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FLEXO Magazine : April 2014
Toothpaste tubes Medical packaging • Industrial wraps Drum liners Composite cans • Plastic coated tablecloths • Insulation backed materials • Sacks In addition to the enhanced properties of the structures in terms of protection and safety, the extrusion coating process also provides lightweight, user friendly and recyclable solu- tions that satisfy the industry ’s growing commitment for being out front on environmental issues. MARKET TRENDS Over time, the market has evolved and gravitated more and more to considering extrusion coating lines, for the advan- tages already mentioned. Flexibility is the key driver as more and more converters diversify their businesses and seek to increase their share of the important value added packaging segment. Once seen exclusively as the realm of large, multi plant converters, the extrusion coating process is well suited to entrepreneurially oriented, independent companies who are seeking to differentiate themselves and their capabilities. Recent technology developments have enabled coating lines to operate at speeds of up to 2,300 fpm, with the possi- bility to coat and laminate materials in web widths from 51-in. up to 106-in. Such high performance equipment has been developed over many years and has necessitated extensive research and close collaboration between end users and suppliers, as well as the manufacturers of extruders and dies. Engineering, technical and R&D efforts together focus on all the parts of the coating line associated with the handling of the web. The heart of these machines is the lamination group, which is characterized by a three roll system with indirect pressure. The rolls, due to very precise engineering, ensure a constant temperature across the entire web, thus avoiding any stress to the material being coated and sub- sequently improving the adhesion properties of the coated material to the substrate. The point of lamination is fixed and vertical movement is made by the extruder carriage. The setting of the contact point between the extruded material and the web in the machine is today more than double the settings that could be achieved only a few years ago. This ensures high flexibility in both the production and performance of the machine. The fact that the machine can be configured for tandem process- es, allows it to create complex structures in a single pass. These processes can include lacquer coating, primer coating and flexo or gravure printing. Precise web handling and tension control are a given in lines tasked to do such sophisti- cated work. Fully integrated operator machine interface systems con- trol extrusion coating and laminating lines. These systems provide a single point for the control and storage of all the machine parameters in recipes, as well as management of the extruders, other installed equipment in the line, alarms and data loggers. And many extrusion coating lines can be configured to include various groups that perform the different processes required in order to achieve the final product type, such as printing a logo or coating a primer. n About the Author: Frank Passarelli is North- east regional sales manager for Bobst web fed products. Bobst’s expertise in the design and manufacture of extrusion coating and laminating lines for flexible packaging and paper and board dates back to the mid 1960s through its Rotomec product line. Its strength in this technology has been largely derived from the ability to provide solutions that meet customers’ specific requirements. Bobst’s extrusion coating lines can process a wide range of different materials in- cluding thin aluminum foils, through plastic substrates up to heavyweight papers and board. Since 2006, Reifenhäuser has been Bobst’s preferred supplier of equipment integrat- ed into extrusion coating and laminating lines, which are controlled by the Cosmoline Pro, a fully integrated operator machine interface system. 24 FLEXO APRIL 2014 www.flexography.org