Specialty converter Wausau Coated Products wanted to create an automation machine and bring it online faster and less expensively than the conventional specify-and-purchase route. This manufacturer of pressure-sensitive label materials and custom-engineered coating technologies has designed and built its own laminating coater lines since 1987.
As the company designs and builds most of its machines in-house, the lines increased in sophistication and complexity. Wausau Coated’s engineers were determined to continue in-house development for its newest line that would be the largest, fastest, and most complex machine on its plant floor. The new line presented the most ambitious control and drive system challenges the company had ever faced. The objective was “a very special machine,” capable of handling a wide range of applications at faster speeds.
Wausau brought in Rockwell Automation to help build the new line. “This is the largest and most complex coater designed by Wausau Coated,” Thomas Tengowski, account manager for Rockwell Automation, told Design News. “The biggest challenge was to design a system that would give them the most flexibility for the multiple web-path configurations required to apply and dry the coatings to the various substrates.”
Rockwell was a likely choice since the company had helped Wausau design and start up an Allen-Bradley PowerFlex drive system on an existing coater line the previous year. “We had learned about their coating process and we leveraged that experience during the design, installation, and start-up of the new coater drive system,” Tengowski told us.
Wausau Coated manufactures specialty products for markets and end uses that include wine and spirits, health and beauty, toys and stickers, security, flexible packaging, and shelf marking. Critical properties delivered in the company’s multilayer constructions include the ability to remove and reposition adhesives, ink adhesion, durability, lay-flat characteristics, and barrier properties.
In a construction that combines coating and laminating –- a pressure-sensitive label backed with release paper, for example –- additional substrate webs are unwound and adhered to the first substrate. The converter line joins the multiple webs together to form a bonded, single web wound onto a finished-product roll. The company needed to take its converting process to the next level by improving the flexibility, speed, and visibility of its production lines.
Wausau Coated identified four key production improvements it needed in the new line:
- Apply four coatings during a single pass.
- Run at a higher speed, while maintaining tension control, during transfers.
- Increase flexibility in changeovers between different “recipes” and product applications.
- Improve transparency along the line and simplify operator use.
Wausau wanted to accomplish all of these goals to make sure the company could keep its competitive edge in its market. “We needed to control and drive an advanced converting line with the versatility and performance to take on difficult opportunities and manufacture products that other machines and suppliers can’t handle,” Chris Stogbauer, vice president of technology for Wausau Coated, told us.