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INSPECTION/COLOR CONTROL SYSTEMS -- Guarding the Web

November 2002
BY CHRIS BAUER


Keeping a watchful eye on quality web offset press production has never been easier. With the influx of digital equipment for web inspection and closed-loop color control systems, accuracy, reliability and speed have all taken big steps forward.

"The primary influence has been the availability of high-resolution digital cameras versus traditional analog cameras, which provide printers with a more accurate image of their print quality," explains John Woolley, vice president of sales and marketing for PC Industries, of Gurnee, IL.

"The other trend is the availability of powerful, low cost computers to analyze printing defects. The bottom line is that web inspection system manufacturers that take advantage of the technology trends can provide higher performance at a fraction of the cost of older technology."

Technology Challenges

Virtually all control systems built today are computerized, adds Manny Patel, of Windsor, NJ-based Innolutions Inc. Since computer and microprocessor technology is a rapidly changing field, keeping up with this technology can be a challenge, he admits.

"Individual components and technologies become obsolete and unavailable literally overnight, and a manufacturer can be left without a product if care is not exercised in the design of controls," Patel warns. "We design our computerized controls to be platform independent, and to run on industry standard hardware. In this way we can always provide the highest performance and the lowest cost as technologies continue to develop and mature. This approach also allows our customers to have a base of "second source" components and upgrades constantly available."

According to Randy Freeman, vice president of marketing at Quad/Tech International (QTI) in Sussex, WI, all of the computerization that has gone into today's versions of web inspection and control systems has resulted in two improvements: better quality and lower waste.

"The printing industry is very competitive, and improved productivity is the most important issue for printers," Freeman points out. "One way to improve productivity is to be able to reduce on-press manning requirements. Automated controls take over processes that were previously controlled manually, allowing a press to run with fewer people and, therefore, a lower cost basis."

These advances in web inspection and control system technology are made possible due to the lower cost of computer-related hardware (hard drive space, RAM memory, etc.), and the greater power and faster processing speeds of computer systems available, says John Thome, vice president of marketing for BST Pro Mark in Elmhurst, IL.
 

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