RMGT shows off press automation at IGAS in Tokyo

RMGT 970 8-color perfecting with automated plate supply system

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RMGT IGAS 2022 plate supply
The automated Plate Supply system was shown fitted to the 7th and 8th color units of the 970 press at IGAS Photo Nessan Cleary

RMGT’s stand at IGAS 2022 was dominated by a 970 PF8 offset press, an 8-colour machine with perfector and online color control registration and inspection. The press was configured with a simultaneous plate change system, which Vinay Kaushal, director of RMGT’s Indian distributor Provin Technos, says represents the first generation to feature man-less printing.

This was demonstrated as part of RMGT’s Smart Factory concept where all the operations from prepress to the immediate post-press are linked together and automated. Toshiyuki Ishibashi, group leader for RMGT’s international sales and marketing, explains, “Many Japanese printing companies are facing small lot jobs with a lot of images. Plus the rising cost of materials and a lack of manpower.”

The Smart Factory brings together a number of companies, including Fujifilm for CtP and Horizon for post-press functions such as folding and binding. Ishibashi says that the purpose is to solve problems collaboratively for their customers rather than to charge more.

Thus a prepress workflow and MIS can send data to preset the press, as well as to the platesetter to make the plates. The practical demonstration at the show started with two autonomous guided vehicles, known as Nippers. One of these collected the plates from the platesetter and delivered them to the press. The smaller Nipper robot then picked up a palette with the paper and inserted that into the pile feeder for the press. The advantage of these small robotic systems is that they reduce the number of pressroom staff needed without the need for any kind of conveyor system.

The press itself was fitted with a prototype Plate Supply System on the 7th and 8th color units that removed the used plates from the print units and inserted the new plates that had been delivered by the Nipper. After printing, this Nipper AGV then took the printed sheets to Horizon’s stand for folding and binding.

For now, this level of automation has been designed for the Japanese market though it will be rolled out worldwide later. Vinay Kaushal says that the degree of automation will depend on the market. He points out that affordable labor for loading paper and plates is not a big issue in India, but adds, “The press automation will be popular because of the increase in productivity and that leads to an increase in profitability.”

RMGT IGAS 2022-nc
Akshay Kaushal, sales director, (left) and Vinay Kaushal, director (right), both from RMGT’s Indian distributor Provin Technos; with Toshiyuki Ishibashi, group leader for RMGT’s international sales and marketing in the centre
Photo Nessan Cleary

The 970 press was first announced in 2020. It takes A1-plus sheet sizes with maximum paper size of 650 x 965 mm. This format is said to be growing in popularity worldwide because it’s cheaper to operate than B1. The 970 is available as a straight press or perfector, with two to ten color units. The 8-color perfecting version shown at IGAS was configured for LED-UV ink. It runs at up to 15,000 sph. It’s highly automated, using Smart Assist Printing systems to automatically set the ink presets, blanket cleaning, and plate changing to test printing, register alignment, density adjustment, and production printing. There’s an optional Print Quality System that uses an inline CCD camera

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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