Learn how Re:Build DAPR successfully designed and integrated an innovative automated material transport system for a client’s single-pass printing platforms.
Location: New Hampshire
Product: Printing Press Transport
Industry: Industrial Printers
Timeframe: 8 months
Re:Build DAPR was brought on board by a client to provide engineering support for the development of a transport system to convey media through their single-pass printing platforms. The primary goal was to design transport methods for three different test bed applications. Re:Build DAPR accomplished this by integrating a variable width vacuum table into the predefined platforms, along with a control and drive interface. Additionally, the team was responsible for integrating a belt drive device that leveraged the client’s existing polyester mesh belt design.
One of the key challenges of the project was to deliver the devices within the timeline required for the world’s leading trade fair for print technologies, Drupa. The event occurs once every four years, and it was essential to have a functioning system design in place by then. To meet this tight deadline, Re:Build DAPR facilitated communication and collaboration between their team and the client’s resources. The project management team at Re:Build DAPR ensured that their resources and the client’s resources were coordinated efficiently, which minimized mistakes and optimized efficiency.
As part of the project’s scope, Re:Build DAPR examined suitable materials for conveyor belts to either verify the suitability of the current polyester mesh belt or suggest an alternative option. Re:Build DAPR was also tasked with providing guidance for proper belt drive management, such as tension control, guiding, and maintenance. With Re:Build DAPR’s technical expertise and project management efforts, the project was a success. The client was able to showcase their product at Drupa and received positive feedback from potential customers.
The new automated system designed by Re:Build DAPR for the client’s single pass printing platforms proved to be a significant improvement over the previous process. The prior single pass printers had slower belt transfer speeds of around 40m/min, but Re:Build DAPR’s new transport system was designed to achieve consistent high speeds and throughput rates of 150m/min. Additionally, the previous printers had zoned vacuum control, which was less effective than the newly developed variable width vacuum zone. This improvement ensured greater precision in media handling and placement, resulting in improved print quality. Finally, the previous printers had a smaller overall print width of 0.7m, which was expanded in the new system to meet the client’s increased capacity needs. Overall, the new automated system was able to address the shortcomings of the previous process, resulting in improved performance, greater efficiency, and higher quality outputs.
Challenges & Solutions
- Automated Material Transport system – Developing an automated material transport system was not without its challenges, particularly in regards to belt tracking, precise media control, vacuum control, design integration, and maintenance. However, Re:Build DAPR was able to develop innovative solutions to overcome these challenges.
- Belt tracking was a major concern due to the size and speed of the transport system. Re:Build DAPR designed and implemented a belt drive system that incorporated a tension control mechanism. Precise media control in the cross-direction was also critical to ensure high-quality and accurate printing. DAPR addressed this challenge by carefully selecting the transport speed and belt material to enable the required media control.
- Vacuum control was another challenge that required innovative solutions. Re:Build DAPR designed a vacuum control system that limited the vacuum to defined, discrete areas to minimize drag on the transport belt and minimize blower sizing. Seamless design integration was critical, requiring consideration of the customer’s existing subassemblies, floor space requirements, and operator ergonomic needs while designing the new transport system. Lastly, Re:Build DAPR ensured that maintenance on the transport system components could be performed easily and quickly by designing easy-to-maintain components such as the belt, vacuum bars, and plumbing.
- Re:Build DAPR was responsible for developing three prototype material transport systems for the client. The systems consisted of a custom-designed variable width vacuum table, vacuum management system, a single-width belt up to 8m long, and the necessary infrastructure for proper belt drive and control. Each prototype system had a unique purpose, with System #1 being a 0.7m wide printing test platform integrated into the C4 printer, System #2 being a 1.8m wide reliability testing platform integrated into a system at the client’s facility, and System #3 being a 1.8m wide printing test platform integrated into a new print platform. Re:Build DAPR was asked to develop and deliver all three prototype systems, with each system requiring an effort that built upon the previous one’s design and scaled accordingly.
- To minimize repetitive approaches and redundant efforts, Re:Build DAPR was tasked to develop the first and second system concurrently, with the final engineering on the wider system not to be completed until the engineering analysis and conclusion were completed on the first effort. Although there was an overlap in the development of the first and second systems, the larger format still presented a unique engineering challenge. Re:Build DAPR leveraged off the wider platform test bed engineering for the vacuum table and system requirement for the third system. Despite the challenges, Re:Build DAPR delivered all three prototype systems successfully.