to be destined,” Kajita says. “Everything processed analog now will be changed to digital, and this will increase the productivity of the industry as a whole. By digitalizing and automating the [printing] process, the human resource can be shifted to more creative tasks.”
The Power of Digital
In a September event held at Komori’s facility in Yamagata, Japan, Komori demonstrated how it is bringing the concepts of “Connected Automation” to its entire product portfolio, spanning both offset and digital printing platforms, as well as innovative software solutions.
On the digital side, the event included a demonstration of one of the most highly anticipated products that emerged from drupa 2016. The Komori Impremia NS40, a B1-size digital press, features Nanographic printing technology, which Komori has implemented via a licensing agreement with Landa. The press, which can run at the exceptionally rapid pace of 6,500 sph, is capable of providing the variable print applications that have led to the proliferation of digital printing, but at higher speeds, with premium quality, and reduced waste.
“With this technology, waste paper and makeready time can be reduced significantly,” Kajita says. “In particular, time and loss can be reduced drastically in the area of packaging where makeready involves changing of special colors. As a result, the number of production jobs will be greatly improved, and ROI will be able to surpass the offset, especially in an environment with an average lot of 3,000 or less.”
Kajita explains that the first stage of the NS40 development is geared toward the packaging segment, due to the press’s single-sided, in-line varnish configuration. Because commercial printing typically requires double-sided printing, it will be the second phase of the NS40’s launch. Since the event in September, Komori has announced the first beta site for the press will be Shinwa Factory, a producer of packaging, displays, and sales promotion material, based in Satte City, Japan.
“In the packaging field where brand colors and other special colors are a must, makeready for special colors is a bottleneck in production,” Kajita says. “There is also a need for variable printing for small lots, fast delivery, on-demand, and segmentation. Simpler operations are required due to difficulty in securing skilled operators. NS40 would be an ideal solution to resolve these issues.”
While the NS40 enters its beta stage, the Komori Impremia IS29 UV inkjet press has emerged as a strong digital printing platform for the commercial segment. As the company continues to develop in-line varnishing and white printing capabilities for the Impremia IS29, Kajita said to expect the packaging segment to be the next to adopt the press.
Automating and Connecting
With groundbreaking digital solutions emerging from Komori’s manufacturing facilities, it’s important to note that the company is still highly dedicated to innovation in offset printing — the technology that has served as its foundation for nearly a century.
As a combination of forces continues to impact the printing and packaging industries, including increased speed to market pressures and workforce challenges, Komori has placed an emphasis on significant automation in its offset offerings. In addition to mechanical tasks such as automatic plate changing, automatic non-stop operation, and automatic wash-up processes, Komori has also automated its press control system via its KP-Connect cloud-based technology and KHS-AI interface.
The KP-Connect Pro platform allows users to share operating information in real time. Users of the platform can also integrate job scheduling and distribution, as well as view production results in a cloud-based system. KHS-AI, meanwhile, takes automation in press control even further by integrating job data received via KP-Connect Pro into the press.
This provides significant efficiency gains because changeover tasks that were typically done sequentially in the past can be completed simultaneously. According to Kajita, in addition to increasing the efficiency and automation on the offset side, Komori is also looking at ways it can utilize this technology to bring these advantages to its digital offerings.
“Komori has always led the way in improving productivity through automation and labor saving with innovative technologies, such as the world’s first full APC and KHS-AI with self-learning functions,” he says. “In the future, in-line printing quality inspection function, double delivery technology that completely separates waste and product, automatic non-stop, and automatic delivery functions developed in the field of offset can be integrated into the digital printing press.”
Another key aspect of Komori’s technological advancements is in how it is able to expand the product portfolio of many of its customers via its technology. While Komori has long been a mainstay of commercial printing segments, its equipment is also highly viable in the rapidly growing packaging segment. In particular, printers seeking to make an entry into the folding carton segment have found that Komori technology provides a particularly strong platform for serving brand owners.
While Kajita acknowledges there are specific challenges commercial printers will need to navigate during their transitions into packaging, the expertise and dedication to service that Komori provides can make that process easier. Particular attention should be paid to finishing and converting, Kajita says, as these processes are typically specific to packaging, and will be newer for commercial printers, who are already accustomed to the offset printing process.
“We consider ourselves a partner to your success, and will support you through the transition to packaging, be it full or partial,” he says. “We offer a variety of special configurations specifically designed for efficiency and flexibility across different packaging applications. Consider the work layout with respect to the stock grain and post press scoring and folding. Finishing equipment will have to complement the work. Special effects accomplished with the printing process should be considered, as well as the frequency of color washes, all of which we can help you with. Finally, consider the use of electronic vision systems to help maintain a high level of quality.”
But even with its substantial technological advancements, Kajita reiterates that where Komori stands out is in the support it provides to its customers.
“One the biggest advantages of Komori is the support and responsiveness we bring through our commitment to your success,” he says.