Pushing back the boundaries
Autobond is able to offer much higher production speeds on its laminating machines since installing control systems featuring motion centric automation from Lenze
With competitors’ laminating machines running at 20-25 m/min, a new design capable of 120 or even 180 m/min offers clear productivity advantage for the converter. Autobond is able to offer these high production speeds with its new laminating machines including the LE105.
Developing machines capable of this huge step up in speed presented them with a big challenge which they met in partnership with Lenze whose ‘easy engineering’ approach meant working closely with the customer from the initial idea, optimising the design from alternatives in a wide product portfolio using strong application knowledge and powerful sizing software.
“When times are tight companies often bring their post-press work in house to reduce costs and increase flexibility,” says Autobond managing director John Gilmore. “This is a trend that we have seen in the last recessions. They find they can offer added value to their customer, vital for retaining business in tough economic times.”
The laminating process on the LE105 machine starts with sheets of printed paper fed from a sheet feeder. Surfaces on the sheets are then prepared by transporting through a corona treatment section and then onto a module where the laminating film is laid onto the sheet. The film is fed in at a speed synchronised to the sheet and tensioned by a pneumatic clutch. The sandwich of film and sheet is then pressed and heated around a roll with a high temperature that is maintained by a flow of hot water. Finally the sheets are separated and restacked.
Consistently high quality
Achieving high and consistent quality is a challenge met by Autobond’s designers. It is vital that the thin laminating films, typically 16 microns thick with a glue layer of 4 microns, have strong adhesion to the sheet so that there is no separation on subsequent slitting and cutting. Factors including feed accuracy, surface finish of the rolls and consistent temperature control are important. This process of thermal laminating where heat is used to set the glue is the optimum to achieve low material costs with high productivity.
As a partner for drives and automation Lenze worked closely with Autobond from the start of the development process, making it easier and faster. Sales and application engineers used the concept of motion centric automation to simplify and optimise the machine design. The Lenze portfolio gives the freedom to choose from scalable products, for example models from the 8400 inverter series provided all the required drive functionality but at different levels of performance.
For the simple task of running the drive rollers at constant speed, the StateLine version was selected. Where performance at servo levels was needed for intermittent feeds and gearlocking, the TopLine inverters were ideal. All the 8400 series drives are compact, fitting easily into the control panel and have the same operating software plus built in CANopen fieldbus.
Additional versions BaseLine and HighLine extend to functionality to suit the vast majority of drive applications.
The Lenze control system has flexible options allowing the simplest and lowest cost solution to be chosen. In this case the motion software is mainly held in the drives while higher level control software is held in a small PLC with integrated 5-inch touchscreen acting as an operator station.
A second touchscreen positioned at the stacker end of the machine gives the operator easier control. Inter-connection of the drives, screens and controller is easily achieved with CANopen integrated on all devices and a single software platform, L-force Engineer, for programming. High speed and real-time buses are also an option. Lenze has remained close to the machine development process, helping with the software, visualisation and defining the machine operating procedures.
Quickly up to speed
“We have just run the machine at full speed on a production job and are very impressed by how it’s working,” comments Autobond’s software and commissioning engineer Paul Smith. “I haven’t worked on a machine that has been so good so quickly from a software and drives point of view. I have been impressed by the whole system and the input our Lenze application engineer gave us while programming it.”
In the laminating market Autobond has set its sights on much higher line speeds of 120m/min and in the future 180 m/min. The machines offer this higher productivity but also a longer life with less maintenance than others on the market. The solution is based around the quality and precision of their machine design together with the use of new drive technology. The partnership with Lenze has enabled Autobond to push back the boundaries of laminating.
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