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Labelexpo Europe review: Workflow and inspection show automation gains

AVT, co-located with its partner Esko, showed its newest automated inspection equipment supported by next-generation workflow automation

Automation has impacted how hardware is integrated into the factory environment and workflow onto the press and between label converter, customer and suppliers. Whereas before it was necessary for an operator to perform many manual operations – for example checking printing pressure and registration – these can now be handled automatically by feedback systems on the press. Color is being managed more in pre-press, so by time job gets on the press operators are not chasing color. And with 7-color ECG systems, matching spot colors can also be fully automated and checked in-line on the press. 

Artificial intelligence – or machine learning – is starting to make an impact, particularly with inspection systems. We are moving from detecting defects to preventing defects. Camera systems are learning what a print error is and how it is caused, and will increasingly make suggestions back to the operator, and eventually in a closed loop back to the press controls. We’re already seeing intelligent predictive maintenance systems looking what might be wearing out before a problem becomes evident. These systems are going to get smarter, and will likely become standard on all levels of machinery. 

AI-driven factory automation is another key trend, using intelligent systems to help run a plant. Today’s label converting plant has increasingly complex workflows – conventional presses, digital presses and various kinds of hybrid, and printing many types of labels and now packaging as well. This impacts on stock holding and so on right down the line to the supplier. 

The fully automated factory is where we are headed. Not working autonomously, but working as a cyber assistant to human skills and judgment. 

AVT, co-located with its partner Esko, showed its newest automated inspection equipment supported by next-generation workflow automation for Industry 4.0 ‘smart factory’ production. AVT’s products enable converters to set cross-plant quality standards in tandem with Esko’s Automation Engine (AE) and X-Rite’s ColorCert. 

AVT’s AutoSet module automates job set-up by streamlining pre-press to pressroom connectivity from the Esko Automation Engine to AVT’s inspection system. Meanwhile, the iCenter platform empowers converters to tightly control cross-site quality standards, ensuring global consistency. 

For color measurement, the digital link between X-Rite’s ColorCert color and AVT’s Spectralab in-line color measurement device automatically sets up a job for in-line color measurement and generates color scorecard reporting on color quality performance after printing. This integration delivers better visibility into color performance based on measurable, objective results for increased color consistency. 

For 100 percent inspection, AVT’s Helios Turbo HD+ was on show. It provides high-resolution automatic inspection designed for exacting quality assurance of fine details, barcodes and variable data, and for customers operating wider-web platforms (445-670mm). 

AVT conducted inspection demonstrations of packaging and shrink sleeve applications. These include Helios S Turbo+, an automatic inspection system for high-speed performance, complemented by the new continuous and random defect display for process defects monitoring. 

For digital printers, AVT offered its Helios D, a 100 percent automatic inspection system that addresses missing nozzles, ink drips, color uniformity and other sector-specific challenges – all in real time. AVT also presented integrated press control products for OEM digital presses, as well as dedicated in-line products such as JetIQ, a closed loop quality engine that works with press controllers to maintain print quality, offering full connectivity to all steps of digital inkjet printing. 

Baldwin Vision Systems (BVS) showed developments in color management, inspection and print automation. The company was co-located at the show with AMS SpectralUV, another Baldwin company. Along with color and inspection products, BVS showed the latest additions to its portfolio – including Guardian RTM, a new real-time quality monitoring and reporting tool, and significant new capabilities for the ColorTrack software. 

BVS also showcased the Guardian PQV 100 percent print inspection, which eliminates defects with an accurate, data-connected inspection workflow. PQV provides complete print quality verification from pre-press through production. Press managers can monitor changes as they happen, and make informed decisions about print quality, defect management, and even operator-to-operator performance. Guardian OLP Offline Proofing & Inspection focuses on pre-press proofing and pressroom quality control. Graphic-Vision 500 Series Web Viewing Systems quickly find defects such as mis-registrations, streaks, voids and fills. 

For color management, BVS offered ColorTrack software, which facilitates fast, accurate press-side correction of ink formulations. ColorTrack integrates with ink recipe software to simplify workflow, and reduces the number of ink corrections needed to achieve accurate, optimal color. 

BVS introduced its new ColorTrack Analytics software, which is designed to help printers deliver consistent, accurate color quality and customer reports.

Brain4Tools was showing some interesting software to manage the print tool inventory – including determining ideal print sequence for faster job preparation. The company also demonstrated the Scan4Tools application which captures information during tool check-in and check-out, including archive number and job run length. 

BST eltromat and technology partner Hybrid Software demonstrated software integration which closes the gap between e-commerce portals, pre-press workflows, MIS/ERP systems and printing presses. 

In the web monitoring and 100 percent inspection area, BST’s product line ranges from the TubeScan family of 100 percent inspection systems of partner Nyquist Systems, and the PowerScope 5000 video web monitoring system to the iPQ-View and iPQ-Check high-end systems. 

