As self-adhesive labels find increasing use as a design element for product differentiation, label makers have to produce a wider variety of labels in smaller batches. Rising energy and raw material prices mean the machines also have to allow shorter setup times, less paper waste, and reduced energy consumption, all while ensuring high print quality. Machine manufacturer Codimag solves this complex equation with future-proof solutions based on a proven semi-rotary offset technology, innovative ink transfer control systems, and the latest automation technology from B&R.
Beyond their primary function of indicating the brand and the nature of a product, self-adhesive labels have increasingly become a design factor used for product differentiation. In addition to elevating quality expectations, this forces label makers to produce smaller batches of increasing variety. Additional constraints like energy and raw material prices mean the machines must also be quick to set up, produce minimal waste, and operate energy efficiently – all while ensuring high print quality. Just outside Paris in the French town of Bondoufle, machine manufacturer Codimag solves this complex equation with future-proof solutions based on proven semi-rotary offset technology, innovative ink transfer control systems and the latest automation technology from B&R.
Compared to other printing methods like flexo or digital, offset offers better print quality with lower start-up costs. Offset plates are faster to produce, so new jobs can be started very quickly. The disadvantage of rotary offset is the fixed printing size, which Codimag has dealt with by implementing a semi-rotary process known as intermittent feed. This method results in lower speeds than a full-rotary press but enables faster format changes without having to exchange cylinders, making it particularly well-suited for short and medium runs. "Although batch-size-one production will remain quite rare in the label market, the trend is clearly in the direction of smaller batches," notes Codimag CEO Benoît Demol. The European average was 4900 meters per batch in 2015 – 1000 meters shorter than the previous year.
By 2020, the average is expected to approach 2500 meters by 2020. "As print runs grow shorter and shorter, flexible automation systems from B&R help our machines meet our customer's needs with fast setup and changeover paired with unbeatable quality." The ink transfer technology used in the print units is also a key factor in label quality and machine efficiency. Codimag has successfully implemented waterless offset technology for color stability and predictability. Here, printing plates are covered with a layer of silicone to repel the ink in the non-print areas, and ink viscosity is controlled by temperature controllers. Compared to wet offset, this technique saves the time spent on finding the right balance between water and ink, and the resulting material waste. Codimag also developed Aniflo inking units, which use temperature control to ensure consistent ink coverage. This innovation allows ink density to be adjusted quickly and precisely to the user's needs. Codimag's VIVA offset label presses also come with finishing units for stamping, screen-printing, flexography, laminating, die-cutting, or embossing.
The VIVA presses are built around a single-source automation solution from B&R, featuring a powerful Automation PC as a core control unit and a 15" Automation Panel and T30 Power Panels as HMI units. The cylinders and rolls are all driven by ACOPOSmulti servo drives and B&R servo motors, and synchronized machine-wide via the hard real-time POWERLINK network. A typical VIVA machine has around 30 B&R brushless motors. The highly integrated automation solution – with a single programming tool for all components – allows Codimag to program everything efficiently in-house. Label format changes and registration controls are all performed electronically with X20 stepper modules. Single-sourcing the entire automation solution from B&R helps Codimag reduce costs and respond more flexibly to customer requirements. "Thanks to the many mechatronic functions included in B&R systems, we're able to implement a new machine function on customer request in only a few weeks, and we can standardize our developments across our entire portfolio," explains Demol.
In the fall of 2016, Codimag launched a new generation of VIVA machines based on a fully modular design. The redesign aimed to build entirely customized label production lines in the most flexible way possible, with printing and finishing units mounted and assembled like Lego pieces. B&R and Codimag worked together closely on this new machine concept. B&R's flexible and scalable automation architectures as well as the modular ACOPOSmulti servo drive system with one-cable motor connections made implementation a success both technically and economically. "The one-cable connections greatly simplify cabling and reduce costs," notes Alexandre Morin, head of automation engineering at Codimag. For the new VIVAs, Codimag also redesigned its HMI system using B&R's mapp View software technology to create web-based multi-touch visualizations. Operators now enjoy a totally new experience with 3D views of all printing and finishing units, easy two-finger zooming, video wizards for settings, interactive maintenance assistance and more. Other new features will enable detailed analysis of machine performance. Using X20AP energy measurement modules together with the mapp OEE software component, the new VIVAs provide users valuable KPIs such as paper consumption, power consumption, label quantities and output rates.
"As print runs grow shorter and shorter, flexible automation systems from B&R help our machines meet our customer's needs with fast setup and changeover paired with unbeatable quality."