BiesSse – Automatic tape and plate mounting machine
There is a trend to automate plate mounting to increase productivity and standardization and to reduce makeready time. A new, fully automatic plate mounter was presented by BiesSse at Flexo Day in Bologna, Italy, this autumn.
This article was written by Helmut Mathes and is part of a longer article in the 1-2016 issue of Flexo & Gravure Global.
The TPMM was developed by BiesSe Tape Solution, the adhesive tape and equipment producer in Italy. BiesSse spent about three years with a team of engineers developing the TPMM, which is the only automatic tape and plate mounter available on the market. It performs almost all operations involved in plate mounting. The TPMM was officially launched during Flexo Day in front of an audience of more than 300 flexo printers who were extremely impressed by the innovation.
The questions that obviously come up are: Do we really need this amount of sleeves? and What will the investment be for this machine? BiesSse says this plate mounter has been designed for printers who are using a large number of sleeves every day. BiesSse underlines that the investment payback period will be around three years, even though the price is not yet fixed. The company will soon decide if it will show the TPMM at drupa or one already installed by a customer.
The words “fully automatic” always raise the question of how far the automation goes. With the TPMM, the only activities the operator has to conduct manually are the loading and unloading of sleeves and the loading of tapes and plates. Any upgrades to the machine in order to make these activities automatic will substantially increase both the cost of the machine and the payback period.
In addition to the objective of automating the tape and plate mounting operation on one compact machine, the uniqueness of the TPMM lies in the fact that the operator does not need to move the sleeves during mounting. The sleeves have to be moved several times on competitors’ equipment. Proof printing cannot be done on the machine, because during the last few years it has very seldom been requested. BiesSse follows the market trends, which indicate plate mounters are built without proof printing devices.
The TPMM automatically identifies the diameter, length and surface quality of the inserted sleeve. When the operator loads the machine, the only operation he performs is to indicate the order and colour to be printed with the sleeve, and this he can read from a list provided by the machine’s software. It is a program developed especially to facilitate the operations and is directly linked to the printer’s data system.
With regard to its construction concept, the TPMM stands out for the choices made concerning its unique design and advanced technical features studied and developed by the company’s technicians. The outstanding features of the TPMM are the following: plate loading up to 18 sliding drawers; automatically plate picking up from the drawers; complex algorithm and coordinated calculation detection for plate position and destination; precise, air-bubble-free plate application; automatic tape unwinding and liner stripping with automatic tape cutting.
The plate mounting operation starts with sleeve loading. Maximum print repeat length range is 490 to 680 mm (19” to 27”) with a maximum printing width of 1600 mm (63”). Internal sleeve diameter is 144.54 mm (5.8”). The sleeve mandrel can also have a different diameter as adapters can be used. What is essential is that the maximum tolerance of the diameter is within 20 microns. The printing repeat length and print width can be modified upon request.
The TPMM carries up to two reels of adhesive tape in different hardnesses or widths. Reel widths are available from 220 to 550 mm (9” to 22”), with larger ones upon request. The reels are located in a moveable trolley that moves the sleeve along and also carries the tape application roller, a circular knife for automatic tape cutting and a device to peel off the liner web. The core diameter of the reels is 76 mm (3”) and the tape length is about 100 metres (328 ft). Tape thickness varies from 0.40 (0.02”) mm up to 0.61 mm (.02”) with thickness variation under +/- 40 microns.
The TPMM wraps the adhesive tape around the sleeve in a vertical position, always in the web travel direction. Different plates (jobs) can be placed side by side on the sleeve. Every single tape strip is positioned with a maximum tolerance of +/- 250 microns between the strips and the border. Some plate mounters lay down the tape horizontally, parallel to the sleeve, creating the problem that tape joints show on the print. BiesSse claims that the vertical application is an advantage, because less tape is used. The TPMM applies the tape strips only where needed.
The TPMM is equipped with 18 sliding plate drawers, which can carry one plate from 200 x 220 mm (8” x 9”) up to 600 x 800 mm (24” x 32”). Plates as large as 1000 x 800 mm (39” x 32”) can be loaded manually directly to the transport area. Upon request, larger drawers or additional drawers can be supplied. Plate thicknesses from 1.14 mm up to 2.84 mm (0.045” up to 0.112”) can be used. The plates can have one of three types of register marks: cross marks, QR Code or microdot. The image is not used for registering purposes. The TPMM positions the plate on the sleeve with a tolerance of +/- 100 microns.
The TPMM plate mounter is equipped with four large screens, two of which are touchscreens. Three are installed on the mounter: One controls the plate drawers, and two show the register marks, plate position, sleeve surface, etc., and allow magnification by 100 times. Through them, it is possible to monitor each stage of the entire process. One touchscreen is installed on the control and operations console in front of the plate mounter, which allows the operator to set the mounting cycles, control and correct them.
If no layout data exists, or there is no colour indication with the printing plates (which is the exception today), the automatic plate selector control will establish the plate position, and the layout program will be keyed-in on the touchscreen of the console.
When the automatic data input is used, the operator must only select the order number and the colour of the plate to be loaded in the drawer. The plates can be loaded randomly as the loading device always positions itself on the first free drawer. Therefore even if the plates have not been positioned in their mounting order, the system will be able to correctly select the required ones. The machine signals any possible data input error.
The TPMM works at the same speed as a well-trained, experienced operator in the first working hour, according to the company. It takes less than eight minutes to mount a sleeve with adhesive tape and plates (five per sleeve), but it can go on with this performance for 24 hours a day without any errors. Furthermore, the TPMM avoids all the usual movements made by an operator during the traditional plate mounting operation. The tape application is more accurate than with the manual application; no strips, air bubbles or lifting of the tape or plate corner occur because of variations in the manual pressure. No sleeve damage is caused during the tape cutting. The results from many trials and tests have shown that the TPMM can be operated by one person instead of three and that the person involved need not be particularly skilled. One TPMM replaces three plate mounters with one operator each. The TPMM is the ideal machine for a printer who works with several press lines with short printing runs or in a three-shift operation with a high number of job changes per day.
The TPMM has a width of 5.8 metres (19 ft), a height of 2.5 metres (8 ft) and a depth of 1.6 metres (5 ft). It has been designed to work with sleeves, but this can be modified for shafted steel cylinders or for larger printing formes and plate sizes. If more than 18 drawers are needed, a modified loading system can be built. The starting position of the BiesSse was a blade mounter for a flexopress for flexible packaging.
Read more of this article and others by downloading our 1-2016 issue.