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Back to Basics, Part 11 Corrugated Basics

as appeared in Flexo & Gravure Asia Pacific, March 2001 by Patrick Mafrici, Consultant / Technical Specialist for Brently Engineering

In our last article (Back to Basics Part 1: Corrugating) we discussed the first step in producing good single face board at the single facer. One of the ingredients we should all pay attention to, of course, is starch. Starch formulae vary from type of dry starch used and the mixing equipment we utilise in order to mix our ingredients. We all know that the role of the starch is to bind the medium to the liner, however we tend to forget that we need to consider the different variables such as type of paper used, heat (temperature), starch applicator roll type, etc. Starch formulae is normally a specialist job and should be handled by people who have been trained in understanding the chemical reactions that take place during the mixing of all ingredients.

As an operational interest, we should be measuring at least three factors in our starch. These are Viscosity, Gel Point and Dry Solids Content. Viscosity:We need to know what viscosity we are running to maintain consistency day after day. Just remember that, in order to

maintain good starch transfer between the starch roll and the flute tips, we have to maintain a suitable viscosity. The wrong viscosity can make the starch drop away at low speeds or over-supply at higher speeds. Viscosity is controlled by temperature and time, so make sure you check viscosity at the same temperature if you are going to compare it with other results. Gel point:This refers to the temperature at which the starch reaches gelatinisation point. Normally this is kept between 59-63 degrees Celsius. This factor is easily controlled by the amount of caustic soda used. Lack of control of gel point can produce lots of problems by creating a large amount of gel on the starch pan. Dry solid content:This is the amount of dry starch (whether tapioca, wheat, corn or potato) utilised to formulate the mix. Different types of paper and different running speeds require different percentages of solid content. In many cases, if you are running heavy board grades or running very fast, you need to increase your solid content. And how much starch do we need? The very technical answer is just enough! Too heavy an application introduces too much water to the paper as in many cases starch is at least 75-80% water. Together with wrong gel point can help you produce dry board (board put under pressure will sound like biscuits crunsching and white lines are left on the liner.) In many cases we place the blame on the paper or machine and never consider the starch.

Wash board:This is in many cases induced by the amount of starch being applied. The liner will expand and then retract creating a deep valley between tips of the flute. This problem is not just a visual problem, the effect is very noticeable on the printing process, the printing plate make contact on top of the flute and totally misses the valley. Press operator often combat this by increasing the printing pressure, this unfortunately squashes the board and subsequently reduces the strength of the box. Starch is a very important facet of your business and should be dealt in a very professionally and controlled manner, failure to do so will create lots of headaches for the machine operators and of course lots of waste. On leaving the single facer, the bonded medium and liner (single face board) gets transferred to the bridge. This area is one of the least understood and most critical in the control of wrap.

CID (Corrugated Industry Development) Corporation spent lots of money and time to study what are the most critical factors in controlling wrap. Guess what? One of the biggest factors causing warp is the bridge. It is a must that we try at all costs to maintain the smallest amount of single face board on the bridge, and also synchronise the speed of the single facer to the speed of the double backer. If we could run always with an empty bridge we would definitely reduce warp. However, this is not always possible so the best alternative is to minimize the amount of festoon (accumulation of single face board). What we should be aiming for is to bond the board at the double backer at the same speed that it was produced at the single facer, i.e. speeds synchronized. This would eliminate some of the problems associated with moisture migration between medium and liner, and also the variable of different moisture and heat. Of course, we cannot leave this function to the operators. We are only human, so we do forget or have other things to do. The best way to handle this of course is to do it electronically and there are a few controls available on the market, retrofitable to your machine. The problem is, how do we know the good ones from the pretenders? Very simple! What we need is a system that continuously monitors the speed of the single facer versus the speed of the double backer and also takes into consideration the variation of speed needed on splicing (for some of the older corrugators). We cannot rely on photo cell high/low sensors mounted on the bridge (Iike some of the cheap models available), where only when the festoon reaches the sensor will it activate a speed change on the single facer, or only when there is no festoon visible at the first sensor the speed will increase. This method does not help you produce flat board. They are only imitators. Remember that to improve your productivity you need to produce flat board. If you want to print and fold better, you need flat board. Only when we fully understand the relationship of every part of the corrugator to every other part can we reliably predict a consistent result. Have a look at our Back to Basics Part 1: Corrugating, Flexo & Gravure, January 2001, the first of our technical articles by Patrick Mafrici. About the Author:Patrick Mafrici is Consultant and Technical Specialist for Brently Engineering. Patrick travels extensively and together with Don Daisley, Patrick is responsible for talks at various Brently seminars and conferences across the Asia Pacific.

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