Equipment Review: Hygiene Machinery

By Steve Katz, contributor | January 2, 2012

A look at activity in the segment.

Continuous improvement is thematic of almost any growing industry. Consumers will always want improved performance in the products they use, particularly those used on a regular basis – like hygiene products, and these products continue to evolve, but they can only do so thanks to the companies that design the machinery used to make them. These companies are constantly looking to improve their hygiene equipment and machinery offerings, whether it’s for the baby diaper, feminine hygiene or adult incontinence markets.

The following is a review of the latest machinery, equipment and services offered from the nonwovens industry’s leading hygiene machinery manufacturers.

Fameccanica is a global leader in hygiene products machinery and related services. The company’s product portfolio is very wide, covering all product categories including baby diapers, femcare pads and panty liners and adult incontinence products, with different machine platforms to satisfy the needs of emerging markets as well as developed ones.

A trend Fameccanica has picked up on is a change in designs. “After a very active 2010, also in 2011 we have noticed that most of the players in the retail incontinence market have spent huge efforts to enhance their products and make them better-fitting for consumers. This is resulting in a major design change for open diapers, with the application of panels, and increased demand for pull-up style diapers,” says Ettore Paolini, sales director for Fameccanica.

In the baby diaper market, Paolini says, the trend for thinner cores is spreading in developing areas while in san pro, business product decoration and appearance is the field where competitors are focusing their attention. “In all of these product categories, we see a clear trend towards low count packaging, especially in developing countries,” he says.

The trends Paolini discusses are of course influencing machinery design, and Fameccanica has been actively working on those areas for a few years, with results present in the market today. “In the last 10 years the market has experienced very fast development in hygiene machinery design. If, in the year 2000, the vast majority of baby diaper machinery was operating in the range 300-500 ppm, today the operating speeds offered by the leading machinery companies are in the range of 700-800 ppm with a few capable of offering also 1000 ppm for ‘off the shelf’ machine platforms,” he says.
While increasing the machine speeds, many efforts have been spent to improve the technological content, the ease of operation and the flexibility to produce different sizes/product structures. “More investments will be made in this direction,” Paolini says, “as will answering to the increasing demands for manufacturing costs reductions from the hygiene companies.

Among Fameccanica’s latest developments is baby diaper machine model FA-X P10, featuring a production speed of 1000 pieces/minute or a linear speed of 450 meters/minute, along with high efficiency and low scrap levels. Adult Incontinence machine model FIX P5 is another recent innovation. It features a production speed of 500 pieces/minute or 400 meters/minute, whichever comes first and can manufacture “multi-piece” products with either shaped or rectangular side-panels.

Also new is Fameccanica’s “U”- forming design, capable of producing ultra-thin pads with high SAP content. “Thanks to the most accurate pressing technology installed, the pad also maintains very high integrity and a very low weight variation, Paolini explains.

The PAKSIS N-12 packaging unit represents the last accomplishment of the PAKSIS Alliance between Fameccanica and Optima. This new machine, together with the D-7 and the A-6 models, completes the family of integrated counting-stacking-packing systems. The PAKSIS N-12 is specific for lady sanitary napkins, panty liners and light-inco pads, flat or tri-folded, thin or thick. It can also accommodate an incoming pace from 1 to 1.6 ppm and can deliver from 90 to 120 bags per minute.

The drive for eco-friendly materials is another factor influencing machinery design. “Through the development of processes that minimize the use of raw materials, machinery suppliers can contribute to the sustainability of hygiene products manufacturing. A clear example in this direction is the Fameccanica patented system for the application of zero trim panels on baby and adult diapers,” Paolini says.

Fameccanica is actively working on several R&D projects in many different areas, including those specifically designed for developing countries, addressing both the local players and the multinationals investing in these regions. Paolini says, “A significant number of our customers appreciate our medium performance machines for open baby diapers, pant-type diapers and adult incontinence briefs as they recognize the excellent cost/performance ratio, the reliability of the solutions adopted and the excellent service provided by our customer service teams.”

Hygiene machinery maker GDM is addressing the new market needs in the fields of both product innovation and production with the development of its new high-speed platform.

According to Bruno De Michele, GDM’s sales and marketing manager, the most important drivers in regard to machinery design are faster production lines, higher quality of products, handling of new raw materials, visual and discrete product features, operator and maintenance-friendly production lines, flexible and modular production lines for fast changeover and reduced environmental impact.

Cost is also a major factor, she says. The reduction of the overall costs of the product, a progressive increase of the production speed to keep or improve the efficiency and reduce waste levels are surely the key parameters for the customer’s competitiveness that together with the assurance to produce a high standard of quality for their finished products have always been the key factors that, over the years, have been changing the hygiene machinery technology process,” De Michele says. “A need to increase the speed of the lines to at least 750 mt/min (1500ppm) is foreseen in the next three to five years.”

