- June 01, 2009, By Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
As the executive VP of Metlon Corp., Wayne Etchells certainly knows how to spin a yarn — both literally and figuratively. The Cranston, RI-based company was, in fact, established 62 years ago as a producer of metallic yarn used to add both strength and style to various types of fabrics. Today, Metlon is one of the country's premier custom slitters of a much wider product range that includes films, papers, fabrics, flexible materials, and more. Etchells is more than happy to tell Metlon's many tales of success!
“In many cases customers come to us and say, ‘I've been to five converters already and have been told that this product can't be done,” he explains. Yet, he happily points to one customer who needed a ½-in. wide magnetic tape slit into two ¼-in. wide tapes.
Metlon was able to deliver rolls of material that were slit 0.246 in. wide with a tolerance of ±0.002 in. by taking a 0.0078-in. cut from the center of the ½-in. tape. “That's one example in which everybody told the customer it's impossible,” explains Etchells, “and we've been doing it for about two years now.”
With its 16 largely customized slitters, Metlon is capable of converting finished rolls in widths from 0.0078-54 in. Tolerances are as close as ±0.001 in.
The company converts materials ranging from more traditional films and tapes to more exotic metal screening and glass-beaded fabrics. Etchells says Metlon is “constantly modifying” its equipment to suit customers' specialized needs.
Etchells notes the diameter of a human hair is approximately 0.0025 in., and Metlon's specialty cutters are capable of cutting materials to just three times as wide. Metlon's unique custom slitting capability allows it to gang-slit 278 ends simultaneously to 0.0078 in. wide and wind each end on a separate traversed spool.
Customer requirements of extreme accuracy are common, notes Etchells, who emphasizes Metlon is known for custom slitting to extreme tolerances. For example, one customer asked whether the company could slit a new film to any width between 0.050 in. and 0.750 in. in 0.001-in. increments. Metlon has satisfied this customer's requirements for many years with no reported rejects, he says.
Metlon not only is able to slit to very accurate tolerances but also is able to measure its results. Several different methods are used to measure accuracy for customers.
Work that demands the greatest accuracy is measured with a Zygo laser micrometer (now available from Beta Lasermike). This precision instrument will measure from 0.010-2.000 in. wide in increments of five decimal places. In addition, certified copies of actual measurements are available.
Metlon made the transition from a strictly narrow web converter of metallic yarns to a wider web converter of films and papers in the late 1970s. Etchells explains that its unique transition from narrow to wide web converter allowed the company to capture market share more quickly than converters that were trying to expand from wide to narrow web projects.
“We started out on the opposite end,” he says. “Most [converters] start wide and learn to slit down. That's been an advantage for us that we got our experience doing the ‘tougher’ jobs first.”
Due in part to its expert slitting to extremely narrow widths, Metlon ultimately became one of only three US distributors for 3M's entire line of reflective materials. The company purchases larger rolls of 3M product, then slits it to specialty rolls in specified lengths and widths. Etchells says this niche has allowed Metlon to compete economically with offshore suppliers of similar-type materials.
“This is something that helped us keep going as the industry has gone offshore,” he explains. “In contract slitting, there aren't a lot of opportunities to slit products offshore because of the logistics of bringing a product in from overseas, slitting it, and shipping it back. But we have the range of equipment and technologies to meet virtually any customers' needs.”
Contributing editor Edward Boyle, based in Reading, PA, has covered the converting industry for more than 24 years. Contact him at EJB Communications; 610-670-4680; email@example.com.
▶Metlon Corp. | 133 Frances Ave., Cranston, RI 02910 | 401-467-3435 | www.metlon.com
Extremely accurate registration in very narrow width slitting is one of Metlon Corp.'s specialties. One job involved a 16-mm-wide (0.630-in.) film with 0.030-in.-wide numbers printed down the center. The customer required the film be slit to a final width of 0.040 in. and that the printed numbers be kept in the center of the finished width.
Wayne Etchells, executive VP, says the customer asked a number of converters throughout the country to do this particular job. Metlon was the first to succeed. “We hold tolerances of plus or minus one-thousandth of an inch as routine,” he says, “which is hardly an industry standard.”