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Publication numberUS20080258374 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/020,702
Publication date23 Oct 2008
Filing date28 Jan 2008
Priority date30 Jan 2007
Publication number020702, 12020702, US 2008/0258374 A1, US 2008/258374 A1, US 20080258374 A1, US 20080258374A1, US 2008258374 A1, US 2008258374A1, US-A1-20080258374, US-A1-2008258374, US2008/0258374A1, US2008/258374A1, US20080258374 A1, US20080258374A1, US2008258374 A1, US2008258374A1
InventorsKatsuhiro Inoue
Original AssigneeCanon Kabushiki Kaisha
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Printing system, control method thereof, program, and storage medium
US 20080258374 A1
Abstract
An object of this invention is to process as many print jobs as possible even if requests to print various types of print jobs requiring various types of print media are simultaneously intensively accepted. Another object of this invention is to build a convenient, flexible printing environment where the productivity of one job is increased by shortening the time taken to end printing one print job after the start of printing. To accomplish them, a control unit (205) in a printing system (1000) accepts an instruction “to attach importance to productivity”. In this case, the control unit (205) causes the printing system (1000) to automatically execute the first operation without any operator operation and without stopping the printing operation when the remaining numbers of print media in all available feeding units used in print processing have reached a lower limit value.
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Claims(13)
1. A printing system which enables a printing apparatus to use print media in a plurality of feeding units, the system selectively switching and executing, based on a condition without an explicit instruction from an operator, a first operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by causing the printing apparatus to use all print media in one feeding unit and then causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit, and a second operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by causing the printing apparatus to use some of print media in one feeding unit and while print media remain in the feeding unit, causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit.
2. The system according to claim 1, comprising a control unit configured to select one of the first operation and the second operation on the basis of status information of the printing system.
3. The system according to claim 1, comprising a control unit configured to select one of the first operation and the second operation on the basis of information on the feeding unit.
4. The system according to claim 1, comprising a control unit configured to
when the remaining number of print media in the feeding unit in use for the second operation has reached a lower limit value, allow continuing the printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by using print media in another feeding unit, and
when the remaining numbers of print media in all feeding units available for the second operation have reached the lower limit value, switch the second operation to the first operation.
5. The system according to claim 1, comprising a control unit configured to, when the feeding unit is refilled with print media during execution of the first operation and the remaining number of print media exceeds a lower limit value, switch the first operation to the second operation.
6. The system according to claim 1, wherein the feeding unit can be locked, the feeding unit in use is controlled to be locked, and the feeding unit not in use is controlled to be unlocked.
7. The system according to claim 4, wherein said control unit unlocks all feeding units in which the remaining numbers of print media have reached the lower limit value, except the feeding unit in use during the second operation, and allows refilling, with print media, all the feeding units in which the remaining numbers of print media have reached the lower limit value.
8. The system according to claim 4, wherein said control unit unlocks all feeding units in which the remaining numbers of print media have reached the lower limit value, except the feeding unit in use during the second operation, and displays a request via a user interface unit to refill, with print media, all the feeding units in which the remaining numbers of print media have reached the lower limit value.
9. The system according to claim 4, wherein said control unit keeps unlocking all feeding units in which the remaining numbers of print media have reached the lower limit value, except the feeding unit in use during the second operation, and causes the printing apparatus to use print media in a feeding unit refilled with print media.
10. The system according to claim 4, wherein when the remaining numbers of print media in a designated number of feeding units out of feeding units available for the second operation have reached the lower limit value, said control unit inhibits execution of the second operation, and executes the first operation.
11. The system according to claim 4, wherein a control unit causes the printing system to execute the first operation or the second operation by prompting the operator via a user interface unit to set the first operation or the second operation depending on a type of job to be processed.
12. A method for controlling a printing system which enables a printing apparatus to use print media in a plurality of feeding units, comprising
selectively switching and executing, based on a condition without an explicit instruction from an operator, a first operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by causing the printing apparatus to use all print media in one feeding unit and then causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit, and a second operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by causing the printing apparatus to use some of print media in one feeding unit and while print media remain in the feeding unit, causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit.
13. A computer-readable storage medium storing a program which causes a computer to execute a control method defined in claim 12.
Description
    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0002]
    The present invention relates to a printing system capable of accepting a plurality of jobs, and a control method thereof.
  • [0003]
    2. Description of the Related Art
  • [0004]
    In a conventional printing industry, a publication is issued through various work steps such as entry of a document, designing of the document, layout editing, comprehensive layout (presentation by printing), proofreading (layout correction and color correction), proof (proof print), block copy preparation, printing, post-processing, and shipping.
  • [0005]
    In the conventional printing industry, an offset reproduction printing press has been used in the printing step, requiring the block copy preparation step. However, once the block copy is prepared, it is difficult to correct the block copy. If the block copy is corrected, the cost rises. In block copy preparation, therefore, careful proofreading (i.e., careful layout check and color confirmation) is indispensable. Some period of time is generally taken until a publication is issued.
  • [0006]
    Most apparatuses used in respective work steps are bulky and require expert knowledge, and know-how of experts is indispensable.
  • [0007]
    In this situation, POD (Print On Demand) printing systems using electrophotographic and inkjet printing apparatuses are proposed recently (see Japanese Patent Laid-Open Nos. 2004-310746 and 2004-310747).
  • [0008]
    The POD printing system does not require the above-mentioned block copy preparation and other complicated work steps.
  • [0009]
    As feeding control of a printing apparatus, control to perform ACC (Auto Cassette Change) after a cassette runs out of sheets has conventionally been employed. This control follows a sequence: (1) to try to pick up a sheet, (2) to detect that there is no sheet to be picked up, (3) to print all sheets in process, deliver them out of the apparatus, and stop the printing operation, and (4) to search for sheets capable of continuing printing, and continue feeding from another feeding stage. According to this sequence, a downtime is generated because the printing operation stops once till the next feeding start timing after it is detected that sheets run out.
  • [0010]
    A digital printing system needs to increase productivity by shortening the downtime.
  • [0011]
    As a method of shortening the downtime; the present invention gives attention to a configuration using a control sequence of, before sheets run out, detecting that the number of sheets has reached a predetermined value, and switching the feeding stage to the next feeding candidate. This configuration can be expected to omit (3) “to print all sheets in process, deliver them outside the apparatus, and stop the printing operation”. This configuration can also be expected to shorten the downtime. However, the following problems still remain unsolved.
  • [0012]
    (Problem 1) Special sheets and expensive sheets cannot be used up.
  • [0013]
    (Problem 2) When a small number of special sheets are used, they always exist in a feeding unit. Thus, a specific feeding unit is always occupied with a small number of special sheets.
  • [0014]
    (Problem 3) When many jobs use sheets of the same type, the total productivity of the jobs may decrease.
  • [0015]
    These problems can be effectively solved by switching between the following first and second operations in accordance with an explicit setting by an operator. The first operation is to complete a necessary printing operation by causing a printing apparatus to use all print media in one feeding unit and then causing it to use print media in another feeding unit. The second operation is to complete a necessary printing operation by causing a printing apparatus to use some of print media in one feeding unit and while print media still remains in this feeding unit, causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit. However, the following problem cannot be solved by this proposal.
  • [0016]
    For example, when print media remain in all available feeding units in the second operation of, while print media still remains in a given feeding unit, causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit, the feeding operation needs to stop. In this case, the system needs to request an operator to feed sheets. Also, the system may stop while print media remain in all feeding units.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0017]
    The present invention allows realization of providing a convenient printing system applicable not only to the office environment but also to the POD environment.
  • [0018]
    The present invention also allows realization of providing a mechanism of minimizing intervention work by an operator which may occur in the POD environment owing to, e.g., the specifications of an image forming apparatus designed in consideration of only the office environment. The present invention also allows realization of reducing the work load on an operator and implementing efficient work. Especially, the present invention allows realization of providing a mechanism capable of solving the above-described problems which cannot be solved by the configuration assumed in Description of the Related Art in which the first and second operations can be selected in accordance with an explicit instruction from a user.
  • [0019]
    The present invention also allows realization of providing a mechanism capable of flexibly meeting various needs from various users as much as possible on the assumption of various situations and use environments.
  • [0020]
    According to the present invention, the foregoing problem is solved by providing a printing system which enables a printing apparatus to use print media in a plurality of feeding units, the system selectively switching and executing, based on a condition without an explicit instruction from an operator, a first operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by causing the printing apparatus to use all print media in one feeding unit and then causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit, and a second operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by causing the printing apparatus to use some of print media in one feeding unit and while print media remain in the feeding unit, causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit.
  • [0021]
    According to another aspect of the present invention, the foregoing problem is solved by providing a method for controlling a printing system which enables a printing apparatus to use print media in a plurality of feeding units, comprising
  • [0022]
    selectively switching and executing, based on a condition without an explicit instruction from an operator, a first operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by causing the printing apparatus to use all print media in one feeding unit and then causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit, and a second operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one job to be processed by causing the printing apparatus to use some of print media in one feeding unit and while print media remain in the feeding unit, causing the printing apparatus to use print media in another feeding unit.
  • [0023]
    Further features of the present invention will be apparent from the following description of exemplary embodiments with reference to the attached drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0024]
    FIG. 1 is a view for explaining an overall configuration of a printing environment including a printing system 1000 to be controlled in an embodiment;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 2 is a block diagram for explaining a configuration of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 3 is a view for explaining a configuration of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 4 is a view for explaining an example of a UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0028]
    FIG. 5 is a view for explaining an example of the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 6 is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0030]
    FIG. 7 is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0031]
    FIG. 8A is a view for explaining a control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0032]
    FIG. 8B is a view for explaining the control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0033]
    FIG. 9A is a view for explaining a control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0034]
    FIG. 9B is a view for explaining the control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0035]
    FIG. 10A is a view for explaining a control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0036]
    FIG. 10B is a view for explaining the control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0037]
    FIG. 11 is a sectional view for explaining an internal structure of an inline finisher to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0038]
    FIG. 12 is a sectional view for explaining an internal structure of an inline finisher to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0039]
    FIG. 13 is a sectional view for explaining an internal structure of an inline finisher to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0040]
    FIG. 14 is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0041]
    FIG. 15 is a view for explaining a control example when creating a printed material by the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0042]
    FIG. 16 is a view for explaining a control example when creating a printed material by the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0043]
    FIG. 17A is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0044]
    FIG. 17B is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0045]
    FIG. 18A is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0046]
    FIG. 18B is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0047]
    FIG. 18C is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0048]
    FIG. 18D is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0049]
    FIG. 19 is a view showing another system configuration of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment;
  • [0050]
    FIG. 20 is a perspective view for explaining control associated with a large-volume stacker in the embodiment;
  • [0051]
    FIG. 21 is a flowchart for explaining an operation sequence when the remaining numbers of sheets in all available paper cassettes have reached a lower limit value in the embodiment;
  • [0052]
    FIG. 22 is a flowchart for explaining an operation sequence when the remaining numbers of sheets in all available paper cassettes have reached a lower limit value in the embodiment;
  • [0053]
    FIG. 23 is a flowchart for explaining an operation sequence when the remaining numbers of sheets in all available paper cassettes have reached a lower limit value in the embodiment;
  • [0054]
    FIG. 24 is a view for explaining the timing to switch a feeding stage between the first and second operations;
  • [0055]
    FIG. 25 is a view for explaining a feeding stage switching sequence in the operation sequence of FIG. 21;
  • [0056]
    FIG. 26 is a view for explaining settings made on an operation unit in the embodiment;
  • [0057]
    FIG. 27 is a view for explaining settings made on the operation unit in the embodiment;
  • [0058]
    FIG. 28 is a view for explaining settings made on the operation unit in the embodiment;
  • [0059]
    FIG. 29 is a view for explaining settings made on the operation unit in the embodiment;
  • [0060]
    FIG. 30 is a view for explaining settings made on the operation unit in the embodiment; and
  • [0061]
    FIG. 31 is a view for explaining the memory map of a storage medium (recording medium) which stores various data processing programs readable by an information processing apparatus according to the present invention.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS
  • [0062]
    Preferred embodiments of the present invention will now be described in detail with reference to the drawings. It should be noted that the relative arrangement of the components, the numerical expressions and numerical values set forth in these embodiments do not limit the scope of the present invention unless it is specifically stated otherwise.
  • [0063]
    The configuration of a printing system and that of an entire printing environment including the printing system according to an embodiment of the present invention will be described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 20. After that, configurations particularly important for solving the conventional problems described above will be described with reference to FIGS. 21 to 31.
  • [0064]
    [Description of System Configuration of Entire Printing Environment Including Printing System 1000]
  • [0065]
    FIG. 1 is a view for explaining an overall configuration of a printing environment including a printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0066]
    The embodiment assumes a printing environment such as the POD environment different from the office environment in order to solve problems described in Description of the Related Art. The embodiment will explain the system environment of an entire POD printing system 10000 including the printing system 1000. The printing environment itself is a feature of the embodiment. In the embodiment, a printing environment where the printing system 1000 is applicable is also suited to the POD environment and is called a POD printing system.
  • [0067]
    The POD printing system 10000 in FIG. 1 comprises, as building components, the printing system 1000 of the embodiment, a PC (server computer) 103, and a PC (client computer) 104. The POD printing system 10000 also comprises a paper folding apparatus 107, cutting apparatus 109, saddle stitching apparatus 110, case binding apparatus 108, scanner 102, and the like. In this manner, a plurality of apparatuses are prepared in the POD printing system 10000.
  • [0068]
    The printing system 1000 comprises a printing apparatus 100 and sheet processing apparatus 200 as building components. As an example of the printing apparatus 100, the embodiment will explain a multi-function peripheral having a plurality of functions such as the copy function and PC print function. However, the printing apparatus 100 may be a single function type printing apparatus having only the PC function or copy function. The multi-function peripheral will also be called an MFP hereinafter.
  • [0069]
    The paper folding apparatus 107, cutting apparatus 109, saddle stitching apparatus 110, and case binding apparatus 108 in FIG. 1 are defined as sheet processing apparatuses, similar to the sheet processing apparatus 200 of the printing system 1000. This is because these apparatuses can execute sheet processes for sheets of a job printed by the printing apparatus 100 of the printing system 1000.
  • [0070]
    For example, the paper folding apparatus 107 can fold sheets of a job printed by the printing apparatus 100. The cutting apparatus 109 can cut a bundle of sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100. The saddle stitching apparatus 110 can saddle-stitch sheets of a job printed by the printing apparatus 100. The case binding apparatus 108 can case-bind sheets of a job printed by the printing apparatus 100.
  • [0071]
    To execute various sheet processes by these sheet processing apparatuses, the operator needs to take out a printed material of a job printed by the printing apparatus 100 from the delivery unit of the printing apparatus 100, and set the printed material in a target sheet processing apparatus.
  • [0072]
    When using a sheet processing apparatus other than the sheet processing apparatus 200 of the printing system 1000, intervention work by the operator is required after print processing by the printing apparatus 100.
  • [0073]
    In other words, when the sheet processing apparatus 200 of the printing system 1000 executes sheet processing required for a job printed by the printing apparatus 100, no intervention work by the operator is necessary after the printing apparatus 100 executes print processing. This is because the printing apparatus 100 can directly supply sheets printed by it to the sheet processing apparatus 200.
  • [0074]
    More specifically, the sheet feeding path in the printing apparatus 100 can be coupled to that in the sheet processing apparatus 200. The sheet processing apparatus 200 and printing apparatus 100 of the printing system 1000 are physically connected to each other. In addition, the printing apparatus 100 and sheet processing apparatus 200 comprise CPUs and can communicate data. The printing apparatus 100 and sheet processing apparatus 200 are electrically connected to each other.
  • [0075]
    In the embodiment, the control unit of the printing system comprehensively controls the printing apparatus 100 and sheet processing apparatus 200. For example, in the embodiment, a control unit 205 in the printing apparatus 100 in FIG. 2 performs comprehensive control. In the embodiment, these sheet processing apparatuses are also called post-processing apparatuses or post-presses.
  • [0076]
    All these apparatuses in the POD printing system 10000 of FIG. 1 except the saddle stitching apparatus 110 are connected to a network 101 and can communicate data with each other.
  • [0077]
    For example, the printing apparatus 100 prints print data of a target job whose printing execution request is transmitted via the network 101 from an information processing apparatus serving as an example of external apparatuses such as the PCs 103 and 104.
  • [0078]
    For example, the PC 103 manages all jobs to be processed in the POD printing system 10000 by transmitting/receiving data to/from another apparatus by network communication. In other words, the PC 103 functions as a computer which comprehensively manages a series of workflow steps including a plurality of processing steps. The PC 103 determines post-processing conditions capable of finishing in the POD printing system 10000 on the basis of a job instruction accepted from an operator. In addition, the PC 103 designates a post-processing (finishing) step complying with a request from an end user (customer who requests printing in this example). At this time, the PC 103 uses information exchange tools such as JDF to exchange information with respective post-processing devices using commands and statuses in post-presses.
  • [0079]
    As a point of the embodiment in the POD printing system 10000 having the above-mentioned building components, the embodiment classifies the above sheet processing apparatuses into three categories and defines them as follows.
