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Question and Answer

Ancillary Systems for Folding-Gluing Equipment Continue to Change

by Staff

August-September, 2006
As companies search for ways to decrease production time while still maintaining quality, the need for additional ancillary systems and equipment in the folding-gluing arena has risen. As the face of this industry continues to change, InsideFinishing called upon folder-gluer specialist Jeff Wilcox with American International Machinery to address some of the questions and challenges faced by many companies doing this type of work.

Have folder-gluer machine manufacturers been working with any of the ancillary machine manufacturers, such as glue application systems, label application systems, etc., to ensure a seamless operation when this equipment is installed onto the folder-gluer? 
Leaps and bounds have been made in this direction. Many ancillary machine manufacturers recognize that in today’s environment, it is a must that their equipment work well with the folding-gluing equipment and that it be easy to install. Because of this approach, the installation time is decreased and the equipment is better constructed. Parts can be produced in quantity as well as quality, so they fit better and are more cost effective. Many times, because of the decreased time in installation, additional training time can be afforded as well. It is recommended that some ancillary equipment, such as glue application or label systems, be more of a ‘bolt on’ installation. The reason for this is that the manufacturer of the original folding-gluing equipment can pre-install the ancillary equipment before it is shipped out to the customer. This information then can be passed on to the customer to help him with ease of installation and help work through any potential challenges with how the ancillary equipment works with the folder-gluer.

I understand that a window-patcher can be installed at the end of the line of some folding-gluing equipment.  Is this a good idea for all jobs with windows or only for some applications?
Window-patching equipment exists that will attach to folder-gluer equipment, but it fits at the front end of the machine, not at the end of the line. The reason for this is that the window must be placed on the inside of the carton before any folding or gluing can be completed. Because the window patch must be placed with a relatively high degree of accuracy, it is required to have some sort of carton alignment section after the feeder section on the folder-gluer. The window patch machine will place the patch at the end of the alignment section. The alignment section will draw the carton to a register bar to make sure that the carton is traveling in a straight line and that the scores are parallel to the folding belts by the time the carton reaches the end of the alignment section. Therefore, the window is straight as it is placed on the carton.

Some of the newer window-patching units are controlled electronically by servo motors and drives. This technology places the window patches and the glue extremely accurately and keeps the size of the patches consistent. Although this technology works very well, you have to make sure that there is enough room on the carton to hold down one side while placing a window on it. The alignment section is what drives the carton under and through the window-patching machine, so if you need to place a window on the driven side edge of a carton, or very close to it, it may be difficult to do it in-line with the folder-gluer. If the cartons are wide enough, or you need to place a patch on the edge of the carton that is not driven by the carton aligner, this can be an excellent way of placing the window in-line and eliminating an entire set-up on another machine. It takes up less floor space and one operator can run both the window-patching and folding-gluing operation at the same time. This type of servo-controlled unit also includes a photo sensor that helps ensure that the carton gets a window and detects the carton if a window is missed.

Are there any new innovations with glues and/or glue systems that have helped folder-gluers run faster or with greater efficiency in recent years?
Most of the glue application system manufacturers have been using a high-pressure pump to deliver the glue – an ongoing and welcomed trend in this area. This type of high-pressure pump will allow a thicker glue to travel to the glue guns. Using thicker glue has many advantages. The glue will create a faster and better bond on the product on which it is placed. Because the glue contains less water (in cold glue applications), there are less noticeable watermarks left by the glue on the outside of the product. The glue is cleaner to use and is placed more accurately on the product.

Other new innovations include the development of a PUR system by Nordson in Atlanta, Georgia. This system will apply clear hot melt glue to plastic cartons. The system is quite affordable and can be controlled by the Logicomm system that has been out in the market for quite some time. The Logicomm system can control the application of both cold glue and hot melt glue. It can be set up to detect glue and read bar codes, and can activate carton ejection systems and pocket folding units. It also will keep a record of the rejected product, display line, and running speeds, and will let the operator keep a memory of stored jobs. The system is very intuitive and easy to use, and there is a help button on every screen with an answer to most any question an operator may have.

What quality control devices are on the market that will ensure that the cartons I produce will pass high quality standards, including ISO standards?
Just about every glue application system manufacturer has a glue and adhesive detection system. This, together with a bar code sensor, makes for a pretty complete package. The only other potential device to help ensure the least amount of rejects is to install a device that will remove or redirect the sub-standard carton from the production stream. This redirection device is activated by the glue detection system, and the system keeps a record of how many cartons are removed from the production stream. The best carton ejectors have the ability to remove the carton in an in-line process. Because the cartons are ejected in-line, complications with certain carton styles that would ordinarily jam the machine are non-existent. Of course, this redirection device must be easy and safe for the operator to use, and also must be able to connect to the many glue detection systems out there.

Another benefit to these types of devices is that as the folder-gluer is in carton production, the operator can (at his discretion) safely remove a carton from the carton stream for immediate inspection. The carton is redirected up and into a Plexiglas container, where the operator need only open a door and remove the sample carton for inspection. The operator no longer needs to crawl under a running machine to see what has been ejected or try to pull a carton out of the production stream or even stop production for inspection. Because of this automation and record keeping ability, very high standards, including ISO quality standards can be achieved.

Have there been any recent improvements in the area of folding-gluing safety?
There have been a few changes. Guarding is now mandatory on all machines, as well as lockouts and warning bells. Something that is not even recognized yet is scratch/cut areas. These are areas or objects fitted to the machine that can give the operator a pretty good scratch or cut. The level of fit and finish on a machine goes well above and beyond just making the machine look pretty. It reduces this common hazard and makes the machine safer and easier to work around. It is very important to work with your folding-gluing manufacturer to make sure your operator is aware of all of the safety devices and features on the machine, and that proper training is available from not only the operation standpoint but also, from a safety standpoint as well.

It seems as though there are a lot of additional pieces of equipment that new folder-gluer operators need to know how to operate. Is there training available for operating folding-gluing machinery?
Having proper training on your new or used folding-gluing equipment might be more important than on any other type of finishing machine. The amount of set-up time and the countless different types of jobs an operator faces make sufficient training essential. It is recommended that training is incorporated into the price of the machine and that the manufacturer or supplier of the machine can set up standard operating procedures for the operators. The service and training needs to be an on-going commitment, and evaluation/training sessions can vary from two days to two weeks, depending on the current experience of the folding-gluing operator.

InsideFinishing would like to thank Jeff Wilcox, Signature Specialist for folder-gluers at American International Machinery (AIM), for his assistance with this article. He can be contacted at jwilcox@americanintl.com or by calling (414) 764-3223.