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What the makers of tankless hot-melt systems don’t tell you

What the makers of tankless hot-melt systems don’t tell you

Tankless hot-melt systems are having their moment in the spotlight right now, but what does it mean? Should you jump on the bandwagon, or should you stop and think? Before you go switching over your machinery, consider that there’s a lot more to think about than just the costs. Consider the following realities, all of which are too important to ignore:

  1. Warmup time: We’re all hearing that tankless hot-melt systems heat up faster than reservoir systems. But here’s what you have to think about: In most packaging plants, the hot-melt machines remain on for extended periods of time, from one shift to many weeks. That means the 10 to 15 minute difference in initial warmup time is inconsequential—and not an actual significant benefit.
  2. Space: The discussion of the smaller space required for the tankless system is not a valid point, because the tankless systems, in order to include temperature controls and stands, are easily as large as the standard systems.
  3. Tankless technology: The technology used to convey hot melt in pellet/bead form to the hot-melt system from a bulk bin is the key to the tankless system’s “tankless” claim. This bulk pellet conveyance system blows very small quantities of hot melt into the tankless system frequently. But here’s the thing: If there is any interruption in the feed, the tankless system will run out of glue, and it cannot be fed manually. This is a big problem and a big risk for packaging companies, as downtime is very expensive. Should anything go wrong, a packaging business loses time and money quickly with the tankless system.
  4. Time-tested results from standard machines: Standard hot-melt machines have a reservoir with a one- to two-hour melt-rate capacity. They can operate without the venturi feed altogether. What’s more, many companies are buying larger “Melt On Demand” reservoirs that require manual filling only once per shift. The larger conventional systems that are available have already been filled with the pellet conveyance system used by the Freedom and Invisipac system for more than 20 years.
  5. Not all melts are compatible: Nordson and Graco, who produce the Freedom and Invisipac Tankless systems, have to specify which sizes, shapes, types and hot-melt manufacturers of hot melt are approved for use with their tankless machines. Not all packaging-grade hot melts will easily blow from a large holding tank to the tankless system. So, before you jump on board with tankless machines, you have to double-check your melts are compatible.

Bottom line, the tankless hot-melt system, while being an interesting concept, is just that: an interesting concept. Much like the electric car, it’s a fun flash in the pan that’s well intentioned, but not a realistic product for manufacturers over time.

For this reason, we recommend that packaging customers buy quality, high-performance hot-melt tank systems; use quality, hot-melt adhesives; and maintain their machines properly. If you want to reduce filling and maintenance, add an automatic filling system to the unit—that’s an advantage all companies offer and one that actually delivers value.

Pierce Covert is the president of Glue Machinery Corp. a copmany that builds, sells and services industrial hot-melt and cold-glue systems used worldwide by a range of manufacturers.

New CAD Modeling Tools for Pneumatic Components: Details that Make the Difference

Experienced engineers know that not all supplier CAD tools or the files they deliver are created equal. When applying pneumatic automation components (cylinders, valve manifolds, FRLs, etc.) to your product or system design, it pays to consider the user-friendliness of a prospective supplier’s Web- based CAD tool.

Does the site use neutral or true native file formats? Individual or assembled files? Part numbers or attributes? And does it offer advanced ease-of-use features?

How about helpful error avoidance techniques? 

This paper reviews the modeling tools that can save critical development time, make your design experience significantly easier, and deliver higher-quality results.

Changing Direction: How Improved Directional Control Valves Now Increase Production Efficiency

Pneumatic directional control valves have seen notable improvements and refinements in recent times. How can original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) take maximum advantage of these improvements when designing automation and piloting equipment? First, these valve manifolds are relatively small subsystems in generally much larger assemblages of automation equipment. But the right valve can open up wider degrees of freedom when designing larger automation elements. Second, automation specialists may conceptualize pneumatic components as if they were simple electrical devices, such as a light switch. But a pneumatic directional control valve works with flows of compressed air, not electrons. When you send your signal (activate the valve’s solenoid coil), the air inside the valve must be made to change direction. The speed at which it does so, and the amount of air that flows in that new direction, may be substantially affected by quite small changes in the arrangement and construction of the valve internals. Designers who slightly change the direction of their thinking can choose a pneumatic valve that takes advantage of the significant benefits highlighted in this report.

