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May 2002

In an industry where time is money, web offset printers want the fastest, easiest-to-use equipment they can find. When looking for palletizing and stacking machines, they won't accept second-rate gear.

"Our customers expect reliable, durable and easy-to-maintain machines with simple and intuitive makeready adjustments," asserts Terry Bradford, product manager for Heidelberg, which represents Rima-System in North America. "The huge volume of paper produced by today's high-speed presses makes robotic palletizing much more cost-effective, and the consistently high quality of robotically palletized loads translates to more efficient operation of bindery equipment further downstream."

Similarly, according to Lee Terry, sales manager for Roskam Automatic Machinery, the emergence of high-speed presses has presented a problem of major proportions to printers: How to keep up with the product flow from their new super-wide and/or double-web presses, without having to run the press at less than optimum speed.

"Fortunately there is a solution," he says. "Many companies have upgraded their material handling methods with the addition of robotic palletizing systems in the pressroom."

Computer Driven

These modern material handling systems incorporate smart (PLC controlled) conveyor systems that automatically follow press speeds, divert waste product into waste receptacles, plus offer the ability to divert products on-the-fly to backup stacking equipment, as needed, Terry explains.

"The latter is to preclude the need to stop a press when a problem develops downstream that would ordinarily result in wasted product and lost production time if they did not have this capability to divert to alternative equipment," he points out. "In conjunction with these new conveyor systems are high-speed robot feed stackers, automatic pallet positioners and user-friendly, touchscreen-controlled robotic palletizing systems to accommodate today's new high-speed presses at fully rated production speeds."

In terms of production efficiency, the equipment's capacity and reliability are the most important factors to consider, adds Leslie Figler, marketing manager with Gämmerler Corp. The company's stackers and palletizing systems are compatible with a wide range of presses and help printers increase efficiency through automation, she says.

"In general, when purchasing stackers and palletizers, printers look for features that deliver excellent bundle quality, provide maximum production efficiency and allow for format flexibility," Figler contends. "Gämmerler's products are designed to help printers achieve each one of these goals."

Quick to Set-up

Another player in this arena, Muller Martini, builds rapid make-ready features into all of its stackers and its Cohiba palletizing system, notes Felix Stirnimann, division manager, product finishing. Depending upon the sophistication of the stacker, it might have programmable logic controls (PLC), microprocessor controls or handwheels to adjust the machine from one job to the next. "Gone are the days of wrenches and bruised knuckles," he says. "Job changeovers now typically take under three minutes."


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