  • [0080]
    [Definition 1] A sheet processing apparatus which satisfies both (condition 1) and (condition 2) listed below is defined as an “inline finisher”. The embodiment also refers to an apparatus satisfying this definition as an inline type sheet processing apparatus.
  • [0081]
    (Condition 1) The paper path (sheet feeding path) of a sheet processing apparatus is physically connected to the printing apparatus 100 so that the sheet processing apparatus can directly receive sheets conveyed from the printing apparatus 100 without any operator intervention.
  • [0082]
    (Condition 2) A sheet processing apparatus is electrically connected to another apparatus so as to communicate data necessary for an operation instruction, status confirmation, and the like with another apparatus. More specifically, a sheet processing apparatus is electrically connected to the printing apparatus 100 so as to communicate data with it, or electrically connected to an apparatus (e.g., the PC 103 or 104) other than the printing apparatus 100 via the network 101 so as to communicate data with the apparatus. A sheet processing apparatus which satisfies at least either condition meets (condition 2).
  • [0083]
    More specifically, the sheet processing apparatus 200 of the printing system 1000 corresponds to an “inline finisher”. This is because the sheet processing apparatus 200 is physically and electrically connected to the printing apparatus 100, as described above.
  • [0084]
    [Definition 2] A sheet processing apparatus which satisfies not (condition 1) but (condition 2) out of (condition 1) and (condition 2) listed above is defined as a “near-line finisher”. The embodiment also refers to an apparatus satisfying this definition as a near-line type sheet processing apparatus.
  • [0085]
    For example, the paper path of a sheet processing apparatus is not connected to the printing apparatus 100, and the sheet processing apparatus requires intervention work by an operator such as carrying of a printed material. However, the sheet processing apparatus can electrically exchange information such as an operation instruction and status confirmation via a communication means such as the network 101. A sheet processing apparatus which meets these conditions will be defined as a “near-line finisher”.
  • [0086]
    More specifically, the paper folding apparatus 107, cutting apparatus 109, saddle stitching apparatus 110, and case binding apparatus 108 in FIG. 1 correspond to “near-line finishers”. This is because these sheet processing apparatuses are not physically connected to the printing apparatus 100, but are electrically connected to another apparatus such as the PC 103 or 104 via the network 101 so as to communicate data.
  • [0087]
    [Definition 3] A sheet processing apparatus which satisfies neither (condition 1) nor (condition 2) listed above is defined as an “offline finisher”. The embodiment also refers to an apparatus satisfying this definition as an offline type sheet processing apparatus.
  • [0088]
    For example, the paper path of a sheet processing apparatus is not connected to the printing apparatus 100, and the sheet processing apparatus requires intervention work by an operator such as carrying of a printed material. Further, the sheet processing apparatus does not comprise any communication unit necessary for an operation instruction and status confirmation, and cannot operator carries an output material, sets it, manually inputs an operation, and manually gives a status report from the device. A sheet processing apparatus which meets these conditions will be defined as an “offline finisher”.
  • [0089]
    More specifically, the saddle stitching apparatus 110 in FIG. 1 corresponds to an “offline finisher”. This is because this sheet processing apparatus is not physically connected to the printing apparatus 100, cannot be connected to the network 101, is not electrically connected to another apparatus, and cannot communicate data to another apparatus.
  • [0090]
    Various sheet processes are executable in the POD printing system 10000 having various sheet processing apparatuses classified into these three categories.
  • [0091]
    For example, printed media of a job printed by the printing apparatus 100 can undergo various sheet processes such as cutting, saddle stitching, case binding, sheet folding, punching, sealing, and collation. Sheets can be processed in a bookbinding printing style the end user (client) wants.
  • [0092]
    Near-line finishers and offline finishers managed by the PC 103 include various finishers such as a dedicated stapler, dedicated puncher, inserter, and collator.
  • [0093]
    The PC 103 grasps a device status and job status from near-line finishers via the network 101 by sequential polling or the like using a predetermined protocol. In addition, the PC 103 manages the execution statuses (progresses) of many jobs processed by the POD printing system 10000.
  • [0094]
    In the embodiment, different sheet processing apparatuses may execute a plurality of types of print sheet processes described above, or one sheet processing apparatus may execute them. The printing system may comprise any of sheet processing apparatuses.
  • [0095]
    Another point of the embodiment will be explained.
  • [0096]
    The printing system 1000 in FIG. 1 comprises the printing apparatus 100, and the sheet processing apparatus 200 detachable from the printing apparatus 100. The sheet processing apparatus 200 can directly receive, via the sheet feeding path, sheets of a job printed by the printing apparatus 100. The sheet processing apparatus 200 executes sheet processing requested by a user together with a printing execution request via a user interface unit for sheets of a job printed by a printer unit 203 of the printing apparatus 100. This is apparent from the fact that the sheet processing apparatus 200 is an inline type sheet processing apparatus, as described above.
  • [0097]
    It should be noted that the sheet processing apparatus 200 in the embodiment can also be defined as a group of sheet processing apparatuses 200. This is because in the embodiment, a plurality of sheet processing apparatuses, which are independent housings and independently available, can be coupled to the printing apparatus 100 and used as the sheet processing apparatus 200.
  • [0098]
    For example, the printing system 1000 shown in FIG. 1 comprises the printing apparatus 100 and three sheet processing apparatuses. In other words, in the printing system 1000 in FIG. 1, three sheet processing apparatuses are series-connected to the printing apparatus 100. In the embodiment, a configuration in which a plurality of sheet processing apparatuses are connected to the printing apparatus 100 is called cascade connection.
  • [0099]
    The embodiment handles, as inline finishers, all sheet processing apparatuses included in a group of sheet processing apparatuses 200 cascade-connected to the printing apparatus 100. The control unit 205 in FIG. 2 serving as an example of the control unit of the printing system 1000 comprehensively controls the printing apparatus 100 and a plurality of inline type sheet processing apparatuses, and executes various control examples to be described below in the embodiment. The embodiment also has this feature. This configuration will be described later with reference to FIG. 3 and the like.
  • [0100]
    [Internal Configuration (Mainly Software Configuration) of Printing System 1000]
  • [0101]
    The internal configuration (mainly software configuration) of the printing system 1000 will be explained with reference to FIG. 2.
  • [0102]
    FIG. 2 is a block diagram for explaining a configuration of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0103]
    In the embodiment, the printing apparatus 100 incorporates all the units of the printing system 1000 shown in FIG. 2 except the sheet processing apparatus 200 (strictly speaking, a group of sheet processing apparatuses configurable by a plurality of inline type sheet processing apparatuses).
  • [0104]
    In other words, the sheet processing apparatus 200 is detachable from the printing apparatus 100, and is providable as an option of the printing apparatus 100. This configuration aims to provide a necessary number of necessary inline finishers in the POD environment. For this purpose, the printing system 1000 adopts the following configuration.
  • [0105]
    The printing apparatus 100 incorporates a nonvolatile memory such as a HDD (to be referred to as an HD hereinafter) 209 capable of storing a plurality of job data to be processed. The printing apparatus 100 has a copy function of printing, by the printer unit 203 via the HD, job data accepted from a scanner unit 201 of the printing apparatus 100. The printing apparatus 100 also has a print function of printing, by the printer unit 203 via the HD, job data accepted from an external apparatus such as the PC 103 or 104 via an external I/F 202 serving as an example of a communication unit. The printing apparatus 100 is an MFP type printing apparatus (to be also referred to as an image forming apparatus) having a plurality of functions.
  • [0106]
    The printing apparatus according to the embodiment can take any form such as a color or monochrome printing apparatus as long as it can execute various control examples described in the embodiment.
  • [0107]
    The printing apparatus 100 according to the embodiment comprises the scanner unit 201 which scans an original document image and processes scanned image data. The printing apparatus 100 also comprises the external I/F 202 which transmits/receives image data to/from a facsimile device, network connection device, or external dedicated device. The printing apparatus 100 comprises the HDD 209 capable of storing image data of jobs to be printed that are accepted from either the scanner unit 201 or external I/F 202. The printing apparatus 100 comprises the printer unit 203 which prints target job data stored in the HDD 209 on a print
  • [0108]
    The printing apparatus 100 further comprises an operation unit 204 which has a display unit and serves as an example of the user interface unit of the printing system 1000. Other examples of the user interface unit provided by the printing system 1000 are the display unit, keyboard, and mouse of an external apparatus such as the PC 103 or 104.
  • [0109]
    The controller (to be also referred to as a control unit or CPU) 205 serving as an example of the control unit of the printing system 1000 comprehensively controls the processes, operations, and the like of various units of the printing system 1000.
  • [0110]
    A ROM 207 stores various control programs necessary in the embodiment including programs for executing various processes of flowcharts shown in FIGS. 21 to 23 and the like. The ROM 207 also stores a display control program for displaying various UI windows on the display unit of the operation unit 204 including user interface windows (to be referred to as UI windows hereinafter) shown in the drawings.
  • [0111]
    The control unit 205 reads out and executes programs from the ROM 207, and causes the printing apparatus 100 to execute various operations described in the embodiment. The ROM 207 also stores, e.g., a program for executing an operation to interpret PDL (Page Description Language) code data received from an external apparatus (e.g. the PC 103 or 104) via the external I/F 202, and rasterize the PDL code data into raster image data (bitmap image data). These programs are processed by software.
  • [0112]
    The ROM 207 is a read-only memory, and stores programs (e.g., a boot sequence and font information) and various programs (e.g., the above-mentioned programs) in advance.
  • [0113]
    A RAM 208 is a readable/writable memory, and stores image data, various programs, and setting information sent from the scanner unit 201 or external I/F 202 via a memory controller.
  • [0114]
    The HDD (Hard Disk Drive) 209 is a large-capacity storage device which stores image data compressed by a compression/decompression unit 210. The HDD 209 can hold a plurality of data such as print data of a job to be processed.
  • [0115]
    The control unit 205 controls the printer unit 203 to print, via the HDD 209, target job data which are input via various input units such as the scanner unit 201 and external I/F 202. The control unit 205 also controls to transmit job data to an external apparatus via the external I/F 202. In this fashion, the control unit 205 controls to execute various output processes for target job data stored in the HDD 209.
  • [0116]
    The compression/decompression unit 210 compresses/decompresses image data and the like stored in the RAM 208 and HDD 209 in accordance with various compression schemes such as JBIG and JPEG.
  • [0117]
    With the above-described configuration, the control unit 205 serving as an example of the control unit of the printing system controls even the operation of the inline type sheet processing apparatus 200, as shown in FIG. 1. The mechanical structure of the printing system 1000 including a description of this operation will be explained with reference to FIG. 3 and the like.
  • [0118]
    [Apparatus Configuration (Mainly Mechanical Structure) of Printing System 1000]
  • [0119]
    The configuration (mainly mechanical structure) of the printing system 1000 will be explained with reference to FIG. 3. FIG. 3 is a view for explaining a configuration of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0120]
    As described above, in the printing system 1000, a plurality of inline type sheet processing apparatuses can be cascade-connected to the printing apparatus 100. An arbitrary number of inline type sheet processing apparatuses connectable to the printing apparatus 100 can be installed in accordance with the use environment in order to enhance the effects of the embodiment under specific limitations.
  • [0121]
    To make the description clearer, N sheet of sheet processing apparatuses in FIGS. 2 and 3.
  • [0122]
    Sheet processing apparatuses are defined as sheet processing apparatuses 200 a, 200 b, . . . , 200 n sequentially from the first sheet processing apparatus, and the nth sheet processing apparatus is defined as a sheet processing apparatus 200 n. For descriptive convenience, each sheet processing apparatus 200 has a shape as shown in FIGS. 1 to 3, but has an actual appearance to be described later.
  • [0123]
    A mechanical structure will be explained when the printing apparatus 100 executes print processing corresponding to a step preceding to sheet processes executed by the inline type sheet processing apparatuses 200. A paper handling operation and the like until sheets of a printed job are supplied from the printer unit 203 into the sheet processing apparatus 200 will be explained. The controller (to be also referred to as a control unit or CPU hereinafter) 205 in FIG. 2 causes the printing apparatus 100 to mainly execute the paper handling operation and the like.
  • [0124]
    Of reference numerals 301 to 322 shown in FIG. 3, reference numeral 301 corresponds to the mechanical structure of the scanner unit 201 in FIG. 2. Reference numerals 302 to 322 correspond to the mechanical structure of the printer unit 203 in FIG. 2. The embodiment will describe the structure of a ID type color MFP. A 4D type color MFP and monochrome MFP are also examples of the printing apparatus according to the embodiment, but a description thereof will be omitted.
  • [0125]
    The auto document feeder (ADF) 301 in FIG. 3 separates the first and subsequent original document sheets in the order of pages from an original document bundle set on the support surface of the document tray, and feeds each original document sheet to the document table glass. The scanning unit 302 scans and reads the image of the original document sheet fed onto the document table glass, and converts the image into image data by a CCD. A light ray (e.g., a laser beam) modulated in accordance with the image data strikes the rotary polygon mirror 303, and irradiates the photosensitive drum 304 as a reflected scan beam via a reflecting mirror. A latent image formed by the laser beam on the photosensitive drum 304 is developed with toner. The toner image is transferred onto a sheet material supported on the transfer drum 305. A series of image forming processes is executed sequentially with yellow (Y), magenta (M), cyan (C), and black (K) toners, forming a full-color image. After four image forming processes, the sheet material bearing the full-color image is separated by the separation gripper 306 from the transfer drum 305, and conveyed to the fixing unit 308 by the pre-fixing conveyor 307.
  • [0126]
    The fixing unit 308 comprises a combination of rollers and belts, and incorporates a heat source such as a halogen heater. The fixing unit 308 fuses and fixes, by heat and pressure, toner on a sheet material bearing a toner image. The delivery flapper 309 is swingable about the swing shaft, and regulates the sheet material conveyance direction. When the delivery flapper 309 swings clockwise in FIG. 3, a sheet material is conveyed straight, and discharged outside the apparatus by the delivery rollers 310. To form images on the two surfaces of a sheet material, the delivery flapper 309 swings counterclockwise in FIG. 3. The course of the sheet material changes downward to supply the sheet material to the double-sided conveyor. The double-sided conveyor comprises the reverse flapper 311, reverse rollers 312, reverse guide 313, and double-sided tray 314.
  • [0127]
    The reverse flapper 311 is swingable about the swing shaft, and regulates the sheet material conveyance direction. To process a double-sided print job, the control unit 205 controls to swing the reverse flapper 311 counterclockwise in FIG. 3 and supply a sheet having the first surface printed by the printer unit 203 to the reverse guide 313 via the reverse rollers 312. While the reverse rollers 312 clamp the trailing end of the sheet material, the reverse rollers 312 temporarily stop, the reverse flapper 311 swings clockwise in FIG. 3, and the reverse rollers 312 rotate backward. The sheet is switched back to replace its trailing and leading ends, and then the sheet is guided to the double-sided tray 314.
  • [0128]
    The double-sided tray 314 temporarily supports the sheet material, and the refeed roller 315 supplies the sheet material again to the registration rollers 316. At this time, the sheet material is sent with a surface opposite to the first surface in the transfer step facing the photosensitive drum. The second image is formed on the second surface of the sheet by the same process as that described above. After the images are formed on the two surfaces of the sheet material, the sheet undergoes the fixing step and is discharged from the printing apparatus main body to outside the apparatus via the delivery rollers 310. The control unit 205 executes this double-sided print sequence, and allows the printing apparatus 100 to execute double-sided printing of target job data on the first and second surfaces of a sheet.
  • [0129]
    The sheet feed/conveyance section comprises the paper cassettes 317 and 318 (each capable of storing, e.g., 500 sheets) as feeding units storing sheets necessary for print processing, the paper deck 319 (capable of storing, e.g., 5,000 sheets), and the manual feed tray 320. Units for feeding sheets stored in these feeding units are the pickup rollers 321, registration rollers 316, and the like. The paper cassettes 317 and 318 and the paper deck 319 are configured to be able to set sheets of various materials at various sheet sizes in distinction from each other in the feeding units.
  • [0130]
    The manual feed tray 320 is also configured to be able to set a variety of print media including a special sheet such as an OHP sheet. The paper cassettes 317 and 318, the paper deck 319, and the manual feed tray 320 respectively have the pickup rollers 321, and are configured to be able to successively feed sheets one by one. For example, a pickup roller sequentially picks up stacked sheet materials. A separation roller facing the pickup roller 321 prevents multi feed, and sheet materials are supplied one by one to the conveyance guide. The separation roller receives, via a torque limiter (not shown), a driving force for rotating the separation roller in a direction opposite to the conveyance direction. When only one sheet material enters a nip formed between the separation roller and the pickup roller, the separation roller rotates in the conveyance direction following the sheet material.
