Are you tied to your press manufacturer or original supplier for press controls? Many people thought that, but ABB has been working to show that this is not true, giving press owners freedom of choice.
What about the problem of needing to retrofit obsolete controls and drives, but the press is needed every night for production? That's another challenge on which ABB knows how to help.
The company is a specialist in replacing controls and drives on newspaper presses without taking the presses out of production, what head of ABB Printing Damian Staedeli calls "open-heart surgery", only half-jokingly. "We have plenty of references where we have installed and tested our new systems during the day and then switched back to the old systems for the night production."
The main technical challenge lies not with the switching between systems, but the interaction between the new systems and the 'old' environment. ABB has proved at many retrofit sites that it has the knowledge and experience to make this work.
This is particularly relevant with modular retrofits where only selected parts of the control system are replaced. This sort of retrofit project has become popular in recent years. A typical example would be replacing the controls on one or two printing towers, thereby freeing up old components that can act as spare parts for the rest of the press, which is still running with obsolete equipment.
"Of course, we are happy when we get an order for a complete retrofit of the control system, but the reality is that most newspaper printers are having to cope with reduced budgets, and by offering them modular retrofits on just part of their press we can provide them with a solution that will keep their press running at a much lower cost," says Staedeli. "If they have the know-how, they can even use their own staff to extend the retrofit to further units at a later date, saving themselves even more money... which is exactly what our customers at Sueddeutscher Verlag in Munich did."
Here are some of the solutions which have given customers real alternatives. In Bordeaux, France, for example, where the publisher of the regional newspaper Sud-Ouest has three manroland Colorman presses with PECOM controls. They wanted to replace the control systems on the printing towers and, in particular, the obsolete and troublesome Interbus loops connecting numerous peripherals like web break detectors, ink level sensors and Festo valves to the control system.
ABB provided a solution which was integrated into the rest of the PECOM system. PECOM unit controls were replaced with ABB's AC500 PLC, which is used in countless demanding industries and is available from ABB and also third-party distributors worldwide, and the Interbus loops were replaced with AC500 I/Os connected by Profinet to the PLC. A Profinet-interbus proxy provided the interface between the AC500 PLC and the remaining I/Os within each printing tower - connecting to devices like the ink screws, operating displays and motor unit controls.
The new ABB printing tower control system was so seamlessly integrated with the PECOM system around it that the press operation at the PECOM control console was completely unaffected - the control console could not 'see' any difference between the old PECOM and new ABB unit controls.
All this was achieved without taking the tower out of the nightly production. Every evening during the commissioning of the new system the ABB team switched back to the old system for the night production.
Another recent example of freeing a customer from the original control system supplier was at the Halifax Herald in Nova Scotia, Canada. There the existing control system from EAE was replaced step-by-step by ABB. As the Herald has just the one press, a Wifag OF370, it was clear that the press had to produce not only six nights a week but also during much of the day. All the ABB commissioning work was fitted into the time windows between productions, typically between 3am and 10am.
The replacement of the controls required precise technical preparation and planning. Of course, the new systems needed to be installed in parallel with the existing system, but that was the easy part. They also had to work together with the existing systems. Gateways had to be provided between the Ethernet-based ABB world and the Arcnet-based communication of the old control system as well as the existing drives system.
When a newspaper company decides for a press retrofit the reasons given almost always include the long-term availability of spare parts and support, but Mike Murtha, director for production and facilities at the Halifax Herald, had some additional reasons. "Our double folder is mechanically capable of handling two independent productions, but the original control system software did not allow this and has therefore restricted our production possibilities. In addition, the one single section control system meant that one fault could bring our complete production capacity to a standstill. No production director needs that sort of stress!
"We now have a control system for which spare parts will be available for at least the next ten years, and modern, reliable, state-of-the-art systems everywhere on the press. That is a great reassurance for us all at the Halifax Herald," he says.
As well as bringing retrofit innovations onto the market, ABB continues to develop its production management systems. It recently released Version 6 of its press management system MPS Production. This is now based on the PostgreSQL database, which makes virtualisation of the system a much cheaper option than it previously was. The new release also includes the Online Production Viewer, which provides overviews of completed, running and planned print jobs not only at normal MPS Production workplaces, but also on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.