Artificial intelligence and the Printing Industry.

Artificial intelligence and its impacts in the Printing industry shall be the focus of our discussion in this edition of your favourite Printers’ Digest.

What is Artificial intelligence? By way of definition: Artificial intelligence, sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals. Wikipedia

Artificial intelligence in the printing industry has witnessed several years of  rapid growth since the year 2000, many thanks to the abundance of data and the massive reduction in the cost of computing power which can be attributed the emergency of internet giants globally.

We must not forget that artificial intelligence is a mathematical program of analysis and continuous process of optimization of data. Artificial Intelligence alias AI is very powerful, but ultimately cannot be compared with how the human brain operates. A simple way to explain this is that in order to create a powerful program (deep learning or neural network) capable of recognizing images, the AI algorithm must be provided with between 100,000 and 1 million images of say for example cats. In comparison, a human baby is able to recognize a cat after having seen just two or three images.

It is worthy of note that, artificial intelligence programs have no notion of good and evil, and are unable to set their own goals or to be inherently innovative or creative. In order for artificial intelligence to be able to reproduce an Artworks such as painting in the style of Van Gogh or a sonata that sounds like Mozart, the algorithm would first need to be nourished by the artist’s works in order to copy their creative scheme. And yet none of this is true creation.

Still, there is no denying the facts, that there are applications of artificial intelligence at all levels of our economy and society. In the printing industry, AI is playing prominent roles and it has revolutionized the way most printing operations are done.

For example in modern Prepress system, many of the repetitive tasks that hinder speeds and accuracies have been taken over by AI. In the recent times, we have influx of none core professionals taking up Prepress, Press and Postpress jobs in the printing industry today and with artificial intelligence at their disposals many of them are excelling in these jobs.

Another example, let us take the latest Heidelberg Speedmaster series, there are several AI facilities in every compartment of the printing machines that aids even a novice printer to be able to navigate and run the printing press successfully.

In the Speedmaster series, there is the intellistart- this is step by step guide that help the operators run the press systematically. There are so many other Artificial intelligence features such as:

Preset 2.0, Wash Assistant, Powder Assistant, and Color Assistant: these Artificial Intelligence (AI) features available in the new generation of Speedmaster presses reduce manual interventions to a minimum and increase the competitiveness of print shops.

When it comes to defining ink curves, washup programs, dryer settings or powder quantities, an intelligent, self-improving algorithm will always be able to take decisions faster
Artificial Intelligence features in the new Speedmaster.

The Artificial intelligence features embedded in the new generation of Speedmaster presses rely on intelligent and self-improving algorithms that can automatically configure complex production parameters which previously, had to be manually defined by “humans”.

This is how these AI features work: during production, all settings and quality measurements are first collected and then automatically evaluated. Regular data patterns are identified and their effect on the production result is learned. The insights are used to optimize the efficiency and quality of upcoming production.

Autonomous process optimization: Preset 2.0.

Available mainly in the feeder and the delivery of the new Speedmaster presses, Preset 2.0 is set of Artificial intelligence features that makes decisions independently and learns continuously. It uses the data pool of the installed base to detect patterns, identify potential, and generate basic settings (default values) that increase the efficiency of print production – autonomously and without human influence.

For Preset 2.0, data from over 600,000 print jobs was analyzed using an algorithm and continuously improved. An improvement in productivity of up to five percent is possible on the basis of the new characteristic curves and settings alone.

Self-learning color setting: Color Assistant Pro.

The Color Assistant Pro software permits continuous, precise optimization of the ink presetting on the press and absolute precision during ink metering. The ink zones are automatically adapted to the status of the ink fountain liner. The intelligent algorithm learns autonomously by performing target/actual comparisons of the settings and automatically specifies new ink zone characteristic curves after a job finishes. Color Assistant Pro avoid mistakes due to manual handling and achieves increased performance independently of the operator.

Optimum powder setting: Powder Assistant.

The innovative Powder Assistant achieves consistent print quality with less powder and therefore also less cleaning time. The intelligent tool independently selects the optimal presetting based on the color assignment and substrate.

Intelligent washup programming: Wash Assistant.

Up to now, the operator decided subjectively which washup program to use. With Wash Assistant, the machine makes the decision. The intelligent Wash Assistant chooses the objective best washup program based on the ink, substrate, and other parameters and more efficiently than a human.

Artificial intelligence (AI) simplifies workflows, enables more accurate prognoses, and creates new, data-based business models. It enables faster decisions on the basis of a wide range of data and real-time information as well as prognoses beyond human capabilities.

Like any technology, AI has both positive aspects (health, safety, taking care of repetitive or tedious tasks) and more worrying aspects (risks of infringement of individual liberties in particular). The changes emerging are potentially destabilizing and require us to approach them with serenity and pragmatism, rather than alarmism or cynicism. We must take into account the reality of the development of artificial intelligence with a clear mind.

It has become imperative for every business leader to begin to interrogate about the impact of artificial intelligence on their sector of activity, open opportunities for the company to improve efficiency, create new services, and simplify the lives of its employees and customers. They must also consider whether the company has the right skills and adequate training programs.

Every Printing company of repute must set up a successful program to raise awareness about artificial intelligence among its managers.

I am of the opinion that both governments and private enterprises should continue to invest in artificial intelligence, but do so in a way that is fully conscious of the human implications. One way would be to apply some of our mathematical fire power to modelling the possible consequences of AI on our economic and social future.

Thank you

Sir. John O. Onuegbulem (Your Guest Columnist)