20 May 2024

Fujifilm blog on the importance of print production automation

Fujifilm blog on the importance of print production automation.

With inkjet technology across the board the highest spec its ever been, Fujifilm is shifting its focus to automation development and integration to streamline printing processes.

Shaun Holdom, Business Development Manager at Fujifilm Wide Format Inkjet Systems, explains more…

Automation has been a feature of the print industry for decades. From the gentle roll of substrates moving from the loading bay to the printer, to the action of printheads as they spurt out ink, to robotics – all aspects are important for maintaining productivity, and are widely used today.

Automation and speed

Today’s large format machines are expected to handle a vast array of media sizes and types, and due to this, the loading and unloading phases are important. Print speeds are faster than ever, making it harder for humans to keep up with the machinery and we’re reaching a point where human intervention is the weak point in the production line, slowing down the process and creating bottlenecks. If, for example, a machine is running 100-200 boards per hour, it will need two or three people to run it – unless automotive features are brought in to provide that support.

This is why we’ve shifted our focus to automation development and we strongly believe this will support the growing demands of our customers.

To date, we’ve invested in our media transportation systems – increasing automation for the pick-up and drop-off of sheets, and adding reels to the chassis to speed up productivity and the material switching process for printers, as well as the versatility of the machines.

Newest system

Recognising the need to support increased printing speeds through automation, and that hybrid printers are in high demand, we will soon (at drupa 2024) launch a ‘Pick and Place’ automation system for use with the Acuity Ultra Hybrid LED.

Our new system, which can be set to deliver full or half automation, facilitates a pallet-to-pallet process for rigid substrates. It comprises of a loading option to feed rigid substrates onto the printer, as well as an unloading system to unload materials from printer to pallet.

Built with four lanes, the system allows four rows of material to be printed simultaneously. Each lane has two suction arms to pick up materials and a vacuum that can be adjusted to carry a variety of substrates and surfaces with different weights. There is also an optional ionization unit which removes unwanted static from substrates that are typically challenging to print on.

Our automation system’s user-friendly GUI seamlessly communicates with the printer while allowing the operator to continuously monitor the materials being handled. It also includes a specially designed latching system, patented by Fujifilm, which enables it to be quickly connected to the printer.

The system allows us to maintain the roll to roll functionality of the Acuity Ultra Hybrid LED, strengthening its position as a true hybrid and giving it the competitive edge. There are other systems where, once you apply the automation system, then you lose the other functionality which is not why you buy the machine in the first place. This is not the case for our sytem and fortunately, due to advancements in technology, costs for a system such as this are more affordable than ever.

Additional automation

In addition to our new automation system, we are working to implement automation in all senses of the word. From feeding and unloading printers, to integration with software to handle stacking, cutting, sewing and stitching – our next steps will involve us including as many different automation types as possible.

We believe that developing and integrating automation will further support our customers. Such enhancements will not only enable our printers to operate at the highest speeds and deliver the highest quality, they will be able to seamlessly interact with software and other devices. This ultimately will allow our customers to sell complete, finished products to their consumers.

 

shaun holdom fujifilm