Horizon and SCREEN will jointly develop an AI end-to-end solution

Screen and finishing manufacturer Horizon have agreed to collaborate on the development of a solution that utilises Artificial Intelligence (AI), to further enhance Horizon’s ‘Smart Factory.’ The two companies aim to release this service to end users in January 2022.

The changing nature of the printing industry calls for more diversity, small lot jobs and short turnaround times. 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.

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.

Screen GP Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand, Peter Scott 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.

Comments from Presidents of Screen and Horizon

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 utilising 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.”