Solving Static and Increasing Print Quality on Food Packaging

Gen4 Static Eliminators

A yogurt company printed bar codes on every cup that they produced. This was necessary for registering and tracing their product. After failing a bar code reader quality test, they started noticing some print issues during batch runs. They would have to stop their system, clean the inkjet printer head, and scrap product that would not register with the bar code reader.

This affects production rates, scrap rates, and overall cost. They stated that they threw away 30 to 40 cases per batch of yogurt due to this problem. They had an EXAIR catalog where they found a similar application within our Gen4 Static Eliminator product line. They contacted us to see if we could find a solution.

With non-conductive material like plastic, static is easily generated; especially during cooler weather. Static can be in a negative state or a positive state dependent on the material. For opposite charges, things are attracted to each other and will “stick” like magnets. For similar charges, they will repel each other. The higher the static charge, the stronger the force.

For the company above, the yogurt cups moved along a 7” (178mm) wide conveyor before they reached the bar code printer. This movement causes static to be generated on the surface of the cups. But, what about the inkjet printer? The function of the printer charges the ink droplets for direction and positioning. Since the ink droplets and the cup surfaces have the same charge, the droplets were being “pushed” back toward the printing head (reference photo below). Thus, the ink would dry on the surface and affect the quality of the bar code.

Bar Code Printer

When it comes to removing static, EXAIR is a leader in this market. We have a large product line of different types of Static Eliminators. Our design generates both positive and negative ions to remove any type of static charge. Since we only had to remove the static from the surface of the cup, I recommended a Gen4 Ionizing Bar. With a quick static decay rate, we can remove the static right before the bar code printer with only one Gen4 Ionizing Bar. For this application, I recommended the model 8003 3” Gen4 Ionizing Bar and a model 7960 Gen4 Power Supply. Together, it was very easy to mount and start using. EXAIR stocks lengths from 3” (76mm) up to 108” (2743mm), and we can ship a solution the same day. When you are losing 30 to 40 cases, time matters. And for this company, they received the items the next day to correct the misprints and short printing runs.

Gen4 Ionizing Bar w/ power supply

When problems occur, time can be of the essence. This is why EXAIR stocks our cataloged items for fast delivery.  For the company above, they had an EXAIR catalog which helped them to find a solution. If you would like to have an EXAIR catalog, you can click here to get one.   After they started using the Ionization Bar, the static was removed, the bar code was clean, and the operation ran smoothly. If static is causing issues for you, you can contact EXAIR and speak to one of our Application Engineers. We will be happy to assist you.

John Ball
Application Engineer

Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

EXAIR, Manufacturing Locally Equals Quick Customizations

Dryer with corn cob material

A manufacturing company contacted EXAIR about their metal tube processing. They made industrial precision tubes from start to finish. This would include turning, cutting, coating, washing and drying metal tubes to specific diameters and lengths.

For one specific problem area, they manufactured a tube with the dimensions of 1” (25.4mm) in diameter and 6” (152mm) in length. They would run a batch of 750 tubes through a wash cycle and then through a vibrating dryer with a drying material made from corn cobs. At the bottom of the vibrating dryer, the tubes would fall to an open mesh shaker table to transfer the tubes to Quality Control. The idea was to remove the excess cob material from the surface of the tubes before inspection and to recycle the drying material. But the problem was static.

When non-conductive materials slide, hit, peel, and vibrate; electrons from the surface can move from one atom to another; thus, creating static. The type of material and the amount of movement governs the positive and negative charges, and the amount of static forces.

The corn cob material is a non-conductive material, but what about the metal tubes? Since the metal tubes were coated for corrosion and abrasion protection, the surface is now a non-conductive area which will contain static. Since opposite charges attract each other, the cob material would cling to the outside surface of the metal tubes (reference photo below). Being a precision tube manufacturer, they did not want to send “dirty” tubes to their customers or allow the drying material to contaminate their measuring equipment. And, with the required quality control, the measurements had to be exact.

Tubes with cob material

The shaker table was 8 feet (2.4 meters) long and 2 feet (0.6 meter) wide with rigid walls. The top of the shaker table was covered with a canvas to allow for a vacuum system to collect the excess material and dust. About half way down, there was a 2” (51mm) drop to help jolt additional cob material off of the tubes as they landed. But the static forces were too strong to release the material. Thus, the static had to be removed from the surface, so they contacted EXAIR to see if we could find a solution.

They sent photos of their setup which always helps us to diagnose and find solutions. The target place that they suggested would be near the 2” (51mm) drop as the tubes would be suspended for just a moment. My recommendation was to use a Gen4 Super Ion Air Knife to blow ionized air around the tubes as they fell. By blowing air, we can use the non-contact force to remove the static and the cob material at the same time. But we had two issues to overcome. The width was fixed at 2 feet (0.6 meter), and the operation controls were 10 feet (3 meters) away from the mid-section of the shaker table.

Gen4 Super Ion Air Knives

EXAIR stocks many Gen4 Super Ion Air Knives ranging from 3” (76mm) to 108” (2.74meters) in incremental lengths for quick shipments. But our standard 24″ product was not able to fit inside that area nor was the five foot electrical cable long enough to reach the control panel. (As a note, it was important for the operator to be able to manually turn on and off the unit from the control panel.)

