Digital Magazine

On-line gauging brings big benefits to coating operation

A beta gauge measurement system from NDC Systems means efficiency and consistency on Adchem Corp.'s coating line.1

Since its founding with a single coating machine in 1966, Adchem Corp., a manufacturer of adhesive tapes headquartered in Westbury, NY, has prided itself on providing customers with a quality product at a fair price. "We believe in understanding the customer's needs and developing relationships and partnerships," says national sales manager Lou Falletta, who has worked from the beginning with company founder Joe Pufahl.

Now a mid-sized company best known for its double-coated adhesive tapes, Adchem produces a variety of single-coated, double-coated, and transfer tape products for a range of industries, including automotive equipment, graphic arts, paper trade, construction, electronics, and business supplies. The tapes are used for fastening, binding, laminating, mounting, holding, and splicing. The company, which has a manufacturing facility in Riverhead, NY, as well as the one at company headquarters, also has the capability to custom-coat virtually any web, including films, nonwovens, paper, metal foils, vinyls, and foam. (Material suppliers are proprietary.)

But, says director of marketing Ray Ciamaga, "We can't be everything to everybody. We pick select markets and then spend considerable time studying their requirements."

Once Adchem decides to enter a market, it focuses on dominating that market subsegment. To achieve that end, Ciamaga adds, "We invest whatever it takes in technology and equipment to make us strong in the segment." Indeed, over the past three years the company has revamped much of its production process, upgrading its converting and coating application machines, adding slitting capacity, and integrating additional on-line gauging for increased process and quality control. It is in this last area that NDC Systems has played a key role.

"The demands of our customers mean that we have to explore the very latest technology," observes John Praitano, the Westbury plant manager. To meet the need for increased customization, Adchem has increased its slitting capacity, allowing it to produce any specialized width required by a customer. The company can supply adhesive tape in long-length spools, enabling end users to reduce the downtime associated with roll changes. Additionally, single- and double-coated tapes are produced in sheet form for many specialty applications. Details of slitting and sheeting equipment are proprietary.

Fresh Approach to Gauging

In addition to increasing its manufacturing flexibility, Adchem has invested in improved production efficiency and product consistency. When Praitano joined the company three years ago, he set out to improve the coating process as well. "I wanted to be able to deposit the coating more precisely and to have a line that was more amenable to incorporating on-line gauging," he says.

To that end, Praitano worked with a small company to design a line that incorporated some proprietary coating methods. "I influenced the design based on experience I had," says Praitano, a 30-year industry veteran.

For on-line gauging, Praitano selected a beta gauge measurement system from NDC Systems for its production line. The NDC gauge is designed for on-line thickness and weight measurement of continuous web processes. Praitano reports that, since the NDC system takes a fresh approach to beta gauging technology, it achieves a high performance level with a gauge using about one-fifth to one-sixth the strength of conventional beta gauge radiation sources.

The approach required a rethinking of old assumptions about the source size, data processing, and mechanical engineering. And since NDC was able to lower the size and weight of the source shielding because the radiation output was so much lower, it was able to develop a compact scanning frame that is completely maintainable by the user, Praitano explains.

Why Beta?

Adchem chose a beta technology approach to on-line gauging, and specifically the NDC system, for several reasons. "We wanted beta from the beginning," Praitano recalls. "We felt the technology would provide the response and control performance Adchem wanted without scan speed limitations. Moreover, we wanted to read the wet area of the web rather than the dry area as well as to automatically and remotely control coating weight."

The NDC beta gauge measurement system had several important features that appealed to Adchem. "The source is a very low millicurie source, so you don't have the radiation hazards some other units have," Praitano notes. Indeed, Praitano had the opportunity to work with NDC in the overall design and installation of the system. The unit's easy-to-use touch screen control console was also a significant feature, Praitano recalls.

Finally, Praitano says, "it was an economic decision." For example, NDC's frame design eliminated the need for an expensive service contract.

Prior to installation, John Bell, an Adchem plant engineer, visited NDC Systems for a week of hands-on training. The system was then installed in a three-day period, and plant personnel received an additional four-hour training session.

"Within a week we were comfortable with the unit, and we were working with new information, targets, and gauge factors," says Praitano. Although plant personnel initially operated the system in a manual mode, they now use the closed-loop feature that allows for fully automated operation.

Praitano reports that the payoff of the new line and gauging system was immediate. "There have been multiple benefits - improved product quality, product consistency, and cost reduction."

The improvements are easily documented, since Adchem uses the NDC beta gauge to generate permanent records for every roll run. Using the print screen feature, operators report the last scan and the last 100 scans. At the end of the roll, they have a complete history of the coating weight for the roll. "We use this information as an adjunct to our quality control system," Praitano says.

Aiding in SPC

The NDC on-line beta system also has other features that Adchem will probably make use of in the future. "Although we use many of the system features, we have not fully exploited all of its statistical process control capabilities," Praitano remarks. Nevertheless, continually improving the management of production information is high on Praitano's priority list, and SPC is a central element of that process. Praitano also has his eye on new technology that could advance other aspects of the production process. "We are always looking for state-of-the-art equipment as we move forward," he says. Adchem is looking at drying and coating technology as well as technology that can be used to bolster specific aspects of the converting and coating processes. The company recently added a second NDC on-line beta gauge measurement system.

"We at Adchem have a vision about how to do business in the 21st century and how we can reach the next plateau," says Lou Falletta. This strategy includes branching out into new markets and servicing existing markets with improved product quality. "We have to move on a broad front with new product development," adds Ciamaga. "To sustain our growth, we have to be successful in a number of projects. Our objective is to meet our customers' expectations the first time, every time."

Supplier Information:

NDC Systems, Irwindale, CA; ph: 818/960-3300; fax: 818/939-3870.

Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter