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Main research focus “automation and measurement technique”

The research field automation and measurement technique deals with a variety of topics concerning printing. All have the aim to automate the printing process and the various pre- and post-treatment steps and to enhance the quality and productivity achieved.

To do this, research and description of the materials (printing plate, ink, substrate, …) and processes involved in the printing process is required. The materials and process steps involved are studied and characterized using highly specialized measurement technology and sensors or individually developed test rigs. Here we use hardware from National Instruments and the corresponding software package LabView.

Based on the measurement data and the determined relationships, a modeling and simulation of partial processes takes place resulting in a specific improvement of the overall process. In terms of industrial process control, instrumentation is designed for monitoring or automation of machines, experimental setups are developed or new machine parts are designed in order to realize new printing and manufacturing opportunities. In this context, the rheology of fluids is characterized and the topography of thin, often transparent, layers is measured. Tools for DoE (Design of Experiments) are used for test planning and big data analysis can possibly be used for the evaluation of the tests.

Current and former topics of this research group are for example:

The group works on the optimization of additive manufacturing, widely called 3D printing. Here, the boundaries of the known 3D-printing processes are tested; new production processes are developed and designed. Especially manufacturing processes are developed for parts that were previously not possible to produce with state of the art printing processes. The studied 3D printing methods are mainly Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography and processes associated to Bioplotting.

Another research topic is the detailed investigation of printing processes and their sub-processes. For example, a test rig to determine the swelling behavior of flexographic printing plates has been constructed or a tampon printing machine was equipped with special measuring instruments for detecting the process variables. Additional examples include a test rig for characterizing interference and effect pigments and the complete reconstruction and expansion of a commercial extensional rheometer (Haake Caber).

Likewise, new manufacturing processes for printed security features are investigated and prototypes are produced by the use of special experimental setups. The transfer of these processes to the industrial printing technology is accompanied.

Postpress processes, especially the cutting of paper stacks, paperboard or other fibrous materials using high-speed cutters (also called guillotine) is a subject of research at IDD. Thus, a unique test rig for determining the cutting forces in three axis directions depending on the way of the blade through the stack of paper was developed. In addition, industrial high-speed cutters were equipped with force, strain, and displacement measuring systems. Using this, various aspects of cutting, such as the selection and grinding of the blade, their lifetime stability and the machine design are examined and improved. In addition, the handling of cutting orders in automated cutting systems and the compression behavior of paper stacks are subjects of research.

Furthermore, the group is engaged in the design and implementation of imaging systems and image processing for optical quality control of printed products.

The research projects in this group are mainly bilaterally in cooperation with individual, industrial companies, whereby a large proportion of patent applications has been recorded in the field of publications.