Flexible Packaging sat down with Fives North American to discuss the increasingly important role of web guiding equipment in the converting process and how equipment designers stay ahead of inherent challenges.

Tom Jonozzo, general manager for guiding systems, Fives North American

Q: As always, converters are looking to reduce waste and increase profitability. How is the latest web guiding technology a solution to this challenge and why?

A: The latest web guiding technology has always offered the benefit of reduced scrap and increased line speed. The ability for a converter to more reliably maintain lateral web alignment translates into increased machine throughput and less material waste. The transition to an electro-mechanical web guide further increases the value a converter realizes by reducing maintenance costs over the vintage pneumatic and hydraulic predecessors. Now with improved intelligence, operator involvement is minimized and consistent reliability has never been better.

Q: What current trends in flexible packaging present the biggest challenges to web guiding equipment and how are suppliers addressing this?

A: Web guiding equipment has kept pace with the trends to shorter production runs, rapid changeovers, and servo drives. Given the multitude of materials and substrates processed, sensor technology is an area of continual investment for equipment suppliers.

Finally, given the current and recent economic environment, capital equipment manufacturers are challenged with operating profitability yet investing in the intellectual capital required for future product designs.

Q: What specifications or features are converters demanding of today’s web guiding technology and why?

A: A very consistent and reliable web guide performing 24/7 with little or no operator intervention is paramount. Another dimension is some of the latest substrate technologies are processed in unique environmental conditions that are expanding the design envelope for our products and systems. Finally, there is an increased need for custom engineered solutions as customers try to expand the capabilities foot print of their process lines. This need has been amplified due to reduced engineering staff levels at many companies, which has also increased the need for more turnkey solutions.

Q: How are today’s web guiding components being designed to increase their accuracy or effectiveness?

A: Intelligent controllers offer self diagnostics and fault annunciation to increase reliability as they monitor all web guide system components. Intelligent sensors with greater resolution are better able to handle the typical environmental conditions present with less maintenance and higher accuracy.

Q: What do you think the future has in store for web guiding systems and flexible packaging? And why?

A: Smarter, faster, and more compact. As industrial computing, basic sensor research, and linear motion control technology progress, this trend will continue as it has historically. Web guiding will continue to become more seamlessly integrated in a process line’s machine design and automation.

Fives North American