Tension Control

At 425,000 sq ft, the Bellwood printing plant of Reynolds Metals Co., located in Richmond, VA, is said to be the largest rotogravure facility under one roof in the US. Boasting an annual capacity in the hundreds of millions, this converter has 460 full-time employees and runs three shifts, five days per week.

The plant has been going about its business in a determined, proficient way for a long time — since 1957, to be exact, reports electrical engineering manager Larry Long. As you would expect in a plant this size and age, many manufacturers have supplied Bellwood with equipment over the years. The facility contains 4 board gravure presses and 5 light-web gravure presses.

In addition, there are 4 coextruders, 2 laminators (one Rotomec and one Inta-Roto), 28 slitters of various sizes, 6 cutter/creasers, 12 metal edgers, and 8 gluers, plus ancillary support mechanical functions, storage and shipping areas, and offices.

The heart of the Bellwood printing plant is the centrally located pressroom, which contains four Bobst-Champlain rotogravure board presses, three of which have eight printing stations and one that has six.

For light-web gravure, the company runs three Champlain Corsairs, each with eight stations. In addition, there is a refurbished eight-station Rotomec press and an eight-station Cerutti press.

Bellwood sends its cylinders to Southern Graphics, a sub. of Reynolds Metals, for engraving. Enercon supplies corona treaters.

Foil Is the Common Bond
Started as a captive carton maker for Reynolds Wrap brand aluminum foil, the plant continues to produce brand name and private label foodwrap cartons for its parent company (which concluded its merger with Alcoa this past year). The plant is considered to be a pioneer in water-based printing; all of the Reynolds Wrap cartons and most of the private label cartons are printed with water-based inks. (Ink suppliers are proprietary.)

Bellwood also makes colorful folding cartons and flexible packaging for a broad mix of outside customers, including food service and beverages, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and other consumer and industrial products.

The commonality for just about everything produced here is foil, which is laminated to solid bleached sulfate or recycled board for folding cartons, or to paper and/or film (polyethylene and polypropylene) constructions in flexible packaging applications.

The foil component in some applications fulfills a dual function of esthetics and oxygen/vapor barrier.

These applications do not require heavy-gauge foil; in fact, the opposite is true. According to Long, the thinner the better, due principally to the cost advantages of using thin-gauge foils. The operation typically runs foil as thin as 0.28 mils.

Running such high-volume, high-value packaging materials forces the operation always to be on guard against waste. To a large degree, it has been able to minimize waste associated with out-of-register or wrinkled stock by improving tension control. In an ongoing project, the company gradually is standardizing the tension control on all equipment—printers, slitters, laminators, and coextruders—with complete tension control systems from The Montalvo Corp. As a result, Reynolds reports it has achieved the level of quality tension control necessary to meet stringent customer demands while minimizing waste.

Explains Long, who has the responsibility for managing such issues, tension control “plays a big role in wrinkle-free laminations and quality printing and slitting.” With Montalvo components and technical support, tension control has become “something we don't have to think too much about anymore. It just does what it's supposed to do. It never needs much attention. And that's the way we like it.”

Before the company switched to air-cooled Montalvo brakes, it depended on water-cooled brakes with manual controls throughout the plant. “The water-cooled brakes were a major maintenance headache,” Long recalls. “They were not very reliable. They were messy. We had rust, line clogs, line breakage, and water spills. Plus, the technology was behind the times.”

The initial purchases from Montalvo were brakes, but Reynolds ultimately switched all its tension control components to Montalvo equipment, including load cells and controllers.

Long singles out the load cells for special praise. “We've never had a Montalvo load cell fail. Most people in this business think of load cells as a commodity, off-the-shelf item. But with Montalvo, it's more than that. We're buying reliability, backed up by top-notch service support.”

Responsiveness Is Key
Reynolds has established a solid working relationship with Montalvo, Long says, a relationship best typified by the level of responsiveness the company shows to Reynolds. Long recalls a recent case in which a Rotomec laminator had been shipped into the plant with the intention of a quick startup after on-site refurbishment. But the load cells were not working properly, and the technicians rebuilding the machine wanted them replaced with more reliable ones.

Long was on the phone to Montalvo and got an immediate response. Montalvo shipped the correct load cells overnight, everything was installed, and the machine was up and running on schedule. Long explains that Montalvo technicians were able to determine the precise needs in a phone call on the basis of the equipment and the type of materials the company expected to run on it. The technicians did not have to be on-site to specify the components or even to help install them.

Long cites the combination of high quality products, responsive service, and strong application know-how as the main reasons Reynolds continues to do business with Montalvo and, in fact, is expanding the relationship. “We've had exceptionally good experiences with Montalvo. Tension control has become a non-issue. It just doesn't come to mind as a problem.”

Montalvo components can be found seemingly in every nook and cranny of the massive facility: air-cooled brakes on printing press unwinds, load cells tucked in here and there, brakes and controllers on slitters, etc.

“We have expanded our relationship with Montalvo,” Long says, “because we have continued to have good experiences with them. They are improving their products so we continue to upgrade with them. I have looked at other tension control vendors, but there is no temptation to switch. Montalvo is way ahead of the curve.”

Reynolds Metals Co.

2001 Reymet Rd. Richmond, VA 23237; 804/743-6279; rmc.com

The Montalvo Corp.
, Portland, ME; 207/797-8710; montalvo.com

Bobst-Champlain, Roseland, NJ; 973/226-8000; bobstgroup.com

Rotomec America, West Hartford, CT; 860/953-3504; valmetconverting.com

Inta-Roto, Richmond, VA; 804/222-4809; inta-roto.com

Cerutti Group, Pittsburgh, PA; 412/788-1000; cerutti.it

Southern Graphic Systems, an Alcoa co. Wilmington, NC; 910/762-6270; alcoa.com

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