Better printed codes and more cost-efficient operations were the goals of a recent continuous improvement project at Dirol Cadbury, one of Russia's largest confectionery producers and part of Kraft Foods since early 2010.
Within the last couple years, the company has upgraded the primary and secondary packaging coding operations on more than 50 packaging lines at its two plants in the Novgorod region (located between St. Petersburg and Moscow and about an hour's drive apart). The Novgorod site makes Dirol, Stimorol and Malabar chewing gum and the Chudovo plant produces a variety of confections and chocolate bars, including Halls and Dirol Drops, Cadbury and Picnic brands. From here, the products are distributed to more than 400 Russian cities.
Trials lead to more trials
The company had significant reliability and maintenance issues with its previous inkjet equipment, and also realized that operating costs were pretty high, especially when figuring in lost production due to downtime. As the plant operations team investigated various coding options, laser technology rose in the ranks for its flexibility in producing high-quality, readable codes on primary foil packaging as well as on multipack cartons, the two main substrates for all products.
After settling on the technology, the team ran benchmarking trials and examined the code samples. Based on the results, they selected the D-Series scribing laser coders from Domino and began to install them on packaging lines at the Novgorod location.
Compared to dot matrix lasers, which use radio frequency energy to stimulate the lasers inside the printhead to produce a vertical column of seven separate dots that converge onto moving products, scribing lasers use a continuous laser beam guided by mirrors that are controlled by galvanometer assemblies. The galvanometer technology enables laser coding onto moving or static products at high speeds.
As of April 2011, Domino has sold more than 10,000 scribing systems. The D-Series CO2 laser systems have few moving parts for minimal maintenance, and can print letter-quality characters in any orientation.
During the initial installation, Dirol Cadbury installed five 30-watt laser coders for small-character primary coding and five 10-watt models for marking carton multipacks. The different watts relate to the amount of power needed for higher or lower speeds/volumes.
Integrated into the company's Sapal wrapping machines, the 30-watt coders produce indelible alphanumeric variable data—a production line code, and manufacturing and expiry dates—onto colored foil at speeds of about 100 packs/min.
The 10-watt coders, added to Gima cartoning systems, were fitted with an axial beam output to accommodate intermittent coding, as several primary wrapping lines feed into a single multipack system. Typical speed is 2-3 cartons/min.
Since this first switchover (which was met successfully), Dirol Cadbury has upgraded more than 50 existing or new lines with the low-maintenance laser coders. At the Novgorod site, more than 40 lines have been fitted with the new coders; at Chudovo, another facility, at least 12 packaging lines now have them.
The lasers were integrated on new lines at the relevant OEM facilities before being transferred to the Dirol Cadbury site for final installation and commissioning. For the existing, older production lines, Domino was able to retrofit the laser locally.
The right fit
The compact i-Tech (intelligent technology) scan head makes the D120i and D320i coders easy to install, especially where space is at a premium. Connected to the laser tube on a multi-position mount, the scan head can be rotated through 90-deg. steps. Full-length integrated mounting rails on both sides of the laser module combine with the smaller footprint to provide easy installation.
According to a representative from Dirol Cadbury, "We have been impressed by the Domino lasers' sharp and clear marking from day one. And, as there's now much less need for maintenance, we are not only saving a considerable amount of money on consumables, but also through the massive reduction in downtime."
In addition to the laser coders, Domino has also installed a number of M-Series PALM print-and-apply labelers at Dirol Cadbury for marking the outer shipping cases.