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Question and Answer

What to Look for When Making a New Folder/Gluer Purchase

by Staff

August-September, 2003
Companies concentrating on future growth are now realizing new potential offered through updating and replacing their folder/gluers. By the time product reaches the folding/gluing department, there is already a large investment made in areas such as prepress, printing, diecutting, foil stamping, warehousing, and staging. Production delays in any of these departments can cause a more hurried pace in the departments that follow, increasing investment and potentially producing larger amounts of waste. The right folder/gluer has the potential to make up lost time and money through increased overall production speeds, faster set up times, and better flexibility with the type of products it can handle.

Asking the following questions can help you select the folder/gluer and corresponding options that are RIGHT for your company.

How well is the folder/gluer built?
For high-volume folding/gluing work, as with folding cartons, having a machine that is built solidly is a very important factor. The framework of the machine is its foundation. The side plate thickness isn’t as important as having a solid framework to support the side plates. The more cross members the better. Look for the use of thick wall structural steel-square tubing as the material of choice for these cross members. The lower the frame is to the floor, the lower the center of gravity will be causing the machine to produce less vibration. Less vibration means all the primary nuts and bolts will stay tight. In addition, avoid machines put together with angle iron or castings. These materials are weaker and can cause more vibration during operation.

If your application is more short-run work, such as presentation folders, a solid-built frame is still important, though not as critical, as with larger, high-volume folder/gluers.

What kind of safety features should you look for in the folder/gluer’s design?
It is important to look for pinch points and belts that are guarded, a warning chime to sound when the operator first presses the start or run button; a two press start system to allow the operator time to move clear of the belts before the machine starts running; and lock out E-stops that the operator must unlock to restart the machine after a jam or shut down. All of the above are a must for continued safe operation and accident avoidance. If these types of features do not come standard on the machine you are considering, ask if they can be added. If proper safety features are included with the folder/gluer, it can be one of the safest pieces of equipment you will own.

What types of products will the folder/gluer run?
When working with folding cartons, base model folder/gluers will convert basic carton styles such as side seam (straight-line) cartons. Some manufacturers also include the tooling necessary for automatic (crash) lock bottom cartons with their base price. That being the case, there should be no less than 12 folding forms (or “plows” as they are sometimes called) and 6 finger assemblies. All these are necessary to produce the range of auto-bottom styles currently in the market. Also, look for extra tooling that will guide and hold the carton down when needed. An operator should not need to use tape and bailing wire. A right hand lower glue pot will add versatility and should also be included in the base price. A belt speed of at least 400 meters per minute is common on many folder/gluers with some up to 550-600. Features such as vacuum feed belts and carton pile vibrators aid in carton flow out of the feeder and are offered as standard equipment on a few select brands.

If you are considering a short-run, smaller folder/gluer, it is still important to analyze the different types of products it can run. How fast can you change the folder/gluer for different presentation folder pockets? Will it run CD wallets as well as folders? These are important items to consider.

What options are sold with the folder/gluer?
Again, with a folder/gluer running carton work, a backfolding system is necessary to run 4 and 6 corner style cartons. This system should include two stations with shafts that have one or more rotary folding hooks attached (dependant on carton width). These hooks will pick up the back edge of the carton and fold it into a folding form. The backfold system should be operated by no less than an electronic servomotor. These servos can be easily programmed by the machine operator to do a wide variety of carton sizes. If you are producing 4 corner cartons, 6 corner cartons may be a future growth opportunity. Look for machines that include the tooling for 6 corner cartons in the price of the 4-corner option. A listing or book of other optional attachments should also be included in case your market has or will expand into specialty style cartons such as inter-partition or inter-cell. Be sure to confirm there will be enough areas on the machine to attach these devices. If not, a longer machine may be necessary. The longer the machine, the more in-process folds can be achieved. With the right attachments, you should be able to do most jobs with one pass through the machine.

On smaller folder/gluers, the ability to add additional options down the road is important as well. One option that many folder/gluers offer today is a hot melt gluing system. This provides additional flexibility when running difficult stocks through the folder/gluer.

What kind of service and after sale support is offered with the folder/gluer package?
One very important item that should always be included in the standard purchase price of any new folder/gluer is training. Folder/gluers are state-of-the-art machines that can be hazardous to operate by untrained employees. Training provided by the manufacturer offers first-hand knowledge from the source that built or supplies the unit. In most cases, one to two weeks training should be sufficient in the beginning.

A warranty should be included in the base price of any new machine as well. The length of the warranty will vary between manufacturers. Look for one that can be extended and includes at least 90 days labor coverage. A company that stands behind its product with a good warranty protection program will keep you from incurring lengthy downtime should a failure occur. On-going technical support should always be expected. This type of support offers answers to “how do I” and “can I” type questions. If the manufacturer encourages customers to fax in carton designs and offers suggestions on how to run them, take advantage of this service. It will save time and money in the long run.

On-going operator education and refresher courses are offered by many folder/gluer manufacturers at an additional charge. They are usually small sessions that focus on individual operator issues and request companies to send product samples ahead of time for the instructor to demonstrate and troubleshoot with the operators. These courses are designed to challenge your best operators to perform even better.

If you ask these important questions and analyze your specific needs and requirements upfront, you will most likely end up with the right folder/gluer that will satisfy your requirements. Do your research, work closely with the manufacturer or supplier, and spend the time with knowledgeable sales people that can evaluate your needs and recommend the right machine.

InsideFinishing would like to provide a special thanks to Jeff Wilcox, Technical Advisor for American International Machinery (414-764-3223) for his contribution to this article, as well as Bill LeFevre, “The Folder/Gluer Man” (800-353-1264) for his assistance.