Keeping it Clean

Roy Cannon, applications manager for Teknek Electronics Ltd., Inchinnan, Scotland (, jokingly says about web cleaning, “A few years ago the most common cure was to install a two-by-four across the web with a tack cloth wrapped around it, and hope that the problem went away.”

Today's cleaning equipment requires a slightly higher degree of sophistication. “The days of the two-by-four cleaner are gone,” Cannon notes. He adds the converter now has a number of alternative web cleaning solutions including air systems (suck, blow, or a combination of both), ultrasonic systems, and contact cleaners.

For Cannon, questions to consider before investing in web cleaning equipment include where particulates cause problems, the size of particle causing the problems, and how many of these particles must be removed.

According to Jeff Opad, VP at Jemmco, Mequon, WI (, the first thing necessary in evaluating the suitability of a web cleaning system is to determine the level of cleanliness required. Other factors Opad suggests considering are location and special limits, the substrate's sensitivity to scratching and damage, budget, and the amount of operator involvement required.

Ron Sweet, manager of sales and operations at Polymag Tek, Rochester, NY (, takes the requirements a step further, saying considerations should include the maximum and minimum size of particles, whether the contamination is loose or embedded, and the amount of contamination per square feet to be removed.

For Sweet, one of the most significant changes in web cleaning has been “a shift from conventional vacuum cleaner systems to contact roll cleaners to achieve cleaning below 25 microns of dirt.”

Opad agrees, having noticed an increase in demand for contact cleaning systems as the available styles increase. “The newer systems available today range from simple rotary brush systems to fully automatic, self-cleaning units utilizing specially formulated elastomeric tacky roller coverings that are gentle on substrates but capable of picking off very small particles,” he says. He also believes the developments in the contact cleaning roll covering (particularly the elastomeric sleeve) will impact future equipment designs, enabling web cleaning in applications with limited space.

Opad continues, saying contact roll coverings enable affordable web cleaning in areas with limited space, and varying degrees of tackiness enable cleaning of dirty webs without installing multiple rollers. “It is now possible to replace the adhesive roll with a tackier elastomeric roll in order to clean the contact cleaning roll,” explains Opad. “This would enable the user to reduce the operating costs currently associated with the existing adhesive roll type systems.”

Canon agrees with Opad's positive assessment of contact cleaners, saying “Contact cleaner rolls make intimate contact with the film, ensuring that the particulate is transferred from the film onto the roller.”

“One of the most significant changes in web cleaning is the awareness of the fiscal consequences of not installing a suitable system,” Canon adds. In some cases, he says, stopping production and fixing abroken-down cleaner is a cheaper option than producing scrap. He continues, “As production processes add more statistical control, it is easier to get feedback data showing the ROI in the process improvements made from the introduction of a web cleaner.”

Looking to the future of web cleaning, Opad points out, “It should be expected that as the systems become more economical, they will be utilized in more applications. As a result of limited space, web cleaning equipment will be incorporated into other auxiliary processes and will become more user-friendly and easier to maintain.”

According to Sweet, “In the future, the industry will see higher reliability, the need to remove increasingly smaller particles, and less operator involvement.”

Regardless of what the future of web cleaning will bring, the solution will not be found at your local Home Depot. Canon is right — the days of the two-by-four indeed are gone.

For more information on cleaning equipment see this month's What's New/Products section.

Restrictions of time and space limit the number of companies, products, and trends that we can discuss in these reports. For additional information, see PFFC's features and departments each month and consult the our Buyers Guide at

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