Printing mishaps happen. Blemishes, smudges, text errors, sequential numbering mistakes and other defects are all part of the business, and happen to every converter. But what doesn’t have to happen, is the defective labels leaving the plant and getting shipped off to the customer. To ensure quality and perfection, label printers have at their disposal a wide range of machinery designed specifically for them to make sure that products they are delivering look exactly as they are intended to.
The following is a review of inspection systems and related products offered to the industry:
PrintVision/Helios II is Advanced Vision Technology’s (AVT) 100% inspection platform for labels and narrow web applications, and is the company’s most popular inspection system among label printers both on rewinders and printing presses, with more than 850 of them already installed globally. AVT provides label printers with a complete workflow system called Workflow Link, communicating the information from the press to the rewinder enabling process control on press with 100% quality assurance on the rewinder.
PrintVision/Helios II can be installed on presses, rewinders or any other finishing equipment. “Installed on a rewinder, it serves as an automatic quality assurance station, detecting all the relevant defects, stopping the rewinder at the defect location and allowing the operators to remove the defective label or section,” explains Guy Yogev, AVT’s marketing manager. “Helios II serves as a powerful process control tool on press and as a quality assurance guard on rewinders and finishing machines – providing 100% inspection, 100% of the time; Helios is able to detect any print defect, working in any print application and on any substrate.”
Installed on a press, the system alerts operators of any evolving problem as soon as it starts, allowing the operators to fix the problem immediately. This reduces waste, allowing an increase in productivity and control over the production process. “The press operator is able to type in the amount of good material to be printed and to know exactly how much he needs to print. By doing that, reprints and unnecessary additional setups are no longer an issue and overprints can also be reduced dramatically,” Yogev says.
MIS systems can feed information directly into the PrintVision/Helios II during setup, thus shortening the setup time and preventing mistakes. “PDF files are loaded from prepress and are used to compare with the job about to be printed in order to verify this is indeed the right job and correct plates,” Yogev expains.
Along with inspection, the system is able to provide additional tasks such as color measurement and bar code verification. The IDEal Delta-E color measurement module enables printers to measure colors anywhere in the label or package and maintain color consistency all along the print run, thus meeting industry and brand owners’ standards. 100 percent of the printed bar codes can be inspected, verified and graded in-line according to international standards. Variable data information can also be verified simultaneously, including 1D and 2D codes, numbers or human readable decoded text.
SpectraLab is AVT’s new add-on module to the Helios II product line, featuring in-line spectral measurements according to the international ISO standards. It provides absolute color measurements in L*a*b*, to match with brand owner’s color standards and design and help in maintaining perfect color match all through the run.
Inspection Automation is one of the areas the company is working on in order to automate the inspection process, and shorten or eliminate the needed setup. “As print runs are getting shorter and digital printing technology is taking an increased role in label printing, automation of the inspection process to meet these needs is essential,” Yogev says. “Communicating to prepress, MIS systems and other engines will provide the Helios II inspection platforms the needed information to process all the information and will enable continuous inspection with no time wasted.”
Erhardt + Leimer
Erhardt + Leimer offers the ELSCAN product line, which uses digital matrix cameras. ELSCAN OMS 4 uses a digital camera configuration to capture images from the web. “The camera configuration consists of two 5-megapixel cameras arranged in a concentric field of view, which allows for a full view of the print repeat. Using a digital zoom controlled by the scroll wheel of the mouse, the operator can immediately zoom in to any level required up to the maximum zoom available without delay,” explains Todd Guzzardo, sales and marketing manager. Coupled with a state of the art motorized traverse, the camera can be placed anywhere across the web at speeds up to 1,500 mm/second to ensure optimal repeat viewing.”
Erhardt + Leimer also markets the NYSCAN 100 percent inspection system. “The foundation module of NYSCAN is Web:Inspector:2, a 100 percent print inspection system that uses line scan cameras,” explains Guzzardo. “One of Web:Inspector’s key features is our lighting system – TubeLight. Using a high intensity lamp and a tube shaped diffusion chamber, the web is evenly lit by fully diffused lighting. The diffused nature of the light allows Web:Inspector to be able to inspect foil decorated labels, labels printed on reflective substrates, embossed labels, metallic inks, thick ink films, etc., without the need for add-ons or optional extras.”