BST eltromat sensors and web guiding systems for the narrow web market were also shown, including the CompactGuide and EcoGuide. Both are available in a range of sizes and can be flexibly adapted to individual requirements. The company showed the AR 4400 register control for offset, hybrid and label printing machines and the FSS 15 ink fountain control. In offset printing, the AR 4400 interacts with the FSS 15. 

Two new software options for the modular iPQ-Center were presented: Color DataPreparation and Smart DataPreparation. Smart DataPreparation links the iPQ-Center with ERP systems so the iPQ-Center can directly use data from other systems. 

CADlink Technology unveiled an all-inclusive label and sticker print or cut software. Digital Factory RIP software is claimed to provide a seamless workflow that enables automated production using inexpensive laser toner printers alongside desktop-sized sheet- or roll-fed cutting devices. It is described as a cost-effective way of printing and cutting low to mid volume labels, stickers and tags.

Cerm demonstrated business automation software (ERP/MIS) developments. The Smart BI business intelligence platform now has a tool to analyze plant performance and includes a personalized dashboard accessible by tablet or smartphone. A live monitor shows real-time performance status of production equipment. At Labelexpo Cerm demonstrated a cloud-based link to display the performance of machines running on several partners’ booths.

At the Screen Europe stand, Cerm partnered with OneVision to show a co-developed automation suite for digital narrow web label printers enabling more efficient end-to-end workflow. The new software enables a smooth integration between MIS and PDF workflow application acting as middleware between the two systems. Once the order for a label job has been received in Cerm’s MIS, OneVision’s Label Automation Suite automatically prepares print data and finishing. Either of the two software systems can trigger the printing press and once the job is completed, it automatically communicates back to Cerm for dispatch and invoicing.

Colorware premiered new extensions to its MeasureColor device-independent color workflow system. ChromaTrack tells press operators how to navigate the shortest route to match the target color, while MeasureColor Reports allows converters to build specific print quality reports for individual customers, including live dashboards.

Creative Edge Software launched the latest version of its iC3D software, co-developed with API Group and focused on specialist print finish materials such as foils and laminates. 

According to Creative Edge, version 6.0 is the world’s first software allowing packagers to visualize and design new Fresnel Lens effects or holographic materials. The software uses the iC3D Ray Tracer, which instantly renders images and effects in high definition and accurately conveying the optical effects. 

The company teamed up with API Group to generate algorithms visually describing different angles that create the foils’ effects. The model was used to embed API’s library of foils and holographic materials into the new version of iC3D and enabled adding an editing capability. 

DeCo System showed its Sentinel modular quality control system for inspecting the full length of the printed reel, detecting missing labels, splices, remaining matrix, flags on the web and other printing defects such as missing color, spots, substrate damage, color deviation and misregistration. 

Erhardt+Leimer launched an entry level video system, the Elscan OMS3, incorporating the company’s dualView technology and supplementing the current Elscan range. The OMS3 is a compact system with an intelligent camera, which only contains the main functions and, in this way, enables an ‘inexpensive introduction’ to web monitoring. The two 5-megapixel cameras offer a field of view of 100 x 75mm. The computer is integrated in the camera unit, which means only the cables for the mouse, monitor, synchronization and power supply have to be connected to the camera crossbeam when installing the system. The images can optionally be displayed on a touch monitor. The camera unit is mounted on a cantilever crossbeam and can be positioned either manually or by means of a motor. Also demonstrated was Smartscan, which combines web monitoring, inspection and label counting. 

Esko featured several software technologies, including scalable automated workflow server Automation Engine, web-based project management platform WebCenter, flexo platemaking and screening software Print Control Wizard, the next-generation pre-press editor ArtPro+ and 3D packaging software Studio. 

Ethic Software unveiled its Collection 2.0 ERP, which includes a web-based calculation engine available to process quotes. A ‘customer area’ space allows end users to follow their orders, renew orders and view order management data such as stocks, production and delivery billing.

EyeC demonstrated its latest inspection workflow developments, including a package which allows EyeC software to retrieve information from pre-press systems to speed up the inspection of imposition files. EyeC performed live demonstrations of the EyeC ProofRunner Web for inspecting narrow webs and the EyeC Quality Link, which removes faulty material with the help of inspection data from the press. The company also presented new systems for wide web inspection up to 1,700mm (67in) and the EyeC Proofiler 1200 DT with scan size up to 1,270 x 915mm (50 x 36in).

