Flexo press builder uses servos to demo hi-res printing

By Jim Montague, Executive Editor

WHEN YOU put on new eyeglasses or contacts for the first time, everything seems almost unnaturally clear and crisp, and you realize what you’ve been missing. That’s what it's like looking at labels put out by Mark Andy Inc.’s new XP5000 narrow-web flexo press. The resolution is almost painful.

So what allows an approximately 50-year-old web printing machine manufacturer to suddenly push its resolution to ±0.003 in. from the more typical ±0.005 or ±0.006? Ironically, it’s good old attention to detail, really listening to customers, and a new application of increasingly affordable servo technology.


Joel Panhorst, print services technician at Mark Andy, shows how Rockwell’s ControlLogix software and Kinetix drives hold color print registration to ± .003 in. on his firm’s XP5000 narrow-web label printing press at Automation Fair 2005.

Mark Andy is a Dover Co. that makes up to 17-in. wide presses for paper or film. The company shares its servo technology with another firm it owns, Comco, which builds up to 28-in. wide presses, which are more often used in the converting industry  

James Wachtel, Mark Andy’s senior controls engineer, reports that users had asked it to incorporate servos in its presses because the technology reportedly could help boost printing registration control and improve resolution. For printers’ own clients, this means sharper images that can set them apart from their competition, particularly those putting labels on wine bottles. A servo-controlled press also allows quicker print-run set up and less media and substrate waste, which can be a huge, mounting expense for printers doing many short-run jobs, sometimes as short as 10-15 minutes.

To fulfill these needs, Mark Andy’s engineers and staff took about one year to develop the XP5000, which incorporates Ecodrive servos from Bosch Rexroth and PanelView and RSView operator interfaces and ControlLogix PLCs from Rockwell Automation.

“It used to take a printer three or four press lengths, typically 150 feet of material, to get through their press just once during set up,” says Wachtel. “XP5000 keeps this process very simple. The operators interface walks the user through set up, and basically tells why and where to fix problems 1, 2, 3 or whatever before starting to print. This simplifies the whole process, which helps users take advantage of it.

“When I used to do consulting with printers, they said that keeping a new machine simple will help users embrace it. A complex machine may be very elegant, but operators won’t use it because they usually don’t have the time to understand it.”

In addition, XP5000 uses a Sanyo Denki motion controller programmed with Mark Andy’s patented algorithms. “Most motion controllers have canned algorithms and built-in registrations for tuning on or off. We decided to write our own algorithms because we felt they could respond quicker and hold tighter,” explains Wachtel. “This can help smooth the printing process and find burps, so the operator can adjust errors before they get worse, and then not have to chase as many areas on the press.”

XP5000 also is Internet-capable with a secure firewall and password verified through Mark Andy’s server and its virtual private network (VPN) connection. “This means I can sit at my desk or wherever, log onto any of our presses, and troubleshoot them remotely. Anything I could do while physically at the operator station, I can do remotely via the Internet. Once you’re authenticated by the VPN, it’s like you’re there at the machine,” says Wachtel. “In fact, one of XP5000’s beta users noticed that his print color was ‘walking away,’ and we saw remotely that the RPMs weren’t in synch. We found that one printer station was pulling 10 times as much torque due to a loose coupling, and so the whole problem was solved in 40 minutes from shutdown to restart, and saved me from having to take an airplane trip.”

Not content to rest on its accomplishments, Wachtel says Mark Andy is toying with the idea of adding high-resolution web cameras to allow remote press inspection. “The big thing we had to do was to wait for servo prices to go down, and they still aren’t as inexpensive as big AC motors. So there are some things we may do with AC motors, or we could go all servos in the future, which would help us handle increasingly lighter films,” he says. “Servo-based presses have fewer gears than machine-driven presses, so there’s less chance for wear. More intelligence in the press allows better preventive maintenance and monitoring, and better recordkeeping means we know how long every motor has been running and when each needs lubrication. This preventive maintenance means users can run longer if the components are still okay, and schedule repairs around jobs, instead of interrupting them.

“The reason for all of this is to make better quality presses for our customers, and so we can better serve their needs.”

More News:

  • Pepperl+Fuchs' New 5500 Type Z/ Ex Pz Smart Purge System

    Pepperl+Fuchs' New 5500 Type Z/Ex Pz Purge System is Designed to Help OEMs, Panel Builders and Just About Anyone Dealing With Haz-loc Areas by Making this Type of System Easy to Implement

  • WEG Electric Introduces the CFW500 Machinery Drive

    WEG's engineers specifically designed this new drive with increased features that focus on the machinery manufacturer's needs. It is simple, efficient, flexible and can be commissioned quickly and easily.

  • Manufacturing Technology Orders Down in May 2014

    Expectations for the 2014 manufacturing technology market were for a soft first half of the year, followed by a stronger second half. The fluctuations seen in the past few months are on track with forecasts, and all indications are that U.S. manufacturing activity is and will remain strong

  • Fast 2014 Start for NA Robotics

    A record 14,135 robots, valued at $788 million were ordered from North American robotics companies in the first half of 2014, an increase of 30% in units and 16% in revenue over the same period in 2013.

  • WEG Electric Introduces the CFW100 Mini Drive

    Programing is easy with the built in keypad that monitors two different parameters at the same time along with operation status, alarms and faults.

  • New and Noteworthy: Ocean Data Systems Develop Specialized Survey and Omega Engineering Receives Honorable Mention

    Omega Engineering received an Honorable Mention in the 2014 Best of Sensors Expo Innovation Award for its M12LCP thermocouple probes with high- temperature M12 molded connectors. The Gold Award winner was AG-SL900A EPC sensor tag and data logger IC from ams.

  • IMTS Will Land Big Footprint in Chicago

    The IANA pavilion will showcase the newest technologies focusing on new ideas and topics ranging from resource-efficient manufacturing and network security to secure industrial control systems and big data. In addition to more than 120 vendors from 16 countries, who will demonstrate their products and services, IANA will host the Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit, Motion, Drive & Automation Conference, and ISA training program.

  • NI Week Aids Industrial IoT Convergence

    Truchard reported that NI divides IoT into industrial IoT and consumer IoT, and this industrial side is focused on using big analog data, analytics, distributed timing and synchronization, and intelligence via cyber-physical systems to help factories, power grids, cities and machines work better.

  • Infographic: Internet of Things - What The Future Will Be Like

    The past 25 years of Internet growth was fueled by human communications. The next 25 years of Internet growth will be fueled by machines. How is the Internet going to affect us and what we do?

  • Bits and Bytes: Moxa Gets UL Certification; Fieldbus Int'l and Fieldbus Inc. Enter Strategic Alliance, and More

    Lemo, a Swiss designer and manufacturer of custom connectors, acquired Northwire, U.S. specialty cable manufacturer of wire and multi-conductor cable and retractiles for the medical, aerospace and defense, energy and industrial markets.

All news »

What are your comments?

You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Login Here.


No one has commented on this page yet.

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments