Get More with Less

Now that PFFC is housed in a Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed high rise, I have yet another understanding of “less is more.” The originator of this architectural design philosophy, van der Rohe, in his Chicago IBM Building at 330 N. Wabash, used uncomplicated geometry to create an efficient structure that not only houses the editors of your favorite converting industry magazine (and many of its sister business-to-business media) on the 23rd floor but also is home to many other businesses. During the work week, there's a lot going on inside this seemingly simple quadrangle.

Not that I didn't have some understanding of “less is more” before we moved last month. After all, those making deals in the converting world (and those of us writing about both) have been doing more with less — fewer people, less capital investment — in our sluggish economy for a few years now.

Brakes and clutches are yet more converting-process components affected by this “less is more” philosophy.

“Converters demand smooth, constant tension over an increasingly wider range of tension settings,” say director of engineering Dave Hein and mechanical design engineer Jeff Hermes at Nexen Group Inc. (nexengroup.com), Vadnais Hts., MN. “In addition, faster web speeds and a wider range of materials are being run on the same machine requiring different approaches to satisfy performance expectations,” Nexen's experts add.

Jeff McGrady, marketing manager at Force Control Industries Inc. (forcecontrol.com), Fairfield, OH, says converters also want longer life from their brake and/or clutch systems. “And along with that, they want low maintenance and higher performance. Everybody is trying to push a little bit harder, trying to get more out of them.”

A mature part of the converting realm, brakes and clutches have been utilized for web tension control for many years, according to brake and clutch suppliers. Yet the makers of the various types — i.e., pneumatic, magnetic particle, electric — in the converting marketplace still are being pushed to develop better-performing technologies for the ever-widening converting-process parameters and offer these advances at reasonable (a.k.a. lower) costs.

Although there has been some movement toward utilizing AC regenerative drives for tension control, Mark Breen, marketing manager at Dover Flexo Electronics (DFE) (dfe.com), Rochester, NH, points out brake and clutch systems remain an efficient and reasonably priced method for controlling your web — the epitome of less is more.

Breen does say, though, picking the right system is key to getting more out of your brakes. “Big issues for converters include heat dissipation and space. If they can get away with a smaller brake for a job, they always want to order a smaller brake than a larger one. But they have to be sure it's going to dissipate enough heat so they don't run into problems with their friction material burning up rapidly.”

To find that proper tension control system — be it a clutch, a drive, or a brake technology — for your application(s), research is required. But tension control suppliers are primed to help you figure it out.

“All the time, we have customers that call us and say, ‘I need help with a tension control solution,’ or, ‘I have a process problem. Can you come take a look?’ And if we identify it as a tension control problem, then we use the vast product mix — from clutches and brakes to sensors and controls — to solve the problem,” explains Michael Zlatic, distribution channel manager for Magpowr, a Maxcess International co. (magpowr.com), Fenton, MO.

Among the really handy tools to help you in your research is Magpowr's downloadable “Application Software” (magpowr.com/application_software.asp). “Though it doesn't select the brake for [you], [the Excel file] allows [you] to enter the information [you're] familiar with — line speed, roll sizes, tension range. Then it does all the math and produces some basic parameters in which the brake needs to operate successfully,” reports Zlatic.

And so you have to make less of an effort, other brake and clutch vendors you can utilize in your research include Montalvo (montalvo.com), Gorham, ME; Mach III Clutch (machiii.com), Ludlow, KY; and Placid Industries (placidindustries.com), Lake Placid, NY. You can start by checking out PFFC's New Product Digest this month, which offers more information on specific brake and clutch products.


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, consult the June Buyers Guide, and check pffc-online.com.



Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter