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Advanced networking simplifies modular printing machinery

An multi-axis motion controller and high level software is helping Rollem - a leading specialist print machinery manufacturer - to rapidly evolve its modular finishing system. The motion architecture has made it easy to add a stacking unit that collects and groups products into finished quantities ready for shipping.

SPECIALISTS IN ULTRA-ACCURATE cutting/ perforating/scoring machines, Rollem has built a reputation creating print finishing lines for high quality and security related applications. The company’s focus on accuracy means that users are able to squeeze extra units out of production processes or standard paper sizes with Rollem finishing equipment.

At the heart of Rollem’s current machinery range is a compact Ethernet controller. The NextMove-ESB2 from ABB is capable of controlling up to eight servo and stepper motor axes, and includes onboard analog and digital I/O for machine control, plus interfaces including a CANopen port for controlling distributed motion and I/O resources.

Using Ethernet-based motion control has allowed Rollem to rapidly evolve its modular finishing system.

Descending card stacker

A newly-designed Descending Card Stacker is typically installed as a third station on a Rollem print finishing line, following slitting and collating stations. This peripheral employs a single axis of movement using a stepper motor, which dynamically varies the height of a stacking tray that is synchronized to a laser sensor detecting the position and height of printed items. In the case of playing card printing, the system can group multiple packs to create a ready-to-use Blackjack deck.

Designing and integrating this new modular peripheral was simplified by the motion system. The stepper motor axis and its drive connects to the main controller and HMI via the print finishing line’s CANopen network. Software-wise, the MINT motion software language has made it easy for the Rollem developers to create code, using English-like commands and hundreds of keywords that provide single-command instructions for motion tasks. One of the most common keyword forms used by Rollem throughout its finishing line are a set of commands called FOLLOW for example, which allow axes to be linked and follow a master axis by a programmed ratio.

In the case of the new stacker, Rollem’s main software developer Stuart Murphy wrote the control code and the additional code required for the machine’s HMI in under half a day, before testing it on the prototype hardware. An example of quick reaction is the integration of a barcode scanner for a particular automated finishing line – which was also written in a few hours using MINT.

By switching systems, Rollem gave itself the ability to react quickly to customer requests, and to use its imagination to prototype brand new functionality from basic handling/ processing functions to integration into manufacturing information systems. This freedom is a key factor underpinning the company’s current position where Rollem’s equipment often gives users the means to automate and rethink a company’s workflow to adopt a new printing business model.

“Traditional printing and finishing lines often involve fiddly and time consuming manual handling and processing stages such as guillotining - and these rely on skilled labor,” said Murphy.

The first production unit of the new stacker has just been installed on a Rollem line at an advanced print-ecommerce or ‘web2print’ company producing business cards. The Revolution line consists of several stations. At the start of process is a feeder with a vertical axis for raising a stack of sheets, driven by a 3-phase motor/inverter combination, which is controlled via the NextMove’s onboard D/A converter. A second servomotor axis drives the feed roller. A conveyor, driven by a motor/ inverter combination, moves the sheets on to registration and slitting.

An optical sensor detects the registration mark and adjusts a guide rail. The cutting system detects the leading edge of the paper and accelerates the blades to the conveyor speed before performing a single-direction ‘interrupt slit’ - which creates strips but leaves the outside edge connected. This border keeps the strips in place while the paper turns through 90-degrees for a second registration and slitting stage to separate the print items.

Rollem’s cutting system is rigid, allowing accurate cutting, suitable for security items, at speeds up to 4000 sheets/hour. Each cutting module uses two servomotors, one to control the acceleration and return of the cutting head, and one for vertical positioning of the rotary blades. The next stage is collation. If the end product is business cards for example, separated cards are collated into a stack by three servomotor motion axes, which move the cards at an angle across the process area into a ‘gutter’ output channel.

Application article by ABB.


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