EXAIR uses an electromagnetically shielded cable to carry high voltage from our Gen4 Power Supply to our shockless, non-radioactive Gen4 Ionizing Bar. Our  stocked length for our armored cable is 5 feet (1.5 meter). After discussing the amount of movement with the table and the desired distance to the control panel, EXAIR could not use an item off the shelf. But not to worry… Since we are the manufacturer, we have the ability to make a special design for this customer.

Super Ion Air Knife Part Numbering System

I recommended a model 112220-10 special length Gen4 Super Ion Air Knife Kit. (Reference model numbering system above). Specials are non-returnable and non-cancelable, but for this customer, it was exactly what they needed. The Gen4 Super Ion Air Knives are engineered to efficiently blow ionized air to the target and remove static charge and debris.

For this special model, it was made to a specific width where the Super Air Knife was manufactured to a length of 20” (508mm), and the high voltage cable was lengthened to 10 feet (3 meters). The kit includes the Gen4 Power Supply to power the Ionizing Bar, a filter to clean the compressed air, a regulator to control the force, and a shim set to change force rates. This complete kit had everything required to begin operations to remove static and cob material from their precision tubes. The customer was able to mount the special length Gen4 Super Ion Air Knife within the shaker table and mount the power supply near the control panel.

Static can be an issue even with coated metal parts. For the customer above, EXAIR was able to make a special length Gen4 Super Ion Air Knife to work in their system. If you believe that static is causing issues, EXAIR has a great range of Gen4 Static Eliminators to remove that nuisance. You can discuss further with an Application Engineer as EXAIR for help; even if you need a custom product.

John Ball, Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Gen4 Static Eliminators: Cleaning as a Preventative Maintenance

The Gen4 Static Eliminators have been successful for EXAIR because of our robust design and great performance. They are rugged enough to be used in many industrial areas. EXAIR manufactures two styles; with and without compressed air assistance. For both types, preventative maintenance is still required to keep the Gen4 product line functioning optimally. In this blog, I will describe how to clean the points for years of hassle-free operations.

There are two common ways that an anti-static product will start to drift; contamination buildup and emitter point degradation. The degree of buildup is dependent on the environment. To create an ion, we have to apply a high voltage to a fine point. The high voltage is supplied by our Gen4 Power Supplies which generate 5,000 volts from a selectable 115Vac or 230Vac input. As the high voltage is pushed into a fine point; the energy creates a corona field.

Any contamination near or around that point can collect on its tip. The more contamination in the surrounding area, the faster the buildup will occur. Once the point gets coated, the ion production begins to decrease. Before this happens, the points should be cleaned with a soft-bristled brush as a preventative maintenance. Make sure that the power is turned off to the power supply and please do not use any liquid or cleaners on the points.

The second way is caused when the ionizing tips start to lose its sharpness caused by the cycle rate of ion production. Like a wick in a candle, a bit of material is lost over time. To mitigate this, our resistor-based line has replaceable ion points. This feature makes a cost-effective way to keep the points sharp, and the Static Eliminators like new. The video below shows how to clean and replace the ion points.

For any analysis with the Static Eliminators, EXAIR offers a model 7905 Static Meter. The Static Meter can help to find problem areas for best placement for the Gen4 Static Eliminators. It can also help to diagnose any static issues when cleaning is required and to help decide a preventative maintenance schedule. Whether is it a single point or multiple point product, the video above will help you to keep your machines running smoothly.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”   With a maintenance schedule and a soft-bristled brush, you can protect your equipment from many issues with static. This would include machines jamming, difficult alignments, collection of debris, and hazardous shocks. EXAIR has a large line of Gen4 Static Eliminators to remove these static nuisances, and with the cleaning instructions above, you will have years of effective static removal. If static is affecting your operation, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR to help select the correct solution.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Ion Air Jet Applications

While writing my blog last week on all of the features & benefits of the Gen4 Ion Air Jet, I couldn’t help but think of some of the very interesting and successful uses I’ve seen in my nine years (as of this past Monday) as an Application Engineer at EXAIR Corporation.  In honor of my workaversary, this week’s edition is Russ’ Top 9 Ion Air Jet applications:

  1. A medical device manufacturer uses Ion Air Jets to remove dust from plastic extrusion as it goes through a puller belt.  The small diameter (0.05″ to 0.10″) made the Ion Air Jet a more efficient fit than the Super Ion Air Wipe, which is commonly used for extrusions like this, but is most effective for larger diameters.
  2. A maker of large scale automated machinery has provided Ion Air Jets (as well as other EXAIR quiet, efficient, and safe compressed air products) on machines they’ve been selling their customers for years.  When they started machining their own plastic parts, the Ion Air Jet was their first thought for a solution when plastic chips started sticking to their drill bits.
  3. A commercial printer makes displays, signs, etc. from a variety of static-prone materials such as acrylic, polycarbonate, and styrene.  They use CNC routers to cut them to size & shape, form the edges, and add dimensional detail.  Ion Air Jets blow the dust & shavings away, and keep them away, greatly reducing the prep time between routing and assembly