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Short runs, shorter learning curve

Jul 20, 2018

As first seen in Automotion magazine, issue 2018.5

Converting companies face financial pressures across the board and have difficulty finding skilled employees. For press manufacturers like PCMC, it is therefore vital to incorporate technologies that allow repeatable and reliable changeovers, minimized setup and material waste, and efficient ink management and energy usage. Together with B&R, PCMC developed an innovative flexographic press that offers the flexibility, sustainability and ease-of-use their customers depend on.

Consumer goods are being offered in an increasing range of varieties and flavors within brand families. In turn, all segments of the printing market report that production runs are getting shorter and order frequency is increasing. More than ever, a top priority for operators of printing machinery is the ability to provide a full range of automated converting solutions.

These demands are compounded by current trends in the marketing industry toward regional and personalized promotional campaigns. Companies are personalizing their product labels and packaging to target specific groups based on geographic area, interests and demographics.

Flexible, efficient and easy to use

Headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Paper Converting Machine Company (PCMC) is a worldwide leader in its industry with nearly a century of expertise in tissue converting, packaging, flexographic printing and nonwovens technology. Using advanced control and operation technology from B&R, they arrived at a reliable, holistic solution that perfectly meets all these needs: the Fusion C.

"PCMC is well known as the only North America-based flexographic printing OEM," explains PCMC engineer Todd Lemke. "The launch of the Fusion C in August 2016 was one of the greatest developments in the company’s history." The new flexo press was developed to meet the demands of mid-web and shorter-length runs that require more efficient changeovers and setups with high repeatability and maximum uptime.

"The Fusion C is loaded with fast make-ready and waste-saving features, which the operator accesses through the B&R Panel PC," says Lemke. "It has a smaller footprint and fewer parts, saving space and cost. Its accessibility and ease of use make the Fusion C a unique offering in the market." Used primarily for food and beverage packaging, the Fusion C is capable of flexographic printing with a tight tolerance on a variety of substrates and with a variety of ink types.

Full functionality at operator's fingertips

The Fusion C helps printers meet the increasing demands of production schedules with features such as zero-speed initial impression and registration setting, ink color and viscosity management, automatic ink/deck wash-up, central impression drum cleaning, energy-efficient and responsive drying and closed-loop camera-based impression and registration setting. The enclosed design of the ink doctor chamber improves ink usage efficiency and allows for more automation along with greater ease of use due to toolless on- or off-press preparation.

The touch screen operator station – a customized B&R Panel PC – places these many press features and functions at the operator's fingertips in a user-friendly 16x9 format. The swing-arm-mounted HMI unit with a built-in PC has been highly customized to meet the requirements of the machine and application. For example, the controller communicates with a networked rotary encoder via B&R’s X2X extended backplane technology for fast responses to print offset changes made at the operator station. It also includes an RFID reader for access control and remotely mounted X2X-networked B&R illuminated ring keys, which were custom-developed for the Class I Div 2 environment presented by solvent-based inks.

Ease of use for a short learning curve

Trends in the industry required operational features that are user-friendly and intuitive, so that new operators are able to rapidly gain the knowledge they need to achieve successful printing results. To meet this need, PCMC and B&R co-developed solutions such as the networked illuminated ring keys – which simplify the machine’s control topology by replacing hardwired components such as pushbuttons.

B&R bus couplers also proved to be a reliable, low-cost solution for integrating different protocols into a common control platform. A B&R EtherNet/IP bus controller, for example, communicates with a B&R CAN interface module, which captures information about ink viscosity from a viscosity sensor in the ink chamber.

Todd Lemke concludes: "B&R is an innovative company that is able to develop components to meet the needs of their customers. More importantly, they are able to guarantee the availability of these designs for an extended period of time – which is very attractive to an OEM in a world of ever-changing technology."