Five Critical Factors for Selecting Fieldbus Valve Manifolds

As fieldbus valve manifolds replace conventional hardwired solutions on automated equipment, it’s evident their integration of fieldbus communications and I/O capabilities with pneumatic valves enables dramatic performance improvement. This paper presents controls engineers, specifiers, and buyers with new insights into five crucial factors they must consider before choosing a fieldbus valve manifold — commissioning, distribution, modularity, diagnostics, and recovery. It also outlines shortcomings of conventional approaches and highlights new designs that offer substantial application, performance, and maintenance improvements.

This paper presents controls engineers, specifiers, and buyers with new insights into five crucial factors they must consider before choosing a fieldbus valve manifold — commissioning, distribution, modularity, diagnostics, and recovery. It also outlines shortcomings of conventional approaches and highlights new designs that offer substantial application, performance, and maintenance improvements.

Numatics Introduces G3 Fieldbus Electronic Platform

Numatics Introduces G3 Fieldbus Electronic Platform

The next-generation electronic platform that allows you easy access to connections; it's easy to assemble and install, commission, and maintain. It includes a graphic display for configuration and diagnostics, easy robust connections, and is highly distributable.

You need the robust leading edge technology that meets your applications needs, and facilitates your processes. Call 888-NUMATIC (888-686-2842) for additional information.

Technicians and controls engineers involved in commissioning Numatics G3 Fieldbus Valve Manifolds can now view the G3 configuration tutorial videos.
The tutorial videos cover the following Fieldbus protocols: DeviceNet; Ethernet IP; Profibus; Profinet; & Powerlink.

Numatics Knife Gate Valve Actuator Offers Mounting Customization Without Extending Delivery Times

ASCO Numatics, the world’s leading manufacturer of comprehensive fluid automation, flow control, and pneumatics solutions, has introduced the Numatics KG Series knife gate valve actuator line. The KG Series is the first knife gate valve actuator that offers the flexibility for fully customizable mounting without extending lead times. 

“Customers can tailor our KG Series actuators specifically to their valve’s mounting requirements while still benefitting from Numatics’ industry-leading delivery times,” said Robert W. Kemple, Jr., executive vice president, sales and marketing - Americas, ASCO Numatics. “Now, project engineers requiring fast lead times will not have to incur additional cost and time making their valves fit to standard actuators’ specifications.”

The KG Series line expands ASCO Numatics’ capability to offer all of the components for knife gate valve automation solutions. Customers can buy both the directional control air valve and valve actuator from one global supplier and benefit from ASCO Numatics’ worldwide sales and technical support.

The new knife gate valve actuator is ideal for the harshest process applications in the chemical, food and beverage, mining, oil and gas, petrochemical, wastewater treatment, and power industries.

Customers can specify mounting hole locations and rod styles for KG Series actuators without lengthening leads times. Actuators with 1.5-inch to 10-inch bore sizes are available in 2 to 3 weeks while models with 12-inch and 14-inch bores are available in 3 to 4 weeks.
The KG Series comes with ASCO Numatics’ global reputation for quality. Its proprietary wear band improves cylinder life by locating piston load at the optimum point and providing maximum column strength at full extension. In addition, the actuator’s popular composite tubing option significantly reduces overall cylinder weight for smoother operation and longer life.

“The KG Series is the ideal choice for design and project engineers desiring the most reliable knife gate actuators with customized mounting options and rapid delivery,” said Kemple.

For more information, contact Numatics at 1-888-NUMATICS (1-888-686-2842).

Numatics SentronicD - The First Proportional Valve That's Field-Programmable

Numatics SentronicD - The First Proportional Valve That's Field-Programmable

ASCO Numatics, the world’s leading manufacturer of comprehensive fluid automation, flow control, andpneumatics solutions, has introduced the Numatics Sentronicline — the firstproportional valves that can be fully tuned to an application without being removed from the production process.

“With its Data Acquisition Software (DaS) and a direct-operating solenoid, the Sentronicvalve can shave weeks off development and start-up times plus provide production systems with higher performance characteristics for greater throughput and yield,” said Robert W. Kemple, Jr., executive vice president, sales and marketing - Americas, ASCO Numatics. “Now manufacturing and control engineers can incorporate proportional valves that meet their specific application requirements, rather than sub-optimizing their application to accommodate a valve’s capability.”

The SentronicD valve is ideal for PET blow molding, laser cutting, paint spray, web tensioning, balancing, welding, tire industry, leak testing, and polystyrene foam molding applications where precise pressure control is required.

