Print Leaders Forum: Cutting energy costs for Australian printers

An excerpt from AP March 2020 Print Leaders Forum – by NSSN development manager Dr Donald McCallum, as interviewed by NSSN media and public relations officer Shahrzad Abbasi 

Advances in smart sensing technologies enhance printing processes to optimise energy use and increase product quality.

The push for smart cities includes better people flow, better logistics, better telecoms and interconnectivity, and highly reliable utilities such as water and energy.

Smart sensing technologies enhance energy management inexpensively by identifying opportunities in every stage of the supply and distribution chain.

Dr Donald McCallum, development manager at NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN), said the industry feedback shows a need for innovation and understanding of energy lifecycles in print operations.

“The full picture of energy consumption in most industrial facilities is not completely understood,” Dr McCallum said.

Smart sensing technologies enable businesses to optimise energy consumption and increase production efficiency by identifying where energy is consumed most.

“We understand energy from the first forklift movement of raw materials [coming] in, to the whole value-adding process and print works, to the forklift dispatch,” Dr McCallum said.

The NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) brings together smart sensing expertise from across nine leading universities in New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory to develop innovative solutions to complex challenges faced by the industry and government.

The NSSN was established with funding from the NSW State Government through the Office of the Chief Scientist & Engineer. The Network aims to tackle critical challenges in energy, resources, manufacturing, the environment, transport, agriculture, space and health by developing cutting-edge smart sensing solutions.

“The New South Wales Smart Sensing Network has success across many different industries including water, defence and recycling,” Dr McCallum said.

“So, we’re very well positioned to assist the industry.”

Sensing can enhance printing processes from the input, through to sensing the quality the final product while monitoring the energy consumption along the way.

The NSSN provides access to hundreds of nationally and internationally renowned researchers with expertise in material science, surface chemistry, nanotechnology, automation, energy processes, and low-cost printing of the actual sensors.

Smart sensing enhances the measurement of material properties, size, shapes, colour and more complex elements such as the texture and feel of a printed product.

“By combining smart sensors with emerging paradigms like Artificial Intelligence and machine learning the technology could assist not just in the evaluation of the [output] quality, but also helping with the future designs.”

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning technologies extend on automated control systems to give thinking power to the machines.

“Pixel misalignment is pretty slow and very subjective, machines can be taught to do this on the fly as part of processes,” Dr McCallum said.

Smart packaging is another profit yielding area for Australian printers. Sensors are implemented in smart packaging, to provide a wide range of information about the package lifecycle.

“Smart packaging can give consideration to ensuring that all parts of the packaging and labelling can be radically recycled close to home, Dr McCallum said. “Ensuring that the packages don’t need to be sent offshore.”

“We know where that particular packaging is at any other time. It’s valuable as part of our circular economy, and it comes back to be reused.”

Smart sensing experts can devise and develop individually tailored solutions for integration into the existing printing facilities.

“Printing and exotic fluids, printing and smart packaging, printing and smart labels need not be seen as something separate, but something that we integrate into an existing print business,” Dr McCallum said.

By adopting smart sensing technologies into the printing process, print companies can connect their operations with the broader sensing infrastructure of smart cities without any negative disruption.

Adopting smart sensing technologies into existing print operations means less energy consumption, lower costs, enhanced product quality and better environmental and social outcomes, according to Dr McCallum.

“I just imagine a future not that far, where Australian printing companies have taken the lead globally.”


Dr Donald McCallum is the Development Manager for the NSW Smart Sensing Network, responsible for business development and engagement with key government and industry stakeholders. 

This article was written prior to the impact of COVID-19. The digital version of AP March 2020 is available here.

And as part of AP’s 70 anniversary, we’re pulling together a list of 70 local industry pioneers – you can make your nominations here.



Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at [email protected]  

Sign up to the Sprinter newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.