To stay ahead of the competition nonwovens and disposable product manufacturers want automated production processes that help them increase production efficiency both in terms of usable finished product and achieving faster production speeds. They also want to reduce costs associated with both material and waste, and improve product quality. To do this they are looking for and investing in inspection systems and quality control technologies that can help them develop a competitive edge, deliver products that exceed their customers’ expectations, and reduce costs. Here is a listing of companies offering the technology to stop mistakes before they happen on the production line.
AccuSentry, a provider of inspection solutions with production intelligence, continues to build on their Centerlining Package, which enables real-time process control for absorbent hygiene manufacturers. Available on its flagship Sentry 9000 inspection and monitoring platform, the Centerlining Package provides an effective means for manufacturers to take control of their process consistency by standardizing production setup across shifts, operators and product styles.
The Centerlining Package transforms automated inspection data into process control data in the form of real-time graphs displayed on an operator dashboard. This Centerlining dashboard places critical product measures front and center to allow the operator to quickly monitor the status of the process at all times, and give them objective control over production variations.
Each graph on the Ceterlining dashboard correlates to a specific process on the machine. The operator runs the production line based on a set of established targets, presented as “centerlines” on the graphs. While the line is in operation, they adjust the natural process variations to fluctuate around those centerlines, keeping key product parameters within a tolerance range. The dashboard alerts the operator to make necessary adjustments when a parameter is sliding out of specification.
Centerlining effectively removes the inefficient cycle of sample retrieval, measurement, and feedback for machine adjustment. Tolerances can be set and then micro-adjusted by monitoring the process as a whole instead of constantly sampling individual products. Operators constantly hone equipment performance and proactively marshal support resources to achieve maximum production efficiency.
In addition to new advances with Centerlining, AccuSentry will debut their AdhesivePro Series at the upcoming IDEA13 show in Miami. This system inspects the adhesive on leg elastics of baby diapers and adult incontinence products.
Advanced Testing Instruments
Advanced Testing Instruments (ATI) offers laboratory, hand held, and on line air permeability and thickness measurement instruments. It also offers hydrostatic head testers, burst testers, moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR) testers, tensile and tear testers, melt flow testers, and abrasion, pilling, and fuzzing testers.
The company’s FX 3500 CombiScan can measure air permeability, basis weight, and thickness simultaneously in the production machine while the web is moving. This allows manufactures to correct the production process “on the fly” enabling a much faster start up time and eliminating out of specification product during the production run. Prior to the introduction of the CombiScan a mill would typically test their product at the beginning and end of a production roll and assumed everything between was good says the company. With Combiscan, it says doubt is removed as it measures continuously through the production run.
ATI has just launched the FX 3000-IV Hydrostatic Head Tester. The FX 3000-IV is the latest in a long line of Hydrostatic Head Testers. It is available in three models: a 500 mbar model for nonwovens; a 2,000 mbar model for treated textiles; and a 5,000 mbar model for coated and laminated materials. The 2,000 and 5,000 mbar instruments have pneumatic clamping and an optional automatic water level control.
Beta LaserMike offers the LaserSpeed line non-contact length and speed measurement systems to nonwovens manufacturers of hygiene, medical, filters, geotextiles, and other engineered fabrics. The LaserSpeed product line includes several different measurement systems for specific manufacturing applications and with distinct capabilities. For example, the LaserSpeed product line includes: LaserSpeed 4000, used on any continuous production process; LaserSpeed 8000, used on any continuous production or discrete length measurement process; LaserSpeed 9000, used on any continuous or discrete length measurement process, and has the capability to measure forward and reverse directions and zero speed (no motion); and LaserSpeed DataPro 500 Indicator, a simple-to-use length and speed indicator for the LaserSpeed series
The LaserSpeed measurement system uses advanced, laser-based technology to precisely monitor the length and speed of product during production without making contact with the material. This laser encoder projects a unique pattern on the surface of the product. As the product moves, light is scattered back to the LaserSpeed unit. This information is translated into product speed and pulses are produced to determine the product length. LaserSpeed can measure product length and speed at line rates up to 39,400 ft/min (12,000 m/min) with +/-0.05% accuracy and +/-0.02% repeatability. Applications include continuous length measurement, speed measurement, differential speed and stretch control, cut-to-length control, and others. Beta LaserMike also offers a European certified length measurement system that meets MID (Measuring Instruments Directive) 2004/22/EG requirements.
