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The building Blocks of Print 4.0

If Industry 4.0 prefigures the industry of the future and the smart print shop of tomorrow for the graphic industries, all the technological building blocks are already there. As for Industry 4.0, Print 4.0 and its derivatives combine several concepts, old concepts such as CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing), and new concepts such as cyberphysical systems or the Internet of Things, which are at the origin of the transition from the third to the fourth industrial revolution.

According to Rüßmann et al, Industry 4.0 is based on nine essential technological pillars (figure) to provide an intelligent environment for companies and thus for the smart printing companies of tomorrow: Cyber-Physical Systems, Cloud Computing, Industrial Internet of Things, Big Data, Augmented Reality, Cyber Security, Robots, Horizontal and Vertical Integration, 3D printing and let's add the recent innovations in digital printing for the graphic industries. And it is the combination of all these technologies that will cause unprecedented upheavals on the production workshops of tomorrow's smart print shops 4.0.

A few words about Cyber-Physical systems, Cloud Computing, the Internet of Things and the importance of data in tomorrow's printing plant 4.0 production environment:

Cyber Physical System, the reactor core of the Smart Print Shop 4.0 of the future

Print 4.0 will be possible through the use of cyber-physical systems (CPS), that is to say systems and processes that communicate with machines and/or human (inside and outside company boundaries) to provide an intelligent production system throughout the value chain. According to the definition of the Industry Platform 4.0, "Cyber-physical systems (CPS) include embedded systems, production processes, engineering logistics, coordination and management processes, as well as Internet services that use sensors to retrieve data and act on physical processes through actuators. They are connected to each other via digital networks, use all data and services available worldwide, and benefit from multimodal man-machine interfaces. With the help of these systems, companies and thus printing plants will in future be able to establish worldwide networks integrating their machines, warehouses and production facilities.

Surprisingly without really being, the concept of SCPs has been taken up in the graphic arts industry by German offset press manufacturers. The manufacturers Koenig & Bauer and Heidelberg are very active in this field. Equipped with sensors, these new intelligent printing presses can signal the current state of production, the future need for maintenance, make suggestions on the nature of the intervention, or even intervene themselves. Speedmaster XL presses, for example, contain some 3,000 sensors. A single machine can collect up to 500 million pieces of data per year, which are subjected to algorithms for prospective analysis.

The SCP concept is not only reserved for printing presses, but also for all other production peripherals. The finishing process is also automated to reduce manual intervention to a strict minimum, both during and between production runs.

These new machines are no longer just connected to a remote control station, but to the entire company, starting with the other production means, or even to the products, which can themselves carry information on the progress of their manufacture and the machine parameters that correspond to them. A shaping machine will automatically adjust itself, without stopping or human intervention, only by scanning the information contained on a print sheet.

In the context of manufacturing, this means that workshop information will be tomorrow highly synchronized in Smart Print Shop 4.0. This will allow these printing plants of the future a whole new level of control, monitoring, transparency and efficiency in the printing and finishing or production processes for other manufacturing companies.

Thanks to these SCPs, the printing plant of tomorrow will be composed of smart production units that know their status and manufacturing constraints in real time. Each production module will thus be able to obtain the information needed to make decisions autonomously.

These presses and other cyber-physical finishing devices will make production processes more flexible and efficient, and will allow printing, binding and cutting of custom printed matter with mass production methods.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing has become a model for the future at every stage of the printing industry's graphic chain. Computer resources but also data will be hosted in the cloud tomorrow and available on demand in SaaS (Software as a Service) mode via a web interface.

Cloud Computing will enable the smart printers of tomorrow to use the resources they really need, whether it be hardware, software, or infrastructure, taking advantage of automatic updates and numerous services: color management services, press performance, parts wear detection, customer needs in terms of consumables, ...

Cloud Computing will also enable these printing companies to exchange data in real time with their partners, thus creating an integrated and collaborative digital environment enabling better connectivity between all stakeholders and real-time data visibility.

The Industrial Internet of Things and Services integrated into manufacturing processes

Internet of Things tools are the technological components that allow a product (a sheet of paper, a printed book for example), or a production machine (a press for example) to connect to a corporate network and collect and/or share data. These may include sensors, RFIDs, 3D scanners, cameras, etc. The Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) is a subset of the Internet of Things (IoT). The Industrial Internet of Things focuses on industrial automation, device-to-device communication, data flow, device administration, device integration and predictive analysis. This means that in the smart print shops of the future, the Industrial Internet of Things will digitally orchestrate printed products, operators 4.0 and will drive printing, finishing, shipping workshops as well as all business functions and processes, unleashing enormous potential value.

The Industrial Internet of Things helps reduce the complexity of machine-to-machine communications and enables data collection and analysis using sensors strategically positioned on new printing presses or finishing devices released today on the market.

With the Internet of Things and Services, it is and will become increasingly possible to link previously isolated elements of the production chain via RFID (radio frequency identification) chips or so-called mini transponders.  This means that each print can today and will be able to contain even more integrated digital information tomorrow, which it will be able to share by radio signals as it moves along the graphic chain. The incorporation of radio frequency identifiers (RFID) is already underway in some physical books for inventory management purposes or in packaging to track and trace (track & trace) certain products.

Data, the essential raw material for the printer of the future

In the Smart Print Shop 4.0 of the future, the essential raw material will no longer be paper or ink, but data. Data that will link machine to machine, machines to plant environments, plant environments to management systems, and management systems to customers. Each step in the new processes will generate data and all of it will be captured by sensors located on the machines (printing, finishing, mail processing, etc.) and analysed in order to make the manufacturing sequence as efficient, cost-effective and profitable as possible or to gain real-time insight into prescriptive maintenance. One of the challenges then for the smart printer 4.0 of the future will be to analyse and process this huge amount of data. Sorting through the mass of data collected, relevant information and trends that can lead to intelligent, automated decisions. This is where big data and analytics, and data mining, will take on their full dimension, allowing these manufacturing companies to optimise their decision-making.

Thus, the objective for tomorrow's printers will be to exploit these new digital technologies to enhance the internal efficiency of all functions in the production chain by combining the best of both worlds, on the one hand, cyber-physical systems (machines) and, on the other hand, virtual tools (workflows, software, ERP, cloud server, etc.).