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Diaper machinery - 1990; it's come a long way, baby; a look at the manufacturers of diaper converting machinery, as well as adhesive and superabsorbent application manufacturers, that exhibited at IDEA '90.

Diaper Machinery - 1990; It's Come A Long Way, Baby

The selection of an equipment supplier in the disposables converting business today involves many considerations. Purchasing decisions made largely on the basis of claimed high performance are no longer enough; the installation, training and after-sale service package has become critical.

Converters need to look for the right attitude when choosing suppliers. Factors include a disciplined and organized approach to installation and service, good communication, speedy response time and technical support availability, attention to detail, the ability to listen carefully and to offer honest answers and, finally, the flexibility in approach to suit the potential customer best.

With this in mind Nonwovens Industry went to the recent IDEA '90 in Washington, D.C. to see where the major worldwide suppliers of equipment to the disposables markets currently stand. The show shed considerable light on the state of the industry today.

Forewarned Is Forearmed

While in the past there were diaper manufacturers who ran several lines from a single source, many of today's companies run lines from more than one supplier, while these, too, can also by hybrid machines composed of an amalgamation of parts. When it comes to updating machinery to add multi-thread elastics, waist elastic or superabsorbent capabilities, the choice of supplier is usually based on technological and operational factors, price and delivery date.

Marrying machinery sourced from different companies requires checks on compatibility and some risk assessment, however. Compatibility with other equipment and systems has not always been given sufficient thought and planning and, in some cases, customers have not been warned of potential pitfalls.

Without good interface between suppliers, poor decisions may be made and the end result can be an updated product with very poor quality control. No scenario could be worse for the poor diaper manufacturer who may find that screaming for help is hopeless because suppliers do not have answers to the unforeseen problems and/or they are busy arguing with each other over responsibilities.

As diapers, sanitary protection and adult incontinence products increase in complexity, equipment suppliers' claimed line speeds and daily output figures are not frequently met. Every new factor adds complexity and pressures which, unmanaged, may work against achieving production efficiency, quality and profitability. So much depends on solid technical support from equipment and materials suppliers.

All of the suppliers at IDEA '90 claimed to be able to achieve any feature named; the important question then is not "Can you do it?", but rather "What technology do you have to do it?" Learning the pros and cons of each method of achieving a given end is essential.

All of the equipment suppliers can supply drum forming and raised cuffs, but few are free to discuss actual machinery in production. The real world of converting is a minefield at the moment, with many companies struggling to make retrofit equipment work efficiently.

Machinery companies that have supplied several customers with original or retrofit equipment offer a variety of ways to achieve it. They know that the "state of the art" kit may suit a very large customer who has the ability to run (and pay for) it. However, the same system sold to a private label supplier could be a disaster.

Now let's take a look at what the companies exhibiting at IDEA '90 had to say about their equipment.

And On To The Show...

The biggest news at Fameccanica, Sambuceto, Italy, was the recent merger of Procter and Gamble and Fameccanica parent Fater (see Top of the News, page 6, for further information). Donato Carriero, sales and marketing director, reported that Fameccanica would continue to operate in the same manner as before the merger.

With the merger talk out of the way, on display at the booth were samples of contoured elasticated diapers with raised elastic cuffs, sanitary towels with wings and a variety of incontinence pads. Also on display were examples demonstrating the volume savings offered by the company's compact packaging systems.

The most novel feature on the diaper samples was the blue elastic in the raised cuff. "The raised cuffs are made from a nonwoven, glue and elastic," said Mr. Carriero. "The cuff is constructed and applied in-line using a self-driven independent unit connected by an electronic shaft, compatible with other machinery."

The Model FA-X baby diaper machine is an improved version of its contoured elasticated leg machine. Sturdiness and durability have been improved.

Fameccanica was also discussing an updated machine for baby insert diapers. The line is fully automated from raw material to sealed pack, which is the cheapest way of producing the product.

In the sanitary protection arena, Fameccanica claims to be the first machinery manufacturer to offer a machine to make panty protector "wings," similar to Procter & Gamble's successful "Always Plus" product.

Fameccanica also offers machinery for a variety of shapes and sizes in the adult incontinence market. "We have the capability to make all designs, from underpads to briefs to shaped liners," Mr. Carriero said. "The trend is to use different pulp qualities for incontinence in layers and mixtures including CTMP."

Automated counting, stacking and packaging systems are also an important part of Fameccanica's product range. Systems are available for both plastic and board (carton) packaging. Packaging units can be easily joined to production lines.

Varieties At Zuiko

At Zuiko, Osaka, Japan, custom design and alternative methods of achieving product features are stressed. Hidenori Tanaka, sales manager, gave an example. "We have many styles of standing leg cuff," he said. Some customers apply two different types of nonwovens and thermally bond to create the cuff, others make them from the same nonwoven as the rest of the diaper. We are the first company to offer production machinery choices using all the different elastics to create cuffs."

The sample on display was made with polyurethane, but Zuiko also offers systems to utilize rubber and "Lycra" elastication.

Zuiko has also been using a new approach involving stretching and turning the waist elastic during application. Using Lycra elastic threads to create waist elastic is another option available. Zuiko has designed a system that holds the elastic waist at full stretch as the diaper passes along the line.

Also highlighted at Zuiko was a new superabsorbent dosing system. The system is not operated by air, but is mechanical.