  • [0131]
    If multi feed occurs, the separation roller rotates in the direction opposite to the conveyance direction to set back the multi-fed sheet materials and supply only one top sheet material. The supplied sheet material is guided between the conveyance guides, and conveyed to the registration rollers 316 by a plurality of conveyance rollers. At this time, the registration rollers 316 stand still. The leading end of the sheet material abuts against the nip formed between the pair of registration rollers 316. Then, the sheet material forms a loop to correct skew. The registration rollers 316 start rotating to convey the sheet material in synchronism with the timing of a toner image formed on the photosensitive drum 304 in the image forming section. By the attraction roller 322, the sheet material sent by the registration rollers 316 is electrostatically attracted onto the surface of the transfer drum 305. The sheet material discharged from the fixing unit 308 is introduced into the sheet feeding path in the sheet processing apparatus 200 via the delivery rollers 310.
  • [0132]
    Through the above-described print process, the control unit 205 processes a job to be printed. The control unit 205 causes the printer unit 203 by the above-described method to print job print data stored in the HDD 209 from a data generation source on the basis of a printing execution request accepted from a user via the UI unit.
  • [0133]
    For example, the data generation source of a job whose printing execution request is accepted from the operation unit 204 means the scanner unit 201. The data generation source of a job whose printing execution request is accepted from a host computer is the host computer, as a mater of course.
  • [0134]
    The control unit 205 stores print data of a job to be processed sequentially from the start page in the HDD 209, and reads out the print data of the job sequentially from the start page from the HDD 209 to form the image of the print data on a sheet. The control unit 205 performs this start page processing. In addition, the control unit 205 supplies printed sheets sequentially from the start page to the sheet feeding path in the sheet processing apparatus 200 with the image surfaces of the sheets facing down. For this purpose, immediately before a sheet enters the sheet processing apparatus 200 via the delivery rollers 310, the control unit 205 causes the delivery flapper 309, reverse rollers 312, and the like to execute a switchback operation to reverse the sheet traveling from the fixing unit 308. The control unit 205 also executes paper handling control for the start page processing.
  • [0135]
    The arrangement of the inline type sheet processing apparatus 200 of the printing system 1000 also having the printing apparatus 100 will be explained. As shown in FIG. 3, the printing system 1000 according to the embodiment comprises a total of n inline type sheet processing apparatuses cascade-connectable to the printing apparatus 100. The number of installed inline type sheet processing apparatuses is arbitrary as much as possible. However, the printing system 1000 must utilize at least a sheet processing apparatus which can supply a sheet printed by the printer unit 203 to an internal sheet processing unit without any intervention work by an operator. In other words, the printing system 1000 must utilize a sheet processing apparatus having a sheet feeding path (paper path) capable of conveying, within the apparatus, a print medium discharged from the printer unit 203 via the delivery rollers 310 of the printing apparatus 100. The printing system 1000 is configured to follow this restriction.
  • [0136]
    The printing system 1000 is flexibly configurable as long as it follows this restriction, as one mechanism for enhancing the effects of the embodiment. For example, the number of connected inline type sheet processing apparatuses is arbitrary such as three or five. The embodiment also assumes the POD environment where the administrator determines that no inline type sheet processing apparatus is necessary, in order to increase the use efficiency of an offline type sheet processing apparatus. For example, even when no inline type sheet processing apparatus is used (i.e., the number of inline type sheet processing apparatuses is 0); the printing apparatus 100 of the embodiment is available.
  • [0137]
    When cascade-connecting a plurality of inline type sheet processing apparatuses to the printing apparatus 100, a specific user (e.g., administrator) can arbitrarily change and determine their connection order under the restriction.
  • [0138]
    The above-mentioned mechanism aims to improve user friendliness, and is not an indispensable constituent feature. In other words, the present invention is not limited to this configuration. For example, the present invention is applicable to a system configuration which uniformly defines the number of inline type sheet processing apparatuses available in the printing system 1000 and their connection order.
  • [0139]
    The present invention incorporates any configuration as long as at least one of various job control examples (to be described later) is executable.
  • [0140]
    How many and what kinds of inline type sheet processing apparatuses are connectable to the printing apparatus 100 in the printing system 1000, how to connect them, and what kinds of sheet processes they can execute will be described later.
  • [0141]
    [Arrangement of Operation Unit 204 as Example of UI Unit of Printing System 1000]
  • [0142]
    The operation unit 204 serving as an example of the user interface unit (to be referred to as a UI unit hereinafter) of the printing apparatus 100 in the printing system 1000 will be explained with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5.
  • [0143]
    FIGS. 4 and 5 are schematic views for explaining an example of the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0144]
    The operation unit 204 comprises a key input section 402 capable of accepting a user operation with hard keys, and a touch panel 401 serving as an example of a display unit capable of accepting a user operation with soft keys (display keys).
  • [0145]
    As shown in FIG. 5, the key input section 402 comprises a switch 501. In response to an operation to the switch 501 by a user, the control unit 205 selectively switches between the standby mode (normal operation state) and the sleep mode (state in which the program stops in wait for an interrupt in preparation for network printing, facsimile transmission, or the like, suppressing power consumption). The control unit 205 controls to accept a user operation to the switch 501 while a main power switch (not shown) for supplying power to the whole system is ON.
  • [0146]
    A start key 503 allows accepting an instruction from a user to cause the printing apparatus to start a kind of job processing designated by the user, such as copying or transmission of a job to be instruction from the user to cause the printing apparatus to interrupt the process of an accepted job.
  • [0147]
    A ten-key pad 506 allows the user to set the entries of various settings. A clear key 507 is used to cancel various parameters such as entries set by the user via the ten-key pad 506.
  • [0148]
    A reset key 504 is used to accept an instruction from the user to invalidate various settings made by the user for a job to be processed and restore the setting values to defaults. A user mode key 505 is used to shift to a system setup window for each user.
  • [0149]
    FIG. 6 is a view for explaining the touch panel (to be also referred to as a display unit) 401 serving as an example of a user interface unit provided by the printing system.
  • [0150]
    The touch panel 401 has an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), and a touch panel display formed from a transparent electrode adhered onto the LCD.
  • [0151]
    The touch panel 401 has both a function of accepting various settings from an operator and a function of presenting information to the operator. For example, when detecting that the user presses a portion corresponding to a valid display key on the LCD, the control unit 205 controls the touch panel 401 to display an operation window corresponding to the key stored in advance in the ROM 207.
  • [0152]
    FIG. 6 shows an example of an initial window displayed on the touch panel 401 when the printing apparatus 100 is in the standby mode (state in which there is no job to be processed by the printing apparatus).
  • [0153]
    When the user presses a copy tab 601 on the touch panel 401 shown in FIG. 6, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display the operation window of the copy function provided by the printing apparatus 100.
  • [0154]
    When the user presses a send tab 602, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display the operation window of the data send function (e.g., FAX transmission or E-mail sending) provided by the printing apparatus 100. When the user presses a box tab 603, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display the operation window of the box function provided by the printing apparatus 100.
  • [0155]
    The box function uses a plurality of data storage boxes (to be referred to boxes hereinafter) which are virtually ensured in the HDD 209 in advance and are available distinctively for respective users. With the box function, the control unit 205 allows a user to select a desired one of boxes via the user interface unit, and can accept a desired operation from the user.
  • [0156]
    For example, the control unit 205 responds to an instruction input from the user via the operation unit 204, and controls the HDD 209 to store, in a box selected by the user, document data of a job accepted from the scanner 201 of the printing apparatus. The control unit 205 also allows storing, e.g., text data of a job accepted from an external apparatus (e.g., the PC 103 or 104) via the external I/F 202 in a box designated by the user in accordance with an instruction designated by the user from the external apparatus via its user interface unit. The control unit 205 controls, e.g., the printer unit 203 to print job data stored in a box in an output form the user wants in accordance with a user instruction from the operation unit 204, or controls the external I/F 202 to transmit the job data to an external apparatus the user wants.
  • [0157]
    To allow a user to execute various box operations, the control unit 205 controls the touch panel 401 to display a box function operation window in response to press of the box tab 603 by the user.
  • [0158]
    When the user presses an option tab 604 on the touch panel 401 of FIG. 6, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display a window for setting optional functions such as scanner setting. When the user presses a system monitor key 617, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display a display window for notifying the user of the MFP state or status.
  • [0159]
    A color selection setting key 605 is a display key which allows the user to select color copying, monochrome copying, or auto selection in advance. A copy ratio setting key 608 causes the touch panel 401 to display a setup window which allows the user to set a copy ratio such as equal magnification, enlargement, or reduction.
  • [0160]
    When the user presses a double-sided key 614, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display a window which allows the user to set which of single-sided printing and double-sided printing is executed to print a target job.
  • [0161]
    In response to press of a sheet selection key 615 by the user, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display a window which allows the user to set a feeding unit, sheet size, and sheet type (medium type) necessary to print a target job.
  • [0162]
    In response to press of a key 612 by the user, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display a window which allows the user to select an image processing mode (e.g., a text mode or photo mode) suited to an original document image. When the user operates a density setting key 611, the control unit 205 allows him to adjust the density of the output image of a job to be printed.
  • [0163]
    The control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display, in a status display field 606, the operation state (e.g., standby, warm-up, printing, jam, or error) of an event which occurs in the printing apparatus 100, in order to prompt the user to confirm the event. The control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display information in a display field 607 for prompting the user to confirm the copy ratio of a job to be processed. The control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display information in a display field 616 for prompting the user to confirm the sheet size and feeding mode of a job to be processed. The control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display, in a display field 610, information for prompting the user to confirm the number of copies of a job to be processed, and information for prompting the user to confirm the sheet number during printing. In this manner, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display various kinds of information to be announced to the user.
  • [0164]
    When the user presses an interrupt key 613, the control unit 205 causes the printing apparatus 100 to stop printing a current job, and execute printing of a job from the user. When the user presses an application mode key 618, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display a window for setting various image processes and layouts, such as two-page separation, cover sheet/slip sheet setting, reduction layout, and image movement.
  • [0165]
    Still another point of the embodiment will be described.
  • [0166]
    As a setting for a job to be processed, the control unit 205 causes the UI unit to execute a display for accepting a request from a user to execute sheet processing by the sheet processing unit of the inline type sheet processing apparatus 200 of the printing system 1000. The control unit 205 also causes the UI unit to execute a display for accepting an instruction from the user to cause the UI unit to execute this display.
  • [0167]
    For example, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to display a sheet processing setting key 609 in FIG. 6. Assume that the user presses the sheet processing setting key 609. Then, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to execute a display for allowing the user to specify desired sheet processing among sheet processing selection candidates executable using the inline type sheet processing apparatus of the printing system 1000. In the following description, “sheet processing” will also be referred to as “finishing”. As for “punching”, needs for various punching processes (processes to punch a printed sheet) are assumable in the POD environment.
  • [0168]
    FIG. 7 is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment. The control unit 205 controls to accept a request via the display of FIG. 7 to execute sheet processing by the sheet processing apparatus 200 for a printed sheet of a job to be processed.
  • [0169]
    The control unit 205 determines sheet processing apparatus candidates selectable via the display of FIG. 7 in accordance with the kind of sheet processing apparatus arranged in the printing system 1000 and the installation of the sheet processing apparatus. For example, the display of FIG. 7 permits accepting a request from a user to execute any type of sheet processing among a plurality of types of sheet processes listed below for a sheet printed by the printer unit 203:
  • [0000]
    (1) stapling, (2) punching, (3) folding, (4) shift delivery, (5) cutting, (6) saddle stitching, (7) case binding as an example of glue binding, (8) pad binding as another example of glue binding, and (9) large-volume stacking.
  • [0170]
    In the UI control example of FIG. 7, the control unit 205 controls the operation unit 204 to set these nine sheet processes as selection candidates. This is because the inline type sheet processing apparatuses of the printing system 1000 can be used to selectively execute these nine sheet processes.
  • [0171]
    In other words, the control unit 205 controls the UI unit to exclude a type of sheet processing unexecutable by the printing system 1000 from selection candidates in the display of FIG. 7.
  • [0172]
    For example, when the printing system 1000 does not comprise one sheet processing apparatus capable of selectively executing case binding and pad binding, or this sheet processing apparatus is out of order, the control unit 205 controls to invalidate keys 707 and 708. For example, the control unit 205 grays out and hatches the keys 707 and 708. With this setting, the control unit 205 controls not to accept a request from a user to execute these sheet processes. Further, when the printing system 1000 comprises a sheet processing apparatus capable of executing sheet processing different from the above-mentioned nine candidates, the control unit 205 controls the display of FIG. 7 to validate a display key for accepting a request from a user to execute the different sheet processing.
  • [0173]
    With this display key, the control unit 205 permits accepting a request from a user to execute the sheet processing. The embodiment prevents any user operation error by executing this display control in addition to job processing control (to be described later).
  • [0174]
    When executing this control, the control unit 205 acquires system configuration information for specifying what kind of sheet processing apparatus the printing system 1000 comprises as the sheet processing apparatus 200. In this control, the control unit 205 also uses, e.g., status information for specifying whether an error occurs in the sheet processing apparatus 200. The control unit 205 acquires these pieces of information by prompting a user to manually input them via the UI unit, or acquires them automatically on the basis of a signal output from the sheet processing apparatus 200 via a signal line when the sheet processing apparatus 200 is connected to the printing apparatus 100. On the premise of this configuration, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to execute the display of FIG. 7 with display contents based on the acquired information.
  • [0175]
    The printing system 1000 can accept a request from an external apparatus such as the PC 103 or 104 to print a target job and a request to execute sheet processing necessary for the job. When inputting a job from the external apparatus, the control unit 205 controls the display unit of the external apparatus serving as a print data transmission source to display the same functions as those of the display in FIG. 7. For example, in the embodiment, the control unit 205 causes the display unit of a computer such as the PC 103 or 104 to display a printer driver setup window (to be described later). When the UI of the external apparatus executes the display, the control unit of the external apparatus executes the above-described control. For example, when the display unit of the PC 103 or 104 displays a printer driver UI window (to be described later), the CPU of the PC executes the main control.
  • [0176]
    [Concrete Example of Configuration of Printing System 1000 to Be Controlled in Embodiment]
  • [0177]
    A system configuration representing how many and what kinds of inline type sheet processing apparatuses are connectable to the printing apparatus 100 in the printing system 1000, how to connect them, and what kinds of sheet processes they can execute will be explained with reference to FIGS. 8A and 8B and the like.
  • [0178]
    FIG. 8A is a view for explaining a control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment. The embodiment can implement, for example, a system configuration as shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B as the printing system 1000 shown in FIGS. 1 to 3.
  • [0179]
    In the system configuration example of FIG. 8A, the printing system 1000 comprises a total of three inline type sheet processing apparatuses, i.e., a large-volume stacker glue binding apparatus, and saddle stitching apparatus as a group of sheet processing apparatuses. In the configuration example of FIG. 8A, the large-volume stacker, glue binding apparatus, and saddle stitching apparatus are connected in the order named to the printing apparatus 100 of the printing system 1000. The control unit 205 serving as an example of the control unit of the printing system 1000 comprehensively controls the printing system 1000 having the system configuration as shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B.
  • [0180]
    In the embodiment, the large-volume stacker is a sheet processing apparatus capable of stacking a large number of (e.g., 5,000) sheets from the printer unit 203.
  • [0181]
    The glue binding apparatus in the embodiment is a sheet processing apparatus capable of executing case binding requiring sheet gluing when binding a bundle of sheets printed by the printer unit 203 by attaching a cover. The glue binding apparatus can also execute pad binding corresponding to sheet processing to glue and bind a bundle of sheets without attaching any cover. The glue binding apparatus is also called a case binding apparatus because it is a sheet processing apparatus capable of executing at least case binding.
  • [0182]
    The saddle stitching apparatus is a sheet stapling, punching, cutting, shift delivery, saddle stitching, and folding for sheets from the printer unit 203.
  • [0183]
    In the embodiment, the control unit 205 registers, in a specific memory, various kinds of system configuration information on these sheet processing apparatuses as management information necessary for various control examples. For example, when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration as shown in FIG. 8A, the control unit 205 registers the following pieces of information in the HDD 209.
  • [0184]
    (Information 1) Information 1 is apparatus presence/absence information which allows the control unit 205 to confirm that the printing system 1000 comprises an inline type sheet processing apparatus. Information 1 corresponds to information which allows the control unit to specify whether the printing system 1000 comprises an inline type sheet processing apparatus.
  • [0185]
    (Information 2) Information 2 is inline sheet processing apparatus count information which allows the control unit 205 to confirm that the printing system 1000 comprises three inline type sheet processing apparatuses 200. Information 2 corresponds to information which allows the control unit to specify the number of inline type sheet processing apparatuses of the printing system 1000.
  • [0186]
    (Information 3) Information 3 is inline sheet processing apparatus type information which allows the control unit 205 to specify that the printing system 1000 comprises the large-volume stacker, glue binding apparatus, and saddle stitching apparatus. Information 3 corresponds to information which allows the control unit to confirm the types of inline type sheet processing apparatuses of the printing system 1000.
