Mitsubishi Electric has helped JK Machinery upgrade the design of an automated printing machine to deliver an enhanced, futureproof and cost-effective solution to its customers. The new unit, which is now the company’s flagship, offers next-level performance enabled by Mitsubishi Electric’s advanced automation products. These include the latest FR-A800-R2R variable speed drive (VSD) with dedicated winding functions, MELSERVO-J4 servos, a MELSEC iQ-F series PLC with simple motion module and a GOT2000 series HMI.

Automated printing machines provide large volumes of products with consistency and high quality in a short time. As market demand becomes increasingly ambitious, companies need to leverage ever more advanced solutions to deliver superior prints through high-speed production runs.

To support its customers in this competitive market, JK Machinery has been upgrading machinery since 1989 and set out to upgrade the design of an automated printing press, building next-level capabilities into it. The ideal technology partner for this project was found in Mitsubishi Electric. Jack Round, Technical Director at JK Machinery Ltd, explains: “We felt we needed an automation specialist, whose solutions and technical expertise could support our ambitions. Mitsubishi Electric could offer us everything we were looking for – advanced, high-quality and cost-effective products as well as comprehensive support throughout the project.”

The two companies started off by examining the machine to determine which automation components would best suit the system to enhance and optimise its operations. The unit relied on a flexographic technique and used a roll-to-roll, or reel-to-reel, process where a blank reel of paper is unwound, printed on with different colours and rewound. Additional stations to conduct specific processes, such as lamination, can be added to support different applications and printing requirements.

Combining user-friendliness with high performance

The setup required reliable, highly accurate automation components that work in sync to deliver effective operations as well as maximise the overall uptime. While advanced capabilities were required, JK Machinery wanted solutions that would be easy to program and would not require any specialist coding skills. Jack Round adds: “We were interested in conducting these activities in house to streamline the project and also provide better support for customers if they have questions regarding the upgrade.”

To address these needs, Mitsubishi Electric developed a solution that leverages its innovative FR-A800-R2R VSD for the unrolling and rolling operations at the start and end of the printing process respectively. Thanks to the device’s built-in winding and unwinding functions, no coding is required and the customer only needs to input the necessary values for the key process parameters. As a result, the solution supports JK Machinery’s requirements while also speeding up the VSDs’ installation and start-up.

In addition to the VSDs, a master MELSERVO-J4 servo drives a line shaft that controls the print stations, while two slave servo axes from the same J4 series control the machine’s in-feed and out-feed nip rollers. These drives are connected to a compact, high-performance FX5 PLC equipped with a simple motion module to deliver accuracy and precision while maximising processing speed.

Furthermore, to ensure reliable and deterministic communications, CC-Link IE Field Basic network technology was selected which met the fast-paced needs of synchronous control within the printing press. Finally, operators are able to get a real-time overview of the process and the system as well as interact with the setup using a GOT2000 HMI.

A refined, competitive printing press

The automation components also occupy a fraction of the existing system, offering a reduced footprint that can support applications with limited room available. Delivering next-level capabilities at a competitive price, the innovative printing press has already gained considerable interest, with purchases from customers all around the world.

Jack Round comments: “We are extremely satisfied with the collaboration with Mitsubishi Electric, which has resulted in a highly effective and cost-efficient system. Also, we really appreciated the continuous support provided by the technical teams throughout the project. We look forward to continuing this collaboration and delivering cutting-edge presses for the printing industry.”

James McClelland, Account Manager at Mitsubishi Electric, concludes: “We are delighted with the extremely positive feedback received from JK Machinery Ltd. This project resulted in an advanced printing machine that will help businesses deliver large volumes of high-quality product quickly, giving them a competitive edge and improving their capabilities.”