LaserSpeed has no moving parts to wear out, uses 100% solid-state digital technology, and is factory calibrated, making it an ideal replacement for contact-type measurement systems, such as tachometers or mechanical encoders, which are prone to measurement errors and require regular maintenance due to slippage, dirt build-up, and day-to-day wear. Nonwovens manufacturers realize savings through reduced downtime due to maintenance and equipment calibration, elimination of replacement parts, personnel time, paperwork, and other costly factors.
Beta LaserMike continues to expand its footprint around the globe to better serve its customers and position the company for growth. Part of this momentum involves the on-going development of its direct and partner sales channels across all regions. To lead this initiative, the company recently appointed a new vice president of sales, Randy Luffman, who is responsible for further expanding worldwide sales for Beta LaserMike’s line of measurement and control systems.
Nonwovens manufacturers are looking for better inspection techniques and processes to effectively control the quality of their products, while reducing product waste or give-away and increasing productivity, according to Jay Luis, worldwide marketing manager, Beta LaserMike. “From the standpoint of non-contact measurement, today’s inspection techniques involve the use of laser encoders to accurately measure product length and speed during production. The precise measurement of these dimensions directly affects quality control in several ways during the production process,” he says. “For example, the accurate length measurement of incoming product ensures manufactures have received the exact amount of material to meet their production needs. During production, the precise measurement of product length and speed enables manufactures to accurately control various processes, such as the differential speed to control product stretch, cut-to-length operations, and continuous length at the slitter/rewinder station. When products are completed, manufacturers can also employ an added step during post production and use non-contact laser measurement techniques to measure the length of rolled products before they are dispatched to valued customers and to ensure the exact amount of product is provided as specified.”
Binks Industries acquired the Summit Engineering DC3000 Pinhole Detection System design several years ago, and is now manufacturing the design. Binks’ pinhole detectors are built to work with flat materials, but can work with formed products in some cases. The detectors are designed to work with continuous rolls or sheets of material, but can be adapted for cut-sheet applications.
Binks has been in the pinhole detection business for 50 years, serving customers worldwide in the steel, tin, plastic, foil, and paper markets. Its standard detectors can reliably find a .001" hole in opaque materials moving as fast as 5000FPM, and even smaller holes in materials that are running at slower speeds. The DC3000 system allows the company to work with materials that are translucent, such as white paper, and be able to reliable find holes around .0625". It offers free testing of materials to see what size hole the DC3000 can find in it; all it needs are three test sheets that are at least 2' x '2.
The sensitivity of the detector depends on the opaqueness of the material, if less light passes through the material a smaller hole can be detected. The detector has IR Transmitters on one side and IR Receivers on the other. Any IR light that passes through the material is detected and processed by the Receivers, and the controlling PC determines if a defect has been detected. The Receivers automatically adjust to optimum operating levels to the material in the detector.
The DC3000 has the ability to work as a Whole Sheet detector or have up to 16 Lanes with user defined widths. The Lanes mode of operation is useful for applications where the material is slit into smaller width rolls, and pinhole location information is kept for each individual roll. The DC3000 can operate with Automatic or Fixed Edge Tracking, and can have up to 200 individual Product Records that are used to configure the detector. Product Records can be changed at any time, and the detector automatically adjusts to the new settings.
Isra Vision offers accurate defect detection solutions for nonwoven materials. Its fully automated optical in-line inspection systems can be adapted to nearly every type of application—spunbound, spunlaced, meltblown, composite, wet laid, carded, needle-punched. Critical defects such as eyebrows, thin spots, holes and contaminants, are identified and classified for removal later in the process.
Isra Vision provides inspection systems and its key product is the Smash system, inspecting for the smallest of defects even at high speeds. Contaminants such as fruit flies can be captured reliably at 1200 m/min. The systems offer beneficial features for process monitoring, rewind management, cutting optimization and yield improvement.
