Efficiency Meets Innovation at Heidelberg Customer Event
The Heidelberg Innovation Showcase, held on June 7 and 8, 2023, at Heidelberg’s Print Media Performance & Training Center in the greater Atlanta metro area, drew an international crowd comprising commercial and package printing executives eager to see the company’s latest innovations in printing, finishing, and automation.
Liz Pecha-Poelker, CEO of PrintFlex Graphics in St. Louis, Missouri, was among those attending. Pecha-Poelker came to see the fully digital Gallus One label printing system make its North American debut. The reel-to-reel UV inkjet digital inline label press, with a width of 340 mm, a resolution of 1,200 dpi, four colors plus white, and a print speed of up to 70 meters per minute, is engineered to deliver a reliable return on investment for a wide range of label converters. While execs were careful to mention that the final price of a press is determinant on several factors, they stated that a standard configuration for the press falls significantly short of a million-dollar investment — typically around the $850K mark.
Several other attendees expressed interest in the lowered HVAC requirements of the Gallus One thanks to the press’ temperature-cooled Fuji inkjet heads, as energy prices are expected to continue to climb in many parts of the country and the world. Furthermore, several attendees expressed interest in leasing versus purchase options for the press as concerns about economic uncertainty tempered the clear enthusiasm for the small footprint, high-speed, digital label press.
Other concerns, specifically about the tight labor market, brought attendees to learn more about Heidelberg’s Stahlfolder P-Stacker robot technology. They were compelled by the robotic arm and stacking technology — even though it’s not necessarily new. In November 2021, Heidelberg announced commercial printer Meinders & Elstermann had successfully trialed a system comprising two Stahlfolder TX 96s and a Stahlfolder TH 82-P with a P-Stacker. In that statement, Jens Rauschen, managing director of Meinders & Elstermann stated, “With this solution, we are aiming to increase our overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) from 40 to 60 percent across the entire production process.”
Recent labor woes, especially those just experienced last year, have increased printing companies' eagerness to add automation — no matter which sector they serve. One attendee hailing from the commercial printing end of the market shared that labor woes were essential in his decision to attend the event — stating that he had 20 unfilled operator positions when originally signing up for the Heidelberg Innovation Showcase. Since then, his labor challenges have eased, and at the time of the actual event, he has only two outstanding positions in operations. Still, this commercial printer came to the Heidelberg Innovation Showcase because he wanted to see the automation in action and learn more about the system.
The system features an industrial robotic arm from Fanuc combined with a one-gripper system that Heidelberg says works for all standard signature formats. The aligning and jogging station is the transfer point for signature packages to the robot. The station has two vibrating plates to the side that help ensure flush piles before transfer. The touchscreen control is designed to be intuitive to printing industry operators. Several common format-and-stacking layouts can be set quickly, and Heidelberg offers to program custom stacking layouts upon request.
Other automation technology capturing attendees’ interest include the Mastermatrix 106 CSB. The die-cutter from MK Masterwork and Heidelberg has a production speed of up to 9,000 sheets per hour has a quick-lock clamping system for the cutting plate that is designed to shorten the setup time without impacting tool compatibility with existing plates. The setup time is further minimized by the MasterRake, where non-stop swords in the delivery are locked pneumatically and can be disengaged at the push of a button and moved by the operator. Heidelberg says setup time at the delivery can be shortened by up to 70 percent.