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A wide range of mechanical devices and systems is available to ensure safe and efficient handling of large reels and rolls in converting operations. This review looks at what some of the suppliers have to offer

New from Packline Materials Handling is a double clamping vertical spindle attachment with geared rotation, designed to deal with lifting and handling rolls of material that ‘telescope’ easily. Manufactured from stainless steel, the company says this unit is suitable for cleanroom environments, for example in the food, drinks, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

The double clamping feature prevents reels from telescoping, keeping the roll of material intact. It has rubber pads to ensure that the roll is not marked or damaged during handling. The geared rotation feature enables the rolls of material to be re-orientated easily and safely.

Maximum capacity of the unit is 75kg; maximum reel diameter 750mm; minimum reel diameter 250mm; and minimum reel width 190mm.

Jarshire claims to offer one of the widest ranges of roll, reel and shaft handling equipment and systems in the UK. An important development this year has been the company’s collaboration with Dotec of The Netherlands.

Dotec’s LiftAssist range includes rotary action roll handlers (horizontal to vertical and reverse) and single-action (horizontal or vertical), both types having a capacity of 50-250kg. Additionally, the range includes anti-telescoping solutions for label rolls and mobile rotary action units for use in areas where there is no room for rail or jib cranes.

The central feature of the LiftAssist is the ergonomic handle used to operate it. This handle can move freely up and down, sliding through the hands, allowing the operator to keep his/her eye on the load, while “a mere finger touch” determines both direction and speed. There is no need for bending and stretching when lifting and storing in high places, it is claimed.

Each LiftAssist has specific characteristics that are based on ease of operating, speed and good posture of the operator. The learning curve is said to be short and it allows operators to work at their own speed according tocircumstances. Jarshire Converting Division director David Jobson affirms: “A Dotec reacts immediately, and for good reason is known as the ‘friendly’ LiftAssist.”

With almost 90% of current enquiries coming from overseas, UK-based Weston Handling Co (WHC) is set on offering its range of RaSHCo reel handling equipment further afield. Managing director Stephen Weston explains: “We’ve seen enquiries coming in from many of the old Eastern bloc countries, as well as the Americas and the Middle East”.

He has already started discussions with several overseas companies about manufacturing in South America, for distribution there and in the US. “We have already sold our reel handling products directly into the USA, Canada, Colombia and Mexico, and it’s been rewarding, but slow and piecemeal. However, it cranked up a notch recently, after we received several enquiries from a US trading company that has offices in all the major South American packaging and printing markets. They said we had a unique range of reel handling products and that they would like to represent us. We are now talking to them about working together to get the RaSHCo range built in South America at a lower cost than we can in Europe.”

Weston also plans to move east, with discussions taking place with a Chinese manufacturer of fork truck attachments that wants both to tap into Western markets and expand its reel handling range.

But he cautions: “Partnering with a Chinese manufacturer could be a good thing, but it’s a balancing act. It’s not just about being able to produce the cheapest reel handling solutions; it’s about designing and selling the right solution for the application and keeping control of both the bank of intellectual property that has been developed after many years of experience, and maintaining control of the quality of goods and service to the customer.”

And Weston maintains that it is thanks to repeatedly developing the right solution for reel handling applications taking a holistic approach, from the background of working in converting plants rather than in lifting equipment manufacture, that the RaSHCo range has proved successful where it matters – with the operators.

Another manufacturer is Lift Safe, which offers the Expando turn reel manipulator as “the perfect solution” for turning reels through 90 degrees. It can be manipulated from the vertical to the horizontal quickly and safely – especially suitable for applications where reels are positioned vertically (core facing up) on a pallet.

The Expando’s turn reel handler is moved into the core of the reel. The ‘boom’ of the reel manipulator then expands inside the core, providing a firm grip on the reel. A safety light comes on to confirm that there is a safe grip, and then the operator can lift the reel and move it back and forth between horizontal and vertical with ease. The legs of the lift & drive mobile reel lifter can be positioned under or around the pallet. Loading reels onto packaging machines is said to be safe and efficient.

According to Lift Safe, the ‘squeeze and turn’ electric roll manipulator is ideal for heavy duty, frequent use reel handling operations – and “perfect for applications where you want to keep the core of your reel empty, for example, for presentation to a spindle on a packing machine”.

In addition to safe handling, reels and rolls need to be well-protected, so when Japanese manufacturer of films and tapes Nitto Denko needed a better way to protect the rolls of product shipped from its facilities in Belgium, US company Rollguard provided the solution. Nitto Denko was looking for an alternative to the wooden block cradles it was using when it shipped rolls horizontally on pallets.

“We were using wooden blocks with cradle diameters that were customised for our rolls,” explains Danny Timmermans, purchasing and logistics packaging specialist for Nitto Europe. “The wooden cradles were put under and between the layers of rolls on pallets.

“However, the wooden blocks sometimes caused product damage. If you put two or three pallets on top of each other, the weight on the blocks could crush the core the film was wrapped around. So, we were looking for alternatives.”

His search led him to Rollguard’s recycled fibre cradles. “I had Rollguard send some samples to us. When they arrived, everybody was actually laughing a little bit, because the material looked like egg cartons. But these fibre cradles hug the rolls better, so the pallets became a lot more stable. The production personnel were won over and we switched to the cradles.”

Rollguard says its cradles offer strength, protection and cost efficiency in a ‘green packaging solution’ that can be easily customised to fit nearly any roll or cylindrical protective packaging situation.

Nitto Europe is using three different sizes that allow three, four or five rolls per layer. Even with long distance shipping, Rollguard’s cradles deliver 40% savings over the wooden blocks used previously, according to Timmermans.

No ‘telescoping’ with Packline’s double clamping attachment Packline Dotec’s ‘friendly’ LiftAssist Dotec Overseas openings for Weston Handling’s RaSHCo range Weston Rollguard cradles hug rolls to make pallets more stable Rollguard

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