Automation in Printing

Experts Present to College of Engineering Technology Community

As part of its ongoing efforts to engage students with the latest printing industry developments, RIT's Department of Graphic Media Science and Technology (GMST) recently sponsored a series of four presentations to the college community on automation in printing. The event was held on March 22, 2021, and coordinated and hosted by Dr. Barbara Birkett, the Paul and Louise Miller Endowed Chair. These presentations brought together four individuals closely connected with print automation and who also represent a global perspective.

As the world draws closer to a post-pandemic era, experts agree that significant factors will enable companies to become more competitive and ultimately more profitable, including increased automation and connectivity. Increased automation demands new knowledge and skillsets in the next generation of leaders. It, therefore, is especially relevant for Rochester Institute of Technology students enrolled in the Graphic Media Science and Technology and Packaging Science programs, which are both housed in the College of Engineering Technology.

"Workflow Automation in Printing," the first presentation, by Dr. Thomas Hoffmann-Walbeck, a professor for over 20 years at Stuttgart Media University, provided a framework for a Process Resource Model that helps map out the automated production network in terms of required processes and resources. Hoffmann-Walbeck introduced the role of JDF and XJDF in defining these production processes and their resources.

The second presentation, "Process Automation: Driving the Smart Print Shop," by Axel Zöller from Heidelberg Corporation's Prinect Management Team, detailed how advances drive forward the fully automated print shop. Zöller showed that it is possible to eliminate eleven of fourteen typical touchpoints in the print production process. Through increased focus on estimating and scheduling, Overall Equipment Effectiveness increases, resulting in end-to-end process automation.

After the presentations from Dr. Hoffmann-Walbeck and Mr. Zöller, the event turned to two RIT alumni: Mark LeDonne, Plant Manager at Gamse Labels and Packaging in Maryland, and Nick Gawreluk from Heidelberg's Software Solutions Group.

LeDonne narrated a video about how robotics improved their production and efficiency. With two robots operational in their workflow, LeDonne described the customization, installation, and set-up challenges, together with the production efficiencies for their operation. He concluded that as capabilities are enhanced, the installation of robots in graphic workflows will likely increase. Another emerging technology includes “cobots,” which can operate along side of workers.

Gawreluk shared Heidelberg's bold new subscription business model. From concept to implementation in over 50 countries with over 1,000 printers, this model establishes the benefits of subscription over ownership and, on a worldwide basis, is changing printers' culture and mindset.

GMST draws upon external sources such as these presentations and its internal sources in engineering technology to ensure that its programs meet the needs of the rapidly-changing print/graphic media industries. The department's stated mission is: "To prepare visionary leaders with an advanced education anchored in technical and business fundamentals that drive sustainable innovation and growth in graphic communication and print technologies." Events like this underscore the mission; with the assistance of academic and industry partners and active and engaged alumni, the department will continue to offer relevant and engaging content such as was provided here.


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