Bobst has set out its stall for the packaging industry with a new vision based around its Bobst Connect concept, an open architecture cloud-based platform that’s meant to close the loop between digital files going into prepress and final production.
Jean-Pascal Bobst, CEO of the Bobst Group
Jean-Pascal Bobst, CEO of the Bobst Group, commented: “In the past Bobst has delivered a lot of machines and services to our clients with some tools. But this new vision is a revolution to us and a major change to our clients because we want to offer much more from the machines, the tooling and the service for a more comprehensive solution. The main benefit for our customers will be to optimise the quality.” He added: “The entire production line will become automated with less human intervention.”
The idea is that all the machines and tooling will communicate to each other, seamlessly transmitting data through a cloud-based platform, automating the entire production process and checking production against quality control systems, according to the parameters defined by customers.
Writing this now, it strikes me that the basic idea behind this is remarkably similar to the original concept behind JDF – not the universal connectivity part of JDF but the idea that all the different bits of kit would be connected and talking to each other and using job information for automatic settings all reporting back to a central server. Bobst has taken this communication to the next level, centralising it through a cloud-system that wasn’t really a practical option 20 years ago when JDF was first mooted. And, of course, it’s a Bobst system rather than a universal standard. That said, Jean-Pascal Bobst acknowledged that other press manufacturers also have cloud-based systems, pointing out that Bobst Connect has an open architecture.
As part of this vision, Bobst also announced a number of new elements. For flexible packaging there’s a new wide web flexo press, the Master CI, which is the top of the range of central impression presses and builds on the Vision CI and Expert CI that were announced at the end of last year.
The Master CI takes web widths from 1.3 to 2.2m, with a print cylinder repeat of 370 to 1250 mm. It has a top speed of 600mpm, which can be increased optionally to 800mpm. In keeping with Jean-Pascal Bobst’s commitment to offer customers for all presses across the Bobst portfolio an option to use water-based inks, this too can run both solvent and water-based inks. However, there’s likely to be a productivity penalty, with the water-based inks only running at up to 600mpm, while the solvent inks can be run at up to 800mpm though Bobst points out that it’s difficult to compare productivity from one ink to another because the substrate also has an effect on the press speed.
It’s highly automated and boasts a number of systems, including SmartCol for colour management, and Job Recipe Management, for a digitalized production workflow from file to finished product with creation of a digital twin of the printed reels. There’s also the second generation of Bobst’s SmartGPS, a graphic positions system that embeds information about a plate and press settings offline in a sleeve via an RFID chip to automate registration and impression settings and maintain this throughout a press run.
The Master CI also features a SmartDroid robotic system that can handle heavy items and does the entire press setup without human intervention. Bobst claims that all of this automation and connectivity will lead to reductions in the amount of waste as well as higher print quality and more consistent print output.
Staying with the flexible packging theme, there’s a new Nova D800 laminator, with a web width of 1050 to 1550 mm. It can run at up to 450mpm and is highly automated to make job changes quickly without tools for higher machine uptime and fast time-to-market. There’s a flexo trolley for fast, cost-effective coating of solvent-based adhesives with high solid content. It’s suitable for use with water-based, solvent-based, solventless adhesive lamination, and in-register cold seal, lacquering and additional color applications. Jean-Pascal Bobst says that the main selling point is that you can use any flexo trolley from Bobst or its competitors, adding: “The customers have too many standard trolleys so we developed a lot of flexibility to allow customers to have very fast changeovers.”
Bobst has also added its Ink On Demand and DigiColor systems to the Master M6 narrow web inline flexo press. I’ve already covered these particular technologies last year and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing new about either them other than that Bobst has added them and the automation from the M5 to the M6 and will presumably expand these concepts to the rest of its flexo press portfolio. Jean-Pascal Bobst points out that with these technologies, the Master M6 is now fully automated, though you can only really take advantage of this if you use extended colour gamut printing. He adds: “When you download the file to the machine it will take a couple of minutes to change the printing plates, cutting dies and set up the machine and quality control. But once you push the button you will lose one length of the machine in waste but then you will have sellable product and be up to top speed in another length.”