DaS Enables On-Machine Valve Adjustment
Users can adapt the pressure regulator to the control loop in an optimal way with Numatics’ DaS software and RS232 interface while the valve remains installed in the production machine. The scope function allows the logging and read out of the system‘s transient response in real time. Previously saved valve data can be loaded at any time and used as a reference for maintenance and error detection. In addition, the software enables direct interaction with Numatics technical support for factory diagnostics and troubleshooting.

“With DaS, the need to remove the valve for factory adjustment is virtually eliminated,” said Kemple. “For the first time, control engineers can fine tune control parameters with a laptop or netbook while the valve is on the production equipment.”

The SentronicD is available with an optional integrated graphic display that quickly presents key data such as outlet pressure, setpoint and pressure switch signals.

Direct-Acting Solenoid Provides Better Performance
The SentronicD valve incorporates a direct-acting solenoid for faster response and much higher repeatability. This technology is infinitely adjustable and minimizes resolution loss.

“Our SentronicD proportional valve is the preferred solution for control engineers desiring precision pressure control, early identification of application-specific problems, field adjustment, and streamlined development processes,” said Kemple. “For OEMs, it means cutting weeks from production cycles and achieving faster order fulfillment rates.”

The SentronicDvalve is part of a comprehensive family of Numatics proportional products that include the FlowtronicD, SentronicPLUS, ControlD, and E-Series lines.

For more information, contact Numatics at 1-888-NUMATICS (1-888-686-2842) or visit

Numatics Introduces New Vacuum Control Products with Longest Life & Highest Reliability

Numatics Introduces New Vacuum Control Products with Longest Life & Highest Reliability

ASCO Numatics, the world’s leading manufacturer of comprehensive fluid automation, flow control, and pneumatics solutions, introduced today its new line of improved Numatics vacuum products for applications in the automotive, packaging, plastics, and glass industries. The line includes highly reliable vacuum generators, suction cups, mounting elements, switches, specialty grippers, and related accessories that create cost-effective solutions with the longest life and fastest production cycles.

“Numatics now offers the industry’s widest range of vacuum components that allow customers to select cost-effective solutions for their specific material handling applications,” said Robert W. Kemple, Jr., executive vice president, sales and marketing — Americas, ASCO Numatics. “With our deep application expertise, we size components to the customers’ vacuum requirements and provide a total solution — where vacuum generators and suction cups are optimized for the longest life, greatest reliability, and highest throughput.”

The Numatics vacuum control product ( line consists of the following components:

Vacuum generators that include single-stage ejectors for non-porous materials such as metal, glass or plastic; multi-stage ejectors to handle porous materials such as wood or cardboard; and compact ejectors that integrate a sensor, valve, filter, I-O link, and compressed air intelligence into one compact assembly.

Electric vacuum pumps to handle applications where there is not enough compressed air available or when the application requires its own vacuum source.

Suction cups, including flat and bellows-style, for a wide range of applications and materials – porous, non-porous, corrugated, fabrics, and food-related products.

“All of our customer’s solutions are tested to ensure they get the best vacuum cup fit for their application,” said Kemple.

Numatics has a wide selection of the new vacuum control products available for rapid, 2-day shipment. For more information, contact Numatics at 1-888-NUMATICS (1-888-686-2842) or visit

Numatics Introduces 503 Series High Flow Rate Directional Control Valves

ASCO Numatics, the world’s leading manufacturer of comprehensive fluid automation, flow control, and pneumatics solutions, has introduced the 503 Series of pneumatic directional control valves with ultra-high flow ratings. The valves are designed for automation and piloting applications across a wide range of automotive and tire, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, packaging equipment, and general machinery applications.

”503 Series valves deliver the industry’s highest flow rates per valve size. This enables design and specifying engineers to use smaller, lower-cost valves and components that do more work with less air, energy, and cost,” said Robert W. Kemple, Jr., executive vice president, sales and marketing — Americas, ASCO Numatics. “In addition, designers can choose to generate greater speed of motion for their components using the same size valve.”

This new valve line is available in either spool-and-sleeve or rubber seal models, and proprietary or ISO versions to meet a wide variety of applications. “Our unique dual-spool technology means customers get the highly reliable drive train they need with the highest flow rates — increasing throughput and reducing maintenance costs,” said Kemple.

503 Series valves are designed to complement the benefits of Numatics’ G3 fieldbus electronics. When assembled together, original equipment manufacturers can leverage assemblies that combine ultra-high flow rates with ease of use, plus fieldbus technology that provides configurability, flexibility, and cost-effective I/O and distribution architecture.

