8 October 2012

Rofin's Passion for Perforations

Rofin-Baasel UK Limited has become recognised as a leading supplier of lasers and laser-based solutions for industrial material processing. Whether it is cutting, welding, marking or surface treatment, the company’s team of specialists are committed to ensuring successful application of their wide range of laser technologies across diverse markets.

In this article Rofin’s Jamie Costello explains the company’s approach to the packaging market, highlighting the benefits of the technologies Rofin has to offer.

The Flexible Packaging industry is supported by Rofin’s CO2 systems department, a dedicated applications team, with a specific focus on developing laser processes for the packaging industry, using in-house winding systems and laboratory equipment. Rofin-Baasel has been active in the flexible packaging market for over 10 years and an ethos of continuous product development has resulted in a series of innovative laser based systems, with many different configurations, designed to support customers requirements in scribing (scoring), perforating and cutting packaging materials. The testament to this is the 200 plus customers already using Rofin systems within the packaging industry.

Rofin lasers continue to find their way into flexible packaging systems for easy opening and perforation applications, covering both web direction and cross web operation. Jamie Costello commented “Our packaging laser solutions deliver on the essential attributes of consistent speed and stability during the laser scribing and perforation process, ensuring that customers know they can rely on Rofin technology every step of the way”. Rofin-BAASEL is also fully committed to its large application center, using this R&D facility to continue to evaluate new ideas and conduct around 40 to 60 customer application trials each month, across all disciplines of the packaging industry.

On The Right Wavelength
Not every laser can be used on every material. One of the big advantages Rofin has is the ability to offer different lasers for the various laser applications. This capability has also brought new developments to the world of flexible packaging. A CO2 laser with a shorter wavelength will be absorbed by Polypropylene based materials much faster, delivering better quality and efficiency than traditional CO2 lasers. Lasers tuned to perfection, just one example of Rofin’s developments for the flexible packaging industry among many others, targeted at improving manufacturing speeds and stability. This forward-thinking mentality will maintain the company’s enviable reputation as an industry leader.

Realising The Benefits In Production
The consistency and quality of laser generated perforations used on product packaging has a direct influence on the shelf life and ultimately, the value of the produce within the pack. It is here that Rofin’s innovation comes into play controlling and guaranteeing the size and shape of the micro-sized holes being produced.

When a laser pulse hits fast-moving material the quality of the resultant hole may not be quite as required. If web speed exceeds certain values, the holes become visibly oval and there may also be insufficient energy available within the pulse to completely perforate the material. In some cases, material produced at high speed is not of the accuracy required to allow the specified air exchange for the packaging and can therefore be deemed unusable. The traditional method used to overcome this issue was to reduce the web speed, but this in turn results in higher production costs.

Rofin’s WMC system dramatically cuts material waste and also allows previously unattainable web speeds to be achieved, in some cases quadrupling performance. Web Movement Compensation (WMC) technology also allows satisfactory perforation of materials that previously could not have been processed at profitable rates, such as thick films (>100µm) or films comprising of sophisticated material combinations.

Vision for Quality and Consistency
Rofin’s high speed StarPack Web Direction System comprises of up to a 600W CO2 laser, with up to 4 individual WMC heads. In this configuration, web widths of up to 1.8m can be accommodated with production speeds in excess of 350m per minute.

The addition of in-process vision inspection to the system further enhances quality control and enables measurement data to be recorded and analysed. The vision system captures images on-the-fly and checks hole diameter and percentage roundness. The system can be set to alarm if a pre-set number of holes are out of specification, thus ensuring that the perforated film which is delivered to the end user meets the exacting standards required to maintain product freshness and shelf life.

Jamie Costello concludes “Rofin’s laser perforation systems have been developed by product designers with over 30 years experience in processing materials on web systems. Our own laser sources are just the starting point, we then match them with optics, scanner heads, machines and software to provide the optimum technical solution. We also have a reputation for engaging with our clients, gaining valuable feedback which we then use to ensure our products always meet and often exceed customer expectations”.

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