Horizon to launch new ICE connectivity

Horizon, the Japanese Postpress specialist, is developing a new ICE series of Intelligently Connected and Efficient finishing equipment that will be shown at Drupa. 

This HT300 trimmer is Horizon’s first ICE-enabled device.

One of the first products to ship will be the HT300 ICE trimmer followed by the BQ-500 ICE binder just before Drupa. The HT300 is a three-sided trimmer that Horizon demonstrated recently at the Page2020 trade show in Tokyo, alongside a robotic feeding system. The BQ500 is a four-clamp perfect binder that builds on the successful BQ470 and 480 machines and is capable of producing 800-900 books per hour.

The heart of this system is a new ICE Link workflow software that will connect ICE-enabled equipment, using either JDF or API connectivity. Yoshihiro Oe, general manager of global business for Horizon, says that it can be used with the majority of Horizon’s existing equipment. It builds on Horizon’s existing JDF offering but with more features including remote connection for support and cloud-based data analysis hosted on Amazon Web Services or AWS.

This will keep track of each device’s status, such as whether or not it has stopped or how many items it has processed. If there’s a problem then a Horizon engineer can alert a customer, and the system can also be connected to local dealers so that they can send an engineer. Besides this support, Horizon also plans to add remote maintenance in the future.

ICE Link can also connect with a web-to-print system and can send Key Performance Indicator data back to an MIS.  It includes an app so that customers can monitor their network through a smartphone or tablet. Oe says that the customers they’ve already shown the system to are interested, adding: “Many of them want to capture the data and to analyse it.”

Horizon was very quick to add JDF capability to its equipment, certainly amongst the first vendors to really embrace the concept. However the associated PxNet software was difficult to install, as Oe explains: It was hard to configure it on the customer network because each customer has a different network and so it’s always an issue to find the best way to connect.” So this cloud-based approach should be a much easier approach for all concerned and will also work with existing PxNet installations.

From left: Aki Ohno of Ohno Inkjet Consulting, Takanori Kakita, president of Screen Graphic Solutions, Seiichi Nakao, head of Screen’s continuous printer division, and Eijiro Hori, president of Horizon.

Horizon plans to build connections with other vendors’ equipment and has already worked with Screen to connect with its Equios workflow, which Oe describes as “an important part of the system”. This is perhaps not so surprising as Screen is based close by in Kyoto and the two companies took part in the Smart Factory exhibition in Kyoto last year.

This shared connectivity has created a fully integrated production line that includes a printed web coming from an inkjet printer direct to an inline perfect binder. This system is being beta tested at a German printer and will be shown at Drupa with a Screen Truepress Jet520 NX inkjet press. Horizon will also show rolls that have been printed on a Screen inkjet machine being fed directly into a direct mailing system. Other applications include the SmartStacker connected to a loose sheet book block feeder and binder, as well as a printed roll connected to a high speed perfect bind set-up using Horizon’s smart binding system with a 9-clamp binder. 

Oe says that Horizon is trying to convince people to ‘change the focus’ and think about the finishing first, which just seems like common sense to me. After all, it’s the finishing equipment that converts the printed substrate into the actual product being sold. Oe adds: “We believe that if we focus on the finishing then there will be less mistake and less work in the printing.”

Horizon has centred all of its manufacturing at its extremely well-equipped Biwa-ko factory near Kyoto, Japan.

Horizon itself is an interesting company. It’s a family owned business, run by Eijiro Hori, with his son Hideharu Hori working as a director. The company was founded in 1946 in Kyoto and initially made scientific instruments for the education market followed by OEM products. However, the company looked for a market that it could make its mark in over a long period and choose print finishing. In 1975 the company released its first Horizon-branded post-press products with a table top binder.

It has continued to grow since setting up a European subsidiary in Hamburg, Germany in 2004. Today turnover is around £130 million, with 650 staff – 100 in Germany and the rest in Japan. The main plant is now the highly impressive 47,700 sqm Biwako factory, located in a 140,000 sqm plot on the shores of Japan’s largest lake, Biwa, which itself is named after the small lute that it’s shape resembles.

Oe says that the company’s philosophy is to think 50 years ahead and this is evident from a quick tour around the factory. The plant is enormous, stuffed with just about every kind of manufacturing machine you can imagine so no surprise that Horizon is manufacturing almost everything in-house including roughly 70 percent of all the mechanical parts. The capability includes taking in metal blanks and creating heavy duty machine parts, including casting as well as stamping, forming and folding sheets and creating a huge range of plastic parts even down to the cabinet handles. It’s an extremely impressive set-up that has allowed Horizon to keep its manufacturing in Japan and to resist the temptation to offshore some manufacturing to China. Horizon is currently expanding this facility, building a new showroom and training facility that should be ready by April 2020. 

Horizon sells its products to 100 countries worldwide and claims 60-90 percent market share for most of those products, which are mainly document handling and include folding, binding, saddle stitching and cutting or trimming. The company has mostly concentrated on highly automated B2 devices able to carry out multiple tasks. 

You can find more about Horizon from horizon.co.jp. For Drupa, the company will be located in Hall 6 with some 18 solutions to demonstrate its Think Smart factory concept.

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