2016 Robert F. Reed Technology Medal Winner

Buck Crowley, Buck Automation, Int.

Buck Crowley is the recipient of the 2016 Robert F. Reed Tech- nology Medal, recognizing out- standing engineers, scientists, inventors, and researchers in the graphic communications industry. He has developed more than 65 commercially successful products for the print industry and has been awarded more than 75 United States patents.

The Magazine 10 4.2017

His contributions to the field of inline finishing, waste reduction, and print automation total more than $1 billion in sales.

PIA: How did you choose the printing industry for the focus of your work? BC: The fact that my father was a printer didn’t hurt. I was always a tech guy but I went back to have my father teach me printing as his apprentice. From there, my ideas grew.

PIA: Is there any particular experience that stuck with you in your father’s shop? BC: My father’s training taught me enough that I could then approach master-head-pressmen with useful questions. But it soon became clear that printing was a

“graphic art” and craft with a touch of sorcerer’s magic at that time. This realization is what has driven me to automate the process.

So about 30 years ago, I had computerized most of the web press controls, (splicer, infeed-tension, reg- ister, ink keys, ink/water balance, dryer draw, and cutoff). All these on-press computer controllers were installed with a phone modem, so we could remotely monitor and control all the important elements on many production presses from my desk. Today this is known as IIOT (industrial Internet of things). With

this technology, we could make changes remotely and see how it affected the rest of the process.

We could make measurements and adaptations that eventually allowed us to create autonomous controls. We also electronically tied in the weighing of the waste, which let us collect management status and cost infor- mation. On the splicer and log-stacker, we pioneered barcodes that allowed us to connect to roll inventory and finished goods control.

PIA: Where do you see graphic arts finishing pro- cesses heading in the next few years? BC: I was fortunate to be involved in pioneering inline finishing on high-speed webs. This would initially require 10 to 30 people at the press gathering product. It has taken me 30 years to develop a Traying-On- Press-System (TOPS) that, in conjunction with inkjet and inline finishing, turns a large web press into an automatic mail factory with minimal manpower and maximum productivity. This has been in place with book production for many years, but direct mail is growing and is the biggest print market.

Graphic arts inline finishing processes are significant because they make printing more appealing to the media buyer, and we can increase our share of the media advertising budget. Inline finishing shortens the turn time, eliminates the touchpoints, and reduces waste—all things our customers want.

PIA: How do you formulate your ideas? BC: My designs reflect the operator’s experience. I traditionally would, and still do, stay overnight in a plant just so I can be there on second and third shift. People who have to work at night are more self-reliant and creative because they are relatively unsupervised. Also, I could not automate something I’ve never done myself. I was never a really good machine operator, but


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