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i-Web Puts the Finishing Touches on Modular Web Finishing Systems for Commercial Printing

May 27, 2014
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SAVAGE, MN—May 27, 2014—On a typical day when you check your mailbox you’re certain to find any number of direct mail pieces from stores and companies offering products, services and special offers. Granted, electronic forms of communication, whether via e-mail, apps or Websites have developed into other standard methods for these same companies to get the word out. Many studies show that physical direct mail volume continues to increase and remains a preferred method of B2C communication—both for businesses and consumers.

As such, commercial printing and mailing services is still big business. It’s no surprise that with the high volume of material involved, advanced printing and finishing solutions with flexible, high speed automation technology are must-haves. Helping meet the needs for high quality business printing equipment, i-Web is a leading global supplier of web finishing systems with high market share in the graphic arts industry. With over 30 years of experience in the field, areas of expertise at the Avon, MA-based i-Web include: system design, integration, and manufacturing of custom finishing machinery in the United States and internationally. The primary target markets for i-Web include commercial printing applications, direct mail processing, packaging and Web-based digital printing.

Untangling a web of aging servo technology
While i-Web has been quite successful implementing advanced servo drive technology in its finishing systems for much of the company’s history, some limiting factors started to become apparent in 2008. “We learned that the servo system we used at the time was limited in the number of axes we could control individually, plus we had to manage different fieldbus systems for I/O and motion,” Bob Williams, president of i-Web explained. “Since we manufacture very long production lines with many dozens of high precision motion axes, the inefficiencies ultimately became too much to bear.”

i-Web then kick-started a campaign to develop a next generation motion control platform with a heavy emphasis on the networking technology. The first and foremost requirement was to standardize on a one-bus-system that could capably cover motion, I/O and safety—with enough available bandwidth to run all functions at the same time without performance losses.

All i-Web machines are highly modular—every individual machine module must be “hot-connectable” and easily tested on i-Web’s and the end-user’s plant floor in a “plug and play” manner. Another critical requirement for the system redesign was to ensure easy remote service on i-Web machines with the added capability to configure and troubleshoot everything via an external connection. “The turning point in our search happened when i-Web received a significant order for a machine that required top end functionality that we just weren’t able to accommodate with the existing controller, fieldbus and drive system we used at the time,” recalled Williams. “We were already highly motivated, but at this point we had a concrete deadline we simply had to meet.”

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