In a workflow solution, a press mounted Web:Inspector:2 system integrates with the NYSCAN Image:Inspector to close the loop between prepress and on-press. By comparing the reference image from Web:Inspector:2 to the customer approved PDF file in prepress, Image:Inspector highlights any differences ensuring the right job is run.Once the reference image is approved for use, all production on the press is monitored and any unacceptable defects are saved in the job’s Roll Map. Postpress, NYSCAN’s Roll:Scheduler let’s quality assurance people review each Roll Map to determine the actions to be taken regarding the detected defects. Once the job is on the rewinder, Roll:Scheduler uses the job’s Roll Map to control the machine.
Ryeco’s Defect Marking Systems work with all inspection systems. The company will periodically work with inspection system suppliers to provide a turnkey system for customers, ensuring that they not only inspect product quality, but that they also clearly mark any defects for later removal. Ryceo has integrated Defect Marking Systems into a wide variety of production processes for label printers. This ranges from marking defects on the edge of a large roll of raw labelstock for laminating/coating operations, to making a single spot or dash on a label to indicate print errors.
Defect marking has expanded to almost any industry involving production of a continuous web. In conjunction with web inspection systems, interest has spread broadly through consumer packaging and printing. As customers install new presses, it is becoming increasingly common to install defect markers along with print inspection systems as part of a turnkey quality tool.
“A Defect Marking System is an essential part of any 100% inspection system,” says Jane Adams, account manager – direct sales for Ryceo. “Finding the defects is only half of the solution; marking defects for removal prior to product shipments is essential to ensure that no defective material reaches the customer. The demand for higher quality products has been increasing significantly in recent years and a Ryceo Marking System is an integral part of any quality-monitoring process.”
Lake Image Systems
“Our clients are demanding two major categories of inspection, variable data and print quality,” says Scott Stevens, president of Lake Image Systems. “Our Discovery platform has the flexibility to offer both of these functions in one scalable system solution.”
On the variable data inspection side, Lake Image Systems’ customers want to know what is happening in each stream of labels and control/identify errors by stream and turret roll or sub roll. “Beyond just identifying errors they want to set tolerances for the number and type of error before an action is taken. Our RollSequence inspection functionality watches each stream of labels and quickly and clearly notifies the operator of the error conditions and locations. Press operators have enough to do when running a press, the last thing they want is a difficult or complex piece of software to monitor. In general, our developers come from the printing industry; they spend time in printing plants understanding what the operators need and the performance the management expects, enabling them to tailor the product specifically to the demands of the environment and application.”
Label converters want uninterrupted production. Too many line stops means higher waste and lower efficiency. The built in tolerance settings featured in Lake Image’s RollSequence tool, keeps production running and reduces false alarms. Lake Image Systems also offers RollReview, a system that allows a QC team to review errors off-line and generate a remake file based on human review. Explains Stevens, “During the review process RollReview quickly advances to each error showing an image of the labels, the inspection result and the expected data. A simple press of a P for Pass or F for Fail builds a remake file of data for subsequent reprint.
“Many of our customers have 100% production jobs requiring all numbers of a variable data job be produced without a break in sequence. The remake files from RollReview or RollSequence can be used to produce just the labels that need to be replaced,” Stevens adds. Lake Image Systems offers a RollMap application that can be used on a tabletop rewinder to control the unit and stop on each of the defective labels for manual replacement.
“Another very important request coming from the variable data label producers is number accountability reports and duplicate detection,” Stevens says. “The danger of printing duplicate numbers on many applications is significant. Imagine security, medical, licensing, chain of custody, lottery, etc., having duplicate label numbers out in the field. Proving they have not produced duplicates is a constant challenge for label and narrow web producers. They need to know the exact time and date when every label is produced and a fail safe method of preventing any duplicates during the production process.” Lake Image System RollSequence, SheetReader and FileLookUp continually check for duplicates and report problems immediately. All production is recorded with date/time stamps, machine and operator details to allow production research at a later date. Lake Image Systems also offers Enterprise, which is an SQL Server-based duplicate check to monitor numbering over time and across multiple production processes.
The fleyeVision 100% camera system from A B Graphic International is the fully modular system for all inspection needs. “Add value to your business while being confident that each label you send out is verified buy the 100% camera inspection system,” the company says. The system uses line scan technology, going from 1k to 8k resolution cameras to detect print errors such as scratches, text irregularities, ink blobs, registration shifts as well as color variations. The fleyeVision system is also capable of inspecting reflective foils and holograms. The system is capable of being mounted on press, or on finishing equipment, and works by identifying an error and then presenting the error to the operator depending on the application.
