Maximum Process Automation with Fully Automatic Plate Logistics from Koenig & Bauer

The plate logistics systems installed by Koenig & Bauer have handled more than one million plates in just two years of use at the two locations operated by Druckhaus Mainfranken (DHM). When checked on 15 March 2024, the counters on the logistics systems that were commissioned and connected to Rapida sheetfed offset presses at DHM’s Marktheidenfeld and Kesselsdorf plants in December 2021 had recorded a throughput of exactly 1,160,634 printing plates.
The automation of plate loading and plate transport directly to the plate channels on the printing units, and then back to a disposal station, lends a significant boost to the performance capabilities of a printing press. Where ultra-short runs dominate in particular, as is characteristic for web-to-print business, production can be implemented much more profitably. Koenig & Bauer enables maximum process automation with its plate logistics system, as illustrated by the more than one million plates changed in just two years of use by Druckhaus Mainfranken.

Different concepts at different locations

At the Marktheidenfeld plant, a separate system is in use for each Rapida press on which plate logistics is implemented. The plates are taken from the pre-press department to the presses by trolley. There, the plates are loaded one by one into the transport system, identified by means of a data matrix code, and transported to the appropriate printing units ready for plate changing. After a plate change, the used plates are transported to the disposal station and deposited on a pallet for disposal. The transport circuit is based on chain conveyors with corresponding plate holders. Over 716,000 plates have been handled since the system was installed two years ago.

In Kesselsdorf near Dresden, large-format sheetfed offset presses from the Rapida series have been integrated into a modular plate logistics system that goes one step further than its counterpart in Marktheidenfeld. The plates are handed over to the chain conveyors well beforehand during the pre-press activities. A diverter ensures that each Rapida press receives the correct plates for its next jobs – in accordance with the defined job assignments. Plate logistics systems for large-format sheetfed offset presses – especially at this level of automation – offer users unique benefits. To date, they have been installed exclusively by Koenig & Bauer.

Profitable production of ultra-short runs

Ulrich Stetter, managing director of Druckhaus Mainfranken, considers plate logistics systems to be a game-changer in web-to-print business: “The number of jobs that we are able to process per shift or working day has increased significantly since we started using the logistics systems.” At the same time, far fewer mistakes are made compared to plate changing processes that involve manual loading of the plates into the changers.
There are rarely longer periods between job changeovers. Most jobs – typically requiring 300 good sheets – are completed in no more than three minutes. It would be barely possible for a single person to keep pace with this throughput rate – especially for the entire duration of a shift. Assuming a continuous sequence of such ultra-short runs, this person would be walking a distance of 3 km per shift to change the plates on a medium-format Rapida. And that while carrying plates with a combined weight of 148 kg every hour. On a large-format press, the figures are correspondingly higher. This workload would soon push even experienced operators to their limits. 

The obvious conclusion: the automation of plate loading and transport directly to the plate changers on the printing units, and then back to a disposal station, lends a significant boost to the performance capabilities of a printing press – in particular where ultra-short runs dominate. Short-run production jobs like these, as are characteristic for web-to-print business, can be implemented much more profitably.

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