Flexible Packagingasked three companies the same question: What is the greatest challenge in web guiding, tension and controls and how are you solving it?

Participants included:

Paul Henke
Sales Manager
AccuWeb Inc.

Todd Guzzardo
Sales and Marketing Manager
Erhardt + Leimer

Jim Berceau
Chief Engineer

Paul Henke, AccuWeb Inc.:

With AccuWeb’s 25 years of supplying web guides around the world, we feel that we have solved every challenge we’ve faced. But the most difficult challenge is predicting what challenges lie ahead.

AccuWeb’s answer to the challenge is continual innovation. As the first web guide supplier of all electric web guide systems, AccuWeb brought unprecedented cleanliness to food packaging. Later, in the 1980s, AccuWeb patented the industry’s first digital edge detector-this detector featured dynamic compensation that compensates for environmental conditions found on flexible packaging machines. Temperature changes, dust buildup due to process powders humidity and pass line variations even with major web corrections are all conditions that used to cause flexible packaging producers major headaches with their web guides.

In the late 1990s, AccuWeb’s invention of the WideArray family of dynamically compensated edge detectors revolutionized web guiding by eliminating the need to move edge detectors. These patented WideArray detectors, with detection areas up to 18 inches or more, benefit flexible packaging producers by eliminating moving parts and handling web width changes on the fly. Additionally, users benefit with the ability to measure the web width as they guide the web, adding process feedback to gain additional efficiencies.

As flexible packaging continues to evolve, AccuWeb is again ahead of the pace. We’ve recently introduced our AccuBeam 3 digital line guide for controlling webs relative to printed lines and contrasting patterns. Continual innovation is AccuWeb’s answer to the challenges ahead.

Jim Berceau, Chief Engineer, Webex

The greatest challenge in providing web guiding, web tension and related control solutions is when customers cannot quantify the proper or appropriate specifications needed for their production processes. The natural tendency is to identify features or tolerances on specific components that are significantly more, or even excessive, than what is ultimately required for fundamental machine performance.

         However, customers cannot necessarily be criticized for this, as specifying production criteria is often a complex process. It is also true that there is no one control system that models all the needs of a web-based process. The challenge, then, is to find the proper balance of cost and control while not over designing or risking loss of performance. Like so many things, it becomes a matter of communication between engineers and customers, making sure that processes, needs and expectations are fully understood by all.

         Most customers, or end users, require an equipment supplier to provide substantial application engineering support. Hopefully, these customers appreciate and value the supplier’s ability to draw on its extensive web converting application experience, and to custom engineer products (or systems) that are specific for the application.

         Some common engineered solutions of ours embrace components such as lightweight carbon fiber rollers with extremely low inertia ratings, or special tension dancer systems that can respond immediately to lightweight webs. Today our engineering department must bring control design expertise together with precision roll and machine engineering to nearly every web handling and converting machine our customers want.

Todd Guzzardo, Erhardt + Leimer:

In web guiding and tension control the biggest challenges are equipment interfacing, global support and compatibility with local regulations, as well as equipment that is simple to operate and use.

Erhardt + Leimer has developed a series of networking standards to facilitate simple integration of interfaces with a range of platforms. Some of the interfaces available are Ethernet IP, Device Net, Profibus, Control Net, Interbus S, Arcnet and RS 232/422, as well as parallel interfaces. Customers are using interfaces now for quality and process control, because the guiding or tension data is readily available. Erhardt + Leimer’s web guide and tension control components communicate to the machine control through a single interface. This eliminates the need for an individual interface for each component.

The accuracies of new digital technology, as well as the “ease of use” for the operators, create simple solutions to any retrofit or new application. The built-in diagnostics along with the commonality of components makes these systems simple and economical. With fully digital sensor technology everything in the complete system has a value or parameter related to it. This makes the system completely transparent and leaves no room for error. The flexibility of digital control systems, is not only limited to perfect accuracy, but can accommodate multiple web applications with one controller, as well as a multitude of interfaces for simple integration into custom machine controls or touch panels.