SOMA’s Changeover Wizard, a 2022 FTA Technical Innovation Award Recipient

Post-production feedback is also important. The SUPERVISION monitoring system oversees efficiency and energy consumption. It also sorts data down to each individual job, so the setup waste between shifts and/or jobs can be compared, via data fed into the Job Protocol, providing a printed report about each job. SUPERVISION also allows for fast, standardized job reporting, no matter who is running the press.

It is safe to say that the Wizard has achieved job changeover efficiencies The Changeover Wizard tells the operator if a step is needed or not, which saves time, material and energy from doing steps that are not required. With less-skilled labor, the Changeover Wizard is definitely more efficient. Yet, the Changeover Wizard can even help skilled operators, preventing mistakes. Eliminating recipe data input saves time. Most importantly, it has achieved simplicity.

Cloud = Connectivity

To really guide the operator through the changeover process requires a sophisticated programming interface for setting the printing press. In order to respond to a well-expressed customer need, SOMA built a complete ecosystem that could support the extensive logic required to make the Changeover Wizard possible.

SOMA 2022 FTA Technical Innovation Award scloud mounter press
A cloud-based data storage bank serves as the point of connectivity between press, Changeover Wizard and other componentry.

The Changeover Wizard needed a secure cloud network that connected SOMA service, the office, the press department, and equipment together—if for no other reason than to deliver job recipe data between systems. Concurrently, the SOMA Optima press required the SOMA electrical software department to build the Changeover Wizard itself into the SOMA human-machine interface.

The Changeover Wizard especially required a thorough collection of job data—the recipe—to accurately define the variables of each job. To use this, there is extensive logic built into the Changeover Wizard system. It required considerable knowledge to impart to any unskilled operator. It also needed the intelligence to understand the current status of the press—after the previous job—and where the press needed to get to. It compares the recipe, evaluates the status of the press, and then advises the operator.

The inking system is a very good example. It’s not only about which printing deck you need to wash, but also choosing the proper number of cycles, and how intensively you should wash them. It can help determine, job by job, the most efficient way to conserve ink.

Depending on the recipe, the Changeover Wizard applies developed logic to advise what steps go first and last, because they don’t always work in the same order and in the same way. In an obvious example, the Wizard will advise the operator to calibrate the viscosity after doing the washup, a necessary step so the automatic viscosity control system will work properly afterward. The Changeover Wizard can also recommend whether it is most efficient to use the ink-saving cartridge, calculating ink consumption to help make the decision, job by job.

Logic & HMI

The Changeover Wizard answers the challenge of meeting demands from a changing industry, replacing a certain level of skills. We can reasonably argue that the retiring generation of press operators was much more skilled in terms of the printing craft.

The Changeover Wizard allows less-skilled labor to do as good a job as more skilled operators when preparing a press. It also makes the changeover process as efficient as possible.

SOMA 2022 FTA Technical Innovation Award SOMA Changeover Wizard users image
SOMA created a video that demonstrates how easy it is for novices, with the help of the Changeover Wizard, to operate the Optima flexographic press.

How well has it worked? Well, SOMA created a marketing video where a marketing executive and a human resources manager were able to run an Optima press by ourselves. We did everything an operator would do, in the order prescribed by the Changeover Wizard (for that particular job), from downloading the recipe to pressing “start.”

SOMA believes the integration of a Changeover Wizard with automatic plate mounting and intelligent registration and impression settings is likely part of the future of the flexographic printing process. Leaner operation processes require less energy, less material and reduced labor waste, all within a seamless experience.

Fast, efficient and repeatable makeready Industry 4.0 processes, like Changeover Wizard, make flexography more competitive against digital. On the other side, gravure is typically a simpler technology because fewer press variables need to work together, like impression and anilox rollers. With a standardized, tutorial operating process, Changeover Wizard makes the changeover friendlier and easier for gravure printers to achieve exceptional results, and plants could consider a move to flexography.

That would be an intriguing industry changeover.

About the Author

headshot Petr Blasko
Petr (Peter) Blasko is marketing director at SOMA. He has more than 20 years’ experience in flexography, working in different roles in marketing and sales within SOMA, an EU-based producer of central impression (CI) flexographic presses. With a degree in mechanical engineering, Blasko is currently responsible for global marketing strategy and product development. Petr can be reached at [email protected].