Tapping the full growth potential of the nonwoven market
The solutions for quality assurance provided by BST eltromat play a key part in machines produced by serv-o-tec for the napkin and nonwoven market.
serv-o-tec has identified particular potential for its folding and printing machines on the nonwoven market. Time and again, manufacturers approach the machine builder with new ideas they wish to put into practice in products made from nonwoven fabrics, such as floor wipes and cleaning cloths. For many years now, serv-o-tec has put its trust in solutions provided by BST eltromat for web guiding, video web inspection, and 100% print inspection.
“This machine contains several BST eltromat systems: three CompactGuide web guiding systems, one rotation station with web guiding, one system to control the longitudinal joint, and a POWERScope video web inspection system.” Standing next to a 2-lanenapkin folding machine with a four-color print tower, we are joined by Managing Director Herbert Bauch in the production hall of the printing and paper processing machines company serv-o-tec GmbH, which is situated in Langenfeld in the southern part of Düsseldorf. At the time of our visit in mid-February 2017, the machine is being assembled for a German customer.
This customer will be visiting the company just an hour or two after our visit. They want to see for themselves that the machine they ordered, the Servoflex 900 S4 Starwheel, is indeed capable of producing their newly developed product to the required high-end standards. During the first test, the machine’s flexible parameter settings will be adjusted until the end product meets the customer’s quality requirements. “Our customer will then come to us again to approve the whole installation. This is when the customer-specific printing colors and sleeves that will later be used by the customer in the production process come into play. After that, we deliver the machine,” says Bauch, looking ahead into the future. Each year, serv-o-tec produces an average of 15 machines and ships them out across the globe.
Customers are exposed to extremely high cost pressure
“Generally, our machines allow our customers’ cost leadership in their market sector,” the Managing Director comments. In addition to quality, this is the key factor in the sale of napkins and nonwoven items. “Quite often, a difference in cost of a tenth of a cent can tip the scales and determine whether a product is successful on the market or not.”
Since it was established in 1988, serv-o-tec has been a constant innovative force, enabling cost benefits in the production of napkins and nonwoven items. This alone set the company up as a global leader in the field of technology. “Our automatic Starwheel transfer allows for a particularly high productivity and excellent package quality in the manufacture of napkins / wipes,” says Bauch, pointing to an ingenious component with countless slits rotating on the machine’s delivery section. Here we can see finished napkins, placed in a perfect pile on the conveyor belt at a comfortable speed that is surprising compared to the high processing speed of the machine.
Supplier keeps all options open
“The solutions offered by BST eltromat in the field of web guiding systems, video web inspection, and 100% print inspection provide the ideal support for our requirements,” the Managing Director explains. “They enable us to respond flexibly to our customers’ various economic and technological requests.” According to Bauch, serv-o-tec is able to choose the components best suited to each request and job from BST eltromat’s extensive product range.
For example, depending on the materials that are to be processed, the web guiding system CompactGuide can be configured with various web edge sensors, controllers, drive configurations, guiding devices, and coatings for the guide rollers, all provided by BST eltromat.
“This Servoflex 900 alone uses three CompactGuides to allow for the highest possible passer accuracy and reproducibility,” says Bauch, using the machine currently being assembled to explain the operating principle of these systems. “The first CompactGuide guides the web 1 to the middle of the machine, and the second one aligns the second web to the first one so that both webs run in perfect synchronization.” The third CompactGuide secures the central web’s entry into the printing tower. After all, the printing, embossing, and cut need to be precise. Controlling the V-fold plow results in perfect longitudinal folding. In short, the web guiding systems guarantee the synchronized running of the tracks and ensure that napkins are printed, embossed, and folded with precision.
The video web inspection system POWERScope 4000 is able to reliably control the printing quality even if the machine is running at a very high speed, with a particular focus on the positioning of individual colors in relation to one another. The machine operators are able to use the system to zoom in to any color they choose, as well as conveniently check the printing quality and passer on their screen using the static images provided of the high-speed webs. If necessary, this allows for a fast intervention to prevent faults and waste.
Two market leaders: a perfect match
Bauch sees BST eltromat as a technology leader in particular in the field of web guiding and video web inspection. “In addition, the company enjoys broad support from our customers on a global level,” the Managing Director comments on the long-standing partnership with the manufacturer of systems for quality management and control in web processing production processes.
According to Bauch, the easy operation of the technology produced and continually enhanced by BST eltromat is an important factor. One example can be seen in the new POWERScope 5000 video web inspection system that serv-o-tec plans on integrating into its machines in the future; thanks to the gesture control function, it is as easy to operate as a cell phone. The machine operators are able to use the swipe technique to move the camera on the traverse to the required position and to zoom in on live images. The wear-free, electronic zoom delivers high image quality to provide excellent depictions of the printing webs, free of distortions, and the high-power LED flash ensures an even illumination of the webs.
The displays of the web guiding system allow operators to determine whether the webs are running smoothly through the machine. “These systems, with their automatic mechanism, clear representation of the center position of the web or the positioning of the sensors, and the intuitive user interface, are easy to understand even for non-experts such as myself,” says Bauch.
