Have you ever experienced a problem with your automobile, where you hear an unusual noise, or feel a different dynamic (a hesitation or a loss of power), and wonder if your trusty transport is going to leave you stranded at the side of the road?
Sometimes it’s fun to swap car stories with friends and associates about these experiences (like the time my Corsica kept stalling, and I would get it running by squirting starting fluid into the air cleaner … turns out it wasn’t a fuel problem at all; the RPM/speed sensor on the engine crankshaft was faulty, and when the sensor stopped sending its signal, the ECU would shut off the fuel, thinking the car had been turned off). Sometimes we deal with the annoying problems our vehicles exhibit by opening the hood and listening with someone we think knows how our machine is supposed to sound, and soliciting their input…and we get feedback like, “Could be the fan belt,” or “Maybe your alternator is failing,” or “Check your oil level, I think the hydraulic lifters are collapsing” (whatever that means). At that point, we have descended to the place where keeping our cars functioning reliably has become dependent on tribal knowledge and a bit of black magic.
While we might consider trial and error experiments to troubleshoot our personal transportation devices as an acceptable practice, this approach is not recommended for sophisticated manufacturing equipment like coating and converting lines for products in flexible web form.
When it comes to maintaining corporate assets like these sophisticated machines, companies rely on process knowledge and maintenance practices to ensure that their asset base is capable of producing high quality products in quantity and on time. Understanding how to keep these critical machines operating in the peak of health, and at top efficiency, is a paramount corporate mandate.
Business commitments like product quotas that depend on the reliability of manufacturing equipment should not be trusted to tribal knowledge, or to the accumulated troubleshooting success of a few senior technicians. Rather, the science of web dynamics should be applied to drive appropriate diagnostic approaches to web machine problems. This might be likened to how my stalling Corsica was eventually healed…it took a mechanic, with a timely ECU scan using an OBD hook up, to detect the faulty RPM sensor. Much more effective and permanent than my can of starting fluid, and my unsuccessful solution of replacement of the in-line fuel filter.
Which brings us around to why Optimation has on its staff Dr. Kevin Cole, a nationally recognized authority on the handling of flexible webs in manufacturing lines that coat or convert all types of films. Dr. Cole is to Roll-To-Roll manufacturing what your auto mechanic’s diagnostic machine and OBD scanner are to your car engine. When you want to know the reason behind the behavior of your web processing machine, Dr. Cole can apply science to explain the cause and effect between the forces acting on the product, and the product defect (or misbehavior) being observed. Dr. Cole recently published a paper on nip mechanics in web machines, which was presented at IWEB 2017. Dr. Cole’s presentation of “Roller Nip Deflections” won a best paper award. The paper explained the mechanics of the deformation of an elastomeric covered roller when pressed against a hard shelled, metal roller. The paper extends the knowledge of what is happening in the nip as it might apply to the lamination of two films that would be conveyed through the two rollers.
Dr. Cole is available as a resource to help manufacturers of RTR products keep their equipment running smoothly. His presentation at IWEB is one example of the expertise Dr. Cole, and Optimation’s Media Conveyance Facility, have to offer those companies who occasionally find themselves in a place where they need to have their machinery tuned up. When Dr. Cole receives the call, he won’t have to stand by your machine and listen to the noise it is making, and then offer suggestions as to what should be changed. He will approach the line with a concise analytical method designed to gather process information, verify machine operating conditions, and then diagnose the problem area and probable solutions. This is all done under the umbrella of the science of web handling, is data driven, and generates permanent solutions. A much more reliable way to diagnose and come up with a solution for a web handling problem, don’t you think?