ST 009-11 Lohr, 2011-12-02

Print in New Dimensions: Flexible Printing Machines Can Do More

Dr. Haak

Dr. Steffen Haack, Senior Vice President Sales, Industry Sector Factory Automation of Bosch Rexroth AG

The printing machine industry is currently undergoing an extensive structural change. The digital world of information has already led to dramatic changes in the media habits of people around the world. Important information can be accessed digitally anywhere and at any time, meaning that growth can no longer be generated by classical printed products alone. At the same time, technological advances are providing new opportunities for innovative applications in printing machine technology. High-precision and flexible automation is helping manufacturers to tap into this potential. Dr. Steffen Haack, Senior Vice President Sales, Industry Sector Factory Automation of Bosch Rexroth AG, elaborates on the subject:

"The latest printing technology is able to create individual media products even in high print runs. One day, the job may be to custom-print the recipient's name on a brochure or advertisement; the next, it might be to print a completely customized special interest magazine or local newspaper. To achieve this, users need printing machines in which the printing plates can be changed, digital printing stations can be integrated and various print webs can be used flexibly for individual products — all while the machine is in operation. The key to this is single-drive technology that is implemented consistently with a high-performance control system. The technology needs to master the complexity and be integrated seamlessly into the overall process via open interfaces and programming standards from the creation of content all the way through to shipment.

But printing machines can do more than capture letters and images on paper; Researchers and developers have designed an innovative process for series-production readiness, which will work with printing machine technology in the future. As an example, the first machines for 3D roller profiling are already set to start large-scale series production within the next year. These machines are based on the same principle as the web printing press, but require more power and sophisticated software. Only open control systems offer the freedom required to implement these processes optimally and thereby protect in-house expertise. Likewise, printed electronics and solar cells are emerging from the prototype arena. Shaftless driven machines are also starting to become accepted, in a similar way to web printing on paper. However, these processes require at least ten times the level of accuracy. Electronic control axes are only able to achieve this with tight real-time communication and even better decentralized intelligence. The most frequently used automation bus in web printing machines, sercos, has sufficient reserves in its latest version to meet these requirements.

The printing machine of tomorrow will take on different tasks to those of today, but it also has an outstanding future ahead as the basic technology for a multitude of new applications."

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