Finishing is just the beginning

Automated book print and production

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Paired with the Connex LineControl system for data and process management, the SigmaLine enables efficient book production down to batches of one.
Paired with the Connex LineControl system for data and process management, the SigmaLine enables efficient book production down to batches of one.

Gone are the days when print production could be considered a growth sector, and since 2008 the industry has undergone a profound structural upheaval. Successfully navigating the new landscape of customer requirements and consumer reading habits has required innovative adaptations. Müller Martini emerged from this transformation as a technological leader in the fields of offset and digital printing – a feat owed at least in part to automation solutions developed over the course of its 25-year collaboration with B&R.

Finishing 4.0

Müller Martini’s Finishing 4.0 philosophy brings together a variety of innovations the company has developed over the past 10 to 15 years – a number of them in cooperation with B&R. “The key to Finishing 4.0 is that our data is fully utilized so that our processes are fully integrated,” explains Christoph Gysin, Müller Martini’s head of Corporate Development and Standards. “Some of the innovations that have been made possible with B&R as our controls supplier include the ability to acquire and communicate machine data, as well as advanced diagnostic capabilities. Overall, it’s the high degree of automation – with fast motion axes, powerful industrial PCs, an efficient bus system and high-quality HMIs – that form the backbone of Finishing 4.0.”

To ensure its ability to accommodate customer requests, Müller Martini builds all of its control panels in-house
To ensure its ability to accommodate customer requests, Müller Martini builds all of its control panels in-house

Consistent implementation down to batches of one

The book production system recognized with the 2017 Swiss Industry 4.0 Award enables a completely hands-free workflow without any manual intervention or downtime for changover to produce books in very small print runs. Ultimately, that includes batches of one, as is frequently the case with photo books and other personalized products. The Connex workflow system developed by Müller Martini integrates every step in print production from the print-ready PDF file to the finished book ready for shipping.

Seamless flow to the finished product

Connex starts by reading the book’s information from a PDF and generating the necessary formatting and job files for the digital press. The custom book is then printed on a continuous web and processed into a book block. The Vareo binder then joins the book block with its cover, following which the product is trimmed to its final format in the InfiniTrim three-blade trimmer. Format, thickness and content can vary from book to book without the line ever requiring a single manual operation. Since the Connex workflow system is aware of what jobs are pending, it is able to make optimizations on its own. “It’s Industry 4.0 in its purest form. We have moved past the theoretical talk into real-world solutions,” says Gysin. “The jury of the Swiss Industry 4.0 Award took notice – but more importantly, so did our customers.”

B&R – the right choice

On the search for an innovative and reliable controls partner, Müller Martini decided 25 years ago in favor of B&R. “At the time, they were just developing the System 2000,” recalls Gysin. “From a technical standpoint, we were impressed by the modularity, breadth and completeness of their portfolio, as well as the programming capabilities. At a personal level, we shared similar corporate cultures, a readiness to accommodate and a passion for innovation. All these factors played a role in our decision to make B&R our automation partner.” And it’s a decision that Müller Martini stands behind to this day.

The company's Vareo binder and three-blade InfiniTrim trimmer are perfectly suited for digital book production. Paired with B&R technology, the solution covers every aspect of Finishing 4.0.
The company’s Vareo binder and three-blade InfiniTrim trimmer are perfectly suited for digital book production. Paired with B&R technology, the solution covers every aspect of Finishing 4.0.

A well-rounded concept

From motion axes, controllers, industrial PCs and HMIs to development and diagnostics software, B&R automation solutions form the foundation of today’s most advanced manufacturing systems. “Around 20 years ago, we worked with B&R to develop a comprehensive hardware/software concept – which we call the Müller Martini Automation Platform,” explains Gysin. “This standardized platform continues to play a significant role in the success of our most innovative projects.” We worked together closely to establish software guidelines and define interfaces and various functions such as alarm management and I/O management. B&R’s Automation Studio software also allows us to program and simulate very efficiently. We developed software libraries that make our programs both flexible and consistent. Of course, as B&R’s products have evolved over the years, so has our platform. In the future, a number of the existing functions will be directly replaced by mapp Technology components.”

Efficient solutions for the customer

For Müller Martini, the primary goal of Finishing 4.0 is to help print shops, newspaper publishers and book binders keep costs down and stay competitive while providing the increasingly individualized products their customers demand. “The cost pressure in the paper converting industry is enormous,” emphasizes Gysin. “We give our customers the ability to personalize the content of their printed products without compromising in areas like seamless tracking and quality assurance. In line with the definition of Industry 4.0 – which applies equally to Finishing 4.0 – intelligently coordinated processes and systems make it possible to make highly individualized products with mass production efficiency. B&R sees the print industry as an Industry 4.0 pioneer – and are themselves a pioneer in their own field, having implemented Industry 4.0 at their plant in Eggelsberg. That’s another important thing that our two companies have in common.”

Reprinted by permission of B&R. Photos courtesy B&R and Müller Martini

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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