Many processes around ink application are already automated.
Up until now, no printing press manufacturer
has considered automating dampening.

With Hycolor Pro, Heidelberg is offering automated functions
for the first time that enable more targeted control
and monitoring of the dampening film.

Product manager Arnd Westermann explains how this works and how Hycolor Pro boosts economy and output and cuts paper waste.

Mr Westermann, why is Heidelberg now also automating the dampening system, of all things, with Hycolor Pro?

As you know, we have been consistently promoting the automation of the Speedmaster XL 106 so that print shops can realize their productivity potential despite frequent job changes. For that reason, all gaps in automation from the feeder to the sheet delivery have been closed on the new 2020 generation. As part of this, we have also automated the dampening system of the Speedmaster XL 106 – regardless of the fact that Alcolor is a highly productive and reliable film dampening system – at a crucial point and added intelligent functions with Hycolor Pro.

Where is this crucial point?

The dampening solution film mainly comes about in the gap between the dampening system’s pan and metering rollers. This is precisely where we added two digital motors to the Speedmaster XL 106: one on the drive side and one on the operator side. This permits very sensitive metering of the dampening solution, fast corrections, and more precise approaching of the scumming point directly from the Prinect Press Center XL 3 control station – all while production is ongoing. For example if the ink is scumming, the printer can now also add more water very specifically on the left or right of the sheet instead of just all over as before.

What intelligence are we talking about, for example when it comes to the control and print quality?

It’s based on digital monitoring of the basic dampening system setting, what we call the offset between the pan and metering rollers. This is what controls the distribution of the dampening film. To optimize the offset setting for even dampening over the entire width, we installed sensors in the dampening system. They measure the exact position of the rollers relative to each other and show this on the Prinect Press Center XL 3.

The offset only rarely has to be changed. If adjustments are required, however, the sensor-based monitoring and visualization enables the printer to perform a very targeted intervention, thereby minimizing paper waste. Our animation for Hycolor Pro shows exactly how this works.

To what extent does Hycolor Pro boost output?

The trend towards very small runs coupled with growing job variation places much higher demands on printing companies in relation to dampening. This is because each change to the format or substrate, to applications or spot colors requires the dampening to be adjusted so that the job runs through the press with minimal paper waste.

A stable ink-water balance is not only a prerequisite for high quality in continuous printing, but also promotes fast drying of the printed sheets – and thus helps to shorten throughput times. It is precisely these advantages that can be achieved more easily and more quickly thanks to Hycolor Pro. Each adjustment made directly by the Prinect Press Center XL 3 in an automated process therefore saves legwork and speeds up production. Downtimes at the press are eliminated.

Hycolor Pro as part of the Heidelberg User Experience, UX for short, reduces the press operator’s workload with its user-friendly operation and increases production reliability. A good example is the optimized Roller Check Assistant. It enables the dampening rollers to be easily checked, in fact now separately, with the help of press strips.

How has the market responded?

It goes without saying that benefits like time and paper waste savings, operating comfort, and more control are very popular. Despite some initial skepticism about the innovations, our field test customers from the commercial and packaging printing sectors are impressed with the technology and its possibilities. Our user portrait of Mediahaus based in Ahaus is a perfect example of this. Thanks to Hycolor Pro, this packaging printing company has been able to halve its paper waste.

What businesses will benefit most from Hycolor Pro?

Above all packaging companies when it comes to multiple repeats on a print sheet. But it has worthwhile benefits for all other printing companies too. This also includes the digital acquisition of the settings in the dampening system. These can be easily checked online by our remote service as a way of supporting our customers if they are having inking problems. The benefits of Hycolor Pro will increase in the future. Since we can evaluate the setting data for the offset and the compression between the pan and metering rollers acquired using the sensors, we will be able to apply artificial intelligence to this information in future to make recommendations for the optimal dampening solution setting for all the jobs produced by a printing company.


Need more information?

Contact our expert:

Arnd Westermann

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