Heidelberg showcases the automated workflow from PDF to stacked folded sheets

Flexible selection of digital and offset from prinect workflow

Heidelberg showcases the automated workflow from PDF to stacked folded sheets

Which solutions do commercial printers need to be competitive and profitable in the market? Which processes and interfaces offer potential to be leveraged, and how can print shop staff be even better supported? These are the questions the experts at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen (Heidelberg) asked themselves when developing the latest innovations. Heidelberg is showcasing autonomous production from data input right through to the folded signature – Push to Stop end-to-end for highly industrialized commercial printing companies with standardized workflows.

The Prinect Production Manager production workflow organizes the digitized processes in the smart print shop with its broad-based, scalable range of functions. It delivers streamlined, cost-efficient workflows. And it integrates not only offset printing presses but also digital presses via the Prinect Digital Front End (DFE).

The Digital Cluster production mode is a new functionality in the Prinect DFE. It enables several new-generation Versafire presses to share a job queue so the jobs can be organized with the optimal distribution.

Completely autonomous production including postpress

In mid-October, Heidelberg held a world premiere of completely autonomous production at an in-person event at the Wiesloch-Walldorf site. The powerful, digital planning system Prinect Scheduler schedules the incoming data in the optimum order based on criteria such as paper, color assignment, and folding layout. Imaging of the printing plates takes place fully automatically via the Suprasetter production line in this order.

Prinect knows at all times which plates are stored where. The order of the jobs in the plate storage system is optimized so that changes from job to job are kept as small as possible – we call this incremental makeready. Based on substrate parameters and job data, the anticipated paper stretch can be calculated and already compensated for during the imaging. This saves time and reduces paper waste,” explains Rainer Wolf, head of segment management commercial at Heidelberg.

The jobs are automatically loaded directly into the job memory of the printing press by the Prinect Scheduler. This includes information about where the plate is stored. With Plate to Unit, the printing plates are provided and removed using a fully automated process. “With industrial production of short runs, we get to ten to twenty job changes per hour in no time at all. Plate to Unit reduces the operator’s workload and ensures a reliable and stable process. Each plate has its own ID. This is how we ensure that the right plate is provided at the right time in the right printing unit. The risk of creases or scratches on the plate is eliminated. The process is more stable, downtimes are minimized, and the quality is better,” says Rainer Wolf.

The 2020 generation of the Speedmaster XL 106-8+P+L has everything needed to systematically harness the performance of the press. Operator navigation reaches a new level with further intelligent assistance systems and the use of artificial intelligence. The new Heidelberg UX thus delivers a new user experience and a modern workstation that provides ergonomic assistance for top performance. 

The patented Intellistart 3 software organizes and optimizes the makeready processes. The new Intellirun software extends the navigation functionality beyond the makeready process. It provides the operator with continuous information appropriate to the situation on which activities are required to avoid unnecessary auxiliary times. The Intelliguide timeline display ensures transparency across all processes. The operator can see exactly where manual interventions are needed. However, operator navigation is not limited to the machine control station, it is now also available at the printing units thanks to the new Intelliline. LED strips show whether the press is in production or makeready mode, and whether and if so, where the operator needs to take action. With the Press Center Mobile app, control station information is also available on the go.

To be able to head into postpress with a zero-waste pile, waste sorting gate has been integrated in a perfecting press. The press detects waste sheets and automatically ejects them. The ejected sheets are immediately shredded and disposed of via a vacuum unit. This means there is no more collection bin to empty.

The new generation of the DryStar LED Pro dryer systems is not only 20% lighter, it is more powerful and ensures a dry pile in the delivery, which can go straight into postpress.

This is then sent by an unattended transport system to the Stahlfolder KH 82-P folding machine, which folds around 15,000 sheets per hour using the shingled folding principle. The KH 82-P is also integrated via the Push to Stop concept and detects the next signature automatically by the printed barcode. Each new signature is autonomously recognized and automatically started. Compared with the previous workflows, this eliminates a total of six steps as well as the factor of operator influence.

The operator moves around seven tonnes of paper in one shift on this high-performance machine – a bundle every 12 seconds. The only way we can continuously realize the full potential of the press is by significantly reducing the operator’s workload. This is why we developed an industrial robotic solution with the Stahlfolder P-Stacker, which also permits the use of Euro pallets,” explains Rainer Wolf.

Another world premiere in the area of folding machines is the Stahlfolder TH 56 Pharma. It features many extras that enable significant economical production of a wide range of package inserts. There are new Push to Stop solutions for cutting on the Polar cutting systems. Whereas jogging used to be a laborious manual process, the new AirGo Jog system now fully automates it.

The completely redesigned Prinect Press Center 2020 generation with the new Speedmaster Operating System brings Push to Stop functionality and the Prinect Cloud interface to every Speedmaster – from the SX 52 to the XL 106. With the Heidelberg UX, the operator is able to continuously tap into the performance potential of the press. These digitized and automated processes permit navigated printing – all the way up to postpress on the Stahlfolder KH 82 folding machine, which is also integrated into the Push to Stop concept.

Medium-sized print shops are characterized by a broad portfolio of services, for which they use both offset and digital printing. With the Versafire, Heidelberg offers a digital sheetfed printing system that is integrated in all the different printing processes via the Prinect DFE.

This close integration of offset and digital printing means that the customer can still decide which printing method is the most economical for the specific job and the current workload up until shortly before printing starts. Even short runs previously produced using offset printing can be post-produced using digital printing without any trouble. The operators are familiar with the workflow sequence, and neither need to specialize nor switch with another operator. Sources of errors go down, flexibility and profitability go up.

With the Heidelberg Color Management system, the color space of the Versafire is used in such a way that the result is best matched to the offset printed sheet. The screen technology is identical. This opens up the door for hybrid productions.

For print shops with a high volume of digital print jobs, Heidelberg has developed a further functionality for the Prinect DFE with the new Digital Cluster production mode. It enables smart job management in a productive cluster of two or more Versafire presses, connected via the Prinect DFE. The Digital Cluster production mode is a scalable solution requiring little up-front investment for growing the digital production volume with an eye on value for money.

The Versafire stands for reliability and quality. The integrated Media Management Tool provides automatic setting of over 200 press parameters to achieve the perfect printed image on a variety of substrates. The Versafire processes a wide variety of substrates, from synthetic, textured, and metalized materials and offset pre-printed materials, to special formats in widths of up to 1,260 mm or short runs of customized packagings.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

Subscribe Now


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here