Douglas Stryker is manager of the Print Finishing division at Muller Martini in Hauppauge, N.Y.
The digital inkjet trend means that most printing, cutting, collating, stitching and other tasks have all become more variable and changeable in recent years. And, these were jobs that were previously hard to set up, whether they were cutting sheets coming off a roll or printing onto another roll.
We built only regular stitchers until two years ago, but about five years ago, we also started to research and get into modular machine building. Eventually, we developed our Component Engineering program, so we could add different machine components to our stitchers, and our MM Remote box and online service portal for dialing into them from anywhere.
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These solutions allow them to serve the more numerous and varied but lower-volume jobs coming from digital content more easily. Print has really declined in volume in the past five years, so customers want to run more individual, short runs faster. For example, our machines now read barcodes on each sheet, and they tell the machine the number of sheets to run and when to drop them for folding and stitching.
Muller Martini manufactures, markets, and services post-press finishing equipment for commercial printers, binderies, digital book manufacturers and newspaper plants, as well as web offset presses. Our manufacturing plants in the U.S., Switzerland, and Germany and global service network assist users worldwide. We're a family-owned company based on business ethics and manufacturing quality, which are the values established by our founder, Hans Muller, when he started the company in 1946. As a result, Muller Martini has a long history of introducing innovative equipment with pioneering features. In 1954, we developed our first automatic saddle stitcher with “flying” stitching heads and automatic feeders, which we introduced to the U.S. in 1959.
Three years ago, we developed our modular Presto II digital saddle stitcher in just six months by integrating existing devices. We also partnered with MBO as part of our Modular Engineering program. They supply a sheeting unit that does an initial buckle fold before Presto II does the final plow folding. It can run 9,000 copies per hour, and has a changeover of 30 minutes or less, compared to the 90-minute average changeover needed for a non-modular device.
Presto II has one Lenze servomotor that runs its gutter and stitcher line, while a second runs its trimmer. Each is controlled by a B&R PLC, and networked via Ethernet Powerlink. Our proprietary Muller Martini Automation Protocol (MMAP) manages Presto II's HMIs and field devices via CANbus, including feeders, collator, plow folder, stitcher and trimmer.
Besides allowing us to develop machines by integrating existing components, Modular Engineering also helps Presto II combine different units, and be able to run paper materials from both digital and offset sources at the same time, and merge them together.
When any individual faults occur, they can be recorded and reported by MM Remote to us for evaluation, troubleshooting, maintenance and repair. MM Remote is based on SymMedia Internet's components and server software, which link an individual machine at a user's site via Ethernet TCP/IP to Muller Martini's office in Switzerland via a secure, cloud-based connection.
MM Remote shows us remote diagnostics for all the machines that we have rights to view. Previously, we used rudimentary PC Anywhere-type technology or dial-up to access some remote diagnostics. Now, once MM Remote connects to our cloud in Switzerland, our service technicians can check and evaluate what's wrong, and alert and support each customers as needed.
This saves us a lot of flying and time in the field. For instance, we just had a large customer's machine go down on a Saturday when they needed to finish about 50,000 books. We were able to resolve the customer's problem via remote monitoring in about one hour, instead of the 12-24 hours it would have required in the past, and they were able to get up and running, and publish and ship all their books.
To maintain security, MM Remote employs secure passwords, encrypted messaging, and only allows user-initiated and controlled transactions. MM Remote only allows connections to one central server, and our customers must be the ones that establish links to the server in Switzerland, so they're not open to the outside world. The advantage is that MM Remote basically can still put our technicians right into their offices to troubleshoot and maintain any machines or modular equipment.