Posted by pbaldwin on | Comments Off on Find The Bottleneck
America has a throughput problem. How to stick over 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine into arms as quickly as possible?
We have written in the past about the logistical challenges of administering the COVID-19 vaccine to the US population—the challenges of manufacturing the vaccines and distributing them. This is a classic throughput problem, so let’s take the same approach to the problem as we do when trying to shave seconds off of a print cycle. (See “Seconds Matter.”) Simply put: find the bottleneck.
Production bottlenecks can have you singing the blues too.
On Friday, February 12, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found and removed one such bottleneck in the supply-chain for the COVID-19 vaccine. In this instance, the bottleneck was quite literally the bottle, or rather, the number of doses per vial. The FDA granted approval for Moderna to package 14 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine into each vial instead of ten. Since Moderna supplies half of all vaccines in the US, this simple ruling increased the national vaccine supply by 20 percent, without requiring any changes at any stage of the supply chain. No new lines were added; no new tooling was required to accommodate larger vials.
The objective in bottleneck-hunting is increased efficiency, as one could easily double throughput by doubling inputs, from raw materials to labor and machinery. But this also doubles cost, and companies like the rest of us live in a world of constraints, whether they be financial or simply factory floor space. Finding and removing the bottleneck should initially result in increased output using the same level of inputs.
This is the goal of our Sales Engineers whenever a customer brings a direct-to-shape printing challenge to us and asks, “How can I do this faster?” Frequently, as we have seen, precious seconds can be found in upstream activities such as part-loading. (See one such solution here.) Alternatively, perhaps it is the pretreatment subroutine. Part-unloading activities may also be the bottleneck.
Have you got a throughput problem? Drop us a line today, and one of our Sales Engineers would be happy to discuss it with you. At Engineered Printing Solutions, we have helped companies in industries as diverse as automotive, medical device and drinkware find and create value and develop new products. Let us do the same for you.
Posted by pbaldwin on | Comments Off on How Do You Vaccinate 320 Million People Quickly? The XRV Rotary Syringe Printer Can Help.
After a terrible year in which so far over 260,000 Americans have succumbed to the novel coronavirus, and with millions more deaths worldwide, it appears as though there is light at the end of the tunnel. No fewer than three different vaccines are either in final stages of testing or are in the initial phases of being rolled out to patients.
It is estimated that “herd immunity” occurs when a minimum of 70 percent of the population is vaccinated, which will require two doses. But just how do you quickly vaccinate 320 million Americans—twice each—in a short period of time? Not only do vaccines take time to culture (you can’t cook a Three-Minute Egg in one minute simply by turning up the heat), but so too do all of the ancillary products take time to manufacture, products such as the syringes with which to administer the vaccine.
Six hundred and forty million doses means 640 million syringes. How do you scale up and manufacture nearly three-quarters of a billion syringes as quickly as possible? In a word, automation. As with so many manufacturing processes, the bottleneck activity in part-marking is usually the ancillary activities adjacent to the actual process of marking the part, with part loading and unloading being the frequent culprits. For this reason, we have designed the XRV Rotary Syringe Printer for high-speed syringe marking.
With the XRV, the operator loads bulk syringes into a waterfall feeder that cascades into a vibratory bowl feeder. As the parts revolve around the bowl feeder, the syringes fall into a track and become aggregated in proper alignment for marking. The track then loads a rotating table, which moves parts past a rotating drum that houses nine pads, each of which has picked up the image from the rotating cliché, in a manner similar to how offset presses transfer ink from one roller to another. The rotating table moves the freshly-printed parts past a Hot Wind device to quickly cure the ink. Once the part has cured, it is automatically offloaded for secondary activities such as filling, assembly, and packaging.
With fully-automated load and unload and continuous ink-loading capabilities, the XRV rotary syringe printer is ideal for long production runs—the kind of runs necessary to produce billions of doses of a vaccine. If you are looking for ways to speed up your throughput or to dramatically scale up production, give us a call. We manufacture product-marking machinery with custom automation for companies in every industry. Let us help you Change The Way YOU PRINT.
