MAN Roland Plateless DICOweb Press Receives 2001 InterTech Technology Award
Monday, August 20, 2001
An offset press that prints without plates has received a 2001 InterTech Technology Award from the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation. Called "DICOweb," the MAN Roland innovation equips printers to broaden their profit margins by narrowing the time it takes to complete on demand jobs. DICO stands for digital changeover, and the press lives up to its name, capable of speeding from job-to-job in less than ten minutes. Only two of those minutes are required for imaging the press. An exclusive MAN Roland design utilizes laser imaging heads and a patented thermoplastic transfer medium to apply the job directly to the DICOweb’s image carrying cylinders. Then when the print run is completed, the image is automatically erased to ready the cylinders for the next project. The innovation’s unique ability to image, erase and re-image jobs — eliminating the time and expense of making and loading plates — results in significant productivity gains for the printer who uses new system. “The DICOweb is, as the name says, more of a digital changeover device than a press, since the printer actually earns his money with efficient changeovers,” says Dr. Josef Schneider, the executive vice president in charge of DICOweb development for MAN Roland. The plateless process The digital changeovers physically begin at the press’s on-board laser imaging heads, which were developed by CreoScitex in cooperation with MAN Roland. Many of components that power CreoScitex’s field-proven computer-to-plate technology are utilized here, enhancing the reliability and durability of the DICOweb. In each imaging head, the laser is split into 208 channels, providing switchable imaging resolutions of 1,800 dpi and 3,200 dpi. The two choices allow printers to match print quality and file size to the job at hand. The lasers transfer the digital press forms to the press’s image carrying cylinders by firing through an imaging tape housed in a cassette that is similar to those found in home VCRs. The tape features a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic carrier that hosts a thermoplastic coating. The precision laser bursts adhere the thermoplastic media onto the image carrying cylinder, where it is fixed by a 30-second heat treatment. The result is a water-repelling surface that constitutes the printable image area. It’s durable enough to produce over 30,000 impressions, at the top run rate of over 11.4 feet/second, making DICOweb perfect for short-to-mid-run jobs. The press can handle longer runs as well, simply by reactivating the imaging process after every 30,000 impressions. Since the DICOweb print process is lithography based, the full range of conventional offset inks and dampening solutions can be used, including alcohol-free formulas. DICOweb printers also have an equally impressive range of substrates from which to choose. Virtually any material that can be rolled and spooled onto the press’s 12”-to-20” web width is a candidate for DICOweb printing. Technology for today DICOweb’s plateless design allowed MAN Roland engineers to incorporate many of the industry’s latest mechanical developments into the system. For instance, the press is powered by digitally controlled motors that drive its print units directly, eliminating the need for external shafts and gear trains. Also: DICOweb’s plate and blanket cylinders are crafted as tubular sleeves. That allows the pressman to change them quickly and easily. But more importantly, the advanced mechanical features improve printing performance. “With a seamless cylinder, you have eliminated from the device the greatest enemy of quality and speed, and the greatest limit on printing format — namely, vibration,” Schneider says. Technology for tomorrow By removing excess vibration from the operational equation, DICOweb’s developers were able to create a more open system — one that is short on heavy metal and long on future possibilities. “We can mount all of the components, such as ink train, fountain system, imaging unit and erasing unit, on racks in the device,” Schneider explains. “We no longer need to bolt them down to the side walls. That gives us greater freedom of design, and it also gives the customer flexible choices about format, press components, finishing options and substrates.” The plateless/gapless/shaftless design allows printers to alter cutoff lengths by as much as 7.8 inches, simply by switching to different diameter sleeves on the image and blanket cylinders. More expansive format changes can be accomplished by changing the size of the cylinders themselves. DICOweb’s modular nature also helps preserve the printer’s investment in the system. Down the road, DICOweb-equipped plants will be able to switch to different print processes to better accommodate their customers’ needs. “Thanks to DICOweb’s use of sleeve technology,” says Schneider, “we have a platform that can fundamentally be used for offset, flexo or gravure, as well as methods that we don’t even know about today, as long as they print from cylinders.” MAN Roland researchers are already studying the development of ferroelectric image carrying cylinders that incorporate the principle of “memory ceramics.” That would give DICOweb the ability to swap-out variable data elements within an image on the fly, while retaining the main fixed elements of the job. The advancement would cut down on the time and expense of re-RIPping entire pages to produce one-to-one and variable data products. The InterTech Award judging panel was impressed with the long-term viability of the award-winning technology. According to GATF the panelists noted that “the DICOweb is truly innovative and sets the stage for the automated press of the future.” PECOM controlled One of DICOweb’s future-forward innovations is also in control of virtually every MAN Roland sheetfed and web press — the PECOM digital operating and control system. The acronym stands for Process Electronic Control, Organization and Management. And as the name indicates, PECOM goes beyond control of press operations to organize the pressroom’s workflow, while connecting the management function to the pulse of the printing plant. The PEC (Process Electronic Control) component allows the pressman to complete a makeready literally by touching a single button the PECOM console. On DICOweb, all operating controls, drive functions, presetting and monitoring are accessed from PECOM’s touchscreen console. The PEO (Process Electronic Organization) element incorporates a JobPilot system that lets operators set job parameters off-line. So DICOweb can be profitably running, while the parameters of the next job are keyed in. This stage of PECOM also incorporates PrepressLink, which digitally connects the pressroom to the prepress suite. The result: DICOweb’s ink keys are preset directly from prepress data, eliminating another round of makeready adjustments and ensuring color quality right from the start.