Evolving raw materials is challenging machinery makers keep up, and continue to innovate. “The raw materials industry is constantly introducing new materials with different purposes that offer the hygiene disposables producers more possibilities to configure and differentiate their products,” he says. “Technology producers have to guarantee their customers have the opportunity to exploit all the new possibilities coming from the raw materials market by offering a high level of flexibility and modularity of their technical process. This is one of the reasons for the development of new extreme shapes or discrete features such as the new thin core material, colored printing features, perfume, natural material use (cotton).

The most popular GDM machinery line is the Matrix platform technology. The concepts behind the line include an enhanced Modular Supply System. “This is the ultimate frontier in modularity. Each process function is a module (mechanical, logical and electrical) that stands alone and can be flexibly positioned on the frame. This is the best investment for whoever is looking for high volumes, lower product costs and capital protection,” De Michele says.

Web Handling is another area improved with the Matrix, as it offers fully standalone unwinders independent from raw material characteristics including automatic zero speed splice. A vacuum conveyor with a positive timing belt reinforced with kevlar is a feature, designed to avoid undesired elongations for optimal transport and web combination. The machine also has a Glycole cooling system designed to reduce friction of belts and raw materials and avoid quality issues.

The Matrix drive system is driven by a servo motor, with a relevant interface system and communication links. “Each motor is controlled and totally configured via advanced HMI. The operator can change main drive parameters simply by pressing one button,” he explains.

The disc rotation concept used on the new “DISCovery”platform is GDM’s response to the new and future industry expectations. The “DISCovery” platform is targeted more towards developed countries that already have long-term experience in this industry. The aim of this technology is to guarantee high quality end products along with the reduction of production costs. The“DISCovery” platform is able to optimize processes and at the same time reduce expenses.

The main aims of this new platform are improve performance and processes, increase the production speed of the line, improve the quality of the finished product, Make production lines simpler for the operator and reduce the environmental impact.

Added valueis another driver for GDM’s DISCovery. “Handling the backsheet utilizing a big wheel instead of the conveyor belt and handling the topsheet with the second big wheel will contribute highly to keeping the tension of webs under control resulting in a more stable process. All the discrete features processes (from preparation to application) will be handled exploiting GDM experience with transferring those elements through a series of wheels and transferring them onto the main web using accelerators. The utilization of the accelerators and electronic cam applicators reduces significantly the size change time. Also, the new process design and new Intelligence Human Interface introduced in the line will help operators to gain confidence and learn the process and line handling faster so reducing the start-up and learning curves,” De Michele explains.

“GDM owes a lot of its success to its dedication to continuous product development. In 2011, GDM launched two new Start platforms. These platforms were designed to meet the needs and expectations of developing countries such as China, India and Africa and could be described as ‘user-friendly,’” he continues.

The Start BT model for baby diapers market is more of a technological platform rather than a machine model’ since different machines configurations can be tailored according to specific market needs.

GDM also cares about the environment and in cooperation with Accusentry has designed a vision system for hygienic disposable machinery able to recognize and immediately eliminate faulty products, to identify where the production line problems occur and to improve efficiency.
For its Single Culling System, GDM was recently awarded a prize in the ‘Innovation in Machinery’ category at one of the industry’s most important trade fairs: Index’11 organized by EDANA, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland in April.

The Single Culling System is based on an electronic eye, a robot arm and some highly specialized software able to identify the faulty product and automatically cull it.

“The system enables a reduction in the amount of faulty products by around 0.3%. This results in reduced production costs. For instance, simply by reducing the waste level from 3% to 2%, it is possible to achieve an annual saving of around €250,000,” De Michele concludes.

Bicma machinery has moved to its new generation of machinery, and it’s all about enhancements in speed and changeover time. “Line speed has doubled within the last five years. Size change times have been drastically reduced, “ states Andrea Allar, sales manager. “New technologies are used to ensure maximum precision of all machine parts and their assembly, which leads to maximum precision of the process and therefore of the finished product manufactured on our machines,” she says, adding that smart electronic solutions are helping to optimize processes and reduce size change parts as far as possible.

The company’s most popular line among its hygiene customers is the BABE-1000 baby diaper machine which is capable of producing 1000 modern diapers, or 520 meters per minute. The latest generation of the machine was launched at INDEX 2011. “It has several technological innovations and is available for the production of adult diapers, adult shaped pads, light incontinence and femcare products,” Allar says.

Allar explains how developing the drive for environmentally friendly machinery is affecting production. She says, “The latest in hygiene machinery is striving for reduced energy and air consumption, reduced noise emission, capability to convert lower raw material grammages and new ecological raw material types. And ultrasonic bonding has replaced hotmelt where suitable.”

