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Back to Basics

Folding and Creasing

As folding and creasing equipment becomes evermore automated to keep up with fast print production, Harriet Gordon looks at the latest developments of these intelligent machines

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“It closes the gap between the manual K70 and the K8RS, the world’s fastest folding machine,” comments Mitch Ball of Friedheim on the MBO K80

A robotic revolution

Ever since sci-fi began, there has been one favourite topic that has endured throughout the decades. Books and, most particularly, movies, have repeatedly explored the idea, concocting more technical, more outlandish scenarios than one might have thought possible. From the classic Terminator, to Will Smith’s I Robot, to the recent channel four series Humans, science fiction has long been obsessed with the possibilities of artificial intelligence—with the idea that, one day, robots could take over the world.

Although we may still be a way off from that kind of intelligent technology (although some scientists in Japan seem confident they are close), in all sectors of all industries, technology is continuing to develop at an impressive rate, with automated machines reducing the need for skilled staff, or perhaps for staff all together.

Folding and creasing is one sector of the print industry that has seen a real upswing in automated technology and, talking to industry experts, this trend is showing no sign of slowing down. Of course, manufacturers still stress the importance of a competent workforce, but they are doing all they can to decrease bottlenecks on production lines and reduce the chance of human error.

Andy Cuff, showroom manager at Duplo UK, explains how this trend is exemplified in the firm’s latest development in this area, the Duplo 746 IFS Cutter/Creaser: “One of the key features of the DC-746 IFS, which improve productivity and efficiency, is the ‘Green button’ technology. This provides full-automation, reducing operator costs as intensive training is no longer required, thanks to a simpler, user-friendly system.

Andy Cuff of Duplo says one the key features of the DC-746 IFS is its ‘Green button’ technology, which provides full automation

“Full automation also eliminates the risk of downtime and eliminates the need for a dedicated operator (print-service-providers can keep to their promised turn-around time, maintaining their reputation).”

Full automation also eliminates the risk of downtime and eliminates the need for a dedicated operator

Cuff goes on to identify other key features of the DC-746 IFS, such as fast operating speeds, intelligent barcode technology that allows multiple jobs to be run, and multi-functionality, which streamlines workflow, decreasing touchpoints within the business.

Back to the future

Another company highlighting automation is Friedheim International. In the field of folding and creasing Friedheim supply two industry heavyweights, MBO as well as Herzog and Heymann.

Discussing the latest developments coming out of MBO for folding and creasing, Mitch Ball, sales specialist post press division at Friedheim, comments: “With the 2017 release of the K80 combination folder with it’s automation options, as well as perfect price point for UK printers, we’ve seen much interest in it so far, even having sold our UK launch machine to Anglo Printers based in Ireland, which was installed at the beginning of November.

“The K80 fits perfectly into the new product range of MBO combi folding machines for the 70 x 100cm size range. It closes the gap between the manual K70 and the K8RS, the world’s fastest folding machine. It is ideal for high-precision, high-performance production of signatures, flyers, and other similar products in medium industrial print run lengths. It runs at speeds of up to 230m/min and offers a comprehensive range of standard equipment and multiple automation options.”

Ball continues: “The K80 is available in a Super-KTL version. The standard equipment includes M1 control technology, including touch screen. This simplifies the intuitive setup of the machine. If the palletised feeder is chosen, the tried and trusted Vaculift III feeder head is used. Vivas is included with both the palletised and continuous feeder.

“Vivas is used to improve the sheet infeed and the sheet alignment with challenging materials and at high production speeds. The first buckle plate in the parallel fold is always equipped with a continuous sheet stop in the K80. This increases the contact surface by approximately 30 percent, preventing sheet deformation, resulting in better fold quality at high speeds.”

Ball concludes: “MBO’s answer to more versatility and automation, shorter set up times for faster turn arounds for jobs is the reason why the K80 has been designed the way it is—with the number of options and standard high quality systems in place to give UK printers the best possible margins.”

One foot on the ground

MBO and Friedheim are conscious, however, of keeping options open to print professionals, ensuring their technology is accessible to firm’s of various sizes.

As an alternative to the K80, the company offers the K70, which cannot be automated. At 210 m/min the K70 is slightly slower than the K80, and due to having fewer features in the standard equipment version, it is not quite as convenient in usage, but does offer a very good price/performance ratio as an entry-level model.

At the other end of the spectrum is the K8RS, MBO’s high-tech folding machine in the 70 x 100cm market segment. Ball asserts that, with speeds of up to 275m/min, it is the fastest folding machine in the world.

Another key player, Morgana Systems, has been working on new high-capacity versions of its popular machines. Commenting on the new developments to the Digi Fold Pro 385 and Auto Creaser Pro 385, Ray Hillhouse, vice-president sales and marketing, says: “Over the last year we have enhanced the range of applications that can be produced on the machines by adding an additional fixed creasing and perforating blade. The new style of creasing mechanism allows a quick change of blades without tools. Users can simply lift out a creasing blade set and change to another in less than a minute.