To streamline inspection processes, EyeC and Hybrid Software have launched the EyeC Driver, a new application that integrates EyeC’s PDF proofing technology – the EyeC Proofiler Graphic – into Hybrid Software’s Cloudflow. The integration triggers inspection procedures within Cloudflow automatically, retrieving job data, files and inspection parameters from the workflow system. Pre-press files are inspected and released automatically if they match the approved artwork. Pre-press operators only have to intervene when deviations are detected. A task appears in their workspace that opens the EyeC Proofiler Graphic for an easy review of discrepancies. 

Global Graphics Software, whose Harlequin RIP powered all HP Indigo’s presses at the show, previewed Version 2.0 of Fundamentals. Fundamentals is a cooperation between Global Graphics Software and Hybrid Software, who have worked together to ensure that the essential software components needed to create a DFE are accessible from a modern web-based user interface designed to remove complexity from the print process. Providing a native PDF workflow, Fundamentals is branded and customized to the requirements of a specific press or application. 

Fundamentals job management is based on Hybrid Software’s Cloudflow workflow. In version 2.0 multiple users can submit jobs to the job queue. Jobs are easy to spot in the queue, indicators show their status, and operators can easily prioritize rush jobs or reorder them. Easily brandable, it is possible for a manufacturer to develop the same look and feel for a DFE to support all their printer models. Visitors could also see a demonstration of the Mark Andy version of a DFE created using Fundamentals in ProWorx on Mark Andy’s booths. 

GMG Color introduced a direct connection between its ColorServer and OpenColor packages which enables users to publish profiles created in GMG OpenColor directly into GMG ColorServer. The adjustment of paper tints, custom printing conditions or the change of printing parameters is now more efficient and automated. GMG will also demonstrate how complex packaging designs and layouts including spot colors can be simulated with color-accurate proofs on media close to packaging production substrates, including transparent or metallic film using the Epson SC-S80600. GMG also introduced GMG ColorCards, which allows users to create digital color references in less than three minutes. Based on spectral color values, the digital color cards can be printed in various layouts and with accurate substrate simulation.

Hybrid Software held demonstrations for more than 500 companies during the show, and reported 27 sales of its VDP (variable data printing) software. VDP is available as an option for Hybrid’s native PDF editors Packz and Stepz, with accelerated processing available through its Cloudflow workflow.

Hybrid Software’s VDP implementation changes text, images, barcodes, colors and other elements linked to variable data sources, producing an optimized file for fast printing on all digital presses. It can be used to turn any PDF package or label design into a VDP design by simply indicating which elements are dynamic and linking them to the data source – without having to create a template for the label designer, first. Hybrid VDP is applied at the prepress stage, not in the pressroom, eliminating the up-front template creation that can slow down other VDP systems.

Label Traxx announced new software features including integration with HP Indigo, Esko and Herma systems. Label Traxx promoted workflow software dedicated to flexible packaging which helps with the accurate and consistent estimating of unsupported film, sachets and pouches by weight. 

The company also demonstrated Siteline, its online interface, enabling end users to order repeat labels, view product specifications and see order history. Now, they can also approve projects from mobile devices.

Label Traxx also prepared presentations for HP Indigo press users who are now able to retrieve their actual clicks by job from the press for accurate job costing purposes thanks to the API access to HP’s PrintOS. 

Esko QuickStart users could see the new integration with Label Traxx, creating bi-directional communication between the two systems that enables to automate step and repeat, file planning of ‘ganged’ labels across the web as well as lead-in and lead-out frame management. 

Label Traxx discussed upcoming integration with Herma’s EPSMA barcode roll numbers which will be communicated to Label Traxx inventory when shipments are received.

Lake Image Systems launched entry-level inspection system Discovery PQExpress, which provides real-time viewing of 100 percent of the web. It detects missing labels, label matrix residue, die-cut errors, ink smudges and streaks, as well as surface imperfections such as creases, bubbling and wrinkles. It is available as a package which includes inspection camera, lighting and web rollers. The unit is available for web widths of 13in, 17in and 21in, and operates at speeds of up to 350m/min.

Luster LightTech Group presented an inspection system, color management module, newly developed LED light source for fully transparent material, and high-resolution camera selection. On display was a LabelRoll-F series inspection system that provides 100 percent inspection for all defects and substrates, including variable data verification and inspection. Only one master image is needed for job set-up and a PDF proved file can also be used as reference. The whole job set-up can be finished within one minute. PrintingProof software can control pre-press processes and ensure digital and sample files are 100 percent correct. 

matchmycolor and Techkon partnered to provide new hardware and software services. matchmycolor’s Colibri brand was acquired in a management buy-out in 2009.

On show was a new-generation Colibri one-software platform that uses a single data source, enabling communication throughout the color supply chain. The software is modular in structure, making it easy for users to design, specify, match, tint and monitor colors as well as to correct recipes. The system is based on the Colibri scientific engine, distinguished by its right-first-time recipecalculation function. The new Colibri software is suitable for both cloud and on-premise color management and uses advanced cloud-based data-analytics tools that allow monitoring of jobs and colors worldwide.

