How Lake Image Systems helped JPF API Laminate’s to streamline Surface Inspection for Laminate Production
For a product to succeed today, the packaging has to stand out from the crowd. JPF API Laminates innovative designs and metallic, holographic and pigmented base materials enhance the visual appeal of products, helping their clients to communicate brand values and authenticity.
With health warnings increasingly dominating tobacco packaging and the escalating need to combat counterfeiting, tobacco companies are demanding innovative, complex and specialist packaging that deliver greater visual impact and shelf appeal whilst offering maximum counterfeit protection.
As one of only a handful of reel-fed laminators throughout Europe, JPF API Laminates was well positioned to meet these growing requirements and invested heavily in specialist, high performance roll-to-roll lamination machines, with web widths of up to |.5m, running at close to 300 metres/min (985fpm).
However, any defects on the packaging material devalues the product and the brand, resulting in a loss of business, (usually to competitive brands) and potentially opens the door to counterfeiters. Less than perfect tobacco packaging enables counterfeiters to produce convincing copies using widely available “offset” printing technology. Whereas error free and complex, metallic and holographic base packaging, using specialist manufacturing techniques, creates a technical and economical barrier to illicit trade.
Being committed to the highest standards of quality and technical excellence, JPF API Laminates initiated a program to revamp their existing quality control processes. The aim was to produce metallic laminated material that met the strict quality specifications set out by their clients.
As with many graphic finishing processes, film lamination can create its share of challenges. Many factors such as temperature, moisture, dust levels and roll tension issues can create lamination problems, resulting in creases, tears, spots, and holes on the laminated surface.
“With the high-quality specifications, we had to meet, depending on the operators to visually detect surface faults was just not practical, especially when the web is traveling at 300 metres per minute!”, explained Matthew Dawood, Product and Improvement Technician for JPF API Laminates. “We were able to catch regular lamination film splicing joins, but we were missing some of the smaller defects.”
Even when some of these defects were caught, the operator could only estimate their location, resulting in the inaccurate placement of marker tabs. When the full rolls were mounted onto an Atlas Slitter, the operators had to visually inspect large sections of the roll, before and after the marker to locate the defect. This extended the time taken to process each roll and increased overall production costs.
Dawood added “We were getting on average 4 client complaints per month, due to rolls being sent out with defects. Our high-quality standards meant that we had to recreate the entire roll again, further impacting our operations. Automating our QC process became a priority for us, if we were to maintain satisfaction levels and our profitability.”
“When researching the market, we came across many providers that offered surface inspection features that we just did not need. Their systems were either too overpowering or too rigid, and came at a price that was way beyond our budget.” commented Dawood. “Lake Image Systems was one of the few companies we came across that was affordable, had a flexible solution and were willing to work closely with us in meeting our all requirements.”
Lake Image implemented its Discovery PQ system directly onto the Laminating line, with an 8K line-scan camera to capture high resolution images of the entire 1.5m wide web, running at speeds unto 300 m/min (985 fpm).
Expertly mounted LED illumination enabled even sub-millimetre defects to become visible. Discovery PQ’s intuitive interface enabled operations to quickly set-up the system to analyse and detect common surface defects. Tolerance levels were easily set to enable the system to detect defects beyond a certain size, or if the number of defects exceeded a specified threshold. This enabled JPF API Laminates to meet the precise quality specifications set by their clients.
When a defect was detected, Discovery PQ trigged a tabber that marked the exact location of the defect on the roll edge. A detail log of every defect – its size and location on the web is recorded, together with associated job, time-stamp and operator data. This provided JPF API Laminates with useful management information to monitor and report on the quality of the raw materials used, the impact of environmental conditions and the quality of each roll produced.
The solution proved to be highly successful in helping JPF API Laminates to improve the quality of every roll that they send out. According to Dawood, “We are now getting only one client complaint a month and we plan to get this down to zero once all our operators are fully trained on the system.”
Today the system is an integral part of JPF API Laminates daily operation. Being intuitive and easy to use, the Discovery PQ system has become a big hit with the operations staff.
“The reduction in complaints not only means that we have more satisfied clients, but the precise tabbing the Lake system gives us, means that our operations staff now only spend a fraction of the time to locate and splice out the defects – a major efficiency gain for us.” said Dawood.
The success of the system has given JPF API Laminates the confidence to expand their business and implement the solution onto their other laminating lines. As Dawood concludes, “Being highly impressed by the way the system has performed and by the expert, responsive customer support we have been given, we are now looking to implement the Lake system on our second laminating line. The improvements in quality and the resultant drop in complaints and the increase in process efficiency we have seen, allow us to easily justify a second system.”
This solution has allowed JPF API Laminates to deliver a quality product in an increasingly demanding packaging environment and has strengthened its reputation as one of Europe’s leading supplier of laminated products.
“BEING HIGHLY IMPRESSED BY THE WAY THE SYSTEM HAS PERFORMED AND BY THE EXPERT, RESPONSIVE CUSTOMER SUPPORT WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN, WE ARE NOW LOOKING TO IMPLEMENT THE LAKE SYSTEM ON OUR SECOND LAMINATING LINE.” – Matthew Dawood, Product and Improvement Technician, API Laminates.
- To produce and deliver high volumes of metallic laminated material that met the strict quality specifications set by their clients.
- The existing quality assurance process, where the operators manually inspect the reels during production, fell short of their clients’ requirements and increased production costs.
- The company determined that they needed an in-line automated surface inspection system that inspected 100% of the roll.
- Implemented Discovery PQ with an 8K linescan camera, mounted on a Cerutti Laminator, producing 1.5m wide laminated material running up to 300 m/min (985 fpm).
- Discovery PQ configured to inspect defects greater than a specified size and frequency.
- Operators are able to view the entire web in high definition, and select critical areas to zoom in and view in real time.
- When defects are detected, a tabbing device is activated to precisely mark the roll edge and the details of each defect (type, location, severity) are automatically logged.
- Full rolls are mounted on an Atlas Slitter where each defect is quickly located using the roll tabs and the defect is spliced out, as required, to meet the specification.
- Automating the QC process to detect defects on laminates has significantly reduced complaints rates and has satisfied a key requirement for their major, prestigious clients base.
- The system has also considerably reduced the time spent to splice out defects, increasing operational efficiency and profitability of the laminating line.
- Due to the growing confidence in the system, combined with the quality of the service received from Lake Image Systems, a second system is being considered for an adjacent laminator line.
- By being able to offer high quality laminated board, the company has strengthened its position as one of the leading Laminators in Europe.
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