Posted by pbaldwin on | Comments Off on EPS Announces BottleJet 2.1 Cylindrical Inkjet Printer
New servo motor replaces step motor for increased repeatability and reliability.
Engineered Printing Solutions is pleased to announce a new version of its celebrated BottleJet Cylindrical Inkjet Printer—the BottleJet 2.1. Highlights include an improved lead screw motion motor, which is now servo-electric instead of a “step” motor for increased repeatability and reliability. Other improvements include an improved bottle fixture, with additional guide rollers that can be installed and removed easily thanks to a quick-release latch. We’ve also added a second mandrel with a shorter stem to accommodate larger bottles.
The UV sensor will prevent accidental curing of print heads.
Perhaps the single-biggest change over the previous model is the addition of a UV light sensor to prevent accidental damage to the print heads. If the sensor detects the presence of UV light, the machine cancels the print job and returns to its home position. In addition, there is a new lamp curtain window, which allows the operator to close off unused sections of the lamp that are not required for the curing process. In previous designs you had to remove the second lamp when not in use and tape over any sections that were not being used in the remaining lamp. A new angle-adjustment knob allows speedy adjustments of the curing lamp, where previously it was necessary to loosen a bolt to make adjustments. This time-saving feature will be much-appreciated by operators. Finally, the curing lamp can now be adjusted to have a negative angle, which means that the BottleJet can now print cylindrical objects with the print heads moving from the top of the part to the bottom without the need for reverse-tooling.
The BottleJet 2.1 has other upgrades as well. A new red laser guide on the head carriage enables the operator to easily set the print origin on the part. An improved method for stirring white inks even when the machine is off reduces startup time. Even the firmware has been upgraded to power the new features of the BottleJet 2.1.
Want to find out more about the new BottleJet 2.1 cylindrical inkjet printer? Drop us a line!
Posted by pbaldwin on | Comments Off on EPS Announces Financing Options for Machine Purchases
October 8—Engineered Printing Solutions (EPS) announced today that it has partnered with Ascentium Capital to offer financing for machine purchases. Get instant credit up to $250,000 with financing and leasing options up to $2 million to qualified borrowers. This can provide tremendous tax benefits to borrowers and, combined with our streamlined production process, can drastically shorten lead times—meaning you can decorate your products that much sooner.
KP08 Catheter Printer
Take, for example, the KP08 pad printer. This extremely versatile pad printer features an easy-to-use electronic touch screen allowing the operator to control many functions, such as timer delays, delay front and back, as well as to program auxiliary functions such as rotary tables, part shuttles, automatic drying, and pre-treatment devices. the KP08 is capable of printing a 3″ diameter image using up to 5 colors or 4.5″ diameter image using 3 colors or fewer, as well as an extended-neck version for printing across a longer length. We have built several of these machines to print on catheters for the medical device industry, and you can see the versatility of this machine on this page.
BottleJet Cylindrical Inkjet Printer
Perhaps you are in the drinkware industry and you wish to incorporate late-stage product-decoration into your production line so that you can respond quickly to changing consumer trends while carrying less WIP inventory. The BottleJet Cylindrical Inkjet Printer. One of our stalwart machines in the direct-to-shape niche, the BottleJet is a multi-color, UV-LED, high-resolution industrial inkjet printer designed specifically for decorating cylindrical bottles. This cylindrical inkjet printer can accommodate either flat-walled or tapered bottles and cups. Equipped with rotating clamps that can be adjusted to print various diameters and bottle lengths, the BottleJet boasts a synchronized printing and curing operation. Capable of printing any cylindrical object with a diameter from 40 – 120mm and 110 – 225mm in length, with a printing area up to 150mm, optional UV lamp configurations can be stacked lengthwise to print a longer image. Easy to load and unload, can accommodate either manual or automatic operation, the BottleJet is compatible with industry-standard graphics applications such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop or Corel Draw. With up to four Ricoh Gen4 print heads, the BottleJet is ideal for printing up to 1200×900 dpi images on pint glasses, water bottles, and other drinkware. Watch the BottleJet in action here.
