Trend in the machine

14 December 2015

Trend in the machine

Trend in the machine

Fast and accurate software is essential to the converting industry, and innovative products must guarantee reliable delivery. Emma-Jane Batey spoke to industry experts to take a peek at the trends in converting software.

Faster, smarter, better. These are the buzzwords of innovation across industry sectors, and this is true too of the converting industry. Essentially a behind-the-scenes sector, converting industry software has a huge influence on a substantial range of markets, yet needs to save cost and time and consistently drive performance. For experts at the forefront of this crucial sector, the latest trends are challenging them to steer innovation forward and seize exciting opportunities to grow and develop.

For Sheffield-based converting software development company MachineWorks, its long-term focus on creating and producing industry standard software has resulted in some interesting solutions. Cristina Sesma, marketing manager, explains: "MachineWorks software has been developed, optimised and used since 1994, and has become the industry standard for CNC simulation and verification components. Our software development toolkit has been integrated for over twenty years too. It's the first choice for CAM, machine tool and CNC-control manufacturers looking for a solution that combines speed, accuracy and stability."

MachineWorks understands that its customers need constant contact and technological understanding to make sure that their software is staying ahead of their production demands. Sesma says: "MachineWorks' active support team keeps in regular touch with customers in order to help optimise their developments and find out about their future requirements. We have tools to help customers with integration and development, such as our Machine Builder and the Machine Simulator, which allow users to quickly develop a new prototype."

Computer games

For CNC-control manufacturers, MachineWorks also offers programmes that are perfectly suited to their technically advanced needs. Sesma says: "The increasing power of CNC controllers creates opportunities for machine-hardware manufacturers to add value to their products by using real-time simulation. MachineWorks provides the necessary memory optimisation to achieve true real-time performance. Our simulation integrates with the controller, so operators on the shop floor are reassured that their programming is error free before running the machine."

The key here is "error free". Increased automation across production processes extends to the software chosen by converting companies and their partners to ensure optimal functioning and porcesses. New Era Converting Machinery in New Jersey shares this sentiment. As a world-leading name in processing equipment for web converting, New Era's customer-driven approach to equipment engineering and design ensures that users can obtain systems that are perfectly tailored to their needs. A senior representative from New Era says: "We are fully committed to incorporating leading-edge technology into our products, with several of our patents assisting customers in meeting these needs. From simple components and sections, right up to fully integrated high-speed automatic process lines and systems, New Era can engineer a solution to fit."

The company uses the latest software technology to tackle challenging applications in an efficient, cost-effective manner. The representative adds: "We are always focused on maximised productivity. In our on-going effort to reduce downtime for our customers we have been using remote diagnostics systems on our equipment lines for several years. Typically, our diagnostic systems allow monitoring and programming of the drives, touch screens and integrated software from a dedicated in-house computer workstation and/or from a remote location, usually the New Era facility. We set up and test the entire system to make sure that all the elements - the software and the overall integration - are working together seamlessly. We also train our client's workforce so they can maximise the function of the system and understand the extensive capabilities of a New Era system."

Smart integration

The latest developments from MachineWorks also highlight the importance of smart integration when it comes to converting industry software. The company's most recent product launch was unveiled at EMO Milano 2015, the huge metalworking and tooling trade exhibition held in October. The new MachineWorks version 7.4 software was specifically written to address the toughest software challenges faced by developers of CAM products and manufacturers of CNC controllers and machine tools. Sesma says: "Our unprecedented development includes much improved surface quality and much greater accuracy. This is not just another release. Years of research have made possible some of the advances that we see today in the 7.4, for example, a completely new approach to five-axis simulation that provides a real leap forward."

This development reflects the oft-noted converting industry trend of flexible quality optimisation and increased accuracy and performance from smarter software and solutions driven by technology. Tony Bell, sales director from East Yorkshire's AB Graphic International, a leading label converting company says: "Automation is becoming increasingly important at the finishing end of the converting business, as digital printing can change instantly and a more conventional approach of the finishing process takes longer to change. An example of this is the Autoslit option on our Digicon Series 3, which offers an automatic setting for slitting knives. This new series is available to run in-line with different print engines. We've incorporated the latest software capabilities in our digital offer to guarantee that we are providing a solution that is of the very latest technical potential."

For leading European packaging company DS Smith, choosing to integrate the latest converting software is an easy to decision to make. As a FTSE 250 company with headquarters in London and a global customer base, DS Smith knows that the right software creates a smooth supply chain. In addition to technical software for the design and development of its corrugated packaging, consumer packaging and industrial packaging, DS Smith has long utilised a systematic knowledge-sharing network to effectively run its major operations. DS Smith's marketing director Tony Foster says: "We have what's known as the BAT Network - best available technicians. This sees us collect all the resources within our organisation, including the support of the R&D centre, to facilitate best practice to increase the performance of our mills and to continue to foster the DS Smith culture of continuous development."

Testing times

Foster says that software helps the company process performance, with real-time quality control and paper testing. To produce high-quality paper, he says, it is essential to maintain fine control over countless variable in the manufacturing process. And this is where the software works so well. Foster says: "With regards to paper testing, we regularly take samples of container board to our testing room where it is equipped with state-of-the-art computer-controlled machines that automatically test the samples and give highly accurate results, which are then assessed. We can continually make improvements by utilising these software solutions, which keeps us at the top of our game."

Even top software needs an efficient person operating it and finding the right set of skilled technicians to operate it is vital for the converting industry.



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