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Heidelberg’s XL VLF Series Presses Use Smart Automation

Press release from the issuing company

Heidelberg’s XL VLF Series presses represent a quantum leap forward for the VLF market in many ways. Market studies conducted during the development of Heidelberg’s XL VLF press platform, for example, revealed a huge opportunity to dramatically shorten makeready times. Customer performance data on Heidelberg’s Speedmaster XL 145 and VLF 162 VLF presses subsequently showed that automation and synchronization of key press functions, together with elimination of makeready steps, results in the systematic reduction of waste, time and material associated with setup and changeover on new and repeat jobs. Customers the world over repeatedly attest to the validity of Heidelberg’s claims in this regard.
In the U.S. Proteus Packaging’s (Franklin, Wis.) executive vice president and CEO Tim Wayman observed, “Even at high speeds, the feed table with central suction belt adjusts automatically to the format and printing stock, greatly minimizing our makeready times. Prinect Inpress Control permits faster inking up and eliminates the need to stop the press for sheet pulls and color measurements, dramatically reducing our setup waste.”
Likewise, said Tom Frankowski, senior vice president of manufacturing for the Quad/Graphics plant in Radzymin, Poland, which installed the country’s first Speedmaster XL 162 with Prinect Inpress Control in 2010: “The key success factor is to produce the highest quality available with the lowest possible paper waste. This is crucial for the environment and the balance sheet. The Heidelberg VLF press was designed to meet these requirements. Our machine operators call the Speedmaster VLF press ‘a printing machine for printers’ because there is no other press in the market that meets the needs of printers in a better way—it is fast, reliable and easy to handle—all at the same time.”
Shortly after the 2010 installation of a 6-color Speedmaster XL 145 with dual coating and integrated material logistics at Karl Knauer KG in Biberach, Germany in 2010, Production Manager Gerhard Kammerer noted that the company had stipulated that the new press should be ready to produce packaging orders after 250 makeready sheets, representing a considerable savings in time and material for average run lengths of 7,000 sheets. “We are still performing optimization tests to raise the efficiency of the machine further still,” Kammerer said at the time, “but we have already achieved a 30 percent improvement in capacity over the previous machine.”
Elimination of Makeready Steps
Standard features on the 57” Speedmaster XL VLF 145 and 64” VLF 162 include:
·       A single-suction belt feeder that is a zero-makeready element – air settings are preset automatically and no rollers or hold down elements need to be set.
·       The proven ink fountain liner that enables fast, clean ink changes as the operator doesn’t have to wipe down each fountain with a rag.
·       Fully automatic plate changing – on a straight press, all plates are changed in less than 2.5 minutes
·       Convenient coating plate changes – designed to be completed by one operator in less than 2.5 minutes
·       In addition, extensive presetting of all ink, air, format and dryer settings via the high-performance Prinect Press Center dramatically speeds makeready on first-time and repeat jobs alike.
·       The innovative, process-oriented Intellistart navigation system streamlines and standardizes makeready procedures from operator to operator and shift to shift, significantly boosting Speedmaster productivity.

Smart Automation
Parallel processes also cut makeready times: each press comes equipped with dedicated impression and blanket cylinder wash-up devices – i.e. blanket and impression cylinders are washed at the same time. For shops with frequent ink changes, a separate drive can be added to specific individual or to all inking units – allowing the washing of the ink fountain roller and the inking unit at a higher speed while the press washes the blanket and impression cylinders at a lower speed.
Color Makeready
As for print quality, the fully integrated, inline Prinect Inpress Control system automatically measures and controls color and register in the control strip on the fly, at any speed — again cutting makeready time and enabling the operator to focus on the sheet itself, rather than on the process of producing the sheet.
Customer reports for Speedmaster XL VLF presses equipped with Prinect Inpress Control show the following averages for 4-color makereadies, including a coating plate change:
·       Average time of 16 minutes including four minutes for color makeready
·       Makeready waste of between 180 and 250 for 4-color process sheets, depending on customer and job requirements, until a deltaE of 2.5 or less is reached
·       Washing and inking unit will add around 4-6 minutes to the makeready time.

Value of Makeready savings
Shortening each makeready by one minute might not sound significant, until one considers how fast those minutes add up. At 2,400 makereadies each year, for example, shaving one minute off each makeready represents a time savings of 2,400 minutes or 40 hours. Moreover, Heidelberg technology typically saves much more than one minute; compared with other current technologies, savings might add up to 15 to 20 minutes per makeready, boosting the time savings to 600 to 800 hours per year. At an average hourly rate of $500, that corresponds to between $300,000 and $400,000 per year.
Repeatable Savings in A Production Environment
As run lengths get shorter, Heidelberg’s VLF series presses offer systematic savings by eliminating makeready steps, automating manual processes, and by synchronizing key functions. It then locks in those savings with an unparalleled network of local technicians and remote services, and a full line of Saphira-branded consumables. The resulting gains in productivity are key to success in the folding carton market and enable the ultimate design goal of this press: Peak Performance in VLF. 


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