Cooperative Mode

Overview

Cooperative Mode or Co-op is the concept of running two or more [1] printers as a group for increased capacity and/or redundancy. The Controller printer acts as the main interface for host systems and operators, and distributes the workload to the members in the group.

Benefits include:

  • Simplified integration. No need to distribute jobs to multiple printers or implementing control logic for handover.
  • Simplified operation. Operators can control multiple printers from a single touch screen.
  • Improved capacity. Adding printers increases the capacity proportionally.
  • Redundancy. Adding more printers than required for the capacity can be used for increased throughput by running without stops.
  • Scalability. It is possible to add more printers as capacity requirements increase without need for expensive integration updates.

Definitions

Controller
The printer that acts as the main interface to host systems, or operators.
Member
A printer that is part of a co-op group. Note that the Controller also acts as a member printer.

Printers are denoted as P1, P2, etc in the order of product flow, where the Controller is P1.

../_images/coop-overview.svg

Typical co-op setup

The image depicts an operator touch screen connected to the first printer (P1), which acts as the Controller. Two printers are installed, with an optional third printer drawn in for future scalability.

Typical Configuration

To simplify installation, all Co-op systems are configured in a similar way: Print When Ready, Apply on TRIG2.

Each Co-op system requires one Product Trig, and one Apply Trig for each printer. In the image above, the blue photoelectric sensors are from left to right:

Product Trig
Connected to TRIG1 on the Controller (P1). The product trigger informs the controller that a new product is arriving. It schedules the appropriate print job to a member printer just in time.
Apply Trig P1
Connected to TRIG2 on the Controller (P1), used for triggering apply.
Apply Trig P2
Connected to TRIG2 on P2, used for triggering apply.

If a Distance Sensor should be used, it is connected to the Controller, and triggered with the Product Trig (Product Height Measurement (TRIG1)).

Functional Description

When each product arrives to the Product Trig, it is associated with a print job by the Controller. The Controller schedules the job to the best suited member printer so that the label is printed in time for the application. Dynamic information like time, counters, product height, and other variables are passed to each printer from the controller.

Setup Guide

Cooperative functionality is still considered experimental, so turn on Experimental features from SETTINGS ‣ User Interface ‣ UI Version ‣ Experimental.

This guide only describe the configuration that is specific for Co-op. Other settings like Print and Apply Equipment, Printer Position, Conveyor, and label positioning are configured as usual.

Configure Controller

The first printer in the product flow direction P1 is normally configured as Controller. Start configuration on the SETTINGS ‣ Print and Apply page.

Print and Apply Page

ADVANCED

  • Cooperation ‣ Co-op Role ‣ Controller.
  • Cooperation ‣ Group Name. The default group name is the host name of the controller. It can be changed to any name but all members in the group must have the same group name.
  • Cooperation ‣ Group Target Capacity. Set this to the maximum rate of products that the group should handle. It is used to display if the system is running with reduced capacity or if redundancy is available. It is also important for matching jobs to product position.
  • Cooperation ‣ Queuing Policy. This setting has the same function as Print Jobs ‣ Queuing ‣ Queuing Policy but for jobs recevied by the co-op controller.
  • Cooperation ‣ Stop Group on Product Failed. Enable this to automatically stop the group if the system is unable to label a product. Use it with I/O event Co-op Group Not Online to signal an external system.

Add member printers to the Co-op Group under the Cooperation ‣ Members item.

  1. Expand the Available Printers item to display printers on the network. For two printers it is possible to link them directly with an Ethernet cable. For three or more printers an Ethernet switch is required.
  2. Select a printer, and then tap Add Selected Printer To Group.
  3. The priority of the printer can be changed. Printers with the same priority will share the load equally. Raising the priority to High will favour this printer when it is available.
  • Tap Set Recommended Settings to set Trigger and Print Job settings as required for co-op.

For more details see Cooperation.

Once a member has been added, and it is available on the network, its touchscreen interface can be viewed by expanding the corresponding member item and tap the VNC Connect button.

Warning

The member printer controls and the timeline can show up to four printers.

PRINT AND APPLY

  • Label 1 ‣ Print ‣ When Ready.
  • Label 1 ‣ Apply ‣ TRIG2.
  • Label 1 ‣ Apply ‣ Delay (Buffer Time) 200 ms is recommended.

Trigger Positions

  • Trigger Positions ‣ Data Distance ‣ <distance between Product Trig and P1>. When deciding the distance for TRIG1 (Product Trigger), allow for data processing time, printing and applying.

    Example

    • Conveyor speed: 60 m/min
    • Data processing time: 500 ms
    • Pinting: 1000 ms,
    • Applying target motion: 500 ms

    This gives a required data distance of 2000 mm. With 20% added margin we get a data distance of 2400 mm.

    Tip

    The current data processing time is calculated and displayed below the Data Distance slider. If this is low (below 500 ms) increase the distance and make sure that the TRIG1 sensor is moved accordingly.

  • Trigger Positions ‣ Distance To TRIG2 ‣ <distance between Apply Trig and P1>. When deciding the distance for TRIG2 (Apply Trigger), allow for the longest apply stroke to finish with some margin at the current Conveyor Speed. The trigger must be positioned so that it is triggered by the product after the label has started printing.

    Example

    • Conveyor speed: 60 m/min
    • Applying target motion: 500 ms

    This gives a required apply trig distance of 500 mm. With 20% added margin we get a distance of 600 mm.

    Tip

    The current apply trig delay is calculated and displayed below Distance To TRIG2. If this is negative move the TRIG2 sensor away from the printer. If it is large (above 500 ms), move the sensor closer to the printer.

Print Jobs Page

The Queuing Policy must be set to Match Job to Product Position for the controller and all members. SETTINGS ‣ Print Jobs ‣ Queuing ‣ Queuing Policy ‣ Match Job to Product Position.

Configure Members

The Print and apply settings on the members are similar to the controller. The main difference lies in the Data Distance, which will contain the additional distance between P1 and P2 as well.

ADVANCED

  • Cooperation ‣ Co-op Role ‣ Member.
  • Tap Set Recommended Settings.

PRINT AND APPLY

  • Label 1 ‣ Print ‣ When Ready.
  • Label 1 ‣ Apply ‣ TRIG2.

Trigger Positions

  • Trigger Positions ‣ Data Distance ‣ <distance between Product Trig and P2>.
  • Trigger Positions ‣ Distance To TRIG2 ‣ <distance between Apply Trig and P2>.

Troubleshooting

No label preview is displayed on the controller

The label preview is displayed when a print job has been dispatched to a member printer. This means that the product trigger must be activated and at least one member must be active (online) to get a preview of the active print job.

A label is printed but not applied

  • Use the timeline on the printer in question to check that the apply trigger (TRIG2) is activated when the product passes the sensor. If not, check the sensor and cabling.
  • Check that TRIG2 is activated (start of the blue bar) between the S and E markers on the Apply line. If not, adjust the conveyor speed, data distance (distance to product trigger) and distance to TRIG2 match the actual conditions for all members.

Footnotes

[1]The current interation is limited to four printers, but subsequent releases may support more printers.