There’s no question that the Coronavirus pandemic saw many British businesses have to adapt and innovate in a way which they never have before, some even entering completely new markets with products not at all related to the ones they had been manufacturing previously.
One such business, an award-winning blind manufacturer, with their production process and sales being impeded by lockdown, quickly realised that they could adapt their facilities to produce vital PPE which were in very short supply.
Just weeks into the first lockdown the company began producing thousands of boxes of clinically compliant face masks at their factory headquarters.
The race to automate carton coding to meet urgent PPE demand
The vital service that they were providing, soon led to volume orders coming in from nearby NHS services, including hospitals and surgeries, as well as many other front-line services.
With demand increasing to 35,000 cartons per month, each carton containing 50 face masks, they needed to find a fast and efficient solution that could rapidly overprint critical, variable data onto the cartons, including date codes and batch numbers. They also needed to ensure that teams could work at safe distances, whilst still being able to quickly pack and despatch products.
Having outlined their requirements, Rotech proposed a flexible, high-speed printer and conveyor system that would work in conjunction with their Keymac automated cartoner. This would give them both the space they needed and fast, seamless working.
Combined parallel printer and conveyor system
To offer maximum speed and flexibility, Rotech designed and installed a modular conveyor system. This comprised of a high-speed X2Jet printer with touch controller, and multiple operator stations, each with emergency stop switches located strategically along the length of the belt.
The face mask cartons are erected automatically by the cartoner and then dispensed directly onto the conveyor which runs at 90 degrees to the outfeed of the cartoner. Each carton passes by the printer head which applies high quality printed data.
Intelligent Printer Controls
The X2Jet printer is both compact and highly versatile. It allows users to print variable data with one or two print heads to heights of 25.4mm. Even at speeds of 180 prints per minute, the quality remains at 300dpi.
True Type font capabilities also allow users to match any font type and print in a range of different print formats which can be saved in the software. Its compatibility with both water and solvent-based inks, also enable users to print variable data onto a wide variety of porous and non-porous materials, allowing the company to code a range of PPE.
Flexible, modular conveyor system
The combined printer and conveyor system is designed to allow the company’s teams to work efficiently and at safe distance along the line of the conveyor. Standard Rotech conveyors are available in 500mm increments, with a standard belt length of 1.5m and a width of 400mm. This modular style system gives the team the flexibility to use the conveyor as a single line with one printer, or use each module independently.
A need to print additional information
5 months after their initial installation, the company contacted Rotech with the need to print additional information on each box of masks, including a datamatrix code and an increase in product references. After a quick assessment, their X2Jet was upgraded to a four head thermal inkjet system, bringing the overall image height to 50.1mm.
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