XD70 Singlepass Inkjet Printer
For a high-speed product-marking solution, consider the new, improved XD70 2.0. With several inline pretreatment options from which to choose, and countless options for print head array (CMYK+WW, CMYKOGV, plus varnish options), the compact footprint of the XD70 means that this singlepass inkjet printer can integrate with your production line with several part-loading and -unloading options, including robotic handling of parts. With a throughput speed of up to 50″/second, for levels of greyscale, and an effective resolution of up to 720 dpi, the XD70 can print 45,000 bottle caps per hour, with “skyscraper” printing also an option. Watch a video of a high-speed singlepass bottlecap printer here.
You can own this KP08 Hard Hat Pad Printer today!
This financing offer even applies to a turnkey hard hat pad printing machine currently in stock. At the heart of the machine is a KP08 3 Color Extended Neck pad printer, with three 110mm circular ceramic-ring style sealed ink cups and three pads. Integrated twin plasma pretreatment nozzles ensure perfect adhesion. A heavy-duty five-station linear servo shuttle transports the part for printing, and a servo-controlled rotational fixture rotates the part for printing on all sides. An automatic programmable pad cleaner cleans the pad at operator-specified intervals, or at preprogrammed setpoints, for perfect image quality every time. You can find out more about this one-off opportunity and watch this pad print machine in action here.
EPS is proud of its product range and now with financing options available to qualified borrowers, there has never been a better time to
Posted by pbaldwin on | Comments Off on Rare Opportunity to Own a Hard Hat Pad Printing Machine with No Lead Time!
Enhance the safety of your employees while promoting brand awareness. Putting your logo on your company’s hard hats isn’t just good marketing; it could also make your employees safer. And Engineered Printing Solutions currently has a unique opportunity for a turnkey hard hat pad printing system.
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on long-term plans for many businesses. Unforeseen shifts in supply and demand have upset traditional industries (who knew that the moribund retail grocery industry would have such a banner year?) and made instant superstars out of startups (hello Zoom). Other companies have rejiggered capital investment plans, some speeding up projects to take advantage of historically cheap money while others are cancelling projects that no longer make sound business sense.
In May of this year, one company that falls into the latter category took delivery of a hard hat pad printing system designed and built by Engineered Printing Solutions. Due to the rapidly-changing business climate in the age of Covid-19, the project for which the system was purchased was cancelled before our customer even had time to uncrate the machine, and EPS agreed to find a buyer for this never-used equipment. This represents an incredible opportunity for someone looking for a turnkey hard hat printing solution, as the system is crated and ready for delivery, with zero lead time, as all of the development of the system such as finding the right pretreatment method and part transport system has already occurred.
At the heart of the machine is a KP08 3 Color Extended Neck pad printer, with three 110mm circular ceramic-ring style sealed ink cups and three pads. Integrated twin plasma pretreatment nozzles ensure perfect adhesion. A heavy-duty five-station linear servo shuttle transports the part for printing, and a servo-controlled rotational fixture rotates the part for printing on all sides. An automatic programmable pad cleaner cleans the pad at operator-specified intervals, or at preprogrammed setpoints, for perfect image quality every time.
With three pads, the machine can be programmed for a variety of print modes:
3 single images at three discreet locations, with up to three colors each
One single color image at one location
One 2-color image at one location and a single-color image at another location
Two single-color images at two locations
One single image at one location
You can see a video of this machine printing a one-color image in one location here:
This hard hat printing system is capable of printing images up to four inches in diameter. The operator controls all functions through a five-inch display panel which allows for control of such functions as timer delays, delays on front and back, timed inking, counter, and machine cycle speed. The rotary fixture, pretreat station and shuttle transport are also controlled through the touchscreen display panel.
Contact us today to learn more about this great opportunity to own a tested, never-used, turnkey hard hat pad printing system!