Immense potential in nonwoven products
From the point of view of serv-o-tec, the market is nearly saturated when it comes to demand for high-quality printed napkins. “The nonwoven market, on the other hand, is all the more dynamic,” says the Managing Director, leading us from the napkin machine to the floor wipes machine Servoflex 900 A1. This machine, which is set to produce nonwoven items in the USA, is also almost ready for delivery.
We arrive at the machine to find the technicians testing the run of a blue nonwoven material. We can see the CompactGuide web guiding system’s web edge sensors throwing their red light left and right on the material, determining its current position. The sensors maintain constant communication with the controller and record the current position of the edges. The controller makes a running comparison of the current and required positions and controls the actuator in a near-instantaneous manner. This offsets and prevents potential faults in the material.
serv-o-tec benefits from BST eltromat’s wide product range, in particular on the nonwoven market – especially given that this complex, non-standardized market is in a state of constant flux. Bauch explains that it is in such cases when it is reassuring to know that, with the help of your supplier, your company has all options open to it in terms of control and regulation.
“Our customers are constantly approaching us with new ideas and challenges,” he says, describing the potential of the market in a nutshell. The “Away from home” / “HoReCa” segments, as well as the entire nonwoven sector with its wide range of applications (from cleaning to industry to medicine or hygiene), are particularly attractive, says Bauch. In these sectors, there is demand for an almost endless supply of folded and non-folded cloths in all shapes and sizes, in all types of quality, and for countless applications. Almost nothing in this market has a standard, be that in terms of a standard size, raw material, or packaging. In fact, the ideas for innovative products seem to be limitless. Bauch gives a few examples: cleaning cloths that change their color depending on how clean the water being used is, dust cloths popular in many households, or scented cloths for clothes dryers.
Solutions for all demands of the global market
Flexibility is therefore essential for production technology. serv-o-tec covers this broad range of needs with machines that are available in three widths and can be configured to suit countless varieties according to demand. The company has also developed important innovations for the nonwoven market. Its electronically adjustable folding and cutting unit grants customers the unique flexibility to experiment with different sizes on the market. Bauch explains, “Depending on the cost of the raw materials for the nonwoven products, manufacturers save a great deal of money if they have the option to reduce the cut-off length of the material from 400 mm to, say, 399 mm, 398 mm, or 390 mm.” Another important innovation is the wear-free folding head that prevents mechanical strain on the folding blades even when dealing with thicker nonwoven materials.
The global success enjoyed by serv-o-tec is reflected in the number of its systems used in machines produced by the Langenfeld-based company. With systems installed in more than 300 machines with a rate of four to five web edge controls per machine, that comes to a total of more than 1,000 web guiding systems. And given that most of the machines are fitted with video web inspection, at least another 200 BST eltromat systems can be added to that figure.
serv-o-tec customers also attach great importance to after-sales services, including a fast delivery of spare parts. “If you supply discount stores such as Aldi, Lidl, or Walmart, your machines always need to be ready to use. The fact that we produce most of our components ourselves enables us to offer a fast delivery of spare parts,” Bauch says about one advantage of the high level of vertical integration in his company.
The systems provided by BST eltromat have proven themselves to be extremely robust and failsafe elements of serv-o-tec machines. Nevertheless, according to Bauch, BST eltromat has always shown itself to be extremely service-oriented “and is on hand to deliver prompt advice and on-site services to its customers and partners when the need arises. For us, that is a very important quality.” BST eltromat also consistently proves itself to be service-oriented when it comes to developing machines to meet new demands. That’s why serv-o-tec involves its supplier’s experts early on in the production process of particularly challenging projects. “BST eltromat has a global presence. This is another reason why they are an ideal partner for us.”
serv-o-tec is certain that the pressure on prices in the napkin and nonwoven industry will continue to increase. In the future, machines will have to be able to react even more flexibly to the demands of the market, to demonstrate an even higher degree of automation, and to further reduce their waste. It is in production plants with several machines that integration within the framework of Industry 4.0 will become more important, in order to minimize downtime, provide a targeted analysis of faults, and optimize processes. The introduction of self-optimization, self-configuration, and self-diagnosis procedures will help machine operators cope with their increasingly complex range of tasks. Industry 4.0 shortens production times, boosts flexibility, and reduces waste. This is a broad field and one in which serv-o-tec wishes to work even more closely together with BST eltromat.
In addition, serv-o-tec will be using the TubeScan systems provided by BST eltromat’s partner Nyquist Systems in the future to offer its customers a 100% inspection. When processing expensive nonwoven materials in particular, it is financially necessary to identify issues (such as holes in the surface) at an early stage, in order to avoid complaints.
Established in 1988, the printing and paper processing machines company serv-o-tec GmbH is based in the German town of Langenfeld and currently comprises approximately 50 employees. It specializes in the manufacture of machines that produce high-quality printed napkins and a broad range of nonwoven items. Its international orientation is highlighted by the fact that two of its first three machines were sold to other countries – one to Australia and another to North America. Its current main markets are Europe and North America, with Germany having experienced a veritable boom in the last few years. More than 300 machines are in use across the globe, and of these more than 20 large machines are being operated by one customer in North America alone.