- February 28, 2005, Carrie Cleaveland, Assistant Editor
According to Peter Medlicott, president and chief operating officer of Comexi (comexi.com), "With run speeds in excess of 600 meters per minute, set-up times down to mere minutes, and today’s technology of laser positioning knives and cores, turret rewinds, automatic discharge onto conveyors, and labeling and pre-shrinking the material to be ready for dispatch, slitting has entered a new era."
Medlicott’s "new era" is an idea echoed by others. "Gone are the days when slitting was a little-understood ‘afterthought’ in the converting process," says Reinhold Schable, technical support manager of Tidland, a Maxcess Intl. company (maxcessintl.com). "Today’s slitter manufacturers must include more than hardware; it’s also necessary to provide training and education covering the entire slitting process—not just a crumpled, photocopied ‘how-to’ sheet included with a knifeholder purchase."
When purchasing a slitter, says Vince Macaluso, sales manager at Dusenbery Worldwide (dusenbery.com), it’s important to ask questions. Is it a thick material? Is it a rigid material? Is it adhesive? "Make sure you know all the characteristics and the specifications of the materials," he says. "Some companies are just getting into slitting, and they really don’t know what they need to know."
Guy Carrington, US sales manager for Ashe Converting Equipment (ashe.co.uk), says it’s important to keep the future in mind. "One should consider not only their needs for today but also for tomorrow."
For Schable, important factors include flexibility and the ability to make rapid pattern changes. Another consideration is a machine’s versatility. "Slitting systems must deliver a quality slit to a wide and constantly changing variety of substrates," he says.
Carrington agrees…for now. Future machines, however, may not always be equipped to run an extensive range of materials. "We’re getting a bit more specific in the machine design," he says. "As products have gotten more technical, we have to make the machines more specific to the product that we’re running through them."
All four agree that everything comes back to automation. According to Schable, the push for automation is driving manufacturers to integrate systems into smaller converting machines. "It has become incumbent upon the finishing and slitting departments to update their technology," says Medlicott. "In the early days, there was no real advantage for slitter manufacturers to have machines that ran at high speeds. This is no longer true."
Carrington adds that today’s machines minimize set-up times. "A general converter may be converting 50 different products for 20 different suppliers," he says. "With that, the automatic setup and memory on the machines allows the operators to download the operating parameters of a machine into the machine run parameters."
It’s important to take an extra step. According to Macaluso, "If you can slit it, anyone can. The question is: ‘How do you handle that roll once it’s slit?’" He says some of the most significant changes in slitting are in the automation of material handling. "We’re seeing a lot more customers who don’t want their operators to actually touch the machine at all or handle the rolls at all," he says.
Machine diagnostics are a sweet spot for Carrington on today’s slitters. If breakdowns occur, the manual can be pulled up on the machine itself and the problem corrected without fumbling for a printed manual. "It makes it much quicker to diagnose any downtime," he says.
For Medlicott, future slitting challenges are a matter of bettering recent enhancements: faster speeds, quicker changeovers, and more automation.
Schable says this push toward greater automation is of particular interest to converters. "The challenge," he says, "is to reduce the size of the slitting section to match the scale of converting equipment."
For this and other new slitting products, see our March New Products page.
Restrictions of time and space limit the number of companies, products, and trends that we can discuss in these reports. For additional information, see PFFC’s features and departments each month, consult the June Buyers Guide, and check pffc-online.com.