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Printing speed doubled

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USING an innovative blend of Australian mechanical engineering and motion control expertise, one of the top three printers of industrial packaging in Sri Lanka has been able to more than double its printing speed, opening up export markets. Tuffline, based near Colombo, serves dairy and beverage producers.

The company needed to double the speed of its 6-colour Flexographic printing machine, from 40-45 metres of printweb per minute to 100 metres per minute.

Sydney-based Itech Corporation was able to not only achieve this target but increase it to 111 metres per minute.

“The cost of producing was always higher than its potential,” said Nick Fondas, managing director of Itech.

Tuffline’s 10-year-old machine is rated by the manufacturer at 120 metres per minute, which the company has never achieved.

“We not only bettered the customer’s expectations,” said Fondas, “but before commencement of the project we guaranteed the outcome. From Tuffline’s perspective, the project was a great commercial success.”

Itech was awarded the $322,000 contract in January 2003, following Tuffline’s push to globalise.

“We opened up export markets to them - that’s what they wanted and needed,” said Fondas.

Cost was paramount, as was speed reliability.

The enhanced speed was achieved at a fraction of the cost versus buying a new machine.

“Tuffline wanted us to look at their competitive advantage without investing funds in more technology,” explained Fondas. “Buying a new machine was not an option.”

Previous efforts by the printer to upgrade in-house had failed.

Itech’s turnkey performance-based project included mechanical, electrical, motion technology, heating and onsite installation and commissioning.

Onsite evaluation was conducted over a period of two weeks.

Design was undertaken in conjunction with the customer and associated mechanical partners.

“Because of the need to keep the cost factor in mind, design, manufacture and testing were done in Sydney,” said Fondas. “This ensured quality control. Also, modification to the tight tolerances required would have been too challenging for local Sri Lankan skills.”

Itech spent some five months working on the new printing machine, which was then shipped to Sri Lanka in an 80 foot container.

The shipment arrived in December 2003, and installation commenced in January 2004 - with a two-week shutdown.

“The window of opportunity to install, commission and hand over was very tight,” said Fondas. “While the client was nervous about us achieving that, not only did we get the machine running to the targeted specs but we were able to hand it over three days early.”

A major challenge was installing a new heating path in the machine. Used to dry ink, the heating system was designed to cope with the greater print speeds.

To negotiate the heating path, the top half of the machine had to be raised.

“This meant having to cut a working machine horizontally, remove a 20 foot section, insert the heating path, install the electrics and wiring, and put it together again,” said Fondas.

The machine commenced printing operations at the end of February 2004.

The Itech engineering team comprised six members: a project manager, mechatronics expert, applications engineer, two mechanical engineers and a fitter - all from Sydney.

Itech has been conducting business development in Sri Lanka for over 18 months. “Because of our expertise, printing companies are one of our targets,” said Fondas.

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