AB Graphic International (ABG) is a manufacturer of label and packaging machines, specializing in finishing equipment for the label industry. Founded in 1954 by George Herbert Burton, the company remains a family business to this day. With approximately 250 employees, AB Graphic International conducts business from eight facilities in six countries and is represented by authorized agencies in several countries around the world. Continuing growth over the last decade has seen several expansions, including a purpose-built manufacturing facility and corporate headquarters in the UK, which is currently undergoing expansions to double in size.
ABG manufactures a range of traditional converters, digital finishing converters, rewinders, and ancillary equipment such as sheeters and core cutters. The company’s rewinders cover a broad spectrum of equipment: from a dozen models of turret rewinders in various web widths, to inspection slitters and rewinders for labels and film, with or without servo driven closed loop technology. Digicon, the company’s digital finishing range of equipment, offers modular-based design with capabilities for die cutting, sheeting, folding cartons, flexo, gravure and screen printing, embossing and laminating in a wide range of configurations.
According to Aylwin Spendlow, vice president of ABG, the company installs inspection systems that can vary from traditional missing label detectors, flag and splice detectors and stroboscopes, to cutting-edge cameras that read and verify bar codes, check for very small print defects, and/or use complicated optical character recognition software to verify the sequence of changing numbers at high speeds. ABG has a division in Germany, under the product name Flytec, which develops and manufactures camera inspection systems and rewinder platforms for this growing market.
Spendlow believes that slitters and rewinders will continue to evolve as technology permits. He believes they will change with the changing needs of converters and the products they manufacture, though there is a small but increasing trend to finish rolls direct from the printing press. What sets ABG products apart, according to Spendlow, is the company’s reliability, quality of service and fast turnaround times. He says the company’s mission is to offer products and services that consistently surpass customer expectations.
AzTech Converting Systems
AzTech has been in business for more than 25 years, and has spent 20 of them building slitters and rewinders. According to Derek Bradshaw, vice president, the company’s product line has evolved into their latest offerings: the BSR and ISR ranges of equipment. Bradshaw says that both ranges use the same electronic tension control, which allows runs of unsupported films and standard substrates, and are not servo controlled. Both lines are available with single- or dual-rewind spindles and have been sold with lamination stations, waste wind-ups, and can be equipped with either 100 percent vision systems or cameras.
According to Bradshaw, AzTech slitters and rewinders are available up to a 20” web width and can be oriented in either web direction. Standard features of the BSR series include: maximum web speeds of 750 fpm, choice of either left-right or right-left web path, reversible rewinds for over or under winding, an interchangeable slitting station module with choice of rotary shear or razor, a 40” maximum diameter unwind with heavy-duty pneumatic disc brake, and a programmable incremental counter. The series is also available with optional accessories, such as a forward inspection tower with synchronized strobe, pneumatically activated top-rider rolls, and spread rollers.
Features of the ISR series include: clutchless drive, the ability to rewind virtually any substrate (including thin, unsupported films), bowed spread roll for separating finished rolls at rewind, choice of either left-right or right-left web path, a 30” maximum diameter large roll unwind, an 18” maximum diameter finished roll rewind, and models available from 10” to 20” web widths. Optional features include ink jet printing modules, 100 percent inspection with automatic shutdown, table modification to accommodate various equipment, and 26” maximum diameter waste windup.
Bradshaw believes that slitters and rewinders will continue to be a staple of the converting process and that 100 percent inspection systems will continue to grow in popularity. He anticipates that customers will continue to prefer straightforward rewinders that are capable of doing different things, though they will likely want a little more automation.
CTC, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, is a manufacturer of automatic turret rewinders, butt splicers and waste matrix winders for the label industry. In addition to offering slitters with turret rewinders, the company has recently partnered with Emis to offer the Flexor line of slitter rewinders, diecutters and inspection machines to the North American market.
According to the Rich Herbert, technical sales manager at CTC, Emis machines vary from simple slitter rewinders, to machines with integrated single or double diecutting units, up to special machinery made to customer order. Flexor supplies machines in width ranging from 10” up to 20.5”.