In response to a mini-controversy at the earlier INDEX '90, where Zuiko offered a complete operating machine, Mr. Tanaka pointed out that the company was unable to hand out samples produced on the machine due to the customer's request that the demonstration should be limited to seeing the machine in operation.

In the sanitary protection area, Zuiko is working in three different directions. One is the design of thinner, sometimes pulp-free products, which are very popular in Japan. The second area of concentration is the use of mesh coverstock, which represents about 80% of sales in Japan. Thirdly, design and production of wingfolded sanitary napkins is also underway.

In adult incontinence, Zuiko's concept is different from others. All-in-one diapers are designed with narrower chassis with fluff free sides. This approach cuts out wasting fluff on the hips (where it does not get used), reducting bulk. This product style results from the use of stretchy nonwovens.

PCMC On Display

At Paper Converting Machine, Green Bay, WI, the focus was on its new Model 530 diaper machine, which combines the work done on drum forming plus feature application. Foam elastic waist attachments are standard on this model. PCMC has patented its system for multi-strand leg elastic placement. Adhesive is placed continuously, eliminating stringing and valving problems. The method provides uniform tension control and attaches in the leg area only. The Model 530 operates at a speed of 350 diapers a minute.

PCMC has also sold elasticated leg cuff application equipment; retrofit components for foam waist and frontal tape applications are also available.

Its latest adult incontinence machine is the Model 610, with features for poly waist barriers, wetness indicators, superabsorbents, special tape fasteners and a unique cross folding system that allows production of both bifold and trifold products. Sales manager Grant Craig stressed that this market "requires a large range of products and sizes and we can recommend an adaptable machine that can make chair pads as well as shaped all-in-one diapers." The Model 610 uses waterjet cutting and has a patented vacuum tape application (also fitted on baby diaper machinery).

The German counterpart, PCMC GmbH, Schifferstadt, has been developing and updating diaper packaging machinery. It offers a range of intermediate and high compression bagging machinery. Both bi- and trifolded diapers and incontinence products can be packed in low volume bags using compression. According to Mr. Craig, most U.S. customers have looked for volume reduction from 20-30%; in Europe, some companies have looked for up to 50% volume reduction.

PCMC is also manufacturing packaging for wet wipes and offers packaging solutions for pre-treated or moistened wipes in a variety of fold configurations. The folders provide in-machine moistening to ensure a uniform and thorough impregnation of the moistening agent into the web.

Daipers, W&D, Tekma

Also Represented

The latest design of an adult diaper machine was the concentration at Daipers, Garlasco, Italy. The versatile machine can produce rectangular, contoured elasticated, T-shaped and wing folded products. The maximum machine changeover from one product style to another is five hours. One of the features is that tissue use is avoided by forming a fluff mat at the hammermill.

In an effort to forward integrate, other news at Daipers was the recent forming of Abatec, an Italian company to manufacture hygienic disposables.

German specialist machinery manufacturer Winkler and Dunnebier, with a U.S. office in Overland Park, KS, makes equipment for the production of all types of feminine hygiene products. It also has machinery for producing insert baby diapers.

Drum forming is a central part of W&D's technology, especially because it offers more flexibility for body shaping. The company reports significant interest in hourglass and other alternative shapes, as well as smaller sized sanitary towels. It is also looking into creative variations (such as wings) for added protection from side leakage.

One of the newer disposables converting machinery companies, Tekma, Fiesco, Italy, was also present at IDEA '90. Tekma, which has only been in existence for three years, makes machinery for diapers, incontinence products and all types of feminine hygiene products. Machines are designed to operate at high speeds. The sanitary napkin lines are able to operate at 500 units a minute, the baby diaper lines at 350 units a minute.

At Nuova Red's Display

The talk at the Nuova Red display was about its Model BA 810 machine, which includes drum forming, frontal tape, superabsorbent addition, fluff fixation and standing leg cuffs, all the features demanded in today's market.

A foam waist applicator system, licensed to Nuova Red by R&L Engineering, was actually running at the show. The machine runs at 350 pieces a minute, meaning it would not slow down the diaper line. It has a unique method of holding the foam using suction during stretching without foam being penetrated by mechanical parts. This reduces the possibility of mechanical contamination.

Another joint venture between Nuova Red and Acumeter Laboratories has produced a system for gluing printed polyethylene to form the landing strip on diapers in line, a method that offers substantial cost savings compared to buying in reels of self adhesive tape.

A large range of napkin and panty shield conversion equipment is also available from Nuova Red. The latest machine is the DH 560, which uses drum forming and can produce hourglass and other shapes to meet market needs. It has the additional advantage of not requiring tissue wrap. The machine includes all the latest electronic controls, including an automatic guide system for the web. Superabsorbent application is an additional option. DH560 operates at 550 units a minute and has capabilities for trifolding and single packing.

In the adult incontinence area, Nuova Red's development work has led to new fluff/synthetic pulp mixtures that are defiberized and then mixed with a high proportion of superabsorbent polymers. The synthetic fibers melt and bond the whole network. The result is a very highly absorbent core in a thin, very soft discreet pad.

AD 760 is the company's latest model. The machine automatically changes diaper size and length. It has programmable logic control and a trouble shooting panel.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Rodman Publications, Inc.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related article on specialist equipment suppliers
Author:Haddad, Clare
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Previous Article:IDEA '90: the big show is over, but innovations remain to carry the nonwovens industry through the 1990s.
Next Article:The U.S. and European market for industrial durables.

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