- November 01, 2000, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
For more than ten years, Jerry Forbes dreamed of opening a technology center dedicated to the "experimentation, development, and optimization" of web coating processes and materials. He envisioned a place where scientists, process developers, and manufacturing engineers could use the latest in process evaluation and data acquisition resources for virtually every coating process.
Nine months ago, he did just that.
Forbes is president of Frontier Industrial Technology, a 13-year-old company located in Towanda, PA. Frontier builds custom-designed coating and converting equipment, and Forbes knows how important it is for both large and small customers to keep up to date on critical coating technologies.
Frontier's new Coating Technology Center allows coating professionals to utilize the latest slot die coating systems available from his company to test new product formulations, or even to complete small-scale product runs. The response, he says, has been "fantastic and growing."
Checking Out Slot Die Process
The Coating Technology Center, which opened this past March, is located adjacent to the Towanda facility. Services are available at the center, using Frontier's DataCoat system, or in customers' plants, using the MobileCoat and DynaCoat portable coating modules.
The center's workhorse is the DataCoat Pilot Coating/Data Acquisition Line, a complete slot-die coating system capable of multilayer coating, with a 24-ft, multizone, air flotation dryer. The system is monitored by an Allen-Bradley RS View Data Acquisition System, which correlates process data with actual web line output.
Capable of speeds up to 200 fpm, the system captures coating variables such as line and pump speed; dryer impingement air temperature and velocity; nozzle-to-web impingement distance; blower speeds; air pressure; and other process variables. The system permits fully metered, precision adjustments of solution flow, web speed, web tension, dryer temperature, vacuum pressure, and other variables as the web runs. DataCoat's on-the-fly adjustments allow rapid testing of multiple variables in a single coating run.
Forbes notes, "Our two-zone, 24-ft drying chamber operates on a combination hot air impingement/hot air flotation system. The impingement nozzles are located every three inches throughout the tunnel and can be positioned from one-half to six inches from the web. The system can dry thin and thick coatings efficiently with minimal operator effort."
The center is equipped to conduct off-line testing and analysis of coating fluid properties, including solution rheology, filtration characteristics, viscosity, density, and residual solids.
The facility, says Forbes, serves two purposes: "It allows customers to come in and rent time for their own research, and it demonstrates our slot die coating capabilities. When they leave, they have printouts of what all their coating parameters were, with graphics for each sample."
The use of slot die coating technology makes the center even more unique, Forbes says, and perhaps even more valuable to customers not familiar with this distinct coating method. He explains that, although it has been available for decades, slot die coating is still a rarity among small to medium coaters and only a handful of big-name companies have utilized its unique capabilities. The Frontier Coating Technology Center opens the door for smaller companies to enjoy the benefits of slot die coatings.
Allen-Bradley/Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, WI; 414/382-2000