CTC installs 100 percent camera inspection systems and its preferred partner is Nikka Research of Germany. However, Herbert says, the company can integrate any 100 percent inspection system as CTC machines offer a platform to support any supplier. Flexor also offers simpler inspection machines like vision inspection, missing label detection, flag detection, or splice detection. CTC products are all servo driven and can perform at speeds up to 320 m/m.
As far as the future of slitters and rewinders, Herbert believes that there are great changes to be made in the way the knives are set on a slitter rewinder. He also anticipates a rise in popularity for machines that are able to convert a wider range of materials, from standard self-adhesive products to mono film material. He expects to see more automated equipment to speed up production cycles.
“The future also will push converters to supply new and special products to their customers, and hence they will need special custom made machinery,” he added. “This process has started already and is slowly picking up pace.”
Keene Technology Inc.
Keene Technology Inc. (KTI), which has been in business since 1985, is a manufacturer of automatic splicing and turret equipment for the narrow web converting industry and folding carton and printing businesses. The company offers its narrow web customers the MR series multiple spindle turret rewinder with onboard slitting capabilities. It is available up to 24” wide, can rewind up to a 24” roll and run at speeds up to 800 fpm.
Standard features of the MR series include cutting and transfer at zero speed, integrated festoon that allows for transfer at full line speed, AC vector drive, taper or linear winding tension, pneumatic spindles, microprocessor control, and web widths of 16”, 20” and 24”. Available options include automatic web gluing, finished roll eject assistance, shear cut slitting, casters, web guides, bowed spreader rollers and non-stick plasma coated idlers.
According to Robin Sherlund, regional sales manager, the MR series offers robust construction, industry standard components that are designed into the unit, and the ability to handle a wide variety of substrates, including tags, labels, films and foils. Though the company does not install inspection systems, their turret rewinders are takeup mechanisms and can be used in conjunction with a variety of inspection systems.
Sherlund believes that slitters and rewinders will continue to evolve as the presses themselves evolve. As presses are running at higher speeds, she says, all auxiliary equipment will have to match those speeds. “As customers are able to print and convert faster,” she says, “they want every aspect of their press to be able to do that.”
Martin Automatic is a family-owned company that was founded in 1968. The company is headquartered in a 190,000 square foot facility in Rockford, IL, USA, where all engineering and manufacturing takes place. The company has a sales office in Germany and a sales and service office in Taipei, China.
According to Gavin Rittmeyer, vice president of sales and marketing, Martin’s MBS splicer is its workhorse for the label industry. Rittmeyer says that Martin butt splicers are preventing approximately 50,000 metric tons of waste from going to landfill each year ¬– in the label industry alone.
For the label industry, Martin Automatic also offers the LRD rewind. The LRD is used to slit in line and is used for pressure sensitive label, pharmaceutical cartons, lottery ticket, flexible packaging, and toothpaste tube laminate webs, among others. The LRD can wind from 8” diameter rolls up to 40” diameter rolls on the same machine. The maximum diameter capability for the LRD platform is 50”. According to Rittmeyer, Martin Automatic has done extensive research into tension profile curves and is quickly becoming a leading expert in the realm of rewinding non-symmetrical or non-homogeneous labels, including labels with screen printing.
Additionally, Martin Automatic offers the MBSC and STR unwind and rewind combo for narrow web label printers. These models, Rittmeyer says, offer economical, compact and automated unwind and rewind technology to the industry.
Rittmeyer says that Martin Automatic keeps the design philosophy of its founder in mind when engineering its products, including slitters and rewinders: “The most elegant design achieves its purpose with the fewest number of components.”
Rotoflex, which was bought by Mark Andy in 2008, offers a product line that is specifically focused on traditional inspections and slitting and rewinding capabilities. According to Jake Schnarre, product manager for finishing at Rotoflex, the company’s most popular unit is the VSI. The VSI is a smaller footprint unit and a label inspection machine that can easily integrate with vision systems.
