When Great Lakes Filters, Hillsdale, MI, needed an assembly method to produce a liquid filter bag that could hold up to hydraulic pressing without splitting or fraying, it chose ultrasonic technology using Sonobond Ultrasonics’ SM86 SeamMaster High Profile ultrasonic sewing machine.
“The bag has to capture the pulp from the juicing process and then withstand intense compression so that the maximum amount of fruit or vegetable nutrients can be extracted,” says Brian K. Balliet, CEO of Great Lakes Filters. “Sonobond’s equipment allows us to produce a bag that can do that and meet the customer’s exacting standards. It also enables us to fabricate and attach materials that are difficult via traditional cut and sew methods, resulting in higher quality products at lower production cost.”
For the past 24 years, Sonobond Ultrasonics has helped Great Lakes Filters maintain its reputation as a customer-driven company with the flexibility and versatility to achieve product specifications and exceed customer expectations. From prototypes to major programs, the company performs a multitude of high quality converting and production jobs.
Starting with assembly methods that included sewing, adhesives and hot glue thermal bonding, in 1989 Great Lakes Filters began to investigate ultrasonic machinery.
“We looked at Sonobond’s SeamMaster because it’s similar in design and operation to a standard sewing machine. We also appreciated Sonobond’s willingness to work closely with us to determine what equipment we would require to assemble certain products,” says Balliet.
Today, Great Lakes Filters uses three SeamMaster ultrasonic sewing machines to assemble its liquid filter bags—including custom and specialty bags—plus sleeves, pads, and other filtration products for the environmental, automotive, chemical/pharmaceutical, food/beverage and manufacturing industries.
“We use the SeamMasters with a variety of pattern wheels—including some custom ones—whenever sewn seams are simply not adequate or strong enough to hold up to a filter bag’s end use, to eliminate fraying, or in some cases, to provide an acceptable look for the finished product,” says Balliet.
Ultrasonic bonding occurs when high frequency electrical energy, converted to acoustical, mechanical vibrations and channeled through a horn, creates a rapid heat buildup at the material contact point, causing the fabric between the horn and anvil—or the rotating pattern wheel in the case of the SeamMaster—to soften and fuse. In one pass, the machine seals and trims without thread, glue or other consumables, as much as four times faster than conventional sewing machines and ten times faster than adhesive methods.
In addition to its SeamMaster machines, Great Lakes Filters also employs a Sonobond Ultrasonics SureCut HC35 and four HG35 handheld devices.
In one case, handheld equipment was used to splice together production remnants for a firm on the brink of halting operations when an order for filter media didn’t arrive on time. Great Lakes Filters was able to join the leftover pieces into rolls wide and long enough for its customer to continue manufacturing.
Great Lakes Filters also shares its Sonobond equipment with its sister company Fairway Products, for ultrasonic assembly of automotive trim parts, door inserts and office furniture products. For example, Fairway Products uses the handheld units to finish the ends of a synthetic seam tape that’s continuously sewn to the back of vehicle door inserts and cut between the inserts. The ends of the tape are folded back onto themselves, ultrasonically sealed and then clipped, producing a clean and secure finish.
“Using the ultrasonic equipment eliminates the need for back tacks on sew lines and maintains the appearance of the lines being sewn into the panel insert, rather than being welded to a molded door skin,” says Steve Firavich, CEO of Fairway Products.
Great Lakes Filters is currently exploring high efficiency liquid filter bags made from proprietary nanofiltration media. The bags are designed to filter in the submicron range, handling flow rates with minimum pressure drop and 99% efficiency—requirements that usually require costly multiple pleated cartridges instead of a single filter bag.
Once again, Sonobond is working with Great Lakes Filters to provide an ultrasonic assembly method for this innovative product.
“Sonobond has already assisted us in proving that their equipment can do the job, creating a side seam and securing a plastic top for this high efficiency liquid filter bag that’s totally recyclable,” says Balliet. “The Sonobond staff has been and continues to be extremely helpful with testing materials, making recommendations on what wheels and settings to use with the SeamMaster, and providing excellent customer service.”
Sonobond’s SeamMaster High Profile ultrasonic sewing machine is adaptable to a wide variety of filtration-assembly requirements, including gas and jet fuel filters and filter cartridges, and commercial and industrial air filters for HVAC, dust collection and nuclear and bio-chemical products. Its high clearance between the wheel and the horn accommodates hand-guided applications with tight tolerances and curves. A special fixture for assembling pleated filters is also available, along with more than 500 standard pattern wheels and custom designs for slitting, sealing, seaming, embossing and tacking.
In addition to the Sonobond SeamMaster series of equipment, Sonobond’s RingMaster Filter Bag Machine has three welding modules for joining plastic collars to felted filter media, achieving high-quality, high-volume assembly of heavy-duty filter bags required for chemical and industrial liquid applications in the food, paper, pharmaceutical and petroleum industries. Once an operator loads a plastic ring and filter onto a fixture, the machine creates a 360-degree bond in less than 10 seconds, allowing production of up to 250 bags per hour. Custom tooling can accommodate different bag sizes and ring diameters.
Sonobond also produces other ultrasonic equipment for filter assembly, including the Filter Collar Bonder, a bench-mounted, single-unit version of the RingMaster that can assemble 50 to 80 bags per hour; and the SureWeld 20 Ultrasonic PlungeBonder, a rugged and customizable welding press machine that can seal large, multi-layer materials in box-style filters, and filter bag ends for automotive air filters and HEPA-rated filters for bagless vacuum cleaners.
To determine the best equipment for a specific application, Sonobond encourages filtration assemblers to submit their synthetic or nonwoven materials for a free, no-obligation Ultrasonic Bonding Viability Test. If customers decide to acquire Sonobond equipment, the company works closely with them to meet any customization needs and provide customer service and technical support to ensure a smooth installation.