Horizon and Screen to develop AI for print

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Imaging giant Screen and finishing solutions manufacturer Horizon are collaborating on the development of a solution that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to further enhance the Horizon Smart Factory.

AI: Screen and Horizon
AI: Screen and Horizon

The two companies – both based in Japan – aim to release the service to end users in January 2022.

The two companies say the rationale for AI comes through the changing nature of the printing industry, which “calls for more diversity, small lot jobs and short turnaround times”. They say while such demand has seen improvements in efficiency and operating ratios for production processes, unexpected problems can still persist and often become ongoing challenges – hampering efforts to maximise production efficiency.

They say these issues originate from a variety of factors, such as the equipment itself, operating environment, print data, or operator skill levels. Changes to settings and conditions are often used to resolve such problems and improve productivity. However, these adjustments must frequently be handled by experienced operators.

This creates further challenges related to the retirement of experienced employees and requirement to train successors for their positions. In response to these industry trends, Horizon and Screen have reached an agreement to develop an AI engine that is able to acquire their combined expertise in digital printing and postpress systems and use it to optimise operations.

Peter Scott, managing director of Screen GP for Australia and New Zealand, says: “AI is not about replacing skilled workers; it is about maximising their knowledge of processes so that future operators may work more efficiently, reduce waste, and deliver faster turn-arounds to customers. JDF and CIP3/4 are good but are by no means universal. Horizon is recognised as the world’s leading finishing manufacturer and Screen as the pioneer of inkjet colour web printing. Together with Horizon’s Smart Factory programme, and capably supported locally by Currie Group, the new AI joint development is sure to take printers into future full of confidence.”

The AI engine will be used to analyse operating data accumulated from different production lines by Horizon’s iCE LiNK and Screen’s Trust Network Service. This AI will be able to optimise settings and conditions, identify steps to address potential issues and provide general operational assistance for individual lines. The overall goal of the service will be to support operators and enable the creation of a production environment that any employee can use easily, safely and efficiently.

Both companies will continue to develop new technologies from the perspective of better integrating the print and postpress processes.

Eijiro Hori, president of Horizon Inc. says: “The transition to Smart Factory will be essential for print and binding facilities of the future. Since the latter half of the 1990s, our company has been leading the way in managing equipment operations using numerical data acquired directly from systems. This new AI-based data analysis project is another step toward the realisation of our goal.

“Statistical analysis of numerical data enables the setup of equipment using a very fine level of adjustment that has so far depended on the experience of operators. It also offers the ability to prevent potential issues before they occur. By effectively utilising AI, I believe we will be able to present a system with the capacity to operate and manage the entire production process from printing to book binding without interruption.”

Takanori Kakita, president of Screen Graphic Solutions says: “Production in the current digital era means people, environment and processes are all interconnected and one company working alone will not achieve the transition to Smart Factory. Among the many areas that must be addressed, one of the most vital is seamless linking of digital print and postpress processes due to its direct connection to productivity.

“By combining the specialised knowledge possessed by both companies, and using the power of data and AI, we hope to drive the evolution of production systems. Progress in this field will help to meet various current societal demands, such as those calling for increased diversity in the workplace and the reduction of waste. It will also help to promote the realisation of mass customisation.”

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