How static control and Industry 4.0 fit together – Interview with Meech International
Static control is an important part of every printing press in order to improve the production flow and reduce costs. What is the current status-quo in this regard? What impact did ongoing automation have or still have? Ralph Simon, Area Sales Manager, Meech International, talks with NarrowWebTech about the world of static control and its role for the label and package printing industry.
Conducted by Rosina Obermayer
What can static control and web cleaning solutions offer the label, packaging and converting industry?
Ralph Simon: Demands on these industries are increasing and it is important to have equipment that keeps production flowing and ensures wastage is kept to a minimum. Many common substrates present on today’s lines generate static electricity, which can threaten production processes. Finished products may appear distorted or out of register, extruded films may have tiny holes. Static charges can also cause blockages in machinery, with dust attraction arguably being the biggest issue in a sector demanding high levels of quality control.
Active static control provides the most effective means of neutralising charges and, preventing the attraction of dust and dirt to the web surface. Web cleaners, which provide a cost effective way of increasing quality while also reducing waste, can remove contaminants up to 0.5 micron, ensuring the end application is produced to the highest standards.
Is the labelling and converting industry ready for automation technology? How is it benefitting these industries already?
Ralph Simon: Automation has been making big strides forward in recent years. Many sectors, including labelling and packaging are seeing improvements in production flow time and are able to keep on top of any maintenance issues thanks to Industry 4.0 developments. Remote monitoring and related changes to factory operations are becoming increasingly prevalent in modern businesses – reducing overall costs and downtime through pre-emptive measures.
There are many different applications and functions to packaging and labelling lines. Having the technology to control all of these elements together, remotely and with the touch of a button or the swipe of finger, allows companies to make changes quickly and seamlessly – both of which are essential in today’s increasingly busy production environments.
How does static control and Industry 4.0 benefit digital label printing lines?
Ralph Simon: As outlined above, the installation of static control devices can greatly help production flow and reduce costs. Using these devices with Industry 4.0 technology can further aid the smooth running of manufacturing. Automation for static control has been designed with simple plug-and-play operation, allowing for ease of integration on production lines. Operators can see information on the static devices, such as their performance and function, on a local user-friendly display and instantaneously amend operating settings as required to achieve maximum productivity and maximum quality of output.
In 2018 NarrowWebTech is celebrating this year its 20th anniversary. With regard to your industry: what technological development(s) and market trend(s) had the most impact on the label printing market?
Ralph Simon: Advances in static control technology over recent decades have had a profound impact on the label and packaging market – specifically in the area of health and safety and the efficiency of ionising systems. Earlier static control bars were designed to deal with the issue of contamination and material damage first and foremost. Although they were generally reliable, they were far more dangerous to handle than modern bars and could give painful shocks to operators.
It was the introduction of modern plastic films that proved to be a turning point in the converting industry and consequently made the older bars obsolete.
Where do you see Meech in this regard?
Ralph Simon: The most recently developed pulsed DC powered systems boast the highest power for covering larger ionising ranges while matching increased production speeds. Meech began research in the 1990s to create a new range of bars that would prove to be more compact and safer to handle, as well as being more powerful. The static control equipment we supply today is the result of that research.
Thank you very much for this interview!
[Editorial comment: This interview was first published in NarrowWebTech print issue 3-2018]