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Increasing web speeds and a diverse, widening range of technologies means that web cleaning manufacturers must be at the top of their game to ensure that packaging converters operate clean, efficient production environments. Tim Sheahan looks at the latest developments in the sector

The converting environment in 2013 is as challenging and demanding as ever. Converters are required to operate lean, efficient production environments and as a result, it is imperative that these firms get the best out of their machinery time-and-time again.

Arguably, the main goal for packaging converters is to product high quality work and maximise output while minimising enforced machinery halts, and to cut waste levels. In order to improve machine runnability and cut contamination through the presence of fibres, dirt and other debris, manufacturers continue to develop new, innovative web cleaning technologies.

Among these is Meech International, which has recently upgraded its portfolio of both contact and non-contact web cleaners.The manufacturer has updated all four of its technologies, which comprise CyClean, TakClean, VacClean and ShearClean.

Vacuum-based cleaning
CyClean, is a non-contact, double-sided blow and vacuum-based web cleaning system that operates by flowing contaminants into an inline filter unit. Capable of cleaning webs up to 2m in width, and of removing 0.5 micron contaminants, CyClean comprises a cleaning head, four active static control AC bars and an Air Handling Unit.

This controls the blowing and vacuum airflows and filtration for the system through an F8 grade washable labyrinth filter. According to the manufacturer, this can be upgraded to a HEPA filter for CyClean installations in "very clean" environments.

In addition, the machine includes a pneumatic opening and closing system when used for coating-related web widths.

The company’s TakClean web cleaner, which was originally launched in 2011, is pitched at packaging converters in the label and narrow web market. The machine features both single and double-sided cleaning capabilities. It is capable of cleaning speeds up to 250m a minute and is available in various web widths.

Meech International has equipped TakClean with its TransTak contact cleaning rollers and perforated adhesive rolls. During the cleaning process, the elastomer rollers make contact with the web and lift contamination from the product’s surface.

After the rollers have lifted the particles, they are transferred, by contact, to the surface of the adhesive rolls. The adhesive rolls are manufactured with a release coating to ensure easy unwinding.

Matt Fyffe, vice president and general manager of Meech International, says: "We always make it our priority to carry out extensive research into the market and recognise our customers’ demands, that way we are able to design web cleaners for various types of applications and that also incorporate the latest technology.

"Having such a versatile range of web cleaning systems means we can accommodate virtually any requirement a customer may have and can advise on exactly which technology best suits the application in question," he adds.

Compact production VacClean is a contact cleaning system that is targeted towards converters in the label, digital and carton printing sectors. Themachine, which is available in two configurations, can be specified as an F4 or an F5 model. The F4 features compact extraction and can clean single-sided webs up to 1,650mm wide and double-sided webs up to 750mm wide.

The F5, with vacuum fan extraction, can clean single and double-sided webs up to 4,000mm. According to Meech, the manifold
body featured in the VacClean has been adapted to achieve an "even vacuum" across the product and requires fewer duct
connections.

Finally, ShearClean is available for widths up to 2.1m and is capable of handling web speeds up to 450m/min.

Arguably, it is as important to understand what causes contamination at source in order to understand how best to achieve a continuous converting operation. While a great deal of contamination originates from paper, corrugated and film production, the converting production environment is also responsible for dirt and debris, and other web contaminants.

Extra-wide webs
One manufacturer, Teknek, has identified that thinner and wider optical films are being increasingly leveraged in the converting
environment. As a result, the company has introduced new contact cleaning equipment to "effectively" clean extra-wide web widths.

As the use of thinner and wider optical films becomes more prevalent, Teknek has responded to customer demand by introducing a range of contact cleaning equipment which can effectively clean extra wide webs.

Simco – Ion and Teknek Americas used their recent presence at ICE USA to showcase Teknek’s equipment, incuding the XCH6/200 range, which is capable of cleaning webs up to 3.5m in width and removing contamination down to one micron
in size.

This technology is an established and cost-effective method of web cleaning. Like the Meech TakClean system, it uses a specially
formulated elastomer roller to gently run in direct contact with the web. As a result, the roller surface attracts particles down to one
micron in size. These are then transferred onto a special reverse wound pre-sheeted adhesive roller, permanently trapping the
particles in the process.

Once the adhesive roller finally becomes saturated with contaminants, the outer presheet is simply removed, leaving a fresh one
underneath.

Teknek sales and marketing manager Ruaridh Nicolson, says films used in optical applications are becoming both wider and thinner, with production lines that are usually fast moving at up to 400m/min. This is especially useful when dealing with very thin film, which has a tendency to cling to the roller.

He adds: "The challenge has been how to clean these delicate materials at these speeds without damaging the film. The XCH range
has been designed specifically for wide web applications and incorporates our market-leading Nanocleen core which offers cleaning
without compromise."