Also available is the VLI, a wider range machine that can handle a broader range of materials, including labels, films, unsupported films and wider web widths. It’s a full inspection machine for the midweb and larger web markets up to 28”.
The DSI unit is a small diecutter for blank label work. It can perform as a diecutter or as a traditional rewind machine. The company’s DLI unit is a higher-end model that can diecut preprinted labels.
The company recently launched its latest product, Genesis, at Label Expo in Brussles. It offers a user interface with a 15” touchscreen, integrates all functionality of the machine – including tension control, ramp time, acceleration and deceleration, counting, and fault detection – into a single user interface. According to Schnarre, the Genesis gives converters the ability to save all information about a job, including number of rolls, tension settings, etc., for future use.
“You can recall that information very quickly the next time that job goes through,” he says.
Schnarre sees the future of the industry as robust, particularly regarding vision inspection and 100 percent inspection systems. Because there are multinational requirements that all labels be 100 percent inspected, more and more companies will manage their inspections on a slitter and rewinder device. Furthermore, inspection equipment can save converters significant amounts of money by ensuring quality and consistency.
“Converters are increasingly seeing finishing as an opportunity to make money as opposed to costing money,” he said.
Headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, Rotocontrol designs and manufactures inspection, slitting, rewinding and die cutting finishing machines for the narrow web industry. According to Marco Aengenvoort, managing director at Rotocontrol, the company’s machines provide a convenient and simple operator interface through graphical input and display with touch screen input, as well as excellent access to all web viewing and handling areas. Tension control through the S-Drive servo/software system supports a wide variety of materials without mechanical reconfiguration of the machine or complicated reprogramming.
Rotocontrol’s finishing machine product offering includes the RSC Vertical Inspection Slitter/Rewinder, RSP Single Pass 100 Percent Security Inspection, RSD Slitter/Rewinder with a diecutting station, the EDM200 Over-printing Press and the DRM dual rewind semi-automatic turret.
Standard features of the RSC line include cartridge slitting system, vertical inspection zone, automatic tension control, S-Drive servo driven operation, job save and simple, functional controls means more time producing labels and less time in set up. The RSD product line is based on an S-Drive servo driven diecutting station with 800 mm unwind, cartridge shear/razor slitting and rewind system.
The DRM series dual rewind semi-automatic turrets are offered as an accessory to the RSD and RSI line of die cutting and inspection slitter and rewinder machines. The DRM features dual mode operation where the module can be operated as a turret or alternatively in dual rewind mode with the shafts locked in position.
The EDM200 is a semi-rotary, servo-driven UV-flexo machine, using sleeve technology for both print and anilox cylinders, and working with chambered doctor blade technology. The machine is designed to work mainly as an over-printing machine and has been specifically developed to provide very economic production of short-run and fast turnaround for labels, tickets and tags.
According to Aengenvoort, the company has seen increasing demand for 100 percent inspection as their customers demand better quality, even in consumer product labels. Although, he says, press-installed vision systems can reduce waste and play a role in final product quality, full 100 percent quality control can only be realized in the final process, so this market will continue to grow.
Tools & Production
Tools & Production can design and manufacture complete unwind and rewind stands in a range of different configurations. The company offers standard as well as custom designs that can convert printed or unprinted rolls that vary in width from 3” to 60”.
Features can include: cantilevered or simply supported pneumatic air shafts; matrix rewinds; differential drive rewinds; vacuum extraction systems (including noise reduction/silencing options); trim removal systems; simple or sophisticated tension control; infeed/outfeed nip rollers; edge guides; vision equipment for inspection and/or registration; print-to punch or diecut registration systems (if required); speeds up to 1,000 feet per minute; conveyors; stackers, and web cleaners.
The company also offers a complete rotary system with print-to-punch registration system. One such machine included a 40” diameter unwind, infeed and outfeed nip rollers, plus punch and die rings and a slitting system.