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There’s a cost to handling large reels safely, so there are rewards to researching and investing in the most appropriate system

Moving any heavy object around can be challenging, but reels are particularly difficult because their shape makes it hard to get a grip on them. In addition, they often have to be manoeuvred around tight spaces and positioned in awkward places, which often involves raising them to some height and simultaneously carrying out extra functions such as slitting or wrapping.

Reel handling in the converting sector falls into two areas. This includes large bespoke systems capable of handling large rolls of
paper and plastics, typically up to 5,000kg in weight. Many of these systems are modular and include other functions such as slitting
and rewinding. Such systems are typically ordered as part of a capital investment into a production line.

But at the other end of the scale, there are a number of smaller systems, which in the converting industry are usually for handling smaller reels that have been taken from a larger reel. Here there’s no need for any further automation, it’s simply a matter of moving a reel and loading it to a pallet or another machine. The difficulty in this case is that rolls often need to be rotated as well as lifted, and often in confined spaces.

In the past many of these rolls might have been manhandled into position, but ongoing changes to health and safety legislation and
an increased awareness of the insurance premiums among customers means that converters have to consider mechanised solutions. Added to this, globalisation means that western multinationals are bringing the same health and safety standards to
companies in the emerging markets, which is opening up a healthy export market for many companies in this sector.

Most of the smaller systems are lifting solutions that have been adapted from other industries, and are generally attachments for
cranes or fork lift trucks. Consultant and inventor Stephen Weston says that customers have to consider not just the way of handling
reels at the point of use, but also how you can move those reels around the factory.

He says: "You can use fork lift trucks but you have the expense of the truck, you need trained drivers, you have to have big expensive attachments on the front of the machine, and you’ve got expensive kit all tied up." But he says that there are simpler
alternatives: "If you had a trolley then you could have the operators move the rolls." He points out that for the smaller rolls, most
people are handling loads up to 1,500kg.

Weston, formerly managing director of the Reel and Shaft Handling Co, has concentrated on developing systems that can
carry out multiple functions, such as wrapping and palletising rolls as well as lifting and moving them, or loading them onto a production line. One example is a ‘double V’ truck designed to take rolls from a slitter/rewinder. He has also developed a ‘single V’ version for an installation where the reels are loaded one above the other.

Jarshire, in the UK, has built a business installing specialised systems capable of handling up to 3,000kg.

Jarshire has collaborated with Dutch company Dotec to supply its LiftAssist range that can handle rolls from 50kg to 250kg. There are several options for moving reels from horizontal to vertical or vice versa. These systems feature a large handle that allows
operators to grip it easily to manoeuvre rolls.

Packline makes a number of solutions for lifting and rotating reels into position, mainly aimed at high care and clean room environments such as food and pharmaceutical packaging. Marketing manager Teresa Winters says that their main advantage over the competition is their robustness and overall quality, adding: "We get repeat customers that tend to buy in bulk". Packline is just about to launch a new mini reel lifter, which is smaller than the current compact reel lifter but has a couple of attachment options.

Winters says that a lot of customers do have very specific lifting and handling requirements and so Packline makes a lot of bespoke versions. A recent example of this is an actuated roll lifter with a rotating tray attachment. This was built to allow a lifting truck to carry a reel underneath a conveyor belt that meant the system couldn’t be more than 750mm high. The solution has a telescopic central lifting column capable of carrying 40kg and lifting it from 375mm to 955mm in around 40 seconds. It takes rolls up to 420mm long and 390mm in diameter and is operated from a pendant control mounted to the side. Another example is a lifting crane arm attachment, which can easily be fitted to all Logiflex models with an adjustable carriage and will take up to 500kg in weight.

Anglia Handling sells the Lemm range from Germany, which includes a range of attachments for picking up and rotating reels.There is also the Lift and Drive reel handling truck, which is a manual system for lifting and pushing reels up to 150kg in weight. Sales director Philip Apton says that the Lemm equipment is very robust and is capable of rotating heavy loads.

For powered units, Anglia offers the Toppy range from Italy, which consists of four models capable of handling reels from 100kg up to 1,000kg. There are options for gripping the reels via the spindle or an outside clamp. The toppy Web 1000, for example, can lift a
1,000kg roll up to 1,600mm, with an option to 2,500mm, and rotate it through 90 degrees.

Weko sells the Aspo system which is designed to pick up rolls of paper or film from the centre core, using an expanding mandrel
mounted to a front jib, giving it much of the capability that one would expect from a forklift truck. There’s an optional camera system
that can be fitted to the mandrel to help operators line up the system.

Weko also sells the Rotoweb, a larger variation that uses hydraulic clamps around the outer edge of the roll to grip it. This can handle up to 1000kg and can turn the roll on its side as well as lifting it up. Both of these systems are self-powered and can be moved around a factory under their own power.

Torros makes a range of lifters for rolls from 100kg to 500kg. This includes the Jumbo system, which can handle weights up to
500kg, with 76mm or 152mm cores. It’s a powered lifter which grips the reels via their core and can lift and rotate them.

Rolpex sells the Appleton roll mover, a simple lightweight method of pushing larger rolls around a factory without needing any other infrastructure such as air lines. There are three versions available, handling weights up to 3, 5 and 10 tonnes. It uses a rechargeable battery, which takes one hour to charge and should last for up to eight hours.

Automated systems Atlas Titan concentrates on the heavier end of the market, combining slitting with reel handling. Earlier this year Atlas announced its
new Titan SR9 series of slitter rewinders. These machines are made up of three separate units, for unwinding, slitting and rewinding, enabling converters to match the configuration to their needs. The SR9 series were designed to minimise down time and operator intervention. They can run at up to 1,000 m/min and there’s a choice between 1,650mm and 2,250mm widths.

Last year Kampf introduced a new version of its Conslit, a duplex slitter capable of taking plastics films, papers and laminates. This takes materials from 1,050mm up to 2,050mm. It uses a razor blade for slitting and also incorporates unwinding and rewinding
for a wide variety of finished rolls, and runs at up to 800m/min.

ALS produces a number of slitting machines, including the 500 Sibtec, which takes a roll up to 500mm in diameter and up to 2,100mm wide. It can handle a variety of materials including vinyl, foil and polyethylene and can cut up to four different widths per cycle. It comes with WiFi and can be controlled from an iPad or even an iPhone, which also allows the system to be monitored remotely.

SCM Handling makes a number of systems for handling rolls and drums for different industries, including rolls of paper and foils for the converting sector. This includes an automated roll handling system launched last year and capable of handling up to 5,000kg for heavy duty board production. The system comprises slitter unloading, in floor roll conveying, roll weighing and label printing as well as roll wrapping, up-ending and palletising.

In conclusion, reel handling remains at the heart of a converting line, but health and safety concerns mean that converters are
obliged to pay as much attention to moving the smaller reels around as they do to handling the larger rolls with the bigger, fully
automated systems.