The Digi Fold Pro 385 is paired with the Morgana SmartScreen touch screen control to enable automatic set-up of jobs, including setting of all feeder functions and fold roller settings

“We have also increased the power of the mechanism to give a better crease performance on the heavier weight stocks that we are now seeing produced by the current range of digital print engines. With this increased power we can perforate the heaviest of stocks across the full sheet width. Combined with a new automatic set-up feeder, it gives us our easiest to operate Digi Fold and Auto Creaser machines ever.”

Indeed, it is with an eye specifically on the short-run digital print market that Morgana is adapting its machines. As Hillhouse explains, this focus has encouraged the development of easy set-up, which in turn reduces the number of sheets needed to get the machine into full production—an important issue in digital printing where every sheet has a cost.

Hillhouse continues: “The Auto Creaser Pro 385 provides the complete solution to the problem of cracking that occurs when folding digitally printed output. It is equally effective in dealing with conventionally printed card, laminates or cross-grained stock.

Morgana’s Ray Hillhouse says the AutoCreaser Pro 385 provides the complete solution to the problem of cracking that occurs when folding digitally printed output

“The combined creasing and folding capabilities of the Digi Fold Pro 385 provide the very latest in technology to enable automatic set-up of jobs, including setting of all feeder functions and fold roller settings by selecting just a few simple parameters on the Morgana SmartScreen touch screen control. The deep pile feeder allows stacking of up to 450mm of paper to enable longer runs and is also equipped with a Smart Step table drop for fast loading of shorter run jobs.”

Speed and software

It is not only automated hardware that is pushing us closer to a robotic-run world; Friedheim’s Remote Access Service software (RAS) is an online service that can remotely diagnose and resolve any errors that may arise.

The firm has also announced developments from Herzog and Heymann, with the new PP300 Pressing Unit. Ball comments: “This uses air compressed belts instead of conventional rollers. The belts retract during an emergency stop procedure so the operator can physical remove any blockage safely or see what the issue is, unlike conventional rollers which you need to unwind the entire job to get access to the blockage. This saves time as well as damage to the machine and its components.

“Less downtime and quicker set-ups for both digital and litho markets with shorter run lengths are the name of the game now. But another major trend in the market is less spoilage. With shorter run lengths the spoilage percentage must be kept to an absolute minimum due to click chargers for today’s printers. The pressing unit, as well as the vertical plate in the mailing line are examples of how H+H have thought about these problems and have started to tackle them.”

Casting the net wider still and Graham Harris, managing director of Technifold, weighs in on the technology debate by speaking about the newly patented Tri-Creaser Advance, a device that builds on the firm’s successful Tri-Creaser brand and can be used on leading folding machines such as Stahl, MBO, Horizon, GUK, MB and Shoei.
Outlining the development process that led to the newest release, Harris says: “Four years ago, we began to notice the emergence of a new problem with creasing and folding, all of a sudden it wasn’t just about the outside of the fold looking good, the inside was beginning to show signs of imperfection too.

Technifold has a proud history of innovation such as the CP Applicator, which produces two fine and almost invisible micro-perforations as close as 5mm apart

“It seemed that certain recycled materials were prone to this slight flaking defect, which we thought would one day become hard to ignore, although back then it was more of a random occurrence.

“Our research over the next twelve months told us that the problem was there no matter what creasing solution was used, rotary or matrix, so there lay our challenge—it was also an opportunity we couldn’t pass by.

“We created the best Tri-Creaser evolution to date, that even surpassed our own expectations, and simply began to greatly reduce and, in most cases, eliminate the flaking defect. The newly patented Tri-Creaser Advance, not only ensures that the outside fold is perfect, it also neatly presses in two scores each side of the inside creased bead at the same time, ironing out the fibres that are prone to the flaking defect.”

Such has been the impact of the development that Technifold has sold more than 85,000 Tri-Creasers and is now in the process of upgrading customers to the Advance technology, with almost 200 units sold.

Indeed, after all is said and done, all kinds of advancements are in aid of one thing: faster, cheaper, more accurate production. Duplo’s Andy Cuff ends by reminding us of the necessity of such developments in the folding and creasing sector, as the industry responds to an evermore-technical world.

O Factoid: The word “robot” itself comes from a work of fiction, Karel Capek’s play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), written in 1920. O

“As the industry changes it is crucial the equipment on offer adapts to the industry’s needs. The key issues right now are decreasing run lengths and faster turn-around times.

“Printers are under increasing pressure to get the finished products out of the door as soon as possible. When customers are working in minutes and hours, and not days, finishing needs to keep up.”

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