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Under the Hood

Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 106

When describing the new Speedmaster XL 106, it's not about “bigger, faster, further”, it’s about tapping into the client’s potential and taking production to the next level. Brian Sims finds out more

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The press is controlled via a 24” touchscreen controller that has been completely rethought and redesigned to make the operation simple

Releasing Your Potential

It will be nearly 50 years since the first printing press from Heidelberg AG carried the name ‘Speedmaster’. Released in 1975 the manufacturer claims it was the world’s first B1 four-colour press, which has gone on to be what could be the most successful printing press ever built.

Building on the basic concept of four-colour printing and perfecting, various developments were added to the press over a number of years such as a film-dampening system as early as 1977, computer-controlled press controls, and automatic plate changing in 1991. CIP3 followed and other products such as CutStar and other enhancements, and this constant ongoing development has possibly been the reason for the success.

Clearly the newest version of the Speedmaster, the XL 106 bears no resemblance to the SM 102 of 1975, but the brand still is held up as a leader of B1 presses. With the release of the newest machine’s incarnation, Heidelberg is not releasing rafts of new equipment or technology. What is new is the direction it takes which is to help clients reach the maximum potential possible by engaging with a range of technology wrapped in the press. 

What is key to understand about Heidelberg’s new focus is to take the individual pieces of technology used for makeready and product control and integrate each one of them together and make the operation of them as simple as pressing a button. Heidelberg UX is the new interactive operator process which it claims “sets new standards for the user experience on the Speedmaster”.   

There are far too many aspects of the Speedmaster XL 106 to cover in a simple article but an understanding of the key components of the technology should whet the appetite to look further into the cornucopia of technology there is.

Reducing Wastage

To understand this process in more detail, it is suggested to start at the delivery end of the press and the press control panel Prinect Press Center XL 3 and widescreen display that are now the norm on larger presses. The press is controlled via a 24” touchscreen controller that has been completely rethought and redesigned to make the operation simple, all part of Heidelberg UX.

Linked to the Speedmaster Operating System touchscreen, the status of the press is displayed on Wallscreen XL an operator navigation system Heidelberg claims is a “one-of-a-kind.” Depending on what is happening on press, in makeready status the Intellistart 3 system displays what is taking place preparing the machine, and during production Intellirun production status is shown. In addition, myWallscreen functions are all there to make the operating of this press as simple as possible. 

As to actual operation, in very simple terms, a series of systems on the press are all linked together and are displayed on the screen. IntelliStart 3 controls a series of operations such as Preset Plus operating in the feeder and delivery, setting up both material handling systems for the upcoming job. Other processes include plate changing, roller washing, coater changes, and predictions on ink and water setting to limit makeready waste.

Recall in LEAN manufacturing, waste is anything that does not add value to the end-user; the main form of waste overlooked is time. We can see 50 sheets of waste paper, but the time taken to do a series of tasks consecutively is typically invisible.

In terms of operation, a series of systems on the press are all linked together and are displayed on the screen

Autoplate XL 3 for instance is one way Heidelberg takes chunks of waste out of the makeready process. All plates can be changed in one go as the plate cylinders are disengaged from the main drive when the plates are changed. This not only allows the main drive to take control of other processes, if each unit is separate from the others, it only takes the time to change one plate to do all of them.

Further eating into this period of potential waste is the cleaning systems. As explained, if the plate cylinders are independently driven, the blankets, plates, and even inking units can be cleaned concurrently with other makeready operations. The new software can also make selections autonomously as to what cleaning cycles are needed. It looks at the recent jobs and likely issues and adapts the cleaning cycles to suit.

On start up, Prinect Inpress Control 3 takes automatic control of the quality control aspects of the printed sheets. From colour control via spectrophotometry referencing the product from a library of colour standards to the inspection of the sheet for marks, the machine takes control of the situation and whenever possible, corrects, or ejects unwanted sheets to ensure consistent and high-quality production with minimal operator input.

The final piece of this puzzle is Color Assistant Pro which is a ‘self-learning’ software integrated into the machine that ‘learns’ over a period of jobs the changes made to ink and water such that a prediction of what is required on a new job gets closer and closer to the good copy value.

Easy Operation

You should be getting a flavour for what Heidelberg is trying to achieve by now – if you can get the press to automatically do as much of the operation as possible, and do it all in one go, showing progress as needed, the waste levels should drop away like a stone.

What is again new to the Speedmaster XL 106 is the interface between operator and machine. It's not to say that the press cannot be effectively run by inexperienced printers, but previously when an operator intervention was needed could be unclear and time could be wasted. With this being said, Heidelberg now has a very novel way to flag when the machine processes need manual intervention; Intelliline.

This new system is a series of LED lights that run down the side of each unit, on both operator and drive sides of the press. When the lights are green, this means the unit/press is in Intellistart mode, making an automatic makeready process. Blue means the press is in production mode, printing good sheets; pulsing blue/yellow means the press is waiting for the next set of plates; and finally, if one or more of the units have a yellow light lit, this means the press needs an operator intervention.

This information is not only shown on the actual press in process, but it is also shown on Widescreen XL along with the information needed to take when the issue is addressed.

Overall, the general physical specification of the Speedmaster has not changed, it still has the 750mm x 1,060mm maximum sheet size and maximum speed of 18,000 sheets per hour

Overall, the general physical specification of the Speedmaster XL 106 has not changed, it still has the  750mm x 1,060mm maximum sheet size and maximum speed of 18,000 sheets per hour (optional in perfect). It can still come with coating, drying (IR/UV/LED UV), and all the other upgrades and options we are all knowledgeable of.

The real step forward is the pulling of all the automated and self-learning/AI benefits of the Speedmaster XL 106 and adapting them to best suit the operator to raise productivity levels to new heights. 


  • Maximum sheet size: 750mm x 1,060mm
  • Minimum sheet size: 340mm x 480mm straight printing &
  • 410mm x 480mm perfecting
  • Maximum speed: 18,000 iph straight printing &
  • 15,000 iph perfecting (18,000 iph option)
  • Substrate thickness: 0.03mm – 1.00mm straight printing &
  • 0.03mm – 0.80mm perfecting

Brian Sims Principal Consultant, Metis Print Consultancy, www.metis-uk.eu

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