Posted by pbaldwin on | Comments Off on EPS IS Hosting a Virtual Trade Show, And You’re Invited!
Catheter Marking Machine
The global coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of all in-person trade shows for the remainder of 2020. It has also brought business travel to a standstill, resulting in far fewer opportunities to connect with customers and prospects. Throughout it all, Engineered Printing Solutions has remained open and has been actively supporting and serving the medical device manufacturing industry. With the cancellation of BIOMEDDevice Boston, EPS will be hosting a Virtual Trade Show on September 17th and 18th. We would love the opportunity to “see” you and share your current projects with us.
Is now the right time to go digital?
Our Virtual Trade Show is free to attend. The September 17th session will be devoted to pad printing and will include machine demonstrations as well as live Q & A. September 18th will be devoted to industrial inkjet, also featuring live machine demonstrations and Q & A. Bring your questions about adhesion, fixturing, whatever you want. Space is limited, so please reserve your spot today!
Posted by pbaldwin on | Comments Off on Exciting Development in Inkjet: Extended Color Gamut
Studies indicate that 90 percent of snap judgments made about products are based on color alone.
One of the most exciting recent developments at Engineered Printing Solutions has been the expansion of process colors to singlepass machines. Often called extended gamut machines, the addition of orange, green, and violet allows for the printing of many more colors than CMYK alone, without the use of spot colors.
Why Extended Gamut?
The demand for extended color gamuts largely parallels the adoption of digital part-decoration over traditional analog methods. Historically, printers using analog methods such as offset, screen, or pad printing have added spot colors to achieve precisely the results their customers demanded. By contrast, industrial inkjet printers have historically built up color using just cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This simplifies printer design, but by using just these four colors, many colors in the visible spectrum are unachievable.
The addition of orange, green, and violet greatly extends the color gamut over CMYK alone.
Expanding from CMYK to CMYKOVG is the most common method of extending the gamut. Typically, in CMYK process there have been gaps or smaller defined areas of the deep green, bright orange or violet shades. Adding these colors to the process results in a broader range of colors available to print via inkjet. Dense reds such as the one used in the Coca-Cola™ logo have also presented challenges with traditional CMYK process. The addition of orange, green, and violet make that color more achievable without having to increase resolution or ink builds.
The addition of orange, green, and violet significantly expands the possible gamut, allowing more vivid designs and greater possibilities for economic short runs. The more colors achievable, the more products you can run, and the better you can serve your customers.
As the conversion from analog to digital becomes more widespread, customers are beginning to require higher quality images to convert. Some are requiring colors that are typically difficult with just CMYK. Others are simply looking to duplicate the colors already in place using current offset/analog systems.
What Are the Drawbacks of an Extended Color Gamut?
The print engine itself is the most costly part of most print systems, so additional print heads along with their concomitant costs such as necessary ink management systems will add to the price of a print system. OEM and contract part decorators will have to make their own ROI calculation based on the size of runs, the number of SKUs to run, and the desired image quality. Fortunately, our Sales Engineers have helped many customers with just this sort of calculus, and are eager to help you design your next printing solution.
Want to learn more about extended color gamuts? Drop us a line!
For our part, we have seen strong demand for direct-to-object part-marking machines, particularly in the safety equipment, food packaging, or medical device manufacturing sectors. So we reached out to our customers to see how they were adapting to manufacturing in light of the pandemic, and to see whether any of them had any interesting stories of their own of manufacturing products essential in the fight against the disease. For one company, MSA, located outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a surge in demand for its products.
MSA, whose slogan is “The Safety Company”, is a leading manufacturer of HEFH (Head/Eye/Face/Hearing) safety equipment. Recently, MSA donated 65,000 N95 masks to the Allegheny Health Network in Pennsylvania for healthcare providers battling COVID-19. MSA is also rapidly expanding production of its Advantage® 200 respirator. Rene Burger, Global Manufacturing Engineering Manager for MSA, reports that the entire MSA Family has been working around the clock seven days a week since the pandemic started to ramp-up production.
