Automation and Options Spell Opportunity for Converters

With CMM International right around the corner, the latest slitting/rewinding technology will be in the spotlight April 14-16 at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. Elite Cameron, Dusenbery Worldwide, and Stanford Products report they will exhibit brand new machines, and you can be sure the latest equipment will be fast, flexible, and rich in features.

At a time of ever-changing market conditions, converters require equipment that provides total flexibility for the future, says Tim Self, managing director, Elite Cameron, Piscataway, NJ. Today's machines are modular, enabling customers to specify the level of options they require — as many as 50 — knowing they can upgrade at a later date. “[Suppliers] understand the importance of reduced downtime,” he says, “especially as customer orders are getting smaller and deliveries quicker.”

With automated machinery, the machine sets the production pace, not the operator, says Chris Jennerjahn, sales manager at Jennerjahn Machine, Matthews, IN. “Job estimators can quote quicker lead times and tighter margins more accurately and confidently. This allows converters to minimize risks when they are forced to get more competitive in order to secure a key order.”

Systems such as closed loop tension control are more exact than older open loop systems, says Larry Boyles, VP at Stanford Products, Salem, IL. “Tension readouts take the guesswork out of what tension level a converter may be running. Inspection systems monitor print quality before shipment to a customer. Many slitters incorporate some type of roll handling equipment to reduce operator fatigue and improve the safety of manually handling rolls.”

Boyles says recent technology improvements include the introduction of pneumatic differential rewind shafts and PLC-based control systems along with AC vector drives that offer excellent web control and feature flexibility throughout the slitter to include recipe storage of running parameters.

Jennerjahn predicts automation will allow smaller companies to capture more business. “Large companies with 15 manual rewinders tend to put off the purchase of automated equipment because they have a difficult time getting over the sticker shock for the cost to replace all their machines,” he explains. “If they buy 1 or 2, they save money on the products produced on those machines; however, since it is only 1 or 2 of 15, it has a minimal effect on their overall pricing structure.”

A small company that replaces its two or three manual rewinders will save a significant amount of labor, and these savings will have an immediate impact on their pricing structure, he adds.

“Slitter/rewinder suppliers will improve the efficiency of roll handling systems with more automation,” predicts Boyles. “The introduction of lasers in web processing, especially in films, will be a major trend. These laser systems can be incorporated into the slitter or roll-to-roll rewinder. Presently lasers may be cost-prohibitive to perform a simple, straight slitting operation, but with special shapes, perforations, or operations that are difficult for mechanical devices, lasers offer a viable alternative.”

If you're in the market for new slitting/rewinding equipment, remember to evaluate ease of operation, especially the automation of loading and unloading rolls, and the ease and speed of setting the slitting knives, says Boyles, “and make sure the slitter has excellent tension controls for the products you are running.”

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

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