The fleyeVision system from A B Graphic International is the fully modular system ensuring that the customers exact requirements are met. Available options include full color inspection, bar code inspection, OCR inspection, PDF comparison modules, pharmaceutical inspection modules and even Braille inspection.
Specifically designed for booklet labels, A B Graphic International offers the Omega 3010. Based on its experience in booklet inspection and the inspection of high security products, the Omega 3010 can rewind Booklet labels in 330 and 410 mm web widths.
Driven by a new intelligent menu system and a new accumulator, the Omega 3010 can inspect printface control as standard while offering a wide range of inspection options including, bar code inspection, OCR and Braille inspection. With the Omega 3010 from A B Graphic International, each defect is inspected and then re-inspected to ensure a 100% error free web suitable for the pharmaceutical industry or other high security applications.
BST Promark offers basic vision systems, print management systems and 100% inspection systems. “Each has strengths and weaknesses for different applications.The best way is to have a trained inspection systems and applications specialist visit you to discuss your specific needs, and to review and explain the different kinds of systems available today,” says John Thome, vice president, marketing.
Thome says that the days of being able to select the proper system over the internet or phone are gone. “If you are looking at 100 percent inspection, it is particularly important that you define the kinds of work you will be doing and the kinds of defects you want to find. There are many different line scan camera offerings today, and the camera specifications have to be matched to the application.”
BST sells thousands of basic video inspection systems for narrow web applications every year, because this is the bare minimum for narrow web presses. But, Thome says, this is changing, rapidly. “Today, more and more label presses are being equipped with much more than just visual inspection.There is a significant trend to put defect detection and color monitoring on narrow web presses, or a combination of 100% inspection and a visual system that also has color monitoring. And we are doing many more systems with large HD TFT displays that allow us to show the entire print repeat 1: 1 in full size.”
At Drupa in May and at Labelexpo Americas in September BST will launch “Q Center” – a new approach to inspection systems, that integrates multiple camera technologies into one comprehensive system, customized for each customer’s needs. Thome explains, “These will specifically shorten or eliminate new job procedures for the inspection systems. We will also introduce in-line Spectral color measurement, which BST is doing exclusively in cooperation with X-Rite. We will have the only system in the world that is fully compatible with X-Rite systems.”
PRATI supplies machines for self-adhesive label finishing, covering customization, inspection, diecutting, matrix removal, rewinding, slitting and overprinting. The company’s product range includes the Jupiter und Saturn/Sun inspection tables, the modular and customer-specifically adjustable VEGAplus platforms, and the Pharmacheck finishing system, which is tailored specially to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry.
The Pharmacheck is a modular system that addresses the strict standards of the pharmaceutical industry. It integrates an innovative and efficient system where paper moves only in the forward direction. Servo technology is employed for maximum accuracy in all the machine’s working phases. Accuracy in web tension, slitting and web alignment is maintained. The absence of a buffer permits a clean process with no stress for the labels, no misalignment and no tension issues; 100 percent label quality inspection is ensured with the integration of camera inspection systems. All errors are tracked and quickly positioned for repair, saving time and increasing productivity.
The short web path allows minimal touching of the paper on the idler rollers, thus securing clean and easy processing even of booklet labels and difficult jobs.
The video controlled slitting function ensures absolute and continuous accuracy in row slitting.
“Prati machines are extremely robust and reliable, with low maintenance requirements and guarantee a fast return on investment,” affirms Chiara Prati, sales manager at Prati. “They are very modular and can be configured to meet customer specific requirements. We are committed to offering label printers the opportunities to diversify, expand or improve their production range with Prati quality products and services,” Prati concludes.
Label Vision Systems (LVS) provides print quality inspection systems for both off-line and inline applications. Off-line verifiers include the INTEGRA 9510 and handheld INTEGRA 9570. Both verifiers are distinct in the world of ISO verification due to their ease of use and ability to verify linear and two dimensional (2D) codes without any change of equipment; autodiscriminate the symbology, narrow bar width and aperature to be used to evaluate the code; and highlight trouble spots in the code. The INTEGRA 9510 and INTEGRA 9570 also offer numerous analytical tools used to identify and evaluate bar code problems. The INTEGRA 9510 is certified by GS1 US and both verifiers are 21 CFR Part 11 compliant ready.