For more information, contact Numatics at 1-888-NUMATICS (1-888-686-2842) or visit

A ‘sublime’ new sustainable option for protective packaging

A ‘sublime’ new sustainable option for protective packaging
Examples of AeroClay shapes.

A cool new technology with freeze drying as a key part of the material manufacturing process is aimed at a number of markets including packaging. Compadre, a company known for transit packaging solutions, has obtained an exclusive license to pursue commercial uses for AeroClay, an innovative technology developed in a Case Western Reserve University materials lab. AeroClay technology turns clay and other ingredients like polymer into a versatile material that is sturdy, malleable, heat- and flame-resistant, as well as eco-friendly. It can be used as an absorbent, insulator or packing material, along with other uses.

AeroClay is also the name of a new company in Austin, TX, formed specifically for the commercialization of AeroClay technology. Although the company history is short, the AeroClay development team is long on experience in technology development and commercialization. The senior management team at AeroClay LLC's well-established parent company, Compadre, prides itself on bringing disruptive technologies to market. Compadre's mission is to capture big ideas to create new products in established markets.

AeroClay technology was invented in 2003 by David Schiraldi, Ph.D., chair of the department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. In Austin, the company’s team of scientists is headed by Yuxin Wang, Ph.D., who worked in the Schiraldi lab at Case developing AeroClay in its early years. The first patent was filed in 2007, and so far, two U.S. patents have been issued with five WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) patents pending, which cover both applications and manufacturing processes for the AeroClay technology.

The AeroClay team of Yuxin Wang and Compadre’s Darryl Kelinske, CEO, and J. Gordon McGill, CFO, responds to Packaging Digest’s questions about this fascinating new material.

What is AeroClay?

AeroClay is a type of open-cell, flame-resistant foam made primarily from a clay and polymer mixture and created through an environmentally-friendly freeze-drying process. The AeroClay technology provides a new approach to designing and manufacturing foams without the need for the melt-extrusion and blowing agents required in traditional foam manufacturing processes, and it produces no toxic chemicals as byproducts. This green process creates virtually 100 percent raw materials yield with almost no manufacturing landfill waste and finished goods that can be biodegradable.

Clay and polymer are the two main components used to make AeroClay, and together they can form unlimited combinations and possibilities. Based on the raw materials used, AeroClay products are separated into two categories, a bio-series and a synthetic-series.

AeroClay bio-series products are made from rapidly renewable, abundant (low-cost and stable), completely bio-based (no petroleum) raw materials that can be home-compostable. This category opens up alternative packaging solutions to replace foams like rigid expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam and flexible expanded polyethylene (EPE) foam.

One of the most interesting AeroClay bio-series products in development is made from expired milk. Milk-based AeroClay provides a unique opportunity to repurpose an already wasted resource into an innovative, sustainable solution and to drastically reduce raw materials cost.

AeroClay synthetic-series products are designed for special applications such as chemical absorption and high temperature resistance. AeroClay can be made from polyvinyl alcohol, epoxy and many other polymers. Introduction of high-temperature and cross-linkable polymers helps improve the heat resistance; in addition to clay, additives such as inorganic fillers help, too. Different from traditional foam, which shows a honeycomb microstructure, AeroClay exhibits a layered structure whose voids can act as arrays of tiny capillaries for chemical absorption.

What are the basic steps in the AeroClay manufacturing process?

“Freeze-drying” is the main process used to make AeroClay. Freeze-drying is a well-developed technology in the food industry for making items such as instant coffee and in the pharmaceutical field for making vaccines, but it is rather new in the materials industry.

In the AeroClay manufacturing process, first clay and polymer are turned into an aqueous solution, then the aqueous solution is frozen into a solid with any desired shape, and finally the solid is placed into a freeze-drier where the ice is transformed into vapor. During this process, the ice helps create pores in the final product and works as a processing aid. When all of the ice is sublimed, the result is a lightweight, structural product called AeroClay. This process is waste-free—all the solid materials become product and the liquid is recyclable.

The most prominent components in AeroClay are bio-based materials, for example: cellulose (wood fiber), pectin (fruit extract), alginate (seaweed) and casein (milk), which are all biodegradable.

AeroClay is currently produced via a batch process, but we are very interested in developing a continuous manufacturing process.


What are the proposed or potential packaging applications?

