- November 30, 2004, Carrie Cleaveland, Assistant Editor
In the converting industry, "clean-cut" is more than just a professional fashion statement. It’s an important factor in the decision to purchase a sheeter. In the same way you don’t buy a new suit without trying it on, you must be sure a particular sheeter is the "right fit" for your company.
In choosing to purchase a new sheeter, Bob Preddy, product line manager for Apollo Sheeters, a member of Bobst Group USA, Roseland, NJ (bobstgroup.com), stresses flexibility. "Converters need to do everything from lightweight papers to heavyweight boards," he says. "They need a machine that is flexible enough to handle that."
According to Kevin Rolfe, senior VP at Körber PaperLink North America, Green Bay, WI (kpl.net), a converter should consider future needs as well as current ones. Preddy agrees, saying, "The priorities have to be: ‘What am I going to cut? Am I going to go into paper and board, or am I just going to stay in the paper business? Do I need a machine with the versatility to cut both because I’m going to be in both ends of the market?’" He suggests considering the advantages of a single-knife rotary sheeter versus a twin synchronous knife sheeter. "If you knew your product range was going to take you into 18-point board products, you would really need to consider going with a twin-knife sheeter. If you felt that you would only ever run lightweight papers, it’s debatable whether you would need to go twin knife. You may still want to use a single rotary knife."
Going a step further is Joseph Matthews, president of Maxson Automatic Machinery, Westerly, RI (maxsonautomatic.com). Not only does a machine need to be flexible, he says, but converters also should "place a high value on ease of operation with an emphasis on using a one-man crew."
Rolfe also stresses the importance of equipment maintenance. Since most converters employ a limited maintenance staff, selecting a supplier with a readily available, specialized service staff is key.
Preddy warns this issue particularly is important for equipment with electronic drive systems and software. "The more we rely on electronics, [converters] need to be able to dial up the supplier so the supplier can go right into the machine, diagnose, and correct any fault that may be occurring," he says. "It is essential to get what I call a back-to-base modem."
Matthews credits today’s electronic advancements in sheeting. "Mechanical components are being replaced with electrical motors and drives," he says. "As a result, cutoff accuracy is more precise, maintenance requirements diminish, and setup times are reduced to input on a keypad."
Rolfe praises the compactness of today’s sheeters. "They require less space and produce better quality sheets faster than they were able to even five years ago," he says.
Matthews also notes an increased emphasis on delivering press-ready sheets. He says, "Accurate, square, and well-jogged sheets now are centered on standard-size skids that can be fed directly into printing presses without needing to be repositioned by an offline aerator jogger."
The bottom line is always on every converter’s mind. According to Preddy, this is another way in which today’s sheeters help minimize challenges. "Not only have suppliers in general made equipment less expensive so the converter can afford it, the advance of drives and software makes it a more versatile piece of equipment now," he says.
Rolfe applauds sheeting’s advances in accuracy, consistency, and productivity. "Sheeters generate press-ready stacks of quality sheets at speeds 20% higher than those of just a few years ago," he says.
Preddy believes future sheeting developments will be a question of making machines more efficient by shortening setup and skid removal times and making sure the product is press-ready when removed from the sheeter. Matthews and Rolfe see a progression toward providing different models for different markets. For Rolfe, this means high-, mid-, and low-range sheeter markets. Matthews focuses specifically on the sheetfed printing sector, noting two emerging trends. "The first is a move to large sheet format in the packaging and label markets," he says. "At the same time, another market that includes the small office/home office (SOHO) and short run specialty printing is developing around digital imaging, which uses sheets less than 19 by 25 inches in size."
It seems sheeting equipment, like a nice suit, is a matter of cut, quality, and required size.
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'sfeatures and departments each month, consult the June Buyers Guide, and search our online archives.