There are four new items specifically aimed at the folding carton market. Thus there’s a new version of the Mastercut 106 die cutter, which features a greater degree of automation for higher productivity so that it can be fully set up from “feeder to delivery” with minimum operator intervention. This means, for example, that stripping and blanking tools, as well as the nonstop rack in the delivery section are automatically set. Jean-Pascal Bobst says that the company can deliver 70 percent of this automation today, adding: “and in 12-18 months we will complete a 100 percent of this vision.”
This automation includes TooLink, a new digital recipe management tool for die-cutters. In combination with automated functions, it can save up to 15 minutes per job changeover and simplifies the interaction between converters and die-makers. The tooling for the die cutters is fitted with chips, which can be detected by TooLink’s Connected Tooling feature to set the machine up according to the production-ready recipe. Bobst collects data from the die cutter to create a twin PDF so that it’s possible to compare the PDF the operator puts in against the twin PDF that comes out.
Bobst has also updated its Accucheck inline quality control system, which was first introduced some nine years ago. This latest version benefits from machine learning and can check every package, ejecting non-standard boxes at full production speed. Customers can set up the inspections to their own needs and it can inspect varnished, metalized and embossed blanks. Other options include PDF proofing, providing inspection reports and smart text identification.
There’s a new sheet-to-sheet laminator, the Masterstar, that has been completely redesigned and is said to be highly configurable. It can produce 10,000 sheets per hour. It features a progressive sheet alignment system – Power Aligner S and SL – that eliminates the need to stop the sheet and makes it possible to significantly reduce the base weight of the printed sheet. It matches printed sheet and substrate sheet with a high degree of accuracy and there’s an option to add a fully automatic single face sheet feeder system and a fully automatic delivery system.
Bobst has also continued to evolve its Extended Color Gamut technology with a new oneECG approach, which builds on the Revo concept developed first at Nuova Gidue before Bobst acquired that company and renamed it Bobst Firenze. This can now be used right across Bobst’s range both analogue and digital printing for label, flexible packaging, folding carton and corrugated board. ECG refers to a set of inks – typically 6 or 7 – to achieve a color gamut larger than the traditional CMYK. The idea is to obviate the need for spot colours and therefore the time needed for makereadies between jobs. The disadvantage has been that even with seven colours it’s difficult to reach the full Pantone range, which has held back the widespread adoption of ECG printing. Bobst claims that it can now reproduce 98 percent of the Pantone range thanks to its colour management tools and the consistency of its presses. Jean-Pascal Bobst adds: “We push ECG because of sustainability. It will avoid a lot of waste, with less ink changes so you save a lot of ink, and water because you don’t need to clean out the inks.”
Finally, Bobst has also introduced a new large format version of the Digital Inspection Table that’s suitable for all applications. It incorporates digital projection for the proofing of printed sheets and die-cut blanks, whilst providing real-time visual representations to match product with digital proofs. It uses HD projectors to illuminate the product sample with quality control imaging, enabling the operator to easily see if quality standards are matched or compromised.
Bobst will make further announcements later in the year, including for the labels sector in July and the corrugated industry in September. Of course, all of this activity is in lieu of actually being at Drupa this year, which is strange because Bobst has also announced that it’s not planning on attending Drupa when it actually happens next year. Bobst has invested heavily to develop competence centres at many of its bases that will allow for remote demonstrations and maintenance and the idea is that it will use this to communicate with customers rather than traipsing around the globe from one show to the next. There’s a good environmental argument for cutting down on the number of exhibitions and in many cases its both cheaper and more sustainable to simply fly likely customers to one of these competence centres when face to face meetings are required. Nonetheless, tradeshows are a good way to meet with new customers, not to mention journalists, that Bobst might not otherwise come across.
Just for the hell of it, I compared this year’s announcement against Bobst’s Drupa 2016 introductions. At the time, Bobst had just introduced ECG to its CI flexo presses, and there were new CI presses in the MW and 40Six, both of which have now been superceded, which is a remarkably short production life for wide web flexo presses. There was also a new version of the M6 narrow web press, and the Mastercut 106 had just been launched. This all goes to prove the old saying that what goes around comes around.