AeroClay samples can be delivered in pellet, board and specially designed shapes. Currently, we are most interested in protective packaging and void-fill applications; but, considering the superior absorption and high temperature resistance of AeroClay, it is also highly suited for a variety of specialty applications, including hazardous materials containment and packaging. AeroClay can also be custom-formed in a sterile process and environment, so we are also open to market needs for edible, foam-like products and potential applications in the medical field.

What packaging properties can be engineered into AeroClay?

AeroClay has good mechanical performance and can be tailored to meet specific requirements, for either rigidity or flexibility, energy absorption and compression strength. These properties, combined with its light weight, thermal, flame-retardant and chemical absorption properties, make for a wide combination of properties and potential packaging uses.

How is that done?

AeroClay provides a platform technology; its advantages stem from its flexibility to choose and combine polymers and fillers because it eliminates the need for blowing agents used to create EPS foam, and it does not require exposure to any suspected carcinogens such as styrene. 

Nearly any polymer that can form a thermodynamically stable aqueous colloid can be turned into an AeroClay foam using the AeroClay technology. In this process, it is easier to incorporate additional fillers without worrying about the nucleation that inhibits the widespread use of fillers in typical foams. For AeroClay, fillers can be reinforcement fibers or conductors, magnetics, fluorescent particles, and the like.

In what form can it be supplied? And what are costs?

Due to the versatility of the AeroClay process, specially molded shapes, sheet and board stock can be made. The material can be cut with traditional tools, machined and laminated to create even more complex shapes than can be molded directly.

We are targeted to be competitive in price compared to EPS and EPE foams, especially considering the lower cost of the rapidly renewable and abundant new materials utilized in many of the AeroClay processes and products.

What about the energy requirements and carbon footprint of the process?

Freeze-drying technology is widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. The freeze-drying process can be operated at room temperature and ultra-low pressure. Hot-melt processes are usually operated at high temperature and high pressure. At this point, there are only imprecise estimates of the relative energy efficiency of these two technologies, but we believe by eliminating both the high temperatures of a hot-melt process and the dangerous carbon-based byproducts produced in traditional foam manufacturing, the carbon footprint and energy requirements of AeroClay will be far superior to traditional polymer foams.

What is the materials’ end-of-life use?

The bio-series can be recycled back into the manufacturing process or composted by the end-users by simply burying it in the backyard. Some of the synthetic series, such as products containing polyvinyl alcohol, are biodegradable and recyclable back into the manufacturing process. The synthetic series products that are targeted for use in hazardous materials containment, cleanup and transport or in high-temperature applications can ultimately be used as fuels instead.

What is the current status? And what’s ahead?

The initial core research has been accomplished by Case Western Reserve University, and they continue to lead the way in research with their immense expertise in macromolecular engineering and polymer science. AeroClay is now building its primary lab and prototyping facility in Austin while concurrently developing a pathway for a continuous manufacturing process so that AeroClay products can be commercialized. Our focus is on the research and development necessary to take the products to market.

In addition to getting our Austin facility equipped for AeroClay development, we are actively working with potential customers on fully developing a number of near-term product varieties and applications during 2014. In 2015, we plan to begin releasing products to first adoption customers and on bringing full-scale, continuous process manufacturing online.

What interest have you seen?

For packaging applications, we have had interest in:

• Recyclable foam cushioning material from non-petroleum based resources;

• Flame-retardant foam for electronic devices in transportation;

• Hazard-free foam insulation and fillers for medical use within a wide temperature range; 

• Hazardous material absorbing foam for chemical transport;

And, for the not too distant future, we are already considering “edible foam” for food packaging and infant-related products.

Beyond its function as a product, AeroClay is truly an innovative technology; we are interested in working with other companies to develop and commercialize various applications.

Why is the timing good for this material now?

For years, the development of sustainable packaging has been hindered by the availability of raw materials that could be utilized in existing manufacturing processes. As a result, new sustainable materials have been difficult to commercialize. The natural tendency has been to view alternative materials with skepticism. In today’s world, progressive companies are realizing the economic, social and environmental benefits new products can provide and are eager to bring these products to market. Fortunately, new manufacturing processes, such as AeroClay, which deliberately incorporate the utilization of environmentally friendly raw materials, have started a new trend towards these kinds of products.

If we think outside of the box, technology innovation like AeroClay is the alternative route to sustainable packaging products. AeroClay technology provides a different way to solve the problem; many materials previously not feasible for the traditional hot-melt processes now become an option, and we face fewer obstacles to a sustainable future.

AeroClay, 512-334-1000

Compadre, 512-334-1000