The in-line LVS 7000 system is a high speed, user-friendly vision system that improves the quality inspection process and reduces the related manpower. The LVS 7000 verifies to ISO/IEC standards all bar codes and matrix codes as they are printed, validates sequential or random number sequences, as well as fullfills normal print quality inspection steps such as blemish detection, missing or filled-in text and more. The LVS 7000 can be mounted on a press, rewinder, conveyor and most other inspection stations. The LVS 7500 offers 100% print quality inspection and bar code verification capabilities for use with thermal transfer printers and other media. Built on the LVS 7000 software platform, the LVS 7500 functions include master-to-label comparison (blemish detection), bar code verification (1D and 2D), bar code validation, optical character recognition (OCR) and optical character verification.
PC Industries features The Guardian PQV with PDF Check, designed as a full-featured 100 percent inspection system for use on all presses and rewinders. The primary audience for the system includes label printers, converters, and packaging companies, however, the system was engineered with special focus on pharmaceutical label and packaging printers with strict regulation on the accuracy and content of their labels.
The Guardian PQV with PDF Check fulfills several important requirements. First, the system provides 100 percent inspection, where 100 percent of the web width is inspected at all times during the run. Second, the system is capable of FDA 21 CFR Part 11 compliance, providing a secure login for operators and a complete audit trail of actions throughout the entire run. PDF Check provides greater accuracy in first article inspection by verifying the master article against the customer-approved PDF artwork. Finally, systems with the Defect Roll Map capability record the locations of all defects on a roll along with images of those defects. This capability streamlines the roll auditing process on the rewinder by automatically presenting defects for correction.
Just some of the some of the specific press issues the Guardian PQV was designed to detect include missing, extra, filled-in, broken and incorrect text, and with bar codes, it can detect human readable sequential bar code errors, including duplicate or missing codes and incorrect or poor quality bar codes, including those checked to ANSI/ISO standards.
The system ships as a complete turnkey solution, or can be engineered for special applications, such as wet-ink inspection.
Rotoflex’s primary products include inspection/slitter/rewinding equipment and diecutting equipment.
Inspection/slitter/rewinders are the foundation of the Rotoflex product offering and with an install base of more than 4,000 units, and can be found in the finishing departments of converters across the globe. Rotoflex products are also often found providing converting solutions, such as blank label production.
In the inspection/slitting/rewinding space, Rotoflex is most well-known for vertical rewinders, where inspection, slitting and rewinding happen in a vertical orientation in front of the operator. Rotoflex focuses on superior web handling, producing excellent roll quality at rapid speeds and advance inspection and counting capabilities via the exclusive Genesis advanced control system. Featuring a 15" touch screen interface, operators can utilize Genesis to control all aspects of the machine, including advanced inspection/counting capabilities, roll characteristics, job save and recall and easy integration with 100% inspection systems.
The company’s acquisition of Arpeco brought with it a great deal of talent and experience in the area of horizontal inspection and slitting capabilities. Over the past year, Rotoflex has been focused on updating and improving its core finishing capabilities. In 2011, the company released a newly redesigned VSI, a small vertical label inspection platform that is its most popular machine among label converters. Rotoflex is set to launch a completely redesigned VLI, its larger,–– high capacity vertical inspection platform that can handle a wide range of materials including unsupported films and flexible packaging applications. The new VLI features what the company calls a fully “human-centric” design, resulting in lower working heights, controls within easy reach and improved accessibility overall, which will reduce cycle times and improve throughput, saving thousands of dollars for the converter.
When Unilux introduced LED stroboscopic inspection lights three years ago, the company had faith its customers would find suitable applications for this new technology. Unilux says that faith is being justified as label printers and converters find new ways to look at new combinations of substrates, coatings and adhesives while taking advantage of LEDs’ longer service life and lower operating costs.
“We knew that the LEDs would be better for highly reflective surfaces because of their softer light, and we knew the more uniform light output would help reduce hot spots across a web,” says Mike Simonis, president, Unilux. “We also knew that once customers got these new lights into their plants, they would see applications we couldn’t foresee.”
Strobe lights essentially freeze images of printed materials at full production speed. Defects such as skips, voids, scratches and poor registration stand out immediately for operators, who can use their knowledge of the product and process to determine the cause of the defect and take corrective action.
In the United States, a manufacturer of converted label media with variable information printing for a variety of applications has found a 20-percent premium price for the LED 1XS to be a solid investment. The company reports longer service life, no need for lamp replacements, no chance of broken lamps during installation and fewer maintenance requirements. Customer markets range from transport, logistics and consumer durables to healthcare, food and beverage.