Towards Zero-Defect Production
For printed material and packaging, the BARTHEL GROUP prefers TubeScan systems from the BST Group for quality assurance.
In 2013, the BARTHEL GROUP was the first label printer worldwide to begin using a TubeScan digital strobe, a stroboscope, from Nyquist Systems for web monitoring at its headquarters in Essen. Since then, the label manufacturer has kept pace with every stage of development of the Landsberg-based supplier of inspection systems for narrow web printing processes. In early 2019, Nyquist Systems became part of the BST Group. At this point, several packaging and printing machines operated by the BARTHEL GROUP have been equipped with TubeScan systems for 100% inspection.
Barthel GmbH has been using 100% finishing inspection systems since 2003. The first solution for 100% inspection was a conventional camera system. Machinery at the company was always kept up to date, and in the years that followed, line scan cameras were used for 100% inspection. In 2013, the label printer installed the first digital stroboscope, a model known as the TubeScan digital strobe, which was supplied by Nyquist Systems from Landsberg am Lech as an alternative to conventional stroboscope lamps. “We wanted to test the quality, handling, and reliability of this system, with its attractive price-performance ratio, as an alternative to line scan cameras in day-to-day operation,” says Mischa Barthel, managing director of the BARTHEL GROUP.
Quality assurance potential recognized early
“The first TubeScan system was really more of a solution for missing label inspection. But we recognized the potential offered by the Nyquist Systems digital stroboscope as an alternative to line scan cameras. It was only a matter of time before the manufacturers of these area scan cameras would increase the resolution of their systems and offer better image quality. The discussions with Nyquist Systems assured us that TubeScan would be steadily developed for potential use as a 100% inspection system in cooperation with manufacturers of area scan cameras,” says Barthel.
At approximately the same time that the BARTHEL GROUP put the first TubeScan systems into operation, Nyquist Systems and BST eltromat agreed on an exclusive worldwide distribution partnership for these systems. With a strong partner at its side, Nyquist Systems was able to take advantage of the ability to sell TubeScan systems to customers with narrow web printing processes around the world. BST eltromat, in turn, was able to round out its portfolio for quality assurance in this market. The arrangement paid off for both companies. By the beginning of 2019, they had jointly installed around 1,100 TubeScan systems. The partnership resulted, at the beginning of 2019, in the takeover of Nyquist Systems by BST eltromat’s parent company elexis AG. The manufacturer of the TubeScan systems became a company of the BST Group, which operates throughout the world. That resulted in still more security for the investments made by customers.
Quality and functionality of inspections continuously expanded
“At the beginning of 2013, we sold the first four TubeScan digital strobe systems within one week. Three of them went to the BARTEL GROUP,” Nyquist Systems Managing Director Dr. Stephan Krebs recalls. In the years that followed, the fast-growing company group, which specializes in manufacturing self-adhesive labels of varying designs for many sectors, gradually had more and more TubeScan systems installed in its printing machines. These were increasingly higher-quality devices that were able to detect print-related defects. “The new TubeScan systems helped our employees satisfy the steadily rising quality requirements of the market,” says Friedhelm Schmitz, head of quality assurance.
Over the years, the focus of quality assurance has shifted from detecting the most important defects in the label rolls already produced to preventing printing errors that would otherwise lead to waste. This was made possible above all by the ever higher resolution of the matrix cameras of the TubeScan systems. The latest area scan cameras, with their excellent resolution of 4k for 100% image reproduction, have largely caught up with the quality of line scan cameras. In fact, the entire TubeScan portfolio now has access to comparatively inexpensive 9-megapixel area scan cameras made in Germany that can be used to produce a resolution of 83 µm and/or 100 µm for label printing with web widths of 330 mm to 430 mm. For special applications, the new technology will even allow resolutions of up to 55 µm.
Nyquist Systems has also worked closely with customers to continuously enhance the functionality of software and real-time visualization capabilities, as well as the inspection and measurement process, including illumination options. Today, the modular TubeScan product range includes a number of variants of the TubeScan digital strobe and, in TubeScan eagle view, a solution for printing machines that integrates several inspection cameras into a single system. It provides detailed zoom images and also allows for 100% inspection. The portfolio is rounded off with the QLink workflow and several different options for quality assurance.
Barthel: “With the visualization of printing defects in our packaging production, we’ve been able to avoid reputational damage that would have inevitably resulted from deliveries of imperfect labels to our customers. With 100% inspection in printing, we’re minimizing our waste. Our printers can see immediately if defects are emerging and take action to remedy them. We produce the desired quality in a more deliberate manner and, thanks to the counters integrated into the TubeScan systems, we make precisely the needed quantities of labels.” Both factors have increased the productivity and profitability of label manufacturing.
Almost half of the BARTHEL GROUP’s 35 printing machines are now equipped with TubeScan systems. In addition, TubeScan systems are now in use in several packaging machines for final inspection. In other words, in broad areas of the company’s production process, quality is now inspected in two steps. This double assurance guarantees uncompromising zero-defect production.