  • [0187]
    (Information 4) Information 4 includes information which allows the control unit 205 to confirm that one of the three inline type sheet processing apparatuses is a large-volume stacker capable of stacking sheets from the printer unit 203. Information 4 includes apparatus performance information which allows the control unit 205 to confirm that another inline type sheet processing apparatuses is a glue binding apparatus capable of executing glue binding (case binding and/or pad binding) for sheets from the printer unit 203. Information 4 includes information which allows the control unit 205 to confirm that the remaining inline type sheet processing apparatuses is a saddle stitching apparatus capable of selectively executing stapling, punching, cutting, shift delivery, saddle stitching, and folding for sheets from the printer unit 203. In other words, information 4 is information which allows the control unit 205 to specify that sheet processes executable by the printing system are a total of nine processes: stapling, punching, cutting, shift delivery, saddle stitching, folding, case binding, pad binding, and large-volume stacking. Information 4 corresponds to information which allows the control unit to confirm performance information of sheet processes executable by the inline type sheet processing apparatuses of the printing system 1000.
  • [0188]
    (Information 5) Information 5 is information which allows the control unit 205 to confirm that the three sheet processing apparatuses are cascade-connected to the printing apparatus 100 in the order of the large-volume stacker, glue binding apparatus, and saddle stitching apparatus. Information 5 corresponds to connection order information of these sheet processing apparatuses in the printing system when a plurality of inline finishers are connected.
  • [0189]
    The control unit 205 registers, in the HDD 209, various kinds of information as represented by (information 1) to (information 5) as system configuration information necessary for various control examples. The control unit 205 utilizes these pieces of information as criterion information necessary for job control (to be described later).
  • [0190]
    On the premise of this configuration, for example, the printing system 1000 has the system configuration as shown in FIG. 8A. Control executed by the control unit 205 in this system configuration will be exemplified.
  • [0191]
    For example, when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 8A and 8B, it can execute all the nine sheet processes. The control unit 205 recognizes this on the basis of the criteria of (information 1) to (information 5). Based on the recognition result, the control unit 205 controls the UI unit to set all the nine sheet processes as selection candidates in the display of FIG. 7. In addition, the control unit 205 executes the following control in response to a user operation.
  • [0192]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a stapling execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of a key 701 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 c in FIG. 8A to staple printed sheets of the job.
  • [0193]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a (sheet) punching execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of a key 702 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 c in FIG. 8A to punch printed sheets of the job.
  • [0194]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a cutting execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of a key 703 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 c in FIG. 8A to cut printed sheets of the job.
  • [0195]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a cutting execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of a key 704 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 c in FIG. 8A to cut printed sheets of the job.
  • [0196]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a saddle stitching execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of a key 705 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 c in FIG. 8A to saddle-stitch printed sheets of the job.
  • [0197]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a folding execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of a key 706 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 c in FIG. 8A to fold (e.g., Z-fold) printed sheets of the job.
  • [0198]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a case binding execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of the key 707 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the glue binding apparatus corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 b in FIG. 8A to case-bind printed sheets of the job.
  • [0199]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a pad binding execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of the key 708 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the glue binding apparatus corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 b in FIG. 8A to pad-bind printed sheets of the job.
  • [0200]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a large-volume stacking execution request from a user via the UI unit for a target job in response to press of a key 709 by the user in the display of FIG. 7 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In response to this request, the control unit 205 causes the large-volume stacker corresponding to the sheet processing apparatus 200 a in FIG. 8A to stack a large number of printed sheets of the job.
  • [0201]
    As described above, the control unit 205 controls to accept, via the UI unit together with a printing execution request, a request to execute sheet processing the user wants among selection candidates corresponding to sheet processes executable by the sheet processing apparatuses of the printing system 1000. In response to the printing execution request from the user via the UI unit provided by the embodiment, the control unit 205 causes the printer unit 203 to execute print processing necessary for the job. Further, the control unit 205 causes a sheet processing apparatus of the printing system 1000 to execute sheet processing necessary for printed sheets of the job.
  • [0202]
    As another feature of the embodiment, the control unit 205 executes the following control in the printing system 1000.
  • [0203]
    Assume that the printing system 1000 has the system configuration as shown in FIG. 8A. In other words, the printing system 1000 is built by connecting the printing apparatus 100, large-volume stacker, glue binding apparatus, and saddle stitching apparatus in the order named. The internal system configuration in this case is as shown in FIG. 8B.
  • [0204]
    FIG. 8B is a sectional view of the apparatuses of the whole printing system 1000 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIG. 8A. The apparatus configuration in FIG. 8B corresponds to that in FIG. 8A.
  • [0205]
    FIG. 8B is a sectional view of the apparatuses of the whole printing system 1000. The apparatus configuration in FIG. 8B corresponds to that in FIG. 8A.
  • [0206]
    As is apparent from the internal apparatus configuration in FIG. 8B, a sheet printed by the printer unit 203 of the printing apparatus 100 is suppliable into the respective sheet processing apparatuses. More specifically, as shown in FIG. 8B, the respective sheet processing apparatuses comprise sheet feeding paths capable of feeding a sheet via points A, B, and C in the apparatuses.
  • [0207]
    Each inline type sheet processing apparatus such as the sheet processing apparatus 200 a or 200 b in FIG. 8B has a function of receiving a sheet from a preceding apparatus connected to the input side of the sheet processing apparatus even if a target job does not require sheet processing executable by the sheet processing apparatus. Each inline type sheet processing apparatus also has a function of transferring a sheet received from a preceding apparatus to a succeeding apparatus connected to the output side of the sheet processing apparatus.
  • [0208]
    As described above, in the printing system 1000 of the embodiment, a sheet processing apparatus, which executes sheet processing different from sheet processing necessary for a target job, has a function of conveying sheets of the target job from a preceding apparatus to a succeeding apparatus. This configuration is also a feature of the embodiment.
  • [0209]
    For example, when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B on the premise of the above-described system configuration, the control unit 205 executes the following exemplary control for a job for which the user issues a printing execution request via the UI unit according to the above-described method.
  • [0210]
    Assume that a target job whose printing execution request is accepted from the user requires sheet processing (e.g., stacking) by the large-volume stacker after print processing in the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B. This job is called a “stacker job”.
  • [0211]
    When processing the stacker job in the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B, the control unit 205 makes job sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100 pass through point A in FIG. 8B, and causes the large-volume stacker to execute sheet processing. The control unit 205 causes the large-volume stacker to hold, at a delivery destination X inside the large-volume stacker shown in FIG. 8B, the printing result of the stacker job having undergone the sheet processing (e.g., stacking) by the large-volume stacker, without conveying the printing result to another apparatus (e.g., a succeeding apparatus).
  • [0212]
    The operator can directly take out, from the delivery destination X, the printed material of the stacker job held at the delivery destination X in FIG. 8B. In other words, this configuration can omit a series of apparatus operations and operator operations to convey sheets to a most downstream delivery destination Z in the sheet conveyance direction in FIG. 8B and take out the printed material of the stacker job from the delivery destination Z.
  • [0213]
    A series of control operations executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 8A and 8B corresponds to a control example (case 1) in FIG. 8B.
  • [0214]
    Assume that a target job whose printing execution request is accepted from the user requires sheet processing (e.g., case binding or pad binding) by the glue binding apparatus after print processing in the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B. This job is called a “glue binding job”.
  • [0215]
    When processing the glue binding job in the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B, the control unit 205 makes job sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100 pass through points A and B in FIG. 8B, and causes the glue binding apparatus to execute sheet processing. The control unit 205 causes the glue binding apparatus to hold, at a delivery destination Y inside the glue binding apparatus shown in FIG. 8B, the printing result of the glue binding job having undergone the sheet processing (e.g., case binding or pad binding) by the glue binding apparatus, without conveying the printing result to another apparatus (e.g., a succeeding apparatus).
  • [0216]
    The operator can directly take out, from the delivery destination Y, the printed material of the glue binding job held at the delivery destination Y in FIG. 8B. In other words, this configuration can omit a series of apparatus operations and operator operations to convey sheets to the most downstream delivery destination Z in the sheet conveyance direction in FIG. 8B and take out the printed material of the glue binding job from the delivery destination Z.
  • [0217]
    A series of control operations executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 8A and 8B corresponds to a control example (case 2) in FIG. 8B.
  • [0218]
    Assume that a target job whose printing execution request is accepted from the user requires sheet processing (e.g., saddle stitching, punching, cutting, shift delivery, or folding) by the saddle stitching apparatus after print processing in FIGS. 8A and 8B. This job is called a “saddle stitching job”.
  • [0219]
    When processing the saddle stitching job in the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B, the control unit 205 makes job sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100 pass through points A, B, and C in FIG. 8B, and causes the saddle stitching apparatus to execute sheet processing. The control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus to hold, at the delivery destination Z of the saddle stitching apparatus shown in FIG. 8B, the printing result of the saddle stitching job having undergone the sheet processing by the saddle stitching apparatus, without conveying the printing result to another apparatus.
  • [0220]
    The delivery destination Z in FIG. 8B has a plurality of delivery destination candidates. This is because the saddle stitching apparatus of the embodiment can execute a plurality of types of sheet processes and the delivery destination changes for each sheet process, which will be described with reference to FIG. 13.
  • [0221]
    A series of control operations executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 8A and 8B corresponds to a control example (case 3) in FIG. 8B.
  • [0222]
    As described above, the control unit 205 serving as an example of the control unit of the embodiment also executes paper handling control based on system configuration information of the printing system 1000 that is stored in the HDD 209.
  • [0223]
    Information corresponding to the system configuration information includes information representing whether the system comprises an inline finisher, and when the system comprises an inline finisher, information on the number of inline finishers and their performance information. When the system comprises a plurality of inline finishers, the system configuration information also includes their connection order information.
  • [0224]
    As shown in FIGS. 1 to 3, 8A, 8B, and the like, the printing system 1000 according to the embodiment is configured to be able to connect a plurality of inline type sheet processing apparatuses to the printing apparatus 100. As is apparent from a comparison between FIGS. 8A and 8B and FIGS. 9A, 9B, 10A, and 10B (to be described later), a plurality of inline type sheet processing apparatuses can be independently connected or disconnected, or a free combination of them can be attached to the printing apparatus 100. The connection order of inline type sheet processing apparatuses is arbitrary as long as they are physically connectable. However, the embodiment imposes restrictions on the system configuration.
  • [0225]
    For example, an apparatus permitted to be adopted as an inline type sheet processing apparatus in the printing system 1000 has the following constituent features.
  • [0226]
    That is, a sheet processing apparatus can execute sheet processing for sheets of a job requiring sheet processing executable by the sheet processing apparatus, and has a sheet conveyance function of receiving, from a preceding apparatus, sheets of a job requiring no sheet processing by the sheet processing apparatus and transferring them to a succeeding apparatus. For example, in the embodiment, this sheet processing apparatus corresponds to the large-volume stacker and glue binding apparatus shown in the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B and that of FIGS. 9A and 9B (to be described later).
  • [0227]
    The embodiment also permits the use of a sheet processing apparatus, which does not meet the above configuration, as an inline type sheet processing apparatus in the printing system 1000. For example, this apparatus satisfies the following requirements.
  • [0228]
    That is, a sheet processing apparatus can execute sheet processing for sheets of a job requiring sheet processing executable by the sheet processing apparatus, but does not have the sheet conveyance function of receiving, from a preceding apparatus, sheets of a job requiring no sheet processing by the sheet processing apparatus and transferring them to a succeeding apparatus. For example, in the embodiment, this sheet processing apparatus corresponds to the saddle stitching apparatus shown in the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B, that of FIGS. 9A and 9B, and that of FIGS. 10A and 10B (to be described later). The embodiment imposes restrictions on an apparatus of this type.
  • [0229]
    For example, when the printing system 1000 employs an inline finisher (e.g., the saddle stitching apparatus in FIGS. 8A and 8B) having no function of conveying sheets to a succeeding apparatus, the number of apparatuses of this type is limited to one. However, it is permitted to simultaneously use inline finishers of other types.
  • [0230]
    For example, it is permitted to use the large-volume stacker and glue binding apparatus together with the saddle stitching apparatus, as represented by the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B and that of FIGS. 9A and 9B (to be described later). When a plurality of sheet processing apparatuses are cascade-connected and used, an inline type sheet processing apparatus having no function of conveying sheets to a succeeding apparatus is installed at the most downstream position in the sheet conveyance direction.
  • [0231]
    For example, the saddle stitching apparatus is connected last in the printing system 1000, as represented by the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B and that of FIGS. 9A and 9B (to be described later). In other words, it is inhibited to configure the printing system by interposing the saddle stitching apparatus between the large-volume stacker and the glue binding apparatus, as a system configuration different from that of FIGS. 8A and 8B and that of FIGS. 9A and 9B (to be described later).
  • [0232]
    The control unit of the printing system comprehensively controls the printing system 1000 so as to operate under the above-described restrictions.
  • [0233]
    For example, if inline type sheet processing apparatuses are connected in a connection order which violates the restrictions, the control unit 205 causes the UI unit to display a warning. For example, when the user inputs the connection order of sheet processing apparatuses via the UI unit, as represented by the above-mentioned configuration, the control unit 205 controls to invalidate a user setting which violates the restrictions. For example, the control unit 205 grays out or hatches the display to inhibit any improper connection setting.
  • [0234]
    By employing this configuration, any user operation error, apparatus malfunction, and the like can be prevented in the configuration of the embodiment. This configuration further enhances effects described in the embodiment.
  • [0235]
    On the premise of this configuration, according to the embodiment, the printing system 1000 can be flexibly configured under the restrictions.
  • [0236]
    For example, the operator of the POD printing system 10000 can arbitrarily determine and change the connection order of inline type sheet processing apparatuses and the number of connected inline type sheet processing apparatuses under the restrictions. The printing system 1000 executes control complying with the configuration. An example of this control will be described.
  • [0237]
    The printing system 1000 can also take a system configuration as shown in FIG. 9A, as a system configuration in which the connection order of inline type sheet processing apparatuses changes from that in the system configuration of FIG. 8A.
  • [0238]
    FIG. 9A is a view for explaining a control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0239]
    The system configuration of FIG. 9A is different from that of FIG. 8A in the connection order of inline sheet processing apparatuses of the printing system 1000. More specifically, the printing system 1000 is built by connecting the printing apparatus 100, glue binding apparatus, large-volume stacker, and saddle stitching apparatus in the order named. The internal system configuration in this case is as shown in FIG. 9B.
  • [0240]
    FIG. 9B is a sectional view of the apparatuses of the whole printing system 1000 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIG. 9A. The system configuration in FIG. 9B corresponds to the internal system configuration in FIG. 9A.
  • [0241]
    Similar to the above-described system configuration example, the internal system configuration in FIG. 9B also allows supplying a sheet printed by the printer unit 203 of the printing apparatus 100 into the respective sheet processing apparatuses. More specifically, as shown in FIG. 9B, the respective sheet processing apparatuses comprise sheet feeding paths capable of feeding a sheet from the printer unit 203 via points A, B, and C in the apparatuses.
  • [0242]
    The system configuration in FIGS. 9A and 9B also follows the above-mentioned restrictions. For example, the sheet processing apparatuses are cascade-connected to the printing apparatus 100 so as to install the saddle stitching apparatus at the most downstream position in the sheet conveyance direction.
  • [0243]
    For example, when the printing system 1000 has the configuration shown in FIGS. 9A and 9B on the premise of the above configuration, the control unit 205 executes the following control for a job for which the user issues a printing execution request via the UI unit according to the above-described method.
  • [0244]
    Assume that a target job whose printing execution request is accepted from the user requires sheet processing (e.g., stacking) by the large-volume stacker after print processing in the system configuration of FIGS. 9A and 9B. This job is called a “stacker job”.
  • [0245]
    When processing the stacker job in the system configuration of FIGS. 9A and 9B, the control unit 205 makes job sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100 pass through points A and B in FIG. 9B, and causes the large-volume stacker to execute sheet processing. The control unit 205 causes the large-volume stacker to hold, at the delivery destination Y inside the large-volume stacker shown in FIG. 9B, the printing result of the stacker job having undergone the sheet processing (e.g., stacking) by the large-volume stacker, without conveying the printing result to another apparatus (e.g., a succeeding apparatus).
  • [0246]
    The operator can directly take out, from the delivery destination Y, the printed material of the stacker job held at the delivery destination Y in FIG. 9B. In other words, this configuration can omit a series of apparatus operations and operator operations to convey sheets to the most downstream delivery destination Z in the sheet conveyance direction in FIG. 9B and take out the printed material of the stacker job from the delivery destination Z.
  • [0247]
    A series of control operations executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 9A and 9B corresponds to a control example (case 1) in FIG. 9B.
  • [0248]
    Assume that a target job whose printing execution request is accepted from the user requires sheet processing (e.g., case binding or pad binding) by the glue binding apparatus after print processing in the system configuration of FIGS. 9A and 9B. This job is called a “glue binding job”.
  • [0249]
    When processing the glue binding job in the system configuration of FIGS. 9A and 9B, the control unit 205 makes job sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100 pass through point A in FIG. 9B, and causes the glue binding apparatus to execute sheet processing. The control unit 205 causes the glue binding apparatus to hold, at the delivery destination X inside the glue binding apparatus shown in FIG. 9B, the printing result of the glue binding job having undergone the sheet processing (e.g., case binding or pad binding) by the glue binding apparatus, without conveying the printing result to another apparatus (e.g., a succeeding apparatus).
