Although a background player compared to the more visible roles of films, inks and coatings, roll handling equipment still plays a large part in the converting process.

Roll handling is a broad term that can refer to equipment aiding roll material shipping and transportation, in-plant movement, and/or roll orientation. It encompasses a wide variety of devices, ranging from a core plug to resist core crushing all the way to fork truck attachments that move and re-orient heavy rolls from horizontal to perpendicular positions.

When roll handling equipment-no matter what the size-is delivering on its promises, it provides plants with increased employee safety, as well as reduces the possibility of loss from roll damage and waste. It is often a low-cost purchase compared to other investments, yet it provides a defense against the risk of future fiscal woes caused by operator accidents and roll mishaps. 

Making the choice

Purchase of roll handling equipment is not a cut-and-dry issue, however. Due to the many different types of equipment and technologies that exist, suppliers of roll handling equipment suggest careful consideration of plant needs before investing.

There are several main criteria converters should consider when deciding upon the purchase of roll handling equipment, says Jerry Morton, general manager for Tilt-Lock, Inc. These include “safety, work flow, reputation of the supplier, return on investment and product protection,” he says, adding, “Converters need to select suppliers who act as consultants, helping the converter select the proper equipment for the process.”

Variables vary depending on the type of roll handling equipment desired. For devices that protect during shipment and storage, “roll size and value are probably the main criteria,” says Thomas Duffy, VP sales for Badger Plug. “Roll size determines the capacities needed to handle and ship the rolls safely and efficiency. The value likewise determines the needs in handling and shipping.”

Duffy sees the core plug as the most common roll handling device used today. He also notes roll suspension products-economical devices that are used for storage and transit of both small and large rolls-as one of the fastest growing segments for Badger Plug.

“As roll products escalate in value, greater protection is warranted. Thus, roll suspension is often the answer. We are constantly developing more and more products in plastic and wood providing that protection,” says Duffy.

A patented piece of equipment, The Roll Handler (shown at top), by Badger Plug, is a new roll handler suspension product offering a strong solution for demanding shipping applications. Made from a combination of wood panel stock such as particle board, plywood, medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and lumber, the durable suspension package is especially popular for overseas shipments.

In plants, machines designed to lift the roll via “attaching the machine to the core of the roll,” are some of the most common devices available today, notes Morton of Tilt-Lock. He also notes that robotics are increasingly tapped for roll handling duties, which provide another level of automation that further reduces manual labor requirements.

As the industry continues to evolve, so does today’s roll handling equipment. Of particular note is increasing usage of larger diameter, heavier rolls than in years past.

“Larger rolls are definitely the trend today. Manufactures and converters both attain savings in the push to larger rolls from a manufacturing standpoint. However, added costs are associated with handling and shipping these rolls,” comments Duffy. “In the long run, it is a winning situation. Badger’s products are evolving to handle the increase in roll sizes. Higher cost rolls and larger rolls are the driving force to better roll protection products.”

For example, Badger's H-Pack System suspends and protects larger rolls during shipment and storage. Components store easily and assemble quickly. Standard Sleeve Plugs fit roll core diameters up to 10 inches. H-Channels and U-Clips interlock and secure stacked endboards available in particleboard or plywood. Custom components are available.

Morton agrees, adding, “The trend is toward larger rolls due to the economics of producing the material and the cost of shipping. Tilt-Lock is continually upgrading its equipment.”

Part of the upgrade includes a new line of heavier Tip-Lifts, which Tilt-Lock has slated for launch by the end of 2010. Enabling handling of heavier rolls, the new models will also operate faster than current models. According to its website, Tilt-Lock Tip-Lifts utilize a patented probe design, whereby four gravity-activated probe “teeth” grip the core firmly.

Although the list of available roll handling equipment can seem daunting, a knowledgeable supplier can team together with a converter to choose the most appropriate equipment for the intended processes.

The added time investment taken to examine today’s roll handling options is worthwhile. “There are no substitutes for the correct roll handling and roll protection products,” says Duffy. “The wrong products result in rejects, unhappy customers, and perhaps safety issues. All of these problems can be eliminated with the correct choices in handling and shipping components.” 

Badger Plug Co.

Tilt-Lock, Inc.