Esko has today (11 September) launched a new complete print inspection solution for digitally printed label production, delivering unparalleled quality control to reduce waste and boost efficiency.
With AutoSet Digital, Esko has introduced an end-to-end solution that automates AVT print inspection of digitally printed labels from prepress through to on-press and finishing.
“The labels market is in a period of considerable change,” said Guy Yogev, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Esko. “Volume-wise, there has been around a 15% growth in digital label printing and around 40-to-50% of all label presses sold today are digital or hybrid, so it’s clear the market is growing significantly.
“But in this volatile market, the overall macro-economic climate of crisis and economic recession is driving increased pressure on margins, forcing label converters to look for ways to improve operational efficiencies and reduce waste,” said Guy. “Businesses are looking for ways to reduce the volumes of material they use, which means reducing defects, over-runs and waste, all while dealing with the added pressure of on-time deliveries and quality expectations. Operators might sometimes still be able to visually identify errors on presses running at 30m per minute, but as speeds increase, so does the risk of error. With digital presses getting faster, now is not the time to be loose with quality. The cost implications of such errors can be huge, which is why we have created a complete end-to-end automation solution based on connectivity between prepress to production and all the way to finishing.
“Historically, many businesses have been put off investing in print inspection on digital lines because of perceived product limitations,” said Guy. “For example, an inspection system needs to be set up for every run, and digital printers will typically have multiple SKUs in the printed roll and in many cases the design and job can change on the fly with no press stop. With inspection you might have had to stop and reset the system for each SKU, which created a real-time barrier with integrating inspection. But now, AutoSet Digital takes information for each SKU from Esko Automation Engine and relays it directly to the print inspection system.”
AutoSet Digital is now covering all of the digital workflow – whether the inspection is done on the digital printing press, on a hybrid press or on a digital finishing line.
The innovative inspection workflow for digitally printed labels combines the accuracy and speed of the AVT Helios 100% print inspection systems with the automation of AVT AutoSet Digital, empowering operators to automatically upload and switch between jobs, enabling the AVT WorkFlow Link to record, scan and edit multiple jobs on the same roll. “The system on the press records defects, and after production the physical roll is uploaded to the finisher together with the virtual roll,” explained Guy. “This virtual roll includes the recorded defects mapped on the entire roll and either the operator or a dedicated QC editor can review and edit the virtual roll. Once edited, the mapped virtual roll will automatically signal the rewinder/doctor machine where the physical roll should stop at the identified point to remove the defect.
“It could be a single label due to an isolated defect, or an entire segment if there has been an issue,” said Guy. “Either way, the operator can immediately clean up the roll and rectify the error, it also brings operator efficiencies, freeing up their time to work on other value-adding tasks during a run.”
Guy explained that AutoSet Digital brings these same efficiency and productivity benefits to hybrid presses and digital finishing lines. “Our 100% inspection platforms can be installed at any production workflow with AutoSet Digital, providing complete hands-free inspection setup and continuous non-stop inspection when job and job design changes.
“With the Digital Workflow, unique barcodes are used to identify the job automatically,” he said. “When these barcodes are identified between jobs (‘lead-in/lead-out’ area), or within the print job design, they automatically set up the inspection parameters for the job that has already been created in prepress. That way, jobs can now be printed or finished with no manual setup and no production stop or slow down,” he said. “The system automatically loads up inspection parameters between jobs, keeping the line running and saving the business time and money, while ensuring accuracy and reducing waste.”
Entirely automated workflow
One of France’s leading label producers, AG3M has been using Esko AVT print inspection systems since 2020. As a member of the Esko pre-release community, the company was among the first to integrate AutoSet Digital into its prepress and production.
Sylvain Marchal, Président Directeur Général AG3M, said that one of the main benefits of the new system is that the company now has direct control over the print quality for multiple runs. “We can check as many as ten files simultaneously,” he said. “We can immediately link to the master PDF and view the inspection report which tells us if the job ran ok or not. The counter on the digital press tells us that we have printed a sufficient number of labels to move the job to the rewinder.
“Having such an entirely automated workflow has been a major development,” he said. “Before we integrated the print inspection system with the production floor, errors would lead to a bad print run and cause regular press stoppages or even, in the worst cases, a return of the artwork to prepress.
“Today, with this digital inspection workflow, there is inline Delta E color measurement which ensures us a stable print run from start to finish. We have increased production by about 30%, reduced paper waste, unnecessary reprints, lost time, and machine stoppages. Now we ended up with 99.9% of all faulty prints being removed from the rolls supplied to the customer,” he said.
Guy Yogev said the speed and scale of results experienced by AG3M are common amongst users of AutoSet for Digital. “We have created a true end-to-end solution for print inspection for digital labels print inspection, and we are delighted to be making it available to customers,” he said.