  • [0250]
    The operator can directly take out, from the delivery destination X, the printed material of the glue binding job held at the delivery destination X in FIG. 9B. In other words, this configuration can omit a series of apparatus operations and operator operations to convey sheets to the most downstream delivery destination Z in the sheet conveyance direction in FIG. 9B and take out the printed material of the glue binding job from the delivery destination Z.
  • [0251]
    A series of control operations executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 9A and 9B corresponds to a control example (case 2) in FIG. 9B.
  • [0252]
    Assume that a target job whose printing execution request is accepted from the user requires sheet processing (e.g., saddle stitching, punching, cutting, shift delivery, or folding) by the saddle stitching apparatus after print processing in FIGS. 9A and 9B. This job is called a “saddle stitching job”.
  • [0253]
    When processing the saddle stitching job in the system configuration of FIGS. 9A and 9B, the control unit 205 makes job sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100 pass through points A, B, and C in FIG. 9B, and causes the saddle stitching apparatus to execute sheet processing. The control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus to hold, at the delivery destination Z of the saddle stitching apparatus shown in FIG. 9B, the printing result of the saddle stitching job having undergone the sheet processing by the saddle stitching apparatus, without conveying the printing result to another apparatus.
  • [0254]
    The delivery destination Z in FIG. 9B has a plurality of delivery destination candidates. This is because the saddle stitching apparatus of the embodiment can execute a plurality of types of sheet processes and the delivery destination changes for each sheet process, which will be described with reference to FIG. 13.
  • [0255]
    A series of control operations executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 9A and 9B corresponds to a control example (case 3) in FIG. 9B.
  • [0256]
    As illustrated in FIGS. 8A, 8B, 9A, and 9B, the printing system 1000 is configured to be able to flexibly change the connection order of sheet processing apparatuses permitted to be used as inline sheet processing apparatuses under the restrictions. The present invention provides many mechanisms for maximizing the above-described effects of the embodiment.
  • [0257]
    From this viewpoint, in the embodiment, the printing system 1000 can properly employ a configuration other than the system configurations as shown in FIGS. 8A, 8B, 9A, and 9B. An example of this configuration will be explained below.
  • [0258]
    For example, the system configurations in FIGS. 8A, 8B, 9A, and 9B each comprise three inline type sheet processing apparatuses. In the embodiment, the user can arbitrarily determine the number of inline type sheet processing apparatuses under the restrictions.
  • [0259]
    For example, the printing system 1000 can also adopt a system configuration as shown in FIG. 10A.
  • [0260]
    FIG. 10A is a view for explaining a control example of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0261]
    The system configuration of FIG. 10A is different from those of FIGS. 8A and 9A in the number of connected sheet processing apparatuses. More specifically, the printing system 1000 is built by connecting two sheet processing apparatuses in the order of the printing apparatus 100, large-volume stacker, and saddle stitching apparatus. The internal system configuration in this case is as shown in FIG. 10B.
  • [0262]
    FIG. 10B is a sectional view of the system configuration of the overall printing system 1000 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIG. 1A. The apparatus configuration of FIG. 10B corresponds to that of FIG. 10A.
  • [0263]
    Similar to the above-described system configuration examples, the internal apparatus configuration in FIG. 10B also allows supplying a sheet printed by the printer unit 203 of the printing apparatus 100 into the respective sheet processing apparatuses. More specifically, as shown in FIG. 10B, the respective sheet processing apparatuses comprise sheet feeding paths capable of feeding a sheet via points A and B in the apparatuses. This system configuration also follows the above-described restrictions. For example, the sheet processing apparatuses are so connected as to install the saddle stitching apparatus at the most downstream position in the sheet conveyance direction.
  • [0264]
    For example, when the printing system 1000 has the configuration shown in FIGS. 11A and 10B, the control unit 205 executes the following exemplary control for a job for which the user issues a printing execution request via the UI unit according to the above-described method.
  • [0265]
    Assume that a target job whose printing execution request is accepted from the user requires sheet processing (e.g., stacking) by the large-volume stacker after print processing in the system configuration of FIGS. 11A and 10B. This job is called a “stacker job”.
  • [0266]
    When processing the stacker job in the system configuration of FIGS. 10A and 10B, the control unit 205 makes job sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100 pass through point A in FIG. 10B, and causes the large-volume stacker to execute sheet processing. The control unit 205 causes the large-volume stacker to hold, at the delivery destination X inside the large-volume stacker shown in FIG. 10B, the printing result of the stacker job having undergone the sheet processing (e.g., stacking) by the large-volume stacker, without conveying the printing result to another apparatus (e.g., a succeeding apparatus).
  • [0267]
    The operator can directly take out, from the delivery destination X, the printed material of the stacker job held at the delivery destination X in FIG. 10B. In other words, this configuration can omit a series of apparatus operations and operator operations to convey sheets to the most downstream delivery destination Y in the sheet conveyance direction in FIG. 10B and take out the printed material of the stacker job from the delivery destination Y.
  • [0268]
    A series of control operations executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 10A and 10B corresponds to a control example (case 1) in FIG. 10B.
  • [0269]
    Assume that a target job whose printing execution request is accepted from the user requires sheet processing (e.g., saddle stitching, punching, cutting, shift delivery, or folding) by the saddle stitching apparatus in FIGS. 10A and 10B. This job is called a “saddle stitching job”.
  • [0270]
    When processing the saddle stitching job in the system configuration of FIGS. 10A and 10B, the control unit 205 makes job sheets printed by the printing apparatus 100 pass through points A and B in FIG. 10B, and causes the saddle stitching apparatus to execute sheet processing. The control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus to hold, at the delivery destination Y of the saddle stitching apparatus shown in FIG. 10B, the printing result of the saddle stitching job having undergone the sheet processing by the saddle stitching apparatus, without conveying the printing result to another apparatus.
  • [0271]
    The delivery destination Y in FIG. 10B has a plurality of delivery destination candidates. This is because the saddle stitching apparatus of the embodiment can execute a plurality of types of sheet processes and the delivery destination changes for each sheet processes, which will be described with reference to FIG. 13.
  • [0272]
    A series of control operations executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 10A and 10B corresponds to a control example (case 2) in FIG. 10B.
  • [0273]
    In the system configuration of FIGS. 10A and 10B, the control unit 205 inhibits acceptance of a request from the user to execute sheet processing (e.g., case binding or pad binding) by the glue binding apparatus.
  • [0274]
    For example, when the printing system has the system configuration as shown in FIGS. 10A and 10B and the UI unit executes the display in FIG. 7, the control unit 205 controls to hatch or gray out the keys 707 and 708. In other words, the control unit 205 invalidates user operations to the keys 707 and 708.
  • [0275]
    When the printing system 1000 has the system configuration as shown in FIGS. 10A and 10B, as described above, the control unit 205 inhibits the printing system 1000 from executing glue binding.
  • [0276]
    Control executed by the control unit 205 when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration in FIGS. 10A and 10B corresponds to (inhibition control) in FIG. 10B.
  • [0277]
    As described above, the control unit 205 executes various control examples depending on the number of connected inline type sheet processing apparatuses in the printing system 1000. That is, the control unit 205 executes various control examples corresponding to types of sheet processes executable by the printing system 1000.
  • [0278]
    As is apparent from the description of FIGS. 8A to 10B and the like, the control unit of the printing system 1000 causes the printing system 1000 to execute various control examples corresponding to the system configuration status (including the number of connected inline sheet processing apparatuses and their connection order) of the printing system 1000.
  • [0279]
    According to the embodiment, the connection order of inline sheet processing apparatuses and the number of connected inline sheet processing apparatuses in the printing system 1000 can flexibly change to meet user needs because all user merits are considered.
  • [0280]
    The reason why each inline type sheet processing apparatus permitted to be used in the printing system 1000 is an independent housing and is detachable from the printing apparatus will be described.
  • [0281]
    As one reason, this mechanism considers, as a POD company to which the printing system 1000 is delivered, a company or the like which does not require case binding but wants to perform large-volume stacking.
  • [0282]
    In the printing system use environment, a need to implement all the nine sheet processes by inline sheet processing apparatuses is expected. A need to implement only specific sheet processing by an inline sheet processing apparatus may also arise. The embodiment provides a mechanism coping with various needs from respective POD companies to which the printing system 1000 is delivered.
  • [0283]
    The reason why inline type sheet processing apparatuses permitted to be used in the printing system 1000 can be arbitrarily changed in connection order and combined under the restrictions will be explained. This reason is also a reason for setting a delivery destination at which the operator can take out a printed material from each inline sheet processing apparatus, as shown in FIGS. 8A, 8B, 9A, and 9B.
  • [0284]
    As one reason, user friendliness of the printing system 1000 improves by flexibly building the system in accordance with the use frequencies of sheet processes requested in the printing system 1000.
  • [0285]
    For example, a POD company having the POD printing system 10000 in FIG. 1 tends to receive a relatively large number of print jobs requiring case binding for a user manual, guidebook, and the like, as print form needs from customers. In this use environment, it is convenient to build the printing system 1000 not in the connection order as shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B but in the connection order as shown in FIGS. 9A and 9B.
  • [0286]
    In other words, it is more convenient to connect the glue binding apparatus at a portion closer to the printing apparatus 100. This is because a shorter sheet conveyance distance in the apparatus necessary to execute case binding for a case binding job is effective.
  • [0287]
    For example, as the sheet conveyance distance becomes longer, the time taken to complete a printed material as the final product of the job becomes longer. As the sheet conveyance distance becomes longer, the jam generation rate in the apparatus during sheet conveyance is likely to be higher. These are reasons for the flexible connection order.
  • [0288]
    For a POD company which receives many case binding jobs as user needs, not the system configuration of FIGS. 8A and 8B but that of FIGS. 9A and 9B can shorten the sheet conveyance distance necessary to create the printed material of a case binding job, and allows the operator to quickly take out the printed material.
  • [0289]
    Assume that another POD company tends to receive many jobs requiring large-volume sheet stacking. For this POD company, not the system configuration of FIGS. 9A and 9B but that of FIGS. 8A and 8B can shorten the sheet conveyance distance necessary to create the printed material of a stacker job, and allows the operator to quickly take out the printed material.
  • [0290]
    In this fashion, the embodiment pays attention to an increase in the productivity of jobs in the printing system 1000 with an efficient, flexible system configuration suited to the use environment. In addition, the embodiment can provide many mechanisms which pursue friendliness to a user who utilizes the printing system 1000.
  • [0291]
    Concrete examples of the internal structures of various inline type sheet processing apparatuses available in the printing system 1000 illustrated in FIGS. 8A to 10B will be described for each sheet processing apparatus.
  • [0292]
    [Internal Structure of Large-Volume Stacker]
  • [0293]
    FIG. 11 is a sectional view showing an internal structure of the large-volume stacker in FIGS. 8A to 10B to be controlled by the control unit 205 in the embodiment.
  • [0294]
    In the large-volume stacker, the sheet feeding path extending from the printing apparatus 100 is roughly divided into three: a straight path, escape path, and stack path, as shown in FIG. 11. The large-volume stacker incorporates these three sheet feeding paths.
  • [0295]
    The straight path of the large-volume stacker in FIG. 11 and that of the glue binding apparatus in FIG. 12 function to transfer sheets received from a preceding apparatus to a succeeding apparatus, and are also called through paths in inline sheet processing apparatuses in the embodiment.
  • [0296]
    The straight path in the large-volume stacker is a sheet feeding path for transferring, to a succeeding apparatus, sheets of a job requiring no sheet stacking by the stacking unit of the large-volume stacker. In other words, the straight path is a unit for conveying sheets of a job requiring no sheet processing by the sheet processing apparatus from an upstream apparatus to a downstream apparatus.
  • [0297]
    The escape path in the large-volume stacker is used to output sheets without stacking them. For example, when no succeeding sheet processing apparatus is connected, a printed material is conveyed to the escape path and taken out from the stack tray so as to quickly take out the printed material from the stack tray for the purpose of output confirmation work (proof print) or the like.
  • [0298]
    The sheet feeding path in the large-volume stacker has a plurality of sheet sensors necessary to detect the sheet conveyance status and jam.
  • [0299]
    The CPU (not shown) of the large-volume stacker notifies the control unit 205 of sheet detection information from each sensor via a signal line (signal line shown in FIG. 2 for connecting the sheet processing apparatus 200 and control unit 205) for communicating data with the control unit 205. Based on the information from the large-volume stacker, the control unit 205 grasps the sheet conveyance status and jam in the large-volume stacker. When another sheet processing apparatus is cascade-connected between the sheet processing apparatus 200, i.e., large-volume stacker and the printing apparatus 100, the CPU of the large-volume stacker notifies the control unit 205 via the CPU of the cascade-connected sheet processing apparatus of sensor information of the large-volume stacker. As described above, the large-volume stacker comprises an arrangement unique to an inline finisher.
  • [0300]
    The stack path in the large-volume stacker is a sheet feeding path for causing the large-volume stacker to stack sheets of a job requiring sheet stacking by the stacking unit of the stacker.
  • [0301]
    Assume that the printing system 1000 comprises the large-volume stacker shown in FIGS. 8A to 10B. In this system configuration status, assume that the control unit 205 accepts a request from a user via the UI unit by a key operation to the key 709 in the display of FIG. 7 to execute sheet stacking executable by the large-volume stacker for a target job. In this case, the control unit 205 controls to convey sheets to the stack path of the large-volume stacker. The sheets conveyed to the stack path are delivered to the stack tray.
  • [0302]
    The stack tray in FIG. 11 is a stacking unit mounted on an extensible stay. A shock absorber or the like is attached to the joint between the stay and the stack tray. The control unit 205 controls the large-volume stacker to stack printed sheets of a target job on the stack tray. A dolly supports the extensible stay from below it. When attaching a handle (not shown) to the dolly, the dolly can carry stacked outputs on it to another offline finisher.
  • [0303]
    When the front door of the stacker unit is kept closed, the extensible stay moves up to a position where outputs are easily stacked. If the operator opens the front door (or issues an opening instruction), the stack tray moves down.
  • [0304]
    Outputs can be stacked by flat stacking or shift stacking. Flat stacking means always stacking sheets at the same position. Shift stacking means stacking sheets with a shift toward far and near sides every number of copies or jobs so as to divide outputs and easily handle them.
  • [0305]
    The large-volume stacker permitted to be used as an inline type sheet processing apparatus in the printing system 1000 can execute a plurality of stacking methods when stacking sheets from the printer unit 203. The control unit 205 controls various operations for the stacker.
  • [0306]
    [Internal Structure of Glue Binding Apparatus]
  • [0307]
    FIG. 12 is a sectional view showing an internal structure of the glue binding apparatus in FIGS. 8A to 10B to be controlled by the control unit 205 in the embodiment.
  • [0308]
    In the glue binding apparatus, the sheet feeding path extending from the printing apparatus 100 is roughly divided into three: a straight path, main body path, and cover path, as shown in FIG. 12. The glue binding apparatus incorporates these three sheet feeding paths.
  • [0309]
    The straight path (through path) in the glue binding apparatus in FIG. 12 is a sheet feeding path functioning to transfer, to a succeeding apparatus, sheets of a job requiring no sheet glue binding by the glue binding unit of the apparatus. In other words, the straight path is a unit for conveying sheets of a job requiring no sheet processing by the sheet processing apparatus from an upstream apparatus to a downstream apparatus.
  • [0310]
    The sheet feeding path in the glue binding apparatus has a plurality of sheet sensors necessary to detect the sheet conveyance status and jam.
  • [0311]
    The CPU (not shown) of the glue binding apparatus notifies the control unit 205 of sheet detection information from each sensor via a signal line (signal line shown in FIG. 2 for connecting the sheet processing apparatus 200 and control unit 205) for communicating data with the control unit 205. Based on the information from the glue binding apparatus, the control unit 205 grasps the sheet conveyance status and jam in the glue binding apparatus. When another sheet processing apparatus is cascade-connected between the glue binding apparatus and the printing apparatus 100, the CPU of the glue binding apparatus notifies the control unit 205 via the CPU of the cascade-connected sheet processing apparatus of sensor information of the glue binding apparatus. In this manner, the glue binding apparatus comprises an arrangement unique to an inline finisher.
  • [0312]
    The main body path and cover path in the glue binding apparatus in FIG. 12 are sheet feeding paths for creating a case-bound printed material.
  • [0313]
    For example, according to the embodiment, the printer unit 203 prints print data of a body by case binding printing. Printed sheets are used as the body of an output material corresponding to a case-bounded printed material of one bundle. In case binding, a sheet bundle of a body on which print data corresponding to the body (contents) is printed is called a “main body” in the embodiment. Processing to wrap the main body with one cover sheet is executed in case binding. The control unit 205 executes various sheet conveyance control operations to convey a cover sheet through the cover path, and convey sheets of the main body printed by the printer unit 203 to the main body path.
  • [0314]
    In this configuration, assume that the control unit 205 accepts a request from a user via the UI unit by a key operation to the key 707 in FIG. 7 to execute case binding executable by the glue binding apparatus for a target job. In this case, the control unit 205 controls the apparatus as follows.
  • [0315]
    For example, the control unit 205 controls to sequentially stack sheets printed by the printer unit 203 on the stacking unit via the main body path in FIG. 12. After stacking, on the stack tray, sheets of all pages on which body data necessary for sheets of one bundle in a target job are printed, the control unit 205 controls to convey a cover sheet necessary for the job via the cover path.