Given the benefits of complete and seamless quality control, the BARTEL GROUP is considering gradually introducing 100% inspection in all of its printing machines. In the next step, this will apply above all to the nine digital printing machines with which the group primarily produces smaller runs and increasingly individualized labels at various locations. Here, too, the TubeScan systems will immediately sound the alarm in the event of deviations from pre-defined target printing values and transfer the data on defects to the rewinders. This enables machine operators to remove the defective labels from the process quickly and in a targeted manner during assembly and packaging. This ensures that only perfect labels are delivered to the customers. Costly complaints and refunds can then be all but ruled out.
More relaxed working environment
“When changing systems in quality assurance, it’s important to keep the machine operators on board and show them the benefits of this innovative technology. When printing, the TubeScan systems allow them to produce the required quality in a more relaxed manner and let their machines run without worries as long as the TubeScan lights are green,” explains Schmitz. It is important, he adds, to allow the printers to check themselves and call up necessary documentation from the systems. “There are still occasional surprises when our machine operators find defects using the TubeScan systems that they wouldn’t otherwise have found.”
Is color register correct? Are the correct texts and barcodes being printed? Are there stains on the labels? Are the spaces between the labels correct, and are the labels centered? The TubeScan systems offer the BARTHEL GROUP a wide range of options in 100% inspection. “The systems can be flexibly adjusted to match the order so that we can make the best possible use of the capacity of our machines despite the 100% inspection. In other words, they reliably detect all printing and finishing defects within the specified parameters that customers wouldn’t accept,” explains Schmitz, stressing that in label production, productivity and quality go hand in hand thanks to this inspection technology.
Ever more new options for quality assurance
Nyquist Systems is constantly developing its TubeScan systems to provide its customers with new opportunities to increase the efficiency and profitability of their production processes. Over the years, the TubeScan portfolio has grown into a unique toolbox with comprehensive options for 100% inspection in narrow web production processes, from which quality assurance can be flexibly configured for individual customer requirements. In addition, this toolbox offers customers a wide range of options for retrofitting and upgrading previously installed systems.
After all, BARTHEL GROUP was more than a passive viewer during the development of the TubeScan systems. Its exacting quality assurance requirements helped to shape the development of the systems. For example, the group will be able to make the work of its machine operators even easier with the PDF comparison now available directly within the printing machines and further reduce machine setup times. With this new function, the machine operators can ensure even before printing starts that their machines will produce impeccable quality from the get-go.
“Manual comparison of the printed labels with the PDF files from the pre-press stage is still a bottleneck in our predominantly three-shift production, one that would be eliminated with the PDF comparison directly in the printing machines. Our machine operators would then no longer need to scan proofs and then compare them with the specifications from the pre-press stage. That will save them a trip to the scanner and thus the time that this step of the process takes. Printing will get faster,” says Schmitz of the new option. Clearly, the more often the machines need to be retrofitted, the more time would be saved.
In 2019, the BARTHEL GROUP will carry out an initial installation with a digital text inspection system, and more machines could be equipped with the technology later on. Another option is to connect TubeScan systems used in printing machines with finishing machines. By transferring information from the printing machines directly to the finishing machines, the company intends to further minimize waste and clearly document the quality produced.
All quality assurance requirements covered by one provider
The fact that Nyquist Systems has belonged to the BST Group since the beginning of 2019 has a major benefit for their joint customers: They can cover all their quality assurance requirements in web-processing production processes with a single provider, which likewise means they have just one partner to turn to for sales and service.
In its printing machines, the BARTHEL GROUP also uses POWERScope 5000 digital web monitoring systems from BST eltromat. These are helpful for making quick adjustments in the presses. In addition, special rotating frames for web guiding are used in MPS printing machines. A printing machine from Nilpeter is equipped with an ink fountain control system from BST eltromat. This technology has also been working reliably for years. “I’m pleased with the level of quality assurance we’ve reached today,” says Barthel. Taking stock of the cooperation with his supplier, he adds: “With future innovations, we’ll doubtless be able to improve our results even further.”
In 1984, Joachim Barthel and Detlef Klusmann founded Barthel GmbH with three employees in the courtyard of a former carpenter’s workshop in the Essen district of Steele, from which today’s BARTHEL GROUP emerged. At the time of its foundation, the now medium-sized BARTHEL GROUP specialized in the production of price and weighing labels for the fruit trade. Today, it consists of six companies (Barthel GmbH; Barthel Digitalprint GmbH; Etipro GmbH; Kienlabel B.V., D.E.S.; Die Etiketten Spezialisten GmbH; Evert Etiketten GmbH) and four production sites and has become well established in the European label market. With more than 300 employees and 65 state-of-the-art machines, the BARTHEL GROUP produces around 270,000 m² of labels every day.