One example is the Quality Viewer tool that helps to avoid shipping defects to the customer. If working with mother rolls, only the detected defects need to be verified and the roll needs to be blocked. Either it can be sent to a doctor machine to repair it or it can be taken to stock to sell, if possible, for another customer order. The Quality Viewer makes quality decisions transparent by providing accurate and detailed data that can be compared companywide. Sales, quality department, production, and management, can get a summary of the data and make quality decisions based on customer orders. The customer orders can also contain a mix of daughter rolls from multiple mother rolls. Blocked rolls will be indicated. Defect images will be displayed as thumbnails, thus the whole quality decision process is transparent and traceable.
Isra Vision also offers its Colorscan 3D technology that provides color inspection and can classify colored fiber contamination.
“In today’s economy, cost control is more important than ever to our customers. Inspection Systems are in high demand to maximize yield,” says Kathleen Gibson, marketing, Americas, Isra Surface Vision, Inc. “As production speeds increase process upsets even for just a few minutes cost thousands of dollars of lost production time. Manufacturers are cutting cost and reducing waste by using inspection systems as a tool to make critical decisions during the manufacturing process.”
Mahlo America offers sensor technologies to measure on-line web basis weight, moisture, thickness, air permeability, density, width, temperature, and color. Its QMS-12 On-line Scanning Quality Control System allows for real time measurement and control of critical process parameters over the entire web. The QMS-12 can measure, control, alarm, generate quality roll reports, and export measurement data for process evaluation and/or product quality verification.
Mahlo has recently introduced two new products—the AirPro Air Permeability Sensor for filtration related nonwoven webs and the DML Non Contact Laser Sensor for on-line measurement of web thickness for most all types of nonwoven webs. All of Mahlo’s on-line measurement technologies can now be technically supported via a secure Internet connection. This support, along with phone assistance, is offered at no cost for the life of the system to ensure that any questions regarding system set up, new product configuration, troubleshooting, or operator training can be answered quickly, effectively, and at no cost. This is offered 24/7.
According to Alan Lavore, executive vice president, Mahlo America, Inc., trends on the inspection and quality control front include a renewed focus on real time process monitoring and control to improve market competitiveness through: 1) documentation and verification of final product quality to ensure fitness for use requirements are fully met for their end user; 2) improved process efficiency to support manufacturing cost reduction; and 3) the reduction of waste and raw material usage as part of the on-going green manufacturing initiative.
“Customers are looking for a secure partner that understands their quality control challenges, can help them to assess opportunities for process and product quality improvement, can provide accurate and reliable measurement/control solutions, and can support the implementation and on-going operation of these technologies with responsive, experienced technical support,” says Lavore.
Nordson Corporation is a supplier of material delivery and dispensing equipment to the disposable hygiene market. Materials commonly processed include hot melt adhesives for bonding substrates and elastics at state-of-the-art production speeds, as well as various lotions, fragrances, SAP emulsions and wetness indicators used to create or enhance functionality of these products. Nordson has recently fortified its portfolio of variation management tools to help customers measure, understand and improve the accuracy of material delivery and dispensing.
Nordson offers its TruFlow products with improved product quality, reduced material waste and increased production efficiency. The TruFlow product portfolio includes various devices and controls used to measure material flow, divide streams evenly to operator and drive-side applications, and meter flow at the point of application for improved dispensed material uniformity. Sophisticated closed-loop control compares real time measured material delivery to production requirements and automatically adjusts output to minimize any difference. Accuracy of material delivery is improved, especially during the rapid acceleration and deceleration ramps associated with modern production machines.
Nordson AltaBlue Touch melters were introduced in mid-2012 to simplify manufacturers’ access to and use of variation management systems. By integrating TruFlow solutions into the melter, extra control boxes and cabling could be minimized. Additionally, the flow monitoring and control functions integrate into the melter’s easy-to-use Optix touch screen interface. Similar functionality is being incorporated into the VersaBlue series melters and will be launched in early 2013.