  • [0316]
    Case binding has a matter associated with one feature of the embodiment. In case binding as an example of glue binding in the embodiment, the number of sheets processible as one sheet bundle is much larger than the number of sheets processible as one sheet bundle by sheet processing different from glue binding. For example, case binding permits processing a maximum of 200 sheets as one sheet bundle of the body. To the contrary, stapling or the like permits processing a maximum of 20 print sheets as one sheet bundle, and saddle stitching permits processing a maximum of 15 print sheets. The permissible number of print sheets to be processed as one sheet bundle is greatly different between glue binding and other sheet processes.
  • [0317]
    In the embodiment, the control unit 205 can control an inline type sheet processing apparatus to execute case binding as glue binding. Further, the embodiment can provide new finishing which is not requested in the office environment and is executable by an inline type sheet processing apparatus. In other words, this configuration is one mechanism assuming the POD environment, and is associated with control to be described later.
  • [0318]
    Case binding can target, as a cover sheet, a pre-printed sheet which bears cover data and is conveyed from the inserter tray of the inserter of the glue binding apparatus, as shown in FIG. 12. Case binding can also target a sheet which bears a cover image printed by the printing apparatus 100. Either sheet is conveyed as a cover sheet to the cover path. Conveyance of the cover sheet temporarily stops below the stack tray.
  • [0319]
    In parallel with this operation, the glue binding apparatus glues a main body of sheets which bear all the pages of the body and are stacked on the stack tray. For example, the gluing unit applies a predetermined amount of glue to the lower portion of the main body. After the glue fully spreads, the pasted portion of the main body is attached to the center of the cover, covered, and joined. In joining, the main body is pushed down, and the covered main body slides onto a rotating table along a guide. The guide moves so that the covered main body falls onto the rotating table.
  • [0320]
    The aligning unit aligns the covered main body laid on the rotating table, and the cutter cuts an edge. The rotating table rotates through 90, the aligning unit aligns the main body, and the cutter cuts the top edge. The rotating table rotates through 180, the aligning unit aligns the main body, and the cutter cuts the tail edge.
  • [0321]
    After cutting, the aligning unit pushes the main body to an inner portion, putting the completed covered main body into a basket. After the glue is satisfactorily dried in the basket, the operator can take out the completed case-bound bundle.
  • [0322]
    The glue binding apparatus comprises a gluing unit which executes glue binding for sheets of a target job for which the user issues a glue binding execution request together with a printing execution request via the UI unit.
  • [0323]
    As described above with reference to the configuration, glue binding executable by an inline type sheet processing apparatus in the embodiment requires many processing steps and many preparations, compared to other types of sheet processes. In other words, the configuration of glue binding is different from those of sheet processes such as stapling and saddle stitching often used in the office environment. The processing time taken to complete requested sheet processing is likely to be longer than those of other finishing processes. The embodiment pays attention to even this point.
  • [0324]
    The embodiment adopts a mechanism which applies not only to the office environment but also to a new printing environment such as the POD environment, pursues user friendliness and productivity, and aims to commercialize a printing system and product. For example, new functions such as the case binding function and large-volume stacking function which are not supported in the office environment are provided as constituent features available even in the POD environment. As illustrated in FIGS. 8A to 10B, system configurations capable of connecting a plurality of inline type sheet processing apparatuses are also mechanisms for achieving this purpose.
  • [0325]
    It should be noted that the embodiment not only provides the above-described new functions and system configurations, but also finds out and examines problems to be tackled, such as use cases and user needs assumed in the use of the functions and configurations. One feature is to provide constituent features which are solutions to the problems. According to the embodiment, when an office-equipment maker finds and enters a new market, market demands and the like are found out and examined in advance as problems to newly equipped functions and system configurations, and mechanisms are employed as configurations considering solutions to the problems. This is also one characteristic feature of the embodiment. As an example of the constituent features, the control unit 205 executes various control examples in the embodiment.
  • [0326]
    [Internal Structure of Saddle Stitching Apparatus]
  • [0327]
    FIG. 13 is a sectional view showing an internal structure of the saddle stitching apparatus in FIGS. 8A to 10B to be controlled by the control unit 205 in the embodiment.
  • [0328]
    The saddle stitching apparatus incorporates various units for selectively executing stapling, cutting, punching, folding, shift delivery, and the like for sheets from the printing apparatus 100. As described in the restrictions, the saddle stitching apparatus does not have a through path serving as the function of conveying sheets to a succeeding apparatus.
  • [0329]
    The sheet feeding path in the saddle stitching apparatus has a plurality of sheet sensors necessary to detect the sheet conveyance status and jam.
  • [0330]
    The CPU (not shown) of the saddle stitching apparatus notifies the control unit 205 of sheet detection information from each sensor via a signal line (signal line shown in FIG. 2 for connecting the sheet processing apparatus 200 and control unit 205) for communicating data with the control unit 205. Based on the information from the saddle stitching apparatus, the control unit 205 grasps the sheet conveyance status and jam in the saddle stitching apparatus. When another sheet processing apparatus is cascade-connected between the saddle stitching apparatus and the printing apparatus 100, the CPU of the saddle stitching apparatus notifies the control unit 205 via the CPU of the cascade-connected sheet processing apparatus of sensor information of the saddle stitching apparatus. The saddle stitching apparatus comprises an arrangement unique to an inline finisher.
  • [0331]
    As shown in FIG. 13, the saddle stitching apparatus comprises a sample tray, stack tray, and booklet tray. The control unit 205 controls to switch the unit for use in accordance with the job type and the number of discharged print sheets.
  • [0332]
    Assume that the control unit 205 accepts a request from a user via the UI unit by a key operation to the key 701 in the display of FIG. 7 to execute stapling by the saddle stitching apparatus for a target job. In this case, the control unit 205 controls to convey sheets from the printer unit 203 to the stack tray. Before discharging print sheets to the stack tray, they are sequentially stacked for each job on the process tray in the saddle stitcher, and bound by a stapler on the process tray. Then, the print sheet bundle is discharged onto the stack tray. According to this method, the control unit 205 causes the saddle stitching apparatus to staple sheets printed by the printer unit 203.
  • [0333]
    The saddle stitching apparatus further comprises a Z-folding unit for folding a sheet in three (Z shape), and a puncher for forming two (or three) holes for filing. The saddle stitching apparatus executes each processing in accordance with each job type.
  • [0334]
    For example, when the user makes a Z-folding setting via the operation unit as a setting associated with print sheet processing for a job to be output, the control unit 205 performs the following control. That is, the control unit 205 causes the Z-folding unit to fold print sheets of the job. Then, the control unit 205 controls to make the print sheets pass through the apparatus, and deliver them onto a discharge tray such as the stack tray or sample tray.
  • [0335]
    For example, when the user makes a punching setting via the operation unit as a setting associated with print sheet processing for a job to be output, the control unit 205 performs the following control. That is, the control unit 205 causes the puncher to punch print sheets of the job. Then, the control unit 205 controls to make the print sheets pass through the apparatus, and deliver them onto a discharge tray such as the stack tray or sample tray.
  • [0336]
    The saddle stitcher performs saddle stitching to bind print sheets at two center portions, pinch the print sheets at their center by rollers, fold them in half, and create a booklet like a pamphlet.
  • [0337]
    Print sheets bound by the saddle stitcher are discharged onto the booklet tray. Whether the saddle stitcher can execute print sheet processing such as bookbinding is also based on print sheet processing settings made by the user for a job to be output, as described above.
  • [0338]
    The inserter sends print sheets set on the inserter tray to a discharge tray such as the stack tray or sample tray without supplying the print sheets to the printer. The inserter can insert a print sheet set on it between print sheets (sheets printed by the printer unit) supplied into the saddle stitcher. The user sets print sheets on the inserter tray of the inserter while the print sheets face up. The pickup roller sequentially feeds print sheets from the top. A print sheet from the inserter is directly conveyed to the stack tray or sample tray, and discharged while facing down. When supplying a print sheet to the saddle stitcher, the print sheet is fed to the puncher once, and then switched back and fed to adjust the face orientation.
  • [0339]
    Whether the inserter can execute print sheet processing such as print sheet insertion is also based on print sheet processing settings made by the user for a job to be output, as described above.
  • [0340]
    In the embodiment, the saddle stitching apparatus also incorporates, e.g., a cutter (trimmer), which will be described below.
  • [0341]
    A (saddle-stitched) booklet output from the saddle stitcher enters the trimmer. At this time, the booklet output is fed by a predetermined length by the roller, and cut by a predetermined length by the cutter, aligning uneven edges between pages of the booklet. The resultant booklet is put in a booklet holding unit. Whether the trimmer can execute print sheet processing such as cutting is also based on print sheet processing settings made by the user for a job to be output, as described above.
  • [0342]
    As described above, the saddle stitching apparatus comprises a saddle stitcher which executes saddle stitching for sheets of a target job for which the user issues a saddle stitching execution request together with a printing execution request via the UI unit.
  • [0343]
    For example, when the user selects saddle stitching with the key 705 in the display of FIG. 7, the control unit 205 causes the UI unit to execute a display in FIG. 14.
  • [0344]
    FIG. 14 is a view for explaining an example of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment. The control unit 205 controls to accept detailed settings of saddle stitching from the user via the display in FIG. 14. For example, the control unit 205 allows the user to determine whether to actually saddle-stitch sheets near their center with staples. The control unit 205 can also accept a setting such as division bookbinding, change of the saddle stitching position, execution/non-execution of cutting, or change of the cutting width from the user.
  • [0345]
    Assume that the user sets “saddle-stitch” and “cut” via the display in FIG. 14 executed by the UI unit under the control of the control unit 205. In this case, the control unit 205 controls the operation of the printing system 1000 to process a target job into a print style as shown in FIG. 15 as a result of saddle stitching printing.
  • [0346]
    FIG. 15 is a view for explaining a control example when creating a printed material by the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0347]
    Then, saddle stitches are put, and the edge is cut, as represented by the result of saddle stitching printing in FIG. 15. By setting the positions of the saddle stitches and cutting edge in advance, they can be changed to desired positions.
  • [0348]
    When the user requests execution of case binding with the key 707 in the display of FIG. 7, the control unit 205 controls the printing system 1000 to process a target job into a print style as shown in FIG. 16 as a result of case binding printing.
  • [0349]
    FIG. 16 is a view for explaining a control example when creating a printed material by the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0350]
    The cutting widths of cutting edges A, B, and C of a printed material to be case-bound can be set as shown in the example of FIG. 16.
  • [0351]
    The printing system 1000 can accept a printing execution request and sheet processing execution request for a target job even from an information processing apparatus serving as an example of an external apparatus. An example when a host computer uses the printing system 1000 will be described.
  • [0352]
    For example, the printing system 1000 is controlled as follows when operated by a host computer (e.g., the PC 103 or 104 in FIG. 1) which downloads program data for various processes and control examples in the embodiment from a data supply source (e.g., a WEB) or a specific storage medium. Note that the control unit of the PC executes the main control.
  • [0353]
    Assume that an instruction to activate a printer driver for operating the printing apparatus 100 of the printing system 1000 is input in response to a mouse or keyboard operation by a user. In response to the instruction, the CPU of the host computer displays a print setup window shown in FIG. 17A on the display unit of the host computer.
  • [0354]
    FIGS. 17A and 17B are views showing examples of user interface windows controlled in the embodiment. For example, the user presses a finishing key 1701 with the mouse on the operation window of FIG. 17A or 17B. Then, the CPU of the host computer controls the display unit to switch the print setup window to one as shown in FIG. 17B.
  • [0355]
    The CPU of the host computer allows the user to select the type of sheet processing to be executed by the sheet processing apparatus 200 via the key 1701 serving as a sheet processing setting item on the print setup window of FIG. 17A or 17B.
  • [0356]
    Although not shown, the external apparatus including the host computer displays, as windows other than those in FIGS. 17A and 17B, displays windows for inputting instructions equivalent to those inputtable via various display windows described in detail in the embodiment. In other words, the external apparatus can execute the same processes and control examples as those described in the embodiment.
  • [0357]
    Assume that the user selects desired sheet processing via the key 1701, returns to the window in FIG. 17A or 17B, and presses the OK key.
  • [0358]
    In response to this, the CPU of the host computer associates, as one job, commands representing various printing conditions set by the user via the print setup window with a series of data to be printed by the printer unit 203. Then, the CPU of the host computer transmits the job associated as one job to the printing system 1000 via the network 101.
  • [0359]
    The external I/F 202 of the printing system 1000 receives the job from the computer. In response to this, the control unit 205 of the printing system controls the printing system 1000 to process the job from the host computer on the basis of processing requirements set by the user on the host computer.
  • [0360]
    The above-described configuration can provide various effects described in the embodiment even for a job from an external apparatus or the like, and can further increase the use efficiency of the printing system 1000.
  • [0361]
    The control unit of the printing system 1000 according to the embodiment executes various control examples to be described below on the premise of the above-described constituent features.
  • [0362]
    The configurations described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 17B correspond to constituent features common to all embodiments. For example, various control examples described in the embodiments correspond to constituent features based on these configurations.
  • [0363]
    As described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 17B, the printing system 1000 according to the embodiment is configured to be able to create a printing environment suitable not only for the office environment but also for the POD environment. For example, the printing system 1000 employs a mechanism capable of coping with use cases and user needs which are assumed not in the office environment but in the POD environment. The printing system 1000 is configured to, e.g., allow a POD company to receive orders of various print forms from customers in the POD environment.
  • [0364]
    More specifically, an inline sheet processing apparatus can execute finishing (e.g., glue binding or large-volume stacking) which is not requested as a user need in the office environment. In other words, the embodiment can deal with even user needs in consideration of the POD environment, in addition to needs (e.g., for stapling) in the office environment. For example, the printing system 1000 can flexibly cope with the business form of a POD company which does business in the POD environment where the printing system 1000 is delivered.
  • [0365]
    For example, a plurality of inline sheet processing apparatuses are connectable to the printing apparatus 100, and each inline sheet processing apparatus can independently operate as an independent housing, as described above. The number of connected sheet processing apparatuses is arbitrary, and an inline sheet processing apparatus can be flexibly added or changed in the printing system 1000.
  • [0366]
    The embodiment adopts a design which fully considers the operability of the user of the printing system 1000. For example, the embodiment allows the operator to manually register the system configuration of the printing system 1000 in the HDD 209. This configuration will be exemplified.
  • [0367]
    Assume that a POD company wants to build the system configuration shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B for the printing system 1000. In this case, the operator of the POD company connects three sheet processing apparatuses in FIGS. 8A and 8B purchased together with the printing apparatus 100 to the printing apparatus in the connection order shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B. Then, the operator presses the user mode key 505 of the operation unit 204. In response to this key operation, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 to execute a display in FIG. 18A.
  • [0368]
    FIGS. 18A to 18D are views for explaining examples of display control on the UI unit to be controlled in the embodiment.
  • [0369]
    The display in FIG. 18A allows the operator to manually input system configuration information of the printing system 1000. The control unit 205 allows the operator via displays in FIGS. 18A to 18D to determine the types of inline type sheet processing apparatuses to be connected to the printing apparatus 100. In addition, the control unit 205 allows the operator via the displays in FIGS. 18A to 18D to determine the connection order of inline type sheet processing apparatuses to be connected to the printing apparatus 100.
  • [0370]
    If the operator presses an “advanced settings” key provided for each setting item in the display of FIG. 18A, the control unit 205 displays a corresponding window (not shown). This window enables specifying sheet processing apparatuses used in the printing system one by one. In the embodiment, since the printing system follows the restrictions, as described above, the control unit 205 also notifies the operator of this information as guidance information. For example, the control unit 205 notifies the operator of a guidance “register the types of sheet processing apparatuses to be connected to the printing apparatus and their connection order. You can connect a maximum of five sheet processing apparatuses. Connect a saddle stitching apparatus last.” In this case, the maximum number of connected inline sheet processing apparatuses is five, but is not limited to this.
  • [0371]
    The control unit 205 controls the touch panel 401 so that the operator can determine sheet processing apparatuses for use one by one from the top setting item in FIG. 18A. The control unit 205 determines that the setting order itself from the top setting item is an actual apparatus connection order.
  • [0372]
    In this configuration, when the printing system 1000 has the system configuration shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B, the control unit 205 prompts the operator to register the types of sheet processing apparatuses and their connection order, like the display in FIG. 18B.
  • [0373]
    More specifically, the control unit 205 prompts the operator to set “large-volume stackerglue binding apparatussaddle stitching apparatus” sequentially from the top setting item, like the display in FIG. 18B. The control unit 205 determines that this setting order is an actual connection order, as shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B.
  • [0374]
    When the printing system 1000 has the system configuration shown in FIGS. 9A and 9B, the control unit 205 prompts the operator to register the types of sheet processing apparatuses and their connection order, like the display in FIG. 18C. More specifically, the control unit 205 prompts the operator to set “glue binding apparatuslarge-volume stackersaddle stitching apparatus” sequentially from the top setting item, like the display in FIG. 18C. The control unit 205 determines that this setting order is an actual connection order, as shown in FIGS. 9A and 9B.
