HEIDELBERG HEADS TO THE CLOUD FOR AUTONOMOUS PRINTING
Press manufacturing giant Heidelberg is set to take print businesses to autonomous printing, with its new cloud-based Prinect Direct workflow, which promises far-reaching consequences for the way print is produced.
To be launched next week at the Prinect User Event, the new Prinect Direct significantly simplifies the printing workflow process. The key is the combination of the PDF of the job, combined with the print-intent, which has the data on everything from the job, all details including the paper, and finishing,through to the delivery time and address. Prinect Direct then manages the production process according to optimum efficiency. The goal is to create a fully digitised and automated print shop – a smart factory.
Prinect Direct will ultimately lead to print buyers uploading all job details themselves, cutting out much of the task that print businesses currently undertake – in a similar way that we all now buy our own airline tickets, organising our own baggage, seats and meals - with all that data going directly to the pressroom, and the software organising the production schedule, dramatically reducing touchpoints at the printshop, and telling the prepress, press and finishing equipment what is required.
Hailing Prinect Direct as "visionary" Dierk Wissman, national sales manager at Heidelberg ANZ said, "It is the dawn of a new era. It builds on Production Manager, it is cloud-based and app driven, and will change the way jobs are processed through the factory, to the benefit of print businesses."
The huge online print businesses in Europe and the US such as FlyerAlarm and Vista, which has a plant in Melbourne, have spent millions of dollars developing their own online workflow solutions which enable the customer to upload all aspects of the job. Heidelberg’s Prinect Direct will enable regular commercial, packaging and label printers to offer the same to their customers. Prinect Direct will be able to integrate with third party, ie non-Heidelberg, equipment and software.
“With the new Prinect Direct cloud-based workflow, Heidelberg is moving a big step closer to autonomous production in print shops in line with our Smart Print Shop concept,” says Christopher Berti, head of Software Solutions at Heidelberg. “The new Prinect apps eliminate most manual steps throughout a print shop’s production process – from job creation all the way through to delivery of the finished print product.
“Companies that implement autonomous printing will have a huge advantage in the market. Now is the right time for the print industry to take the next step.”
Claudia Jung, head of Digital Ecosystem at Heidelberg said, “The cloud is the future. It offers complete security for the print business, it means no updates are ever needed by the print business, and it means the print business does not need to keep increasing their server capacity.
Heidelberg says Prinect Direct will provide full automation, maximum transparency, touchpoint reduction, flexibility, plug and play, over the air updates, it will cover all processes and will be open for all workflow ideas.
Under the new Heidelberg Plus the whole printshop will be in one portal, connecting Heidelberg Assistant with the print apps, the apps to Prinect Direct, and Prinect Direct to print production. The new Heidelberg Plus is the gateway to the new portal, it will be available by the end of the European summer.
Alex Zöller, head of commercial software at Heidelberg said, “Prinect Direct has been designed from scratch. It will take several years to fully develop. It has one target – autonomous printing. We will reach an, as yet, unknown level of automation, with vastly reduced human touchpoints."
The SmartProduct app is the first app to be developed for Prinect Direct, it contains both the PDF of the job and all the print intent data, Zöller said, “It is the gateway for job creation”, it is for both offset and digital, and will integrate with the Heidelberg MIS and third party MIS. It is designed to simplify the print process, which Zöller says is complex, costly and time consuming.
Order creation on the new app is a simple six step intuitive process, which involves naming the job, selecting a type, uploading the PDF, choosing the product info such as paper, finishing, prepare the order so inputting quantity and delivery address, and then creating the file. There are no format limitations.
Zöller said, “The target is for the customer to input all this information. There will be specialist jobs where the printer still needs to do it, but we see 80 per cent of print jobs being uploaded by the customer thanks to this simple online process. SmartProduct app then does all the preflighting, for both production and administration, and takes management of the printing process.”
Once the order has been created the SmartProduct app takes over and makes all decisions, with the job sent either to the plate or the digital press, with autonmous production the third stage.
Prinect is charged according to the size of the print business, the bigger ones pay more, but the same functionality is available to all users. Zöller says there will be 50-80 apps in total as Prinect Direct grows.
Prinect was launched at drupa 2008, and now has around 3,500 users, a number which is growing by 10 per cent each year, with no drop in growth during Covid. Its user base is split 65/35 commercial to packaging, but it is the packaging sector which is growing the fastest. All existing Prinect customers can continue using their workflow system, including Prinect Production Manager. Both system environments are being enhanced, with the focus on new functions in Prinect Direct. All the other upcoming Prinect apps are compatible and use existing functions for applications such as printing plate output based on the Adobe PDF Print Engine.
Prinect Direct will be launched next week at the Prinect User Group event, which takes place both in-person at Weisloch, and for the first time online as well. The English-speaking days are Tuesday and Wednesday.