Bicma has big plans for 2012. Allar says the company has developed “intelligent technical solutions to manufacture new and modern product concepts for the adult incontinence market. The products will be launched by our customers during 2012. Bicma is also investigating new concepts for the production of diaper cores with low fluff amount. Also, Bicma's presence in the markets beyond Europe has further increased. North and Latin America are representing a big and stable share of Bicma's yearly turnover.”

“Today's hygiene market is looking to keep the margins on product sales in good shape, and there are two ways to achieve this,” states Davide Viola of Italian machinery maker MD Viola. “One way to do this is to improve performances on the existing line, increasing the production speed, minimize the operational costs and raw material costs and to try to increase the machine efficiency at maximum level.

The second way, Viola says, is to invest in a completely new line of product, “like the pull-on for babies and adults. Also, customers are asking for upgrades to their existing line with several new applicator units, designed to make a new and fresh-style diaper like the elastic ears or flexo printing on the diaper backsheet. We use all our efforts to help our customer achieve the good results and have prospered in the difficult and competitive market,” Viola says.

MD Viola sold its first diaper line in 1987, and, as Viola points out, it is “one very good and powerful machine, able to run at 200 diapers per minute.” But the machinery has evolved dramatically over the years. The 1987 unit was driven via AC motor and had many gears and chains, with an electric board is 2 x 2 meters Today the diaper machine has no gears, no chains, and the electric board is bigger than the production line and runs at 600 diaper per minute and more. “The machinery’s capability has increased about 200 pieces every 10 years,”Viola says.“We Have a full set of lines for the hygiene industry from the sanitary Napkin line to the adult Pull-On line, including a special unit with flexo printing, for printing in-line sanitary napkins or the backsheet on the diaper. We also made afull servo automatic packaging machine,” Viola explains. “Our goal is to give the full solution to our customers – faster and easier.

“All machines are made following customer specifications, but with our experience in manufacturing and engineering in new line, we guarantee the perfect result of the customer’s idea,” he adds.

“When it comes to hygiene machinery trends, at the regional level, each market has its own trend since they are different for each region,” says Curtis Woo, sales and marketing for Zuiko. “As a whole, we notice that the industry is focusing on efficiency. Whether it's production speed, power conservation, minimizing waste or material usage, each company has its own idea of what efficiency should be and how it should be implemented.”

Since Zuiko machines are custom designed and built to customer specifications, Woo says that the company is in a good position to satisfy the wide range of customer needs and expectations, which have indeed changed. “As customers and their products have evolved, so have the machines that produce them,” Woo says. “Hygiene machinery has become faster, more reliable and process efficient, which is great for the owner's of the machine. At the same time, machines have also become more complex and precise.”

Zuiko's standard converting line, Z-Style, for baby tape diapers has been very popular since its introduction a few years ago. Z-Style combines production efficiency, machine speed, reliability and simple operation at a competitive price. Spare parts are readily available as well as a wide range of upgrades and options to adapt to the customer's market and business.

Woo says that Zuiko understands the that investing in a new a converting machine is a huge decision. “Management must be confident they made the correct decision for their company. With Zuiko's converting machine and after-sales service support, companies can rest assured that they made a good investment. Zuiko prides itself on engineering and innovation. Expect to see Zuiko continue to design and manufacture advanced converting machines for the future needs of the market and the consumers.”

China-based JWC designs and manufactures full servo machinery, including a full servo baby diaper machine, a full servo adult diaper machine, a full servo underpad machine and more. According to JWC’s Delia Ju, the equipment JWC manufactures keeps up with the most current styles of product. “We have a new design for full servo baby diaper machine with the elastic ear tape, which is the most trendy product style,” she says.
The company services all different kinds of raw materials for producing hygienic products, such as fluff pulp, nonwoven, tissue paper, waistband, SAP, glue, perforated film, PE film, release paper, and more.

“We have 60 models of hygienic products machines, which are divided into eight series, they are diaper, sanitary napkin, panty liner, bed under pad, wet napkin, tissue napkin, packing, single use medical supplies.
Also, JWC trading company supplies different grades of raw materials for production. Ju says, “It saves customers time to searching good suppliers of

raw materials with good prices because we can do all that for them.”

Chinese disposable hygiene machinery maker Hanwei began production in 1993 with a sanitary napkin production line. Today the company manufactures equipment for the production of adult incontinence products, baby diapers, underpads, sanitary napkins, panty shields, wet tissue and disposable medical products as well as stacking and packing units.

Its latest machinery includes full servo design and shaftless driving, a modular design, auto splicing, high precision mechanical parts, reliable performance, high efficiency and ease of operation.

The company's mission is to continuously provide professional technology and innovation, strive to minimize production costs and work out solutions to highly specialized client requirements, gradually expanding into other disposable fields, such as medical care, household products and soft package goods. Hanwei's goal is to be recognized as a leading disposable machinery manufacturer, creating more value for its clients worldwide. With increased product variations, the company is working hard to develop a globalized brand.