  • [0375]
    When the printing system 1000 has the system configuration shown in FIGS. 10A and 10B, the control unit 205 prompts the operator to register the types of sheet processing apparatuses and their connection order, like the display in FIG. 18D. More specifically, the control unit 205 prompts the operator to set “large-volume stackersaddle stitching apparatus” sequentially from the top setting item, like the display in FIG. 18D. The control unit 205 determines that this setting order is an actual connection order, as shown in FIGS. 10A and 10B.
  • [0376]
    FIG. 19 is a view showing another system configuration of the printing system 1000 to be controlled in the embodiment. In the configuration of the printing system 1000 of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 19, a total of three inline finishers, i.e., two large-volume stackers and one saddle stitching apparatus illustrated in FIG. 13 are connected. In this system configuration, two large-volume stackers are connected as inline finishers of the same type. In this way, the printing system of the embodiment is configured to be able to connect inline finishers of the same type.
  • [0377]
    A configuration in which inline finishers of the same type are cascade-connected as illustrated in FIG. 19 will be called tandem connection. The system configuration illustrated in FIG. 19 assumes a situation in which a printing company, to which the printing system is delivered, frequently executes large-volume stacking. In the embodiment, a plurality of large-volume stackers can be tandem-connected.
  • [0378]
    The UI control to improve user friendliness assuming use cases on site is also one feature of the embodiment. As described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 19, the printing system 1000 comprises various mechanisms toward commercialization of a product capable of flexibly coping with various use cases and user needs in the POD environment and the like that are different from use cases and user needs in the office environment.
  • [0379]
    In addition to providing new functions and new configurations as described above, the printing system 1000 can execute various control examples as follows in order to maximize the effects of the printing system 1000.
  • [0380]
    For example, the control unit of the printing system causes the printing system 1000 to execute the following control.
  • [0381]
    Before a description of concrete control, the configuration of the printing system 1000 will be complemented. A variety of inline finishers such as the large-volume stacker in the embodiment each have an openable/closable door (front door) on the front surface of the housing. The front door allows an operator to remove a jammed sheet from each finisher or take out the printed materials (also called print media) of a job printed by the printer unit 203.
  • [0382]
    For example, as illustrated in the internal structure of FIG. 11, the large-volume stacker in the embodiment comprises a stack tray arranged inside the stacker that can stack many printed materials, and a sample tray arranged outside the stacker (at the top of the stacker). The control unit 205 controls to selectively supply the printed materials of a target job to the stack tray inside the large-volume stacker and the sample tray outside it on the basis of various criteria in the embodiment.
  • [0383]
    Each inline finisher such as the large-volume stacker except for the saddle stitching apparatus also has a function of conveying a printed material received from a preceding apparatus into a succeeding inline finisher via the internal through path of the inline finisher.
  • [0384]
    The large-volume stacker in the embodiment is configured such that the tray can automatically move down in accordance with the sheet stacking amount of printed materials on the internal stack tray. The large-volume stacker is also configured to be able to align printed materials.
  • [0385]
    This structure is as described with reference to FIG. 11. The large-volume stacker has, on its front surface, a front door 2002 which can be opened and closed by an operator, as shown in FIG. 20. The large-volume stacker also has, at the top of the housing, a switch 2001 for allowing an operator to input an instruction to open the front door 2002. The control unit (not shown) of the large-volume stacker mainly controls various operations in the large-volume stacker.
  • [0386]
    FIG. 20 is a perspective view for explaining control associated with a large-volume stacker in the embodiment. The control unit opens the front door 2002 in accordance with an instruction manually input by the operator via the switch 2001. More specifically, the front door 2002 is locked with a key (not shown) when closed. The operator unlocks the key to open the front door 2002.
  • [0387]
    Then, the operator can take out printed materials stacked on the stack tray of the large-volume stacker. It is also controlled to automatically open the front door 2002 in accordance with not only an operation via the switch 2001 but also an instruction from the control unit 205 of the printing apparatus 100.
  • [0388]
    At this time, the control unit 205 transmits a door open signal to the control unit of the large-volume stacker via a signal line inside the printing apparatus 100 shown in FIG. 2. The operator opens the front door 2002 to take out printed materials stacked on the stack tray of the large-volume stacker. The control unit 205 of the printing apparatus 100 may also execute these control operations.
  • [0389]
    In the embodiment, when the operator is to take out printed materials from the large-volume stacker, the control unit 205 mainly controls the printing system 1000 not to deliver, to the stack tray of the large-volume stacker, the sheets of a subsequent job.
  • [0390]
    In other words, the printing system 1000 in the embodiment controls the sheet processor in the sheet processing apparatus not to deliver the sheets of a subsequent job while the operator takes out the printed materials of a printed job from the sheet processing apparatus.
  • [0391]
    However, the control unit 205 controls to execute, e.g., the following exemplary operations even while the operator takes out printed materials from the stack tray of the large-volume stacker.
  • [0392]
    For example, the control unit 205 controls the printing system 1000 to deliver the printed materials of a subsequent job to the sample tray of the large-volume stacker while, for example, the operator takes out printed materials stacked on the stacker tray and the front door 2002 of the large-volume stacker is open.
  • [0393]
    The control unit 205 controls the printing system 1000 to be able to convey the printed materials of a subsequent job via the through path in the large-volume stacker while the front door 2002 of the large-volume stacker is open. This control is done particularly when a subsequent job does not require stacking by the large-volume stacker and requires finishing by an inline finisher connected to the output side of the large-volume stacker.
  • [0394]
    In this way, the control unit 205 permits execution of these exemplary operations in the printing system 1000 even while the front door 2002 is kept open.
  • [0395]
    To execute these operations, the control unit 205 inhibits or permits the start of the printing operation of a subsequent job whose printing execution request is issued after a job whose sheets are taken out by the operator from the sheet processing apparatus. In other words, the control unit 205 controls whether to permit/inhibit execution of the printing operation of a subsequent job, and the printing timing of the job.
  • [0396]
    This configuration is also unique to an inline finisher physically and electrically connected to the printing apparatus.
  • [0397]
    All, at least one, or some of feeding stages (e.g., the paper cassettes 317 and 318 and paper deck 319) of the printing apparatus 100 are equipped with keys. The feeding stage may have a physical key or so-called electronic lock function. The shape and function of the key are arbitrary as long as at least the following configuration can be implemented. In the embodiment, the printing apparatus 100 comprises a plurality of electronic lock type feeding stages. The control unit 205 of the printing apparatus 100 can control locking/unlocking of the electronic lock type feeding stages.
  • [0398]
    On the premise of this configuration, the control unit 205 serving as an example of the control unit of the printing system 1000 executes the following exemplary control.
  • [0399]
    Prerequisite constituent features will be complemented before a description of the following exemplary control. As a premise, the printing system 1000 comprises the printing apparatus 100 having the printer unit 203 capable of printing data in the HDD 209 capable of storing data of jobs. The printing system 1000 comprises a plurality of sheet processing apparatuses 200 a to 200 n connectable to the printing apparatus 100. These sheet processing apparatuses 200 a to 200 n can execute sheet processing (also called finishing or post-processing) for sheets (also called printed materials or print media) of a job printed by the printer unit 203. Each sheet processing apparatus allows an operator to take out a printed material having undergone sheet processing by it. The printing system 1000 can selectively supply sheets of a job printed by the printer unit 203 from the printer unit 203 of the printing apparatus 100 to these sheet processing apparatuses.
  • [0400]
    The control unit 205 serving as an example of the control unit of the embodiment executes the following exemplary control in the printing system 1000 having the system configuration which aims at the POD market.
  • [0401]
    As a premise, the printing system allows the printing apparatus 100 to selectively use print media in a plurality of feeding units. The control unit 205 controls the printing system 1000 to execute the first operation of completing a printing operation necessary for one target job. More specifically, the control unit 205 causes the printing apparatus 100 to use all print media in one feeding unit, and then causes it to use print media in another feeding unit.
  • [0402]
    The control unit 205 controls the UI unit to be able to accept an instruction to inhibit the printing system 1000 from executing the first operation. In the embodiment, when the operator presses a “productivity importance” key in a UI window (to be described later), the control unit 205 determines that he has input an instruction to inhibit execution of the first operation.
  • [0403]
    On the premise of this configuration, when the operator has not pressed the “productivity importance” key corresponding to the “instruction to inhibit execution of the first operation” (he has not input this instruction), the control unit 205 causes the printing system 1000 to execute the first operation.
  • [0404]
    When the operator presses the “productivity importance” key corresponding to the “instruction to inhibit execution of the first operation” (he inputs this instruction), the control unit 205 inhibits the printing system 1000 from executing the first operation. In this case, the control unit 205 controls the printing system 1000 to execute the following second operation instead of executing the first operation.
  • [0405]
    As the second operation, the control unit 205 causes the printing apparatus 100 to use some of print media in one feeding unit. While print media still remain in this feeding unit, the control unit 205 causes the printing apparatus 100 to use print media in another feeding unit, completing a printing operation necessary for one target job. When the operator presses the “productivity importance” key corresponding to the “instruction to inhibit execution of the first operation”, the control unit 205 controls the printing system 1000 to execute the series of operations as the second operation.
  • [0406]
    The following first effect can be obtained by enabling the printing system 1000 to execute the first operation. For example, the utilization rate of print media in one of feeding units of the printing system 1000 can be increased. Even if the printing system 1000 simultaneously intensively accepts requests to print various types of print jobs requiring various types of print media, it can process as many print jobs as possible.
  • [0407]
    The following second effect can also be obtained by enabling the printing system 1000 to execute the second operation. For example, the productivity of one job can be increased by using a plurality of feeding units to shorten the time taken to end printing one print job after the start of printing.
  • [0408]
    The printing system 1000 selects the first or second operation to, for example, inhibit execution of the first operation and execute the second operation without any explicit instruction from the operator. Accordingly, the printing system 1000 can achieve both the first and second effects. The printing system 1000 can establish a convenient, flexible printing environment capable of coping with use cases and needs assumable in the printing environment such as the POD environment in Description of the Related Art.
  • [0409]
    The printing system 1000 can provide various mechanisms toward commercialization of a product suitable not only for the office environment but also for the printing environment such as the POD environment where use cases and user needs different from those in the office environment are assumed.
  • [0410]
    In the above-described configuration, when print media remain in all available feeding means upon performing the second operation to cause the printing apparatus to, while print media still remain in a feeding means, use print media in another feeding means, the feeding operation stops, and the operator is requested to feed sheets. However, the productivity may be decreased by stopping the feeding operation while print media remain in all feeding means. Even if no productivity decreases, it is difficult to solve possible problems assumed in Description of the Related Art in this specification. In the embodiment, the printing system 1000 disclosed in the embodiment comprises the above-described configuration as an example of important configurations. However, the printing system 1000 need not always comprise all constituent features described above. A configuration disclosed below is a particularly important configuration of the printing system 1000, and is also a typical example of the particularly important configuration as a constituent feature for solving the above-mentioned problems.
  • [0411]
    The printer unit 203 notifies the control unit 205 that the paper cassette 317 is running short of sheets. The printer unit 203 detects the remaining number of sheets in the paper cassette 317 as follows.
  • [0412]
    When the user opens the paper cassette 317 in the printer unit 203 in order to refill the paper cassette 317 with sheets, a lifter moves to the bottom of the paper cassette 317. In this state, the user refills the paper cassette 317 with sheets, and the sheets are stacked on the lifter. After refilling the paper cassette 317 with sheets, the user closes it. Then, while supporting the refilled sheets, the lifter moves so that the stacked sheets contact the pickup roller 321. At this time, a sensor attached to the paper cassette 317 detects the movement of the lifter. By performing the series of operations, the printer unit 203 measures the time until the sensor detects the lifter after the lifter starts moving. As a result, the printer unit 203 can detect the height of sheets on the lifter.
  • [0413]
    The printer unit 203 estimates the number of stacked sheets from the height of sheets and sheet information (e.g., sheet type, grammage, surface property, and shape) sent from the control unit 205.
  • [0414]
    Upon receiving a printing instruction from the control unit 205 after estimating the number of sheets, the printer unit 203 decrements the number of sheets every time a sheet is printed. The printer unit 203 detects that the remaining number of sheets in the paper cassette 317 has reached a preset value (lower limit value). The printer unit 203 can notify the control unit 205 of this.
  • [0415]
    By the same processing, the printer unit 203 can also detect that the remaining numbers of sheets in the paper cassette 318 and paper deck 319 in the printer unit 203 have reached a preset value. The printer unit 203 can notify the control unit 205 of this.
  • [0416]
    While operating the lifter, the printer unit 203 operates the pickup roller 321 to convey sheets stacked in the paper cassette 317. When the printer unit 203 detects that the lifter has moved to a predetermined height and that the pickup roller 321 cannot convey any sheet from the paper cassette 317, it detects that the paper cassette 317 runs out of sheets. At this time, the following methods are applicable to detect that the lifter has moved to the end: a detection method using the sensor of the paper cassette 317, a method of calculating the moving distance of the lifter, and a detection method using a sensor (not shown) mounted at the same level as the pickup roller 321.
  • [0417]
    By the same processing, the printer unit 203 can also detect that the paper cassette 318 and paper deck 319 in the printer unit 203 run out of sheets. The printer unit 203 can notify the control unit 205 of this.
  • [0418]
    FIG. 21 is a flowchart showing an example of control processing procedures in the embodiment. The control unit 205 performs this processing by reading out and executing a program which is stored as a computer-readable computer program in a memory (storage medium such as the HDD 209) in order to execute the control sequence in FIG. 21.
  • [0419]
    The controller (control unit) 205 sets the second operation for all the paper cassettes 317 and 318 and paper deck 319 (S2101).
  • [0420]
    After the user makes various settings in the window of FIG. 6 displayed on the touch panel 401 of the operation unit 204, he presses the start key 503 of the key input section 402. In response to this, the control unit 205 performs a copying operation to read an original document set on the scanner unit 201, accumulate the image data in the HDD 209 via the compression/decompression unit 210, and output the image data by the printer unit 203 (S2102).
  • [0421]
    During this operation, the control unit 205 determines whether the printer unit 203 has notified the control unit 205 that the remaining number of sheets has reached a lower limit value (the remaining number of sheets is small) (sheet leaving warning line in FIG. 24) (S2103). If the control unit 205 determines that the printer unit 203 has notified the control unit 205 of this, it advances the process to step S2105. That is, without stopping print processing, the control unit 205 searches the RAM 208 for the sizes and types of sheets stored in the feeding stages of the printer unit 203 (S2105). The feeding stages are searched sequentially from one having the shortest feeding path, i.e., in the order of the paper cassettes 317 and 318 and paper deck 319. The control unit 205 searches for a paper cassette or paper deck capable of continuing the printing operation (S2106, S2107, and S2108).
  • [0422]
    More specifically, the control unit 205 searches for the size and type of sheets stored in a given feeding stage (paper cassette or paper deck) and S2108), and determines whether to end the search (S2106).
  • [0423]
    If the control unit 205 determines not to end the search (a feeding stage to be searched still remains), it compares the detected sheet size with the size of sheets, the remaining number of which is notified in step S2103 to have reached the lower limit value (S2107). If the control unit 205 determines that these two sheet sizes are different from each other, it returns the process to step S2105 for the next feeding stage.
  • [0424]
    If the control unit 205 determines in step S2107 that these two sheet sizes are equal to each other, it compares the sheet type detected in step S2108 with the type of sheets, the remaining number of which is notified in step S2103 to have reached the lower limit value (S2108). If the control unit 205 determines that these two sheet types are different from each other, it returns the process to step S2105 for the next feeding stage.
  • [0425]
    If the control unit 205 determines that these two sheet types are the same, it executes feeding stage switching request processing (S2109). That is, if the control unit 205 has detected a paper cassette or paper deck capable of continuing the printing operation, it advances the process to step S2109. The control unit 205 issues a feeding stage switching request to the printer unit 203 in order to perform print processing by switching the feeding source to the detected feeding stage storing sheets capable of continuing the printing operation (S2109).
  • [0426]
    The control unit 205 returns the process to step S2102 to continue print processing (copying operation). If the control unit 205 determines in step S2106 to end the search (a feeding stage to be searched does not remain), it advances the process to step S2110. That is, the control unit 205 cannot detect, from the RAM 208, a paper cassette storing sheets suitable for continuing print processing among the feeding stages of the printer unit 203.
  • [0427]
    The control unit 205 continues the copying operation by inhibiting the setting of the second operation and executing the first operation for the paper cassette in use (S2111).
  • [0428]
    If the printer unit 203 notifies the control unit 205 of the remaining number of sheets (absence of sheets) (S2112), the control unit 205 controls the operation unit 204 to display a feeding request message on the touch panel 401 (S2113).
  • [0429]
    If the control unit 205 determines that the printer unit 203 has not notified the control unit 205 during the copying operation in step S2102 that the remaining number of sheets has reached the lower limit value, it determines whether the printer unit 203 has notified the control unit 205 that sheets run out (S2104). If the control unit 205 determines that the printer unit 203 has not notified the control unit 205 of this (sheets exist), it continues the copying operation.
