Maintaining tight tension control in printing presses is critical for quality. So when Mark Andy, a major manufacturer of flexo printing press machines, decided to upgrade the controls on its servo-driven inline flexographic printing presses, it looked to standardize its product line on a single architecture to improve the ability to support customers with the best hardware and software available.
Two years ago, when faced with next-generation products that would force it to abandon its software platform, Mark Andy began pursuing an upgrade path with its motion control supplier. A considerable amount of program development was required to upgrade, so Kevin Wilken, Vice President of Engineering, led the search for a new controls platform to help maintain the company’s reputation for cutting edge servo printing equipment.
The search started with a field of more than 15 potential suppliers, but after reviewing cost, overall system performance, commonality of development tools, training, service, and local and worldwide support, Wilken’s controls platform choices were whittled down to five.
Two of the companies presented polished software packages, but the hardware lacked backward and forward compatibility and future upgrades would be costly. Two other companies demonstrated industry-tailored products, but there were doubts about support and product obsolescence. Only one, Mitsubishi Electric, offered the best combination of reliable hardware and intuitive software with a clear long-term strategy for upgrades and product end-of-life. Ultimately, Mitsubishi Electric was chosen to demonstrate the iQ Automation Platform with MR-J3-B Safety servos, the GT16 Series HMI, and iQ Works Software. Working with HTE Technologies, the local distributor, a pilot project was started to evaluate the performance with emphasis on registration accuracy, servo following error, and tension control because these factors directly affect final print quality.
After six weeks of development and testing, Mitsubishi Electric and HTE Technologies were able to demonstrate significant performance advantages.
According to Wilken, “The iQ Automation Platform and MR-J3-B Safety Servo System from Mitsubishi Electric improved our tension control by 500%, with more accurate registration and less servo following error than other systems we have tested.”
Beyond the performance advantage, Mitsubishi’s software and hardware has maintained backward compatibility over the years. This stability provides a level of confidence that as performance-enhancing and ease-of-use features become available, Mark Andy will be able to take full advantage without the expense and learning curve of major architecture changes.
Mitsubishi Electric Automation Inc.
Filed Under: Automotive, ALL INDUSTRIES, Factory automation, Design World articles, Electronics • electrical, Software
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