Danielle Woolley, marketing manager, PC Industries

Q: How would you characterize the market at this time? 

A: The state of our market is an increasing realization of the value of print quality inspection and a significant improvement in the speed and accuracy of the technology. Converters of high-value flexible packaging with potential liability issues are showing the highest interest in print quality web inspection.

Q: What do you see as the most significant recent advances in web inspection?

A: In general, I view 100% inspection as the most significant advance in web inspection in the recent years. Pricing is coming down as quality and performance are continuing to increase. The technology that these systems use is helping to advance the printing industry significantly because smaller defects can be detected at higher web speeds. It is amazing how significant a small, four-point font period (as a numerical placeholder) can be especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals. For example, if a dosage is supposed to be 5.0 mg of Coumadin, a blood thinner, if that period is missing it’s now 50 mg. That period, which originally seemed insignificant, can be a life or death error for that patient.

100% inspection is not only allowing printing companies to ship defect-free products, it is helping them continue to serve customers as a quality-conscious company with high standards of excellence. Web inspection is raising the bar because it not only detects missing punctuation; it detects broken characters, defects in the background or in an image, and color variation.

Q: What other advantages are there to using advanced, automated web inspection?

A: These include alerting press operators in real-time when print defects occur. Systems can also warn operators when the printing is starting to move out of specification so corrective action can be taken to minimize waste.

Q: For those who may be unfamiliar with web inspection installations, what are the basic components that are required?

A: A web inspection system is comprised of a high-resolution camera, solid-state lighting and a high-performance computer with a touchscreen monitor.

The camera assembly is mounted prior to the rewinder to inspect finished product. The touchscreen monitor is typically located near the operator's control so that adjustments to the process can be made in real time. Options include color measurement, bar code verification, and 100% print defect detection.

Q: What improvements do customers seek?

A: Two important areas that are vastly improved with the next generation of systems are operator ease of use and detailed roll information. Newer systems are simple to set-up and use and also provide real-time information on the location of defects in terms of lane and footage. This defect “roll map” information can be used to remove the defects during the slitting process.

Q: How does that work in a plant?                                                

A: The database file from the press is transferred to the slitter, which can continue to operate at full speed until the roll map indicates a defect. The defect is presented to the slitter operator for removal or replacement.  A monitor on the slitter displays the defect and upcoming queue.

Q: Is there a specific product from PC Industries that plays prominently into these developments?

A: The Guardian Line Scan Systems have provided high-speed, high-resolution cameras, for smaller defect size, faster speeds and longer repeat lengths. The Guardian Line Scan basically acts as a scanner and doesn't require multiple strobes or multiple cameras. The newer Line Scan technology can inspect at resolutions up to 12,000 pixels across the web. The color accuracy is also improved because there are three sensors, one each for red, blue, and green. This development solves the original disadvantages of a line scan system of being unable to inspect at zero speed or handle side-to-side web movement.

Q: Until recently, the only printers that provided web inspection did so because they were required to do so. With improvements in 100% inspection, what kinds of companies are using it?

A: We believe that the web inspection market was at one time polarized: For example, a pharmaceutical company had to have 100% inspection. But companies producing bags or other products that were not highly scrutinized weren’t using it. Now, however, the gap between these two groups is shrinking. Quality printers now use 100% inspection for their own internal cost and quality control.

Likewise, the types of companies implementing web inspection are those that would like to show their customers that they’ve taken quality control to the next level. They can inform customers, “We can guarantee that what we’re sending will be inspected and meet your quality standards.”

Remember, too, there’s that customer in the middle ground who is currently saying, “Next year or the year after, I want to move into pharmaceutical packaging.” Even if they don’t have pharmaceutical customers, they’re taking the steps now to position themselves in those markets that either require or strongly encourage 100% inspection.

PC Industries
847-336-3300; www.pcindustries.com