Nordson’s product portfolio has been expanded and new additions to the TruFlow family will be displayed and demonstrated at the upcoming IDEA13 show in April. Additionally, Nordson has acquired a number of companies, which establish it as a leader in polymer processing and injection molding; these include EDI Holdings and Xaloy Superior Holdings.
Variation management improvements, such as those offered by Nordson’s TruFlow portfolio, represent a key industry trend; moving quality assurance upstream in the process. As such these steps can complement or reduce the need for sampling frequency of downstream QA/QC tools.
Optima Nonwovens offers different types of inspection systems for packaging machinery beginning with optical systems that recognize and evaluate the profiles of stacked paper hygiene products such as baby diapers. Optima’s Quality Gate with Flipper allows the recording and monitoring of the parameters of packaged paper hygiene products like deviation of target position, length of time phases between the products (leading to automatic corrections) and specific individual product parameters such as length and width. The downstream flipper reject unit removes only the defective products from the packaging process. The process can continue in unhindered top speed.
Another Optima innovation is an evaluation method that allows ongoing analysis of the production process such as excessive strain on the product. On baby diapers at the creases or on zones with material accumulation, for example, may have detrimental consequences, as it may lead to functional impairment of the product’s absorption capacity. Therefore, Optima Nonwovens offers regular analysis of the applied forces and their graphical depiction in a 3D-diagram. Sensors, 256 in total, evenly distributed across the product surface, make these forces and their distribution over the surface visible in a resolution of <10 mm. The method optimizes process parameters to the manufacturer for any compressible product, if needed.
The Optima TQCC (Total Quality Coding & Control Center) is positioned after the product packing. It offers comprehensive quality control. Metal detector, weight check for parts control, reject function and product labeling are common features. The check weigher controls the correct number of products in each package. The integrated metal detection system finds the smallest non-ferrite and ferrite particles. Only packages with quality defects are eliminated from the production process. The encoder marks all packages that pass the controls. The statistical analysis of the TQCC helps to identify recurring or frequent mistakes. Format changes do not require tools and parameter selection is carried out via the machine control of the production line.
Optima Nonwovens is combining sensor technology and new service strategies through its Condition Monitoring Systems. The idea behind this is reducing the TCO (total cost of ownership) of the machinery by raising the production time further. Interpretation of diagnostic results will be visual, so that users and machine operators will not need specific training to understand the results.
Today Optima Nonwovens offers complete packaging systems for all type of paper hygiene products including wet wipes: Primary packaging (product packing) into foil or folding boxes; quality control; secondary packaging (pack packing with grouping) into foil or folding boxes; tertiary packaging (palletizer especially for nonwovens).
Ryeco offers a wide variety of products that help nonwoven manufacturers increase efficiency, improve quality and create a safer work environment. Its products are divided into 4 types of technologies:
• Marking Technologies. Includes defect marking, code marking, break marking, stripe marking, end of roll marking and registration marking to name a few that would all apply to the nonwovens market.
• Mark Reading and Control Technologies. Systems that may be either camera or sensor based for mark detection, distortion monitoring and length and position control.
• Sheet Break Detection Technologies. Sheet break detection, which include models with extended mounting distances and ply break detection.
• Specialty Technologies. Includes edge crack detection, sheet splice detection and edge tracking or sensing.
Ryeco’s Defect Marking technology includes marking for any type of off-spec product. Examples would be unwanted material such as metal, holes, wrinkles, coating skips, splices and fold-overs. These systems interface to all web inspection systems including metal and splice detection or other process control equipment. These can be automated or manually activated by an operator by a button on the control cabinet or a wireless remote control that gives the operator the flexibility to be at different locations on the machine during activation. Once marked, defect positions can be found visually by operators or automatically with detection devices such as cameras or sensors. Marking systems help create safer work environments, reduce down time when removing defects and identify exact locations of defects in the roll for converters. Automated defect marking can help prevent process upsets, increase process efficiency and ensure that necessary defects are removed from the final product.
“Marking defects is the only way to guarantee your final product is 100% defect-free,” says Jane Adams, marketing manager, Ryeco. “It creates safer working conditions by eliminating practices such as hand-flagging at nips and reduces time when removing defects. It also increases efficiency in downstream processes, reduces downstream process upsets due to unidentified defects and shows converters exactly where the defects are in a roll.”
