Flexographic Technical Association, the global professional society of the printing community announced Rheonics InkSight as the winner of the 2021 FTA Technical Innovation Award. Rheonics InkSight is a breakthrough multi-station ink viscosity & color control system to boost flexo print quality with automation and digitalization.
For more than two decades, FTA has recognized and celebrated disruptive, groundbreaking and innovative technologies impacting the package printing and the incredible achievements made by individuals and companies, large and small, which have contributed to the growth of the industry. “The technologies created by the recipients of this year’s Technical Innovation Award are proof that the flexographic printing process will never stop evolving,” said FTA Director of Education Joe Tuccitto.
Despite the highly sophisticated quality control and automation systems available on the current generation of printing machines, one of the most crucial variables in the printing process – ink viscosity – is still frequently measured with inexact and cumbersome methods, such as efflux cups and falling ball viscometers. Continuous viscosity control with such methods is extremely inefficient and unproductive. Many common viscosity measuring devices do not provide fine enough viscosity control and require high maintenance and frequent calibration.
One of the most important determinants of high-quality printing is staying in complete control of the ink viscosity. Viscosity is a very important parameter in the final quality of the printed matter. It requires close attention, given: If the viscosity is not correct, the flow behavior and ink layer thickness will vary, leading to deterioration of print quality. Poorly adjusted ink viscosity may cause excessive ink consumption and unnecessarily high costs. Optimizing ink viscosity is time-consuming, even for experienced press operators. Viscosity automation and predictive tracking control results in waste reduction and efficiency improvements.
RPS InkSight is a highly accurate Multi-station ink viscosity control system. It consists of three subsystems, a viscosity sensor, a predictive tracking controller, and a powerful, intuitive graphical interface. It delivers color excellence through tight viscosity control. Rheonics RPS InkSight Predictive Tracking Controller and SRV viscometers enable tight viscosity control throughout the print job, due to the system’s ability to autonomously maintain viscosity within extremely narrow limits. Printers can achieve unmatched color accuracy and quality with the RPS InkSight system and ColorLock software –which is designed in collaboration with printers, for printers.
Prior to the founding of Rheonics, the core group has been active in sensor research and design at ETH Zurich since the early 1980’s. Since a group of scientists and engineers at the ETH in Zurich developed their first viscosity sensor more than 35 years ago, members of that group have been perfecting the technology while constantly working with new applications. “We knew that viscosity measurement and control was useful, even necessary in many manufacturing applications. How we entered the printing field is, beyond the technical aspects, a story of growing into our identity as a provider of solutions, as well as a supplier of reliable, accurate sensors,” says Dr. Joe Goodbread, Chief Technical Officer of Rheonics. Joe adds, “InkSight fundamentally changes the nature of the flexo printing process, from initial job setup all the way to jobs that, once delivered, secure a clear path to repeat business. But on a deeper level, we see that Rheonics InkSight is producing a change in the very culture of the flexo industry by adding job-length consistency, accuracy and efficiency to an already highly sophisticated and powerful printing press.”
Dr. Sunil Kumar, Chief Executive Officer of Rheonics explains how the RPS InkSight differentiates itself from other ink viscosity control systems, “Focusing our attention on the requirements of the flexographic process, we found that despite the presence of several ink viscosity control systems on the market, many shops that had installed such systems had taken them out of service and reverted to spot measurements with efflux cups, which had been the standard for measuring ink viscosity since decades. We therefore shifted our focus toward providing a viscosity control system that placed the operator, rather than the measurement and control technology, at the center of InkSight.”
“Right from day 1 of developing the ColorLock software, we had the printers’ challenges on our mind and how we could make their lives easier. In this pursuit, we worked very closely with multiple printing press operators & plant supervisors to learn from their experience with the printing process,” remarks Maybemar Hernandez, Software Engineer at Rheonics and the architect of the InkSight ColorLock software. “With time, we developed the first versions of Inksight ColorLock software with the Predictive Tracking Controller algorithm that were installed on customer demo machines for first tests. And results were what we expected extremely high accuracy in ink color control. We still kept working on improving the system and adding new features, and would continue to do so,” says Dr. Patrick Vogler, Electronics Engineer at Rheonics.
