With drupa 2020 shifted to drupa 2021, many companies organized virtual trade shows and webinars in what would have been drupa time. The zen drupa, as we have called it, meant that developments that would have been revealed at the fair could be shared with distributors and customers around the world. A semblance of the quadrennial rhythm of new products and innovations could be maintained.
Agfa’s webinars from June 18 to 26 included a newspaper specific event on 26 June. While Agfa is based in Belgium it has production and research centers in the US, Canada, Germany, France, the U.K, Austria, China, and Brazil. Apart from wholly-owned sales organizations in more than 40 countries, it has TechNov which is its licensee in India and a significant manufacturer of offset plates for both domestic and export consumption.
Agfa revealed innovations in its inkjet ink capacity and a new plate loading robot and its release of Arkitex Production version 4.0 for newspapers. Arkitex 4.0 focuses on tighter integration with press management systems for just-in-time plate delivery and incorporates multi-tenant capabilities and improved planning and tracking, according to the company.
With newspaper run lengths getting shorter and more contract printers producing multiple dailies with smaller run lengths, Agfa says there is an increase in the number of press runs and the frequency of plate changes. Arkitex 4.0 is in response to this need for agility. It considers a reliable and automated workflow more crucial than ever and wants to support the newspaper industry.
In India, not only are run lengths down but so is the pagination, which implies a lower consumption of plates by newspapers. Commercial print is also down, and the only offset segment that seems healthy in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic is monocarton printing. In offset packaging print, the number of impressions is healthy, and the increase in shorter runs may boost the demand for offset plates.
Arkitex Production 4.0 supports multiple tenants on a single server, enabling them to access and benefit from the same software modules (such as RIPs, imposition, ink presets, etc.). Each tenant has its own users and permissions, plate layouts, products, and can only see their publications and templates. This becomes important in view of both local centralization and cloud workflow solutions where multiple sites can share hardware and resources while maintaining data security and workflow control.
Just-in-time plate delivery
Arkitex Production 4.0 can be integrated more tightly with printer’s press management and plate stacking systems, enabling a just-in-time delivery of plates to press. This way, plates can be produced in a shorter timeframe and arrive at the right moment at the right press tower.
In many cases, the press operator is responsible for both prepress and press and can manage the entire workflow from one place. This includes automatic optional release of plates as soon as stacker bins for the next press run become available. Apart from the reduction in personnel, it increases press efficiency and reduces press idle time.
At Media group MainPost in Würzburg, Germany, the purchase of new presses put new requirements to their plate workflow process. The company connected not only its platesetter from Agfa, but also its punch & benders, and its plate sorting unit to Arkitex and moved all of them close to the press console. “Plates are delivered just in time to the press towers now. This saves us time and costs, while production stability has increased,” says Thomas Gabel, production manager from the MainPost site in Würzburg, Germany. “With this investment, we are prepared for the future.”
Improved planning, tracking and fan-out compensation
The updated Arkitex Production GUI contains many improvements in planning, status communication, and workflow tracking. With a single mouse click, the new Edition Planning Wizard enables operators to use an existing product template to create a new edition plan instantly. Plan automation can automatically create a template-based plan a defined number of days before production. These templates differ by day of the week and, once a plan is created, users can modify the specific plan to adjust for specific differences.
In addition, production monitoring and tracking functionality from a single view have been enhanced. New visual indicators notify an operator of an action that may need to be taken, such as a plate approval. The ability to easily filter various queues by criteria such as page count, page version, job status, or time range is another benefit that allows users to focus on critical more work.
Finally, to accommodate for web growth, the fan-out functionality that shifts and scales separations per press position also got an upgrade allowing for more precise image adjustment.
Cloud-based for guaranteed business continuity
Arkitex Production is available both on-premise and as a cloud-based solution. “Cloud-based services offer huge benefits,” says Jeff Cord, product manager Newspaper Software. “Newspaper printers do not need to spend time or money on IT infrastructure, server maintenance, or software updates. Systems are monitored and optimized 24/7 by experienced IT people and Agfa newspaper workflow experts. Uniform and standardized operations lead to better print quality, higher process efficiency with less downtime, guaranteed system stability, and business continuity. By the way, Agfa’s cloud infrastructure is also used to host all of our hospital software solutions worldwide.”
Agfa’s new plate-loading robot streamlines and speeds up printers’ prepress operations while reducing overall cost, the company claims. Agfa’s robotic plate loader frees prepress staff from heavy manual, repetitive tasks such as plate-loading cassettes of autoloaders or fixing pallets on the base frame of skid loaders.
In the first phase, Agfa is offering its plate loading robot to printing companies using its Avalon VLF platesetters. Scandinavian printed marketing solutions provider Stibo Complete is an early adopter of Agfa’s robotic plate loader. “Our plate loading robot saves employees from approximately 230 (metric tons) of heavy lifting per year,” says Svend Erik Grue Nielsen, operations and development manager at Stibo Complete.