MSA is also a customer of Engineered Printing Solutions. EPS built a singlepass inkjet machine for the company, complete with inline corona pretreatment. MSA chose a digital solution because they wanted the possibility of economical short runs, including the ability to mark parts with variable data such as an employee’s name or even blood type.
Are you in the safety equipment, food packaging, or medical device manufacturing business? How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business? Have you converted production to essential items? Tell us your story! And as always, if we can help contribute to your success, we are here for you. EPS is open and filling orders for print consumables as well as machine orders.
Posted by pbaldwin on | Comments Off on Manufacturing Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic
“The very first priority for manufacturers is to make sure that our workers, their families and their communities are safe and healthy,” he said. “Once we can ensure that that occurs, obviously we’re going to continue to ramp up production.”
—Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
By now, we have all seen our inboxes flooded with emails from every company we’ve ever done business with telling us how they are dealing with the coronavirus. We’ve been guilty of it ourselves. But beyond handwashing and physical distancing, how are companies manufacturing products in the “new normal”?
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent a huge shock through the manufacturing sector from a supply chain standpoint as well as on the demand side. Whole industries have shut down.
But the need for some manufactured products has increased, particularly medical products necessary in the fight against the pandemic, and many manufacturers are retooling their lines to produce the products in demand. For example, Ford has announced that it will be manufacturing 50,000 ventilators within 100 days. General Motors has also teamed up with a Seattle-based medical device manufacturer to rapidly scale up production of ventilators. According to the two companies, GM will provide logistics, purchasing, and manufacturing expertise, and will manufacture ventilators at its Kokomo, Indiana, facility. GM will also manufacture surgical masks in its Warren, Michigan, facility.
Ventilator used in the fight against COVID-19. Image courtesy of Ventec Life Systems
The federal government awarded GM the contract to manufacture 30,000 ventilators by August at its Kokomo facility on April 8. On April 14th, GM announced that 600 ventilators were ready to ship, that half the order would be ready by the end of June, and that the full order would be ready as promised.
Automakers are not alone. AB InBev, maker of two out of every three beers in the world, is making hand sanitizer from surplus alcohol in its breweries around the world. Bauer Hockey, the Canadian hockey equipment manufacturer, is making face shields. The luxury goods conglomerate LVMH has converted production from its perfume plants to sanitizer production. Even Giorgio Armani converted all of its textile factories in Italy to the manufacture of single-use medical overalls. Prada is making face masks.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about manufacturers’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis is the speed with which companies have adapted and retooled. The GM initiative came into being in only 48 hours, led by GM employees themselves.
But just exactly how do companies boost manufacturing production by a factor of two, or even five, or ten? The answer is not obvious, and demonstrates both the fragility and the robustness of our manufacturing sector.
Few companies operate at 50 percent capacity. Indeed, few could survive very long at such capacity rates. So how have companies ramped up output so quickly in response to the coronavirus pandemic?
An obvious first place to start is by reducing the number of SKUs and converting production lines to the manufacture of SKUs deemed essential. But beyond about 2X, other factors start to intrude. The physical plant (number of assembly lines or the square footage of the factory floor) quickly becomes a constraint. So too do upstream suppliers, who also maintain lean inventories.
The experience of the Seattle-based ventilator manufacturer is instructive. When faced with the task of rapidly scaling production output, Ventec found that their suppliers were not responding to their requests for increased upstream supply. Within half an hour of Ventec meeting with representatives from GM, GM’s suppliers in India visited Ventec’s Indian suppliers, and the bottleneck was resolved.
A similar story played out with GM’s domestic suppliers. Twin City Die Castings Company manufactures pistons for GM cars. With car part production sidelined, the company was casting about for ways to keep its workers employed. The company realized that while they may not know much about the manufacture of ventilators, they knew a lot about the manufacture of pistons and cylinders to extremely tight tolerances. As a result of intermediation on the part of General Motors, Twin Cities is supplying Ventec with pistons for ventilators, enabling Ventec to ramp up output by a factor of ten.
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