This is a guest post from Butch Schomber, New Product Innovation Manager with RotoMetrics. We reached out to Butch to shed light on some recent innovations in the world of high-quality dies.
Can it be done? Before any innovation occurs, it takes a courageous soul to ask that question. And unless you ask, you may never find out.
In the 40 years of working with rotary converters who manufacture products on web fed converting equipment, it doesn’t surprise me that opportunities continue to grow. What’s important is to continue to ask the question that challenges your vendors to innovate.
As we’ll detail in this post, it was that spirit that has helped RotoMetrics develop two unique die cutting application solutions. Before we delve into those, let’s touch on why it’s so important to ask, “Can it be done?”
Butch Schomber, New Product Innovation Manager
Converting entrepreneurs sought answers, created opportunities
Many of today’s largest converting companies were started by entrepreneurs who saw the growth in sticky labels as an opportunity. The demand was enormous and they seized the moment and risked everything to start small, family-owned companies to meet this expanding need.
These same entrepreneurs, who were often the person who ran the machines, pushed technology to expand into products beyond labels. They created new rotary converting opportunities, including medical, electronic, automotive, and industrial components.
But these new converting opportunities also presented challenges, such as:
- Die cutting abrasive materials
- Multiple layered constructions
- Thicker, more aggressive adhesives
- Thinner films
- Fibrous face stocks for wound care products
Faced with these challenges, these entrepreneurs had to ask, “Can it be done?” It’s that spirit we emulate at RotoMetrics, for over 60 years we have assisted in the development of solution-based products by listening to our customers. These relationships have led to two recent innovations.
Resisting abrasion wear with the Challenger Die
As New Product Innovation Manager for RotoMetrics, I can tell you that cutting dies and their ability to resist abrasion wear have changed dramatically over the last year. Case in point: The Challenger Die.
We introduced the Challenger Die in 2018 following a year of field testing. These trials were based on die cutting notoriously abrasive materials that were made with high levels of Calcium Carbonate and Titanium Dioxide. These additives are not only found in common face stocks and coatings, but also in most opaque white inks.
The Challenger die passed with flying colors. When cutting the abrasive materials, its die life was reported as noticeably longer, often resulting in doubling the run length of the cutting tool.
When our proprietary TufShield coating is applied to a fully, through-hardened tool steel cutting die that is fully machine finished (or sharpened), convertors continue to report:
- Longer runs
- Less downtime
- Better return on their investment
The Challenger has reset the expectations of die life.
Taking the fight to adhesives with RotoRepel and RotoRepel RX
Adhesives have challenged us every day. These challenges can be described as:
- Whip or transfer
- Lifting labels
- Blocking on rewound rolls
- Buildup on cutting dies or idlers
In each case, the result is the same: Lost time, lost production and added labor costs.
Enter RotoRepel and RotoRepel RX. This new product was released originally as a coating to resist adhesive buildup on the die. It was all about nonstick.
Converter feedback continues to be outstanding. The products perform well with many different adhesive types — including acrylics, hot melts and products like transfer adhesives and VHB foams.
Reduced downtime and material scrap
When dies build up with adhesive, they don’t cut properly and need to be cleaned. RotoRepel not only reduces the downtime, but material scrap as well.
Less die damage
Less handling to clean tools also reduces die damage. Converters were seeing reduced retool and replacement cost almost immediately.
Fewer missing labels
There were fewer missing labels caused by dies covered in adhesive. The result was saving time and headaches in the rewind department.
RotoRepel RX is also available for FDA compliant product requirements. From medical to food grade, it has undergone a US Food and Drug Administration regulatory compliance review, migration test and toxicological safety assessment. It is filed with the US FDA under Master File #2975.
Applications with both flexible and solid cutting tools
Available on both flexible and solid cutting tools, RotoRepel and RotoRepel RX can be reapplied after solid dies are resharpened.
RotoRepel does not require a curing time or a run in time, and most importantly it will not add to lead time for manufacturing. It was also the winner of the 2018 Label Industry Global Innovation Award.
In the works: Heat control
When a die and anvil are loaded into a rotary die station, pressure is applied to cut the web that is traveling between the two. The combination of web friction, roll pressure and bearer contact result in heat buildup in the rolls.
This thermal expansion causes the die and anvil rolls to increase in diameter, changing blade clearance and affecting die cutting results. This is extremely important to note when running higher speeds.
Many rotary die converting machines come with bearer wiper assemblies as a standard item. But many of these are never used, re-oiled, or (in some cases) actually removed from press because they are in the way.
As an alternative, RotoMetrics has die treatments that are currently being developed and undergoing field trials. The goal: Reduce this friction, thereby reducing thermal expansion and premature die wear. We are looking to generate feedback from the trials and eventually offer this new innovation.
Pop the question
Complacency is the enemy of growth. With all the changes in life, it’s hard to keep up. We get overwhelmed and distracted. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Innovations will occur when you share your challenges with your suppliers. Let them know what is causing issues, downtime, or shop floor struggles. Challenge them.
The innovations in this post were made possible because someone asked, “Can it be done?” Your answer might be just around the corner.