31 August 2022

Automation leads to greater print efficiency

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If there was anything that defined the requirements of the modern flexo press, it is the need for preset, programmed systems that can deliver quickness and flexibility, particularly automation and agility. There are ways that SOMA Optima presses and S-Mount mounters have responded to these needs.

SOMA S-Mount mounters add intelligence to plate mounting and inserting sleeves into the press
Although not a piece of the press by itself, the = mounter plays an important role in print quality and the speed of changeovers. When plate mounting is automatic, it accelerates the ability to make a plate available to go to press. With automatic precision, they assure exceptional registration. But, what really makes them special is that some mounters and presses also share an automated register and impression setting system. This allows presses to quickly get to register and set the press for exceptional print quality.

For example, the newly developed SOMA S-Mount automatic plate mounter, combined with the IRIS intelligent register & impression setting system—offers printers a powerful solution for short runs. During the process of mounting a flexo plate, data for registration and topography/impression settings are stored in RFID chips in a sleeve. When the sleeve is inserted into a SOMA Optima flexo press, this data is read and prepared for fully automatic operation, assuring very quick—and accurate—settings. There is no longer a burden on the press operator to tell the press where to set register and impression. It helps to assure that every job is automatically in perfect registration. This reduces makeready time and faster completion of jobs—along with almost zero-meter set-up waste—a flexible and agile solution for short runs.

How important is this? Printers (88%) in an FTA Flash Poll said it was vital to maximize efficiencies. When it comes to efficiency, 84% vowed to trim waste and 82% expect to enhance productivity—relating not only to speed, but to fast changeovers. They are quoted as saying, “Expect fast changes!” and “New innovations and equipment are allowing for much better process control.”

SOMA Changeover Wizard: Taking the guesswork out of changeovers
This brings us to unskilled press operation. Any job changeover requires a number of steps that need to be taken in proper order. With an automated self-directed system, even inexperienced operators may run the press and perform efficient changeovers. Each step is done properly, and in the correct order.

With the automated SOMA Changeover Wizard system—a 2022 FTA Technical Innovation award recipient—a flexo press operator can take advantage of the speedy transfer of all job information. It’s what SOMA likes to call the recipe, required to set a flexo press correctly. Because this prepared and verified data is pulled from the SOMA’s cloud-based S-Cloud system, there cannot be a human error caused by re-typing information.

The SOMA Changeover Wizard user interface guides the press operator through all the steps involved from one job to the next. In doing so, it reduces the number of tasks or may shorten required tasks, defines their optimal order, and automates as many steps as possible, minimizing operator error.

The Changeover Wizard system, in an automated and agile way, analyzes differences between the job just printed and the job that follows. It advises what steps go first and last, because from job to job they don't always work in the same order. It is very intuitive—for example, providing tension or drying temperature settings based on the chosen substrate. If the system can do certain things by itself—for example, opening a unit so a sleeve can be changed—it does so automatically, and reports that the task has been completed. It also lets experienced operators overrule any suggestion at any time. The Changeover Wizard process will continue, making agile adjustments based on the operator’s input.

Beyond maximizing efficiencies and trimming costs (52%), 70% acknowledged the important of manpower management and the adoption of best practices and process controls. An agile, automated Changeover Wizard does not rely on the manpower to do the work, and ensure that the best processes are adopted. Printers said, “Adding automation in as many of the day-to-day tasks— software to machinery—will greatly reduce errors and miscommunication” and “Digitalization will help steer future production runs by eliminating waste, reducing makeready times and increasing press uptime,” and “Automation will be a large focus as labor is limited.”

SOMA Job Tuning: Ready for an automatic tune-up
The intelligence of drive mechanisms already analyze performance. During job setup, taking less than one minute, SOMA can automatically tune the press with specially designed algorithms that minimize the bouncing effect and ensure accurate registration for each particular design. SOMA’S technology, Job Tuning, takes into consideration the dynamic effects of each bridge, the sleeve, the tape and the plate itself. It delivers control of printing stability to exceptional levels of precision. By diminishing the majority of concerns for bounce with the help of built-in SOMA Advanced Bounce Control technology—of which Job Tunning is part—exceptional quality at extremely fast speeds is assured. Maintaining overall equipment effectiveness was important to 63% of those involved in the FTA Flash Poll.

Looking at new flexo press technology to optimize production
More than half of those interviewed in the FTA Flash Poll admitted that they’re considering a purchase of equipment to optimize production. In fact, 76% think that it is a necessity to optimize production now and into the future. We see that, ourselves. It’s driving the press market in a big way. SOMA is finding that companies are replacing their 15 year old presses with newer ones to keep up. They admit, as one printer acknowledged to us, that “Staying focused on new technology will improve overall equipment effectiveness.” While few (8%) considered the application of Industry 4.0 as a primary objective, indeed everything SOMA is addressing meets this goal. The press has become the agile and automated computer—required to stay efficient.

Part of this article was published in the August issue of FLEXO Magazine.

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Petra Maresova

Contact person

Petra Maresova, PR Manager