Visitors to international trade print trade show Igas in July will see many of the industry’s leading equipment manufacturers focus on the smart factory, which will see print production achieved with few staff, with the aim being virtually none.

Driven by the potential of the cloud, the need to make the most of efficiencies, and a declining workforce, companies including Komori, Horizon, RMGT (Ryobi-Mitsubishi), FujiFilm and Screen all promoted the smart factory concept to the international trade media at this week`s press preview event in Tokyo.

The show, the biggest in the world this year and coming midway between drupas, will have a dedicated Smart Factory Zone which will see industry vendors collaborate on the possibilities.The smart factory concept, the precursor to dark print production, foreshadows no human workers at all in the print plant. 

RMGT (formerly Ryobi and Mitsubishi) gave an indication of the drive to create smart factories when it highlighted that the current total of 77 million working age Japanese will reduce to 50 million in just 30 years time. The company says this and the belief that people will want to move out of manual work will lead to the smart factory, which is enabled thanks to the IoT, internet of things, and the cloud.

At the show, RMGT will show its B1 packaging press, which comes with parallel make ready and automated closed loop colour quality control. It will also show its SRA1 LED-UV commercial press, Ryobi says LED-UV uses 93 per cent less power than standard UV.

At Igas, Komori will show a no-touch non-stop offset press that its spokesman at the media event says will have complete make ready in just two minutes and which will be printing three complete jobs in less than ten minutes. It uses a parallel concept, where plate change, inking and blanket change take place simultaneously.

Komori says its stats show that presses are only actually printing for 33 per cent of the time, a figure it wants to boost massively through K Connect.

Finishing systems supplier Horizon, supplied in Australia by Currie Group, also looking at the smart factory, will show what it says is its intelligent end to end workflow system. Its 1650sqm booth, its largest ever exhibition space, will surpass that of its drupa stand, with the company running seminars in the smart factory zone.

Among the solutions on the Horizon booth, a smart binding system will show production flow from printed reel to finished product, and features an intelligent workflow system, which includes automated set-up, variable production, tracking, recovery and integration to upstream.The printed reel is unwound, cut, folded, book blocked, perfect bound and three knife trimmed, all in one uninterrupted stream, with various auto reject points along the way.

Fujifilm will also focus on the smart factory, which it says automates and streamlines solutions for all printing processes, from receiving jobs to production, printing and post-processing. Its spokesman says it does foresee the day of the dark factory.

The Fujifilm digital inkjet presses will take centre stage, with the company promising an extensive line-up, and a JetPress 720S ink for food packaging, as well as a roll fed UV inkjet press for soft packaging, the JetPress 540WV.

HP wil highlight its credentials in innovation and the mega trends it says printers should look to capitalise on through digital printing, including rapid urbanisation, accelerated innovation, changing demographics and hyper globalisation. HP says print is perfectly positioned to enable brands to meet their challenges of customer engagement, increasing spend, speed to market and security.

Screen sees the increasing shortage of skilled operators, the demand for shot run and digitisation as key drivers, with its solution built around its Equios Art and UX software and inkjet printing technologies including its next-generation Truepress Jet 520NX, designed for multiple applications including newspapers, books, statements and direct mail, and its Truepress Jet 520HD, which can to print directly onto offset coated stock thanks to its exclusive SC ink, which it Creen calls the only aqueous ink that can print onto coated stock without the need to prime.

Digital print developers Ricoh, Konica Minolta, and Canon will focus on the huge market potential of print outside of documents and marketing collateral. Ricoh says sign and display, labels and packaging, and textiles are all areas where its technologies will enable printers to exploit opportunities. Amongst its Igas exhibits will be its new its new 95ppm Pro C7200S with fifth station, and its new digital sub $10,000 T-shirt printer Ri100.

Konica Minolta says only one per cent of packaging print and four per cent of textile printing is currently digital, highlighting the opportunity. At the show it will have its new B2 inkjet KM-1 AccurioJet which will be shown with inline finishing. It will also have its MGI JetVarnish digital embellishment system, as well as its digital label press.

Canon sees digital packaging and signage growing rapidly, along with graphic arts printing. It too will be promoting the smart factory through its Prisma workflow, and will gave a book on demand printing demo in its commercial zone. Its theme will be Print and Beyond, with the company noting print is offering unprecedented value. Visitors will also get the chance to see the latest developments on its Voyages high quality sheetfed inkjet print system.

Miyakoshi targets new digital markets of flexible packaging, folding cartons, fabric, textiles and home decor. It will launch a high quality 1200x1200dpi water based inkjet press which prints at 200 metres a minute, and a new digital flexor press with the same resolution able to print between 12 and 150 micron film.

Igas takes place in Tokyo July 26-30 with some 285 exhibitors expected.

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