Techkon demonstrated SpectroDens, a measurement device suitable for a wide variety of applications. It combines the qualities of a highly accurate spectrophotometer with those of an easy-to-use densitometer. Measurement is spectral, ensuring that the entire color information – or spectral fingerprint of the color – is precisely registered. This is converted into measurement data for descriptive analysis and display. SpectroDens has proven compatible with Colibri software and the two companies plan to take their development work further together.

Nikka Research presented camera technology for installation in printing presses and rewinders. The Alis product range covers web widths from 250 to 880mm and is offered in three lines: M1 entry level, L1/L2 modular and H1 high resolution inspection. A range of apps were demonstrated which extend camera applications into in-line measurement, data collection and process automation. Also on display was spot inspection technology – small camera blocks for collecting high resolution images from the web. 

Nyquist Systems showed the new TubeScan Digital Strobe 4k equipped with 9-megapixel camera technology for 100 percent inspection. Also on display was a bidirectional label inspection machine with pharma mode. Further, QLink Workflow from Nyquist Systems offers TubeScan users new possibilities for synchronization, data handling, and error editing.

Odesyo unveiled its patented Smijet in-line color controller fitted with AI and a patented wide-spectrum sensor. Smijet checks 100 percent of the printed surface, instantly tracking the consistency of color reproduction and print faults. On inkjet presses Smijet instantly points out undetected missing or deviated jets. Its AI-based technology is claimed to model human visual perception, so does not register faults undetectable to the human eye.

Rheintacho extended its portfolio of stationary stroboscopes with an additional model with a length of 1,000mm. This stroboscope will light up large inspection surfaces with high performance LEDs. The light control is achieved by using special lenses. 

Rheintacho also offered its RT Strobe pocketLED Laser. This smart function uses a laser beam to determine the synchronization frequency without manual adjustment or external sensor signals. 

Sistrade presented the latest version of its MIS, with an enhanced job routing module that integrates with the planning and data collection modules. Also new is a module focused on flexible packaging, with better data visualization and the incorporation of a cylinder management workflow where cylinders are sent to or from the engraver. The revised Scheduling module is more intuitive, allowing anticipation of production changes. The new Sistrade Dashboard Builder provides a tool for creating customized dashboards to monitor the progress of the entire sales, stock or production process.

Techkon unveiled its new SpectroVision in-line quality inspection device that monitors three of the most important print quality factors: it offers live web viewing (registration, logos, text), ANSI/ ISO style barcode grading, and spectral-based color measurement capabilities in real-time at press speeds of up to 1,000ft/minute. Its compact design that allows it to be easily mounted into existing flexo, gravure and digital presses.

Theurer.com unveiled web-based mobile dashboards for its ERP system, simplifying communication within a company and between company locations.

Tilia Labs launched Tilia Aries, a cross-platform step-and-repeat tool for label printers that enables quick and easy layout for pre-print, cutting and finishing. Its simple user interface is based on Google standards and design. The user can select existing settings or create new impositions, easily adjusting sizes, margins and substrates as required. Artwork files are imported into the layout by simple drag and drop, while dielines can be stored and retrieved, or generated in an instant. Vendor neutral, Aries is designed to provide the same efficiencies with virtually all printing machines and finishing devices, for both seamless-repeat roll-based and sheet-fed production. Its modern architecture and use of open standards ensure that it will integrate into any workflow or MIS system and cut across the confusion of proprietary hardware and software. 

Unilux demonstrated new inspection strobes equipped with Smart Assist multilingual controls and UV LED options for UV-visible inks and coatings. The LED27, showed for the first time, is claimed to be the brightest inspection strobe in its size and incorporates the latest advances in user controls with Smart Assist technology that improves access to advanced features, making it easy identify defects at full production speed. 

Unilux also demonstrated the ability of its UV LED inspection strobes to inspect special security codes or clear-coat adhesives that are only visible in the narrow UV light spectrum. 

Unilux launched the compact Mantis web viewing system for narrow web presses with limited mounting space. Integration of processor and camera into a single unit means the web viewer can be placed anywhere on the press and moved easily without the need to re-route wires.

X-Rite Pantone unveiled its i1Pro 3 Plus printing device, which helps to reduce color measurement variability allowing printers to create ICC profiles for several substrates and calibrate print production devices. 

The new eXact auto-scan system is said to combine the portability of a handheld spectrophotometer with the speed of an automated scanning system. It was paired with the new Cup & Cylinder fixture, which helps converters in measuring and controlling color on cups, bottles, tubes and other curved surfaces.

X-Rite Pantone also displayed a wide range of existing products such as Pantone Live cloud-based technology and ColorCert software for color and print quality process control. 

James Quirk

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James Quirk is group managing editor of Labels & Labeling.

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