Ryeco’s Defect Marking technology sprays up to 6 colors of defect marks on any web material at any speed. Marks can be continuous or pulsed for the length of the defect or as short as 1 millisecond. Marks can be visible to the human eye or can be invisible and only detected by a Mark Detector. Can mark defects automatically from a Web Inspection System or with process control equipment. Operators can manually mark defects as they occur. The system also features automatic cleaning and flushing routines to keep marker clean.
Ryeco’s newest products are its Distortion Monitoring and Length and Position Control Systems. The Distortion Monitoring System is used to track instantaneous stretch and shrinkage in a flexible web. The Distortion Monitoring System tracks instantaneous stretch and shrinkage in flexible webs and tracks it's trend over the length of a roll. The system uses a Ryeco Registration Marking System to place registration marks at periodic intervals on the web while it is being manufactured. During downstream processing, the Distortion Monitoring System measures the stretch or shrinkage between the registration marks to calculate distortion. According to Adams, this has proven to be a useful tool for manufacturers of flexible webs to understand how changes in manufacturing processes may affect distortion in products.
In addition to measuring distortion, Ryeco’s Length & Position Control System also tracks product length and position within a roll. Ryeco’s Code Marking System marks binary distance codes on the web during manufacturing for each roll of material. During converting processes, the Length and Position Control System reads the code marks and tracks position within the roll as well as the total distance of product remaining. Adams says this has been a powerful tool for converting operations, allowing for absolute length monitoring during the creation of daughters rolls, even in highly flexible webs.
“More and more of our customers are looking for a total turnkey solution,” says Adams. “They not only want to detect defects, they want to increase efficiency and focus on safety. It has been a common practice to have machine operators manually make marks for process upsets or any other observed defects that may occur during production. However, manually marking with hand flags or crayons can be hazardous and may also violate important safety protocol. Automating this with a marker overcomes these safety concerns. We have been told by some customers that there is more demand to prove to their end customer that they have a process in place to not only inspect but remove defects (by marking) in order to win their customer’s business in the first place. Maximizing machine up-time, reducing rework and scrap along with complete machine optimization is needed to keep the business.”
In other instances, web inspection systems can detect too many defects, according to Adams. “Certain defects in product can be acceptable and sustainable,” she says. “With the addition of defect marking to the inspection process, only qualified defects or off spec product can be determined and identified by marking.”
Schenk Vision offers automated inspection systems and measurement solutions for the nonwovens industry. The Schenk systems are used for the detection of defects in nonwoven materials such as medical products, automotive products, hygiene materials and filter materials.
The Schenk EasyInspect System identifies the smallest of defects that can occur during nonwoven manufacturing. Schenk's EasyMeasure monitors the homogeneity of the final product's properties. The combination of EasyInspect and EasyMeasure ensures the products quality and optimizes the nonwoven manufacturing process with one system. The EasyMeasure product is unique to the customer in that this system is a non-radioactive, non-scanning system that offers full width monitoring, has all process control features, and can be combined with defect detection in one system to reduce costs.
“Todays advanced web inspection systems must now be capable of more than just conventional inspection methods for detecting local defects,” says Schenk Vision’s Christina Wirth.
A recent advancement in this area is a technology called MIDA (Multiple Image Defect Analysis). This new technology utilizes a single camera scan line, multiple illumination techniques and an ultra-high speed illumination switching technology. This technology enables EasyInspect to isolate and identify even very subtle low contrast defects common to nonwoven materials, such as pipe scale and soft fiber clumps. The EasyInspect system utilizes specific characteristics obtained from the multiple images to establish unique defect signatures, enhancing the systems advanced classification capabilities.
“Customers are beginning to realize the tangible benefits of automated optical inspection, integrating this technology early on in the new product/process development stages to help them significantly reduce the overall time to market for new products,” says Wirth.
Inspection Systems & Quality Control Update
A look at how quality control and inspection systems are helping move nonwovens and disposable products forward.
By Tim Wright, Editor
Published February 7, 2013