Bert Verweel, Owner, Maasmond Paperindustrie BV, Netherlands – a long time user of the Rheonics InkSight system has been extremely enthusiastic about this system and has supported its continuous improvement cycles. He remarks, “Due to the knowledge gained and the behaviour of the ink on the substrates on which we print, we know which values for the viscosity must be adhered to; this saves a lot of time, reduces scraps and wastage. We have eliminated setup scraps and reduced setup times because of the ability to load previously run jobs. It has significantly boosted our productivity and profitability by increasing our ability to deliver more print jobs. RPS InkSight is at least 10-15 times more accurate than competing viscosity systems with repeatable setpoints.”
Dr. Vijoya Sa, Application & Sales Engineer at Rheonics adds, “As expected, we see a faster adoption from companies who had already deployed other ink viscosity control systems, but have not been able to utilize them fully. They quickly understand the value proposition the RPS InkSight autonomous ink viscosity control can bring to their printing. Ability to achieve tight color accuracy and control, ease of use and integration, temperature compensation algorithms, intuitive reporting tools and no need to re-calibrate the sensors are some of the key advantages which become critical to customers’ purchasing decisions.” Manpreet Dash, Global Marketing Manager, Rheonics believes RPS InkSight can revolutionize flexo printing industry’s future, “RPS InkSight automatic ink viscosity control system delivers on each of the key requirements of the constantly growing flexo printing market, where new automation and hybrid press lines are giving flexographers possibility to explore higher value, print applications. The InkSight can revolutionize the flexo printing industry’s future by delivering higher print quality with all ink types, more short-run jobs and profitability, enabling digitalization and operators’ safety within press and by making operations environmentally sustainable.”
Key global players in the packaging printing market are RR Donnelley (NYSE:RRD), Quad (NYSE: QUAD), Cimpress (Nasdaq: CMPR), Transcontinental (TSX: TCL.A), Cenveo (Nasdaq: CVO), Amcor (NYSE:AMCR), Ball (NYSE:BLL), International Paper (NYSE: IP), Mondi (LON: MNDI), Sealed Air (NYSE: SEE), Smurfit Kappa (OTCMKTS: SMFTF), WestRock (NYSE: WRK), DS Smith (LON: SMDS), Graphic Packaging (NYSE: GPK), Packaging Corporation of America (NYSE: PKG), American Packaging Corporation, Interprint, Sonoco (NYSE: SON) served by international printing press manufacturers like Bobst (SWX: BOBNN), Windmöller & Höllscher, Comexi, Cerruti, Soma, Barry Wehmiller (PCMC, BW Papersystem), Koenig & Bauer, Komori, Ryobi, Dover Corp, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), Xerox (NYSE: XRX), WIFAG, Allstein
Rheonics is a global automation provider of robust plug and play instruments for viscosity and density monitoring, two of the key physical properties of a process fluid. Rheonics viscometers and density meters meet a wide variety of measurement challenges in the most demanding and aggressive environments. Customers can select from standard solutions based on our established technologies, or partner to develop bespoke solutions for their coating application. These products are used by more than a thousand customers worldwide. Rheonics InkSight is used in all areas of prepress and print, including labels and packaging, corrugated, wide format and digital printing.
Other global players in the USD 200+ billion industrial process automation industry are Emerson (NYSE: EMR), ABB (SWX: ABBN), Honeywell (NYSE: HON), Siemens (ETR: SIE), Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK), Yokogawa (TYO: 6841), Schneider Electric (EPA: SU), Danaher (NYSE: DHR). The market growth is driven by increased adoption of industry 4.0 in manufacturing industries and increased penetration of Industrial IoT across the complete industrial ecosystem.