Converter combines profit with environmental concern

At Brady USA, the careful selection of a flexo press and bare-roll treater results in improved product quality, EPA compliance, and increased profitability.

The W.H. Brady Co. was founded in 1914 as a preparer of promotional materials for banks, feed mills and ice cream parlors.

Today, Brady offers more than 30,000 different identification, safety and specialty tape products for markets that include computer, aerospace, electronics, electrical, audio/video, original equipment manufacturing, medical and transportation markets.

In developing these products, the company also became involved in coating, laminating, printing and die cutting.

Recently, instead of waiting for tougher regulations and increased customer demands to dictate its schedule, the Wisconsin converter decided to take a proactive stance in fulfilling the dual goals of business success and environmental friendliness.

Brady USA's Signmark Division began the process almost two and a half years ago by working toward ISO 9000 certification and relocating its operations to Glendale, WI, from Milwaukee, WI.

Brady researched the latest environmentally safe technology and incorporated this knowledge into its productivity expansion plans at the new facility.

Contacts at the EPA and the Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin's version of the federal agency, advised company officials that in order to meet the new stringent air-quality standards, they would be required to conform to the latest available Air Technology specifications.

To achieve this, the company would either have to capture and incinerate or recycle volatile organic compounds, or use ultraviolet curable or waterborne inks.

Knowing what they faced in environmental restrictions, officials began their search for a new press. After reviewing specifications and costs for flexographic presses, the company began working with Comco International in testing various substrates with waterborne and ultraviolet inks on the newly designed flexographic presses.

Because they work primarily with pressure-sensitive plastic labels, extensive testing was done to assure the quality and durability of the impressions on this difficult-to-print material. The flexo press provided flexibility for handling a variety of product lines which use ten different substrates.

A four-color Comco Commander flexo press featuring an 18-in. processing width was selected. "The decision to go the way we did resulted from Comco having a demo facility that allowed us to test our range of complex products," Linda Edwards, senior development technician, said.

Later, Edwards also visited Enercon Industries in Menomonee Falls, WI, to test the effects of corona treating on ink flowout and adhesion on several of the substrates Brady uses.

While at Enercon, Edwards tested the substrates at various kilowatt levels and line speeds to determine the optimum watt density for each material. Dyne levels were also checked before and after treating.

Edwards noticed a difference; treating caused the ink to flow out better and gave the ink time to bite in. As a result, Brady chose Enercon's TL series narrow web treater.

This bare-roll treater allows the company to run a variety of poly materials as well as conductive substrates. The cooling air-flow system also maintains an ozone-safe work area.

In March 1994, the press and treater were delivered, and the installation progressed quickly.

"Comco and Enercon have been very supportive through out the selection, purchase and installation process," Edwards said.

Enercon visited the facility to program the treater, and it was functional within ten days.

"It was probably one of the smoothest equipment installations we've had."

At about the same time the equipment arrived and was installed in the new facility, the company received ISO 9000 certification.

Training was scheduled for the first week in April. Lead operator Kevin O'Shea said, "It was quick and easy to learn. And with the ISO 9001 certification, a lot of problems were alleviated for everyone involved."

Each press operator was trained to quickly perform surface-energy dyne tests before and after running each and every substrate.

Weekly audits were conducted and procedure adjustments made until first, second and third shifts were all consistently producing the same quality.

This included predetermining dyne levels and setting consistent run speeds, process-control settings and watt density of the corona treater. The consistent control was received well by employees.

Benefits of the process include improved weatherability, gloss and minimal cleanup. Volatile organic compound emissions were reduced to near-zero levels. Solvents are not permitted during runs on the press but are allowed for cleanup.

"Besides the improved flow of ink," O'Shea said, "the substrates could be run at higher speeds than without the treater and the quality was not compromised."


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