By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Converting equipment is traditionally used by media manufacturers and distributors. Wide format print service providers (PSPs) now use these devices to convert media before and after production runs.
Converting equipment includes slitters as well as rewinders. Slitting involves cutting a roll of media into narrower widths while rewinding equipment involves transferring media from one roll to another. PSPs can opt for a separate rewinding device or a roll slitter that includes a rewinding feature.
Slitters handle a variety of materials including application tape, banner, film, flock, foam, heat transfer vinyl, magnetic media, masking films, mesh, non-wovens, paper, reflective films, rubber, Teflon, textiles, VHB tape, vinyl, and window tint film.
In-House Slitting Capabilities
PSPs purchase converting devices to bring slitting capabilities in house. This reduces media inventory, frees up warehousing space, and eliminates lead time and shipping costs for outsourcing slitting services.
Converting devices allow PSPs to rewind, trim, and slit media to the exact size for printing. According to Chase Pender, marketing manager, Supply55, Inc., this eliminates the need to stock different media widths and lengths while providing more control over the total media used for each job, as only the required amount of media is delivered to the operator for printing.
“The primary advantage to bringing roll slitting equipment in house is the flexibility of stocking master rolls that can be quickly and easily slit to whatever roll width needed, narrow or wide,” agrees William M. Corbett, VP/GM, Lever Manufacturing Corporation. Stocking master rolls replaces the need for different width rolls and frees capital and factory space, while eliminating the lead time and shipping costs needed to have a contract converter perform the slitting service.
Almost every material is manufactured in wider master widths for converting, which require less processing, packaging, equipment, and labor compared to special sizes. “Many vendors pass these savings onto their customers,” shares David Rosenthal, VP, Rosenthal Manufacturing Co., Inc. Master rolls can be slit down to any size required, avoiding overstocking narrower sizes.
Outsourcing/Purchasing Slit Material
Purchasing converting equipment saves PSPs from outsourcing slitting capabilities or purchasing media according to the required size.
“PSPs will immediately see a cost reduction as their inventory becomes standardized in width and length,” shares Pender. Production runs are converted to the required size for the job as needed, on demand—resulting in less waste, increased production, faster turnaround, and improved inventory management.
Print providers using a contracted converter may experience several challenges such as having to estimate future slit widths and consider lead time as well as shipping costs for purchased media. According to Corbett, PSPs also have to purchase and stock varying roll widths in hopes that the media is used and not stored in inventory.
Additionally, outside slitting services or vendors quality can be inconsistent. Rosenthal comments, “when a big job is waiting, controlling every step in house ensures things are done right.”
Slitting & Rewinding
Converting equipment is available as standalone slitters and those that include a rewinding function. PSPs that benefit from a slitting and rewinding device handle more jobs that don’t require the entire yardage on the roll.
“The combination of rewinding and slitting is a powerful inventory management tool,” comments Pender. Once implemented, an in-house converting device converts inventory quickly and easily to the size required for the job. For example, Pender says 60-inch by 150-foot rolls can be converted into 30×30-inch rolls or 20-inch by 40-foot rolls with the remainder roll returned to inventory for the next job.
Rewinding is helpful when a job doesn’t require all the yardage on the roll. With a rewinder, PSPs can wind up the required yardage, slit to that width, and save the remaining yardage in full width for another job. According to Rosenthal, rewinding also comes in handy if the roll is loose or damaged. PSPs can wind the material onto a new core and utilize what would otherwise be unusable.
Selecting a separate rewinder rather than a slitting and rewinding device depends on the application. Devices are available as dedicated rewinders and full converting centers that rewind, trim, and slit.
As part of the presale process, Pender believes it’s important to work closely with the client to identify their specific needs before recommending a platform. “The decision to implement a standalone rewinder versus a converting center should be driven by the application.”
PSPs doing a lot of rewinding may want to invest in a separate rewinder. Standalone rewinders can be equipped with an inspection loop, web alignment, advanced tension control, and other useful features, shares Rosenthal. Standalone high-capacity rewinders are also available that retrofit to any digital printer to allow the printer’s output to be rewound with better tension control, edge quality, and longer lengths compared to the basic low-capacity rewinders built into many printers.
According to Corbett, many master rolls don’t have to be rewound to be slit on a single knife, lathe slitter. If the master roll diameter is too large for a single knife roll slitter, he says a simple unwind/rewinder can be used to reduce the roll diameter leaving the rolls on the same core for the slitting process.
PSPs interested in converting equipment should look at specific features such as operator friendliness, cut quality, and rewind length accuracy. Roll slitters are equipped with one or multiple cutting blades and can also handle one or even two rolls on one device. Converting equipment is available as manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic.
It’s important for PSPs to know that single knife roll slitters are controlled by simple, easy to use, touch screens for ease of machine operation and training. Corbett offers, “machine operation is automatic, and maintenance is minimal.”
Ease of use, cut quality after slitting, rewind length accuracy, the ability to track media lot numbers for warrant claims, and ergonomics are also important. According to Pender, these features provide a fast, efficient, ergonomic work environment engineered for the operator.
Bring It In House
Investing in converting equipment—both roll slitting and rewinding—assists in a fully automated production workflow. By adding a roll slitter into a wide format print shop, PSPs can eliminate inventory, reduce waste, and free up warehousing space.
In part two, we provide a selection of available converting devices for wide format print shops.
Nov2019, Digital Output