BST Eltromat’s IPQ-Center is minimising waste and optimising productivity and quality for South Africa’s foremost flexible packaging printers.
SARELTECH, local representative for BST Eltromat International, has assisted Constantia Afripack Flexibles Mahogany Ridge and other leading flexible packaging printers to standardise their quality assurance with the modular IPQ-Center system.
Sarel Oosthuizen, Sareltech MD, reports a number of enquiries about this system from local flexographic and gravure printers at K2016 in Düsseldorf.
The iPQ-Center consists of four modules: iPQWorkflow, which integrates the three quality assurance systems – iPQ-Check for 100% print inspection, iPQ-View for video web inspection, and iPQ-Spectral for inline spectral colour measurement – in a closed quality assurance process with a uniform operating concept.
‘The modular structure enables printers to integrate the individual modules into their processes successively,’ Sarel explains. ‘For instance, many converters start with the iPQ-View video web inspection module, subsequently adding the other modules in line with the development of demands – all the way to a complete iPQ-Center.’
Any combination is possible, and the modules are available as entry-level Eco versions or Pro versions for higher demands.
Sarel goes on to outline the main benefits of the iPQ-Center as detecting and logging defects, allowing printers to reliably eject defective products that don’t comply with quality standards. ‘Moreover, defect logs and real-time data collected during production form a sound basis for continuous, long-term process improvement – as they permit reliable conclusions to be drawn about where parameters are going astray,’ he adds.
‘In addition, operators can intervene to correct settings quickly and at an early stage. These interventions ensure the press meets the specified printing tolerances, and that waste is avoided/ minimised from the outset,’ Sarel states.
Modules for different tasks
iPQ-View, the first module, displays live images of the printing process, enabling operators to assess print quality and influence it within a short response time.
Key features are its high-resolution digital cameras, optical zoom functions for adapting the field of view without any loss of display quality, and diverse lighting options to ensure uniform, optimum illumination of the printing area on all common materials.
‘Particularly convenient is the monitor’s split-screen function, enabling operators to compare live images from the production process, either with reference images or live images from a second camera,’ says Sarel. ‘They can choose whether to split the screen horizontally or vertically, or view a picture-in-picture display.’
These features are completed by supporting functions, such as barcode verification or Haze Guard for detecting low contrast printing errors, he adds.
iPQ-Check, the second module, is for 100% print inspection of web widths up to 2 800mm and machine speeds up to 1 000m/min. High-performance line scan cameras deliver detailed colour image data across the entire print format, and production results are logged from the first revolution of the impression cylinders.
Mature technologies and algorithms guarantee complete control so that process-related and sporadic error defect sources can be quickly located and eliminated.
In addition to direct lighting, the iPQ-Check has diffuse lighting for highly reflective materials, guaranteeing outstanding inspection results.
iPQ-Spectral, module three, performs real-time, inline measurement of solid and half-tone colour data with a high-resolution spectrophotometer on the press, comparing it against given reference values.
‘It has a spectral measuring range of 380nm to 730nm and a maximum measuring frequency of 30 measurements per second. The measuring field can have a minimum size of 5mm x 5mm and be positioned at any desired point within the printed image,’ Sarel explains.
‘If the system detects deviations, it displays them as statistics, diagrams and images, enabling operators to see at a glance where they need to intervene to avoid waste.’ iPQ-Spectral has been developed in co-operation with X-Rite, guaranteeing the comparability of data measured offline and inline via the XRGA standard.
Measuring within the press means colour images are captured permanently throughout the entire print job. Sarel notes this as a decisive advantage compared to hand-held measuring instruments, which only permit a few measurements per print job – usually at the beginning of a new reel.
The fourth module, iPQ-Workflow, seamlessly interconnects the three systems into a uniform, closed quality assurance process. ‘The user interface provides a clearly arranged display of all interactive set-up and operating menus, along with all inspection results – including live images from the printing press – on a multi-touch monitor, in which context intuitive operation with gesture control offers operators maximum convenience,’ Sarel says.
In his view, a decisive attribute of the iPQ-Workflow module is its openness to production-assisting systems from other vendors. The iPQ-Center’s inspection systems feature interfaces to Color Cert, AxonGraphix, PantoneLIVE and Colorware PressView, among others.
The latest addition is the bidirectional interface to Esko’s Automation Engine. This interface provides new possibilities for further reducing set-up times – for instance, by conveniently setting targets for the individual iPQ-Center modules.