  • [0430]
    If the control unit 205 detects that the printer unit 203 has stopped, it advances the process to step S2105 to search the RAM 208 for the sizes and types of sheets stored in the feeding cassettes of the printer unit 203.
  • [0431]
    The actual operation of the paper cassettes 317 and 318 and paper deck 319 in this sequence will be explained with reference to FIG. 25.
  • [0432]
    For example, the user selects the paper cassette 317 and starts printing. First, sheets are fed from the paper cassette 317 by the numbers of sheets represented by (1) and (2). When the remaining number of sheets reaches the sheet leaving line, the paper cassette 317 switches to the paper cassette 318. Then, sheets are fed from the paper cassette 318 by the numbers of sheets represented by (4) and (5). When the remaining number of sheets reaches the sheet leaving line, the paper cassette 318 switches to the paper deck 319. Sheets are fed from the paper deck 319 by the numbers of sheets represented by (7) and (8). When the remaining number of sheets reaches the sheet leaving line, the paper deck 319 should normally switch to the paper cassette 317 (close to the feeding path) in accordance with ACC. However, since no paper cassette is available, the paper deck 319 switches to the first operation and keeps feeding sheets.
  • [0433]
    If the remaining number of sheets reaches sheet leaving line (9), the paper deck 319 switches to the paper cassette 317 close to the feeding path to continue printing ((3)). If the remaining number of sheets in the paper cassette 317 reaches the sheet leaving line, the paper cassette 317 switches to the paper cassette 318 ((6)).
  • [0434]
    [Description of Another Control Example of Printing System 1000]
  • [0435]
    In the above-described control example, if the control unit 205 determines in S2106 to end the search (a feeding stage to be searched does not remain), it inhibits the setting of the second operation and executes the first operation for the paper cassette in use.
  • [0436]
    When an available paper cassette and paper deck are refilled with sheets until the paper cassette in use runs out of sheets, the copying operation may shift to the paper cassette and paper deck.
  • [0437]
    This configuration example will be explained. Control processes in S2201 to S2210 are the same as those in S2101 to S2110. If the control unit 205 determines in step S2206 to end the search (a feeding stage to be searched does not remain), it inhibits the setting of the second operation and executes the first operation for the paper cassette in use (S2210). At this time, the control unit 205 controls the operation unit 204 to display a window (FIG. 26) on the touch panel 401 for requesting the user to refill the paper cassette with sheets (S2211). More specifically, the touch panel 401 displays the name of a paper cassette or paper deck to be refilled with sheets, and the approximate time until the paper cassette or paper deck used for the copying operation runs out of sheets.
  • [0438]
    If the user refills the target paper cassette or paper deck in use with sheets until the paper cassette or paper deck used for the copying operation runs out of sheets, the printer unit notifies the controller that the target paper cassette or paper deck has been refilled with sheets.
  • [0439]
    The control unit 205 advances the process to step S2205. That is, without stopping print processing, the control unit 205 searches the RAM 208 for the sizes and types of sheets stored in the feeding stages of the printer unit 203 (S2205). The feeding stages are searched sequentially from one close to the feeding path, i.e., in the order of the paper cassettes 317 and 318 and paper deck 319. The control unit 205 searches for a paper cassette or paper deck capable of continuing the printing operation (S2206, S2207, and S2208).
  • [0440]
    At this time, the control unit 205 searches for the paper cassette refilled with sheets. The control unit 205 issues a feeding stage switching request to the printer unit 203 in order to perform print processing by switching the feeding source to the detected feeding stage storing sheets capable of continuing the printing operation (S2209). The control unit 205 returns the process to step S2202 to continue print processing (copying operation).
  • [0441]
    If the user has not refilled the target paper cassette or paper deck in use with sheets, the control unit 205 continues the copying operation until the paper cassette or paper deck during feeding runs out of sheets. If the printer unit notifies the control unit 205 of the remaining number of sheets (absence of sheets), the control unit 205 advances the process to step S2215. The control unit 205 displays, on the touch panel 401 of the operation unit 204, a message that there is no sheet optimum for continuing the processing (S2215).
  • [0442]
    The actual operation of the paper cassettes 317 and 318 and paper deck 319 in this sequence will be explained with reference to FIG. 25. For example, the user selects the paper cassette 317 and starts printing.
  • [0443]
    First, sheets are fed from the paper cassette 317 by the numbers of sheets represented by (1) and (2). When the remaining number of sheets reaches the sheet leaving line, the paper cassette 317 switches to the paper cassette 318 (close to the feeding path) in accordance with ACC. At this time, the paper cassette 317 is unlocked. Then, sheets are fed from the paper cassette 318 by the numbers of sheets represented by (4) and (5). When the remaining number of sheets reaches the sheet leaving line, the paper cassette 318 switches to the paper deck 319 (close to the feeding path) in accordance with ACC. At this time, the paper cassette 318 is unlocked. Sheets are fed from the paper deck 319 by the numbers of sheets represented by (7) and (8). When the remaining number of sheets reaches the sheet leaving line, the paper deck 319 switches to the first operation and keeps feeding sheets till (9) because no paper cassette is available.
  • [0444]
    If the user refills the paper cassette 317 with sheets, the paper cassette 317 is locked. The paper cassette switches from the paper deck 319 (or paper cassette 318) to the sheet-refilled paper cassette 317 to feed sheets by the numbers of sheets represented by (1) and (2). When the remaining number of sheets reaches the sheet leaving line, an available paper cassette is searched for. If no available paper cassette is detected, the paper cassette switches to the first operation and keeps feeding sheets till (3). If the user refills another available paper cassette with sheets while sheets are fed till (3), the paper cassette 317 switches to the sheet-refilled paper cassette.
  • [0445]
    If the user has not refilled another available paper cassette with sheets, the paper cassette 317 switches to the paper cassette 318 (close to the feeding path) in accordance with ACC. Sheets are fed from the paper cassette 318 till (6). Similarly in this case, if the user refills another available paper cassette with sheets, the paper cassette 318 switches to the sheet-refilled paper cassette. If the user has not refilled another available paper cassette with sheets, the paper cassette 318 switches to the paper deck 319 at the sheet absence line. The paper deck 319 keeps feeding sheets till (9).
  • [0446]
    [Description of Still Another Control Example of Printing System 1000]
  • [0447]
    In the above-described control example, if the control unit 205 determines in S2206 to end the search (a feeding stage to be searched does not remain), it inhibits the setting of the second operation and executes the first operation for the paper cassette in use.
  • [0448]
    However, even if a feeding stage to be searched remains, the control unit 205 may inhibit the setting of the second operation and execute the first operation for the cassette in use when, for example, the remaining numbers of sheets in the number of paper cassettes and paper decks that is set by the user have reached a lower limit value (the remaining numbers of sheets are small).
  • [0449]
    For example, when the user presses the user mode key 505 in the key input section 402 of the operation unit 204 and presses a “common settings” button displayed in the initial settings/registration window of FIG. 27, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 of the operation unit 204 to display a window in FIG. 28.
  • [0450]
    In an auto cassette change ON/OFF setup window (FIG. 28), the user inputs the number of cassettes attaching importance to productivity.
  • [0451]
    In feeding stage information search in S2205 of FIG. 22, if the number of cassettes in each of which the remaining number of sheets has reached a lower limit value coincides with the number of cassettes set by the user, the control unit 205 inhibits the setting of the second operation and executes the first operation for the cassette in use.
  • [0452]
    [Description of Still Another Control Example of Printing System 1000]
  • [0453]
    The printing system may also execute the first or second operation by prompting the operator to set the first or second operation via the user interface means depending on the type of target job.
  • [0454]
    This configuration example will be explained with reference to the flowchart of FIG. 23. For example, when the user presses the user mode key 505 in the key input section 402 of the operation unit 204 and presses the “common settings” button displayed in the initial settings/registration window of FIG. 27, the control unit 205 causes the touch panel 401 of the operation unit 204 to display the window in FIG. 28.
  • [0455]
    The user presses an advanced setting button for attaching importance to productivity. In the advanced setting window (FIG. 30), the user sets, for each job type, whether to attach importance to productivity (S2301).
  • [0456]
    After making various settings in the window of FIG. 6 displayed on the touch panel 401 of the operation unit 204, the user presses the start key 503 of the key input section 402. In response to this, the control unit 205 performs a copying operation to read an original document set on the scanner unit 201, accumulate the image data in the HDD 209 via the compression/decompression unit 210, and output the image data by the printer unit 203 (S2302).
  • [0457]
    During this operation, the printer unit 203 notifies the control unit 205 that the remaining number of sheets has reached a lower limit value (the remaining number of sheets is small) (sheet leaving warning line in FIG. 24) (S2303). At this time, if the job is of a job type set in S2301, the process proceeds to S2306 to end the search in S2307 (equivalent to S2106). If there is no paper cassette to be switched, the process proceeds to S2311.
  • [0458]
    If the job is of a job type set to the second operation, the second operation switches to the first operation, and the process proceeds to steps S2312 to S2315 (equivalent to S2110 to S2113). If the job is not of a job type set to the second operation, the control unit 205 displays a feeding request message and requests the user to feed sheets.
  • [0459]
    The printing system 1000 according to the above-described embodiment can obtain the following effects.
  • [0460]
    For example, the printing system 1000 can solve problems assumed in Description of the Related Art. The printing system 1000 can also build a user-friendly, convenient printing environment suited not only to the office environment but also to the POD environment. The printing system 1000 can meet needs on site in the printing environment such as the POD environment, including a need to operate the system at productivity as high as possible, and a need to reduce the work load on an operator as much as possible. Especially, the printing system 1000 can achieve the following effect.
  • [0461]
    That is, the printing system 1000 can use all various types of sheets in the POD environment while increasing the productivity per unit time or the total productivity of jobs.
  • [0462]
    As described above, the printing system 1000 can establish a convenient, flexible printing environment capable of coping with use cases and needs assumable in the POD environment in Description of the Related Art. Various mechanisms toward commercialization of a product can be provided.
  • [0463]
    Various data described above are not limited to structures and contents described above, and can be formed from various structures and contents in accordance with the application purpose.
  • [0464]
    Although one embodiment has been described, the present invention can take embodiments of a system, apparatus, method, program, storage medium, and the like. More specifically, the present invention may also be applied to a system including a plurality of devices, or an apparatus formed by a single device.
  • [0465]
    [Other Mechanisms]
  • [0466]
    The memory map configuration of a storage medium which stores various data processing programs readable by an information processing apparatus (e.g., the control unit 205 of the printing apparatus 100) according to the present invention will be described with reference to a memory map shown in FIG. 31.
  • [0467]
    FIG. 31 is a view for explaining the memory map of a storage medium (recording medium) which stores various data processing programs readable by an information processing apparatus (e.g., the control unit 205 of the printing apparatus 100).
  • [0468]
    Although not shown, the storage medium (recording medium) may also store information (e.g., version information and creator information) for managing programs stored in the storage medium, and information (e.g., an icon distinctively representing a program) depending on the OS of a program reading device or the like.
  • [0469]
    Data belonging to various programs are also managed in this directory. A program for installing various programs in a computer, and a program for decompressing a compressed program to be installed may also be stored in this directory.
  • [0470]
    A host computer (e.g., the PC 103 or 104) may use an externally installed program to achieve the functions described in the embodiment.
  • [0471]
    In this case, data for displaying the same operation windows as those described in the embodiment including operation windows are externally installed to provide various user interface windows on the display unit of the host computer. This process is described with reference to the configuration based on the UI windows of FIGS. 17A, 17B, and 27 in the embodiment.
  • [0472]
    In this configuration, the present invention is also applicable to a case where an output apparatus receives a set of information including a program from a storage medium such as a CD-ROM, flash memory, or FD, or from an external storage medium via a network.
  • [0473]
    The object of the present invention is also achieved by supplying a storage medium which stores software program codes for implementing the functions of the embodiment to a system or apparatus, and reading out and executing the program codes stored in the storage medium by the computer (CPU or MPU) of the system or apparatus.
  • [0474]
    In this case, the program codes read out from the storage medium implement new functions of the present invention, and the storage medium which stores the program codes constitutes the present invention.
  • [0475]
    The program form is arbitrary such as an object code, a program executed by an interpreter, or script data supplied to an OS as long as a program function is attained.
  • [0476]
    The storage medium for supplying the program includes a flexible disk, hard disk, optical disk, magnetooptical disk, MO, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, magnetic tape, nonvolatile memory card, ROM, and DVD.
  • [0477]
    In this case, the program codes read out from the storage medium implement the functions of the above-described embodiment, and the storage medium which stores the program codes constitutes the present invention.
  • [0478]
    As another program supply method, the program can also be supplied by connecting a client computer to an Internet homepage via the browser of the client computer, and downloading the program of the present invention from the homepage to a storage medium such as a hard disk. Alternatively, the program can also be supplied by downloading a compressed file including an automatic installing function from the homepage to a storage medium such as a hard disk. The program can also be implemented by grouping program codes which form the program of the present invention into a plurality of files, and downloading the files from different homepages. That is, claims of the present invention also incorporate a WWW server, FTP server, and the like which prompt a plurality of users to download the program files for implementing functional processes of the present invention by a computer.
  • [0479]
    The program of the present invention can be encrypted, stored in a storage medium such as a CD-ROM, and distributed to a user. A user who satisfies predetermined conditions is prompted to download decryption key information from a homepage via the Internet. The user executes the encrypted program using the key information, and installs the program in the computer.
  • [0480]
    The functions of the above-described embodiment are implemented when the computer executes the readout program codes. Also, the present invention includes a case where an OS (Operating System) or the like running on the computer performs some or all of actual processes on the basis of the instructions of the program codes, thereby implementing the functions of the above-described embodiment.
  • [0481]
    Further, the present invention includes a case where the program codes read out from the storage medium are written in the memory of a function expansion board inserted into the computer or the memory of a function expansion unit connected to the computer, and the CPU of the function expansion board or function expansion unit performs some or all of actual processes, thereby implementing the functions of the above-described embodiment.
  • [0482]
    The present invention may also be applied to a system including a plurality of devices or an apparatus formed by a single device. The present invention can also be achieved by supplying a program to the system or apparatus. In this case, the system or apparatus can obtain the effects of the present invention by providing, to the system or apparatus, a storage medium which stores a program represented by software for achieving the present invention.
  • [0483]
    The present invention is not limited to the above-described embodiment, and various modifications (including organic combinations of embodiments) can be made without departing from the scope of the invention, and are not excluded from the scope of the invention.
  • [0484]
    Various examples and embodiments of the present invention have been described. It is apparent to those skilled in the art that the spirit and scope of the invention are not limited to a specific description in the specification.
  • [0485]
    For example, in the embodiment, the control unit 205 in the printing apparatus 100 mainly performs various control examples. For example, an external controller of a housing different from the printing apparatus 100 may also execute some or all of these control examples.
  • [0486]
    All the above-described embodiment and combinations of its modifications fall within the scope of the present invention.
  • [0487]
    Various examples and embodiments of the present invention have been described. It is apparent to those skilled in the art that the spirit and scope of the invention are not limited to a specific description in the specification.
  • [0488]
    The present invention can build a user-friendly, convenient printing environment applicable not only to the office environment but also to the POD environment. The present invention can also meet needs on site in the printing environment such as the POD environment, including a need to operate the system at productivity as high as possible, and a need to reduce the work load on an operator as much as possible. Especially, the present invention obtains the following effects.
  • [0489]
    For example, the present invention can achieve the following first effect by increasing the utilization rate of print media in one of feeding units. That is, even if the printing system simultaneously intensively accepts requests to print various types of print jobs requiring various types of print media, it can process as many print jobs as possible.
  • [0490]
    Also, by efficiently using a plurality of feeding units, the present invention can achieve the second effect capable of shortening the time taken to end printing one print job after the start of printing, and increasing the productivity of one job.
  • [0491]
    According to the present invention, the printing system can achieve both the first and second effects. The present invention can establish a convenient, flexible printing environment capable of coping with use cases and needs assumable in the printing environment such as the POD environment in Description of the Related Art.
  • [0492]
    The present invention can provide various mechanisms toward commercialization of a product suited not only to the office environment but also to the printing environment such as the POD environment where use cases and user needs different from those in the office environment are assumed.
  • [0493]
    That is, even if requests to print various types of print jobs requiring various types of print media are simultaneously intensively accepted, they can be processed as many as possible. In addition, the present invention can build a convenient, flexible printing environment where the productivity of one job is increased by shortening the time taken to end printing one print job after the start of printing.
  • [0494]
    While the present invention has been described with reference to exemplary embodiments, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the disclosed exemplary embodiments. The scope of the following claims is to be accorded the broadest interpretation so as to encompass all such modifications and equivalent structures and functions.
  • [0495]
    This application claims the benefit of Japanese Patent Application No. 2007-019885 filed on Jan. 30, 2007, which is hereby incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification271/9.03, 271/9.02
International ClassificationB65H3/44
Cooperative ClassificationB65H2511/414, B65H2511/415, B65H3/44
European ClassificationB65H3/44
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
20 Feb 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: CANON KABUSHIKI KAISHA, JAPAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:INOUE, KATSUHIRO;REEL/FRAME:020537/0215
Effective date: 20080124