New modern folder/gluers have longer sections, require more production floor space and have more open access for operator setup. When planning for a new folder/gluer installation, consider enough floor space for material handling conveying and/or automation and ancillary equipment like pre-feed and packing systems, even if they would be for future considerations. Too many times, folder/gluers have been installed in tight areas with limited expandability to add more productive solutions as volume grows.
In addition to the typical configuration of feeder, aligner, pre-folding, auto-crash lock bottom, 4&6 corners, final folding, trombone and compression section, some longer and dedicated section options are available and seriously worth consideration. Will you need to have inspection, insertion, tagging systems, the need to pre-fold longer blank, etc.? A longer section gives you more flexibility.
In the case you need a very versatile folder/gluer, sections with universal configurable capabilities coupled with other section features and memory recall will reduce job changeover times significantly.
For corrugated board applications, scoring sections will increase productivity for products that were produced on rotary die cutters with weak scores by rescoring them inline after the carton aligner.
Machine stability, with no vibrations at all speeds, is very important; construction should consist of front and rear solid steel side frames with strong tubular steel crossmember interconnections. For corrugated board applications, upper carriers should be mounted to the upper structural frame with pneumatic loading and driven carrier belts.
With new modern technologies, motorized carriers and memory recall capabilities are now possible at significantly lower costs than a few years ago. Memorizing all job settings and carrier positions allows even the least experienced operators to recall and makeready repeat jobs both faster and with minimal startup waste.
New folder/gluers designed with off-the-shelf electronic and electrical components that are readily available from third parties are a huge benefit, as they free the owner/user of the equipment from proprietary software, programs, PLCs and motor controls that force them to rely only on the OEM for all service needs, breakdowns—even selling the asset after purchase. In many cases, off-the-shelf PLCs and drives are more powerful, faster and less costly than OEM designs, which can use outdated technologies at a higher cost due to lack of volume and competition.
Well-organized and clean wired electrical cabinets with air conditioning will ensure years of reliable production, as most folder/gluers are not installed in environmentally controlled areas with air conditioning. Heat buildup will significantly shorten the life of electronic controls.
As there is a lack of experienced folder/gluer operators, in several cases, an A-level operator will set up the machine with a B-level operator eventually running production.
With repeat job recall functions that relocate carriers and set saved production parameters, combined with repeatable reference points for tooling repositioning, the B-level operator is better able to set up repeat jobs with less A-level operator involvement, reducing the full involvement of the A-level operator to new and/or very complex job setups.
Consider these options to reduce downtime and also ensure the new folder/gluer has more and sufficient duplicate parts to keep mounted assemblies on the shelf for quick reinstallation with minimal adjustment.
Case Packing & Pre-Feeding
In addition to faster job changes, case packing and banding is the next major issue in limiting productivity and/or requiring more labor. Newer folder/gluers can produce at higher speeds without increasing setup time compared to older ones. If the old folder/gluer was the speed-limiting factor, the bottleneck will shift over to the case packing or banding. Adding more labor may help temporarily—however, new affordable case packing and banding solutions are now available for consideration with good returns on investment.
Combining the investment of a new technologically advanced folder/gluer with different levels of automation from pre- and post-material handling, pre-feeds, packing and banding will reduce labor requirements and increase productivity and profitability.
About the Author: Richard I McDonald is the president of PPC Technologies & Solutions LLC (PPCTS), a distributor of equipment and consumables to the packaging, printing and converting Industries. Richard has more than 30 years of industry experience in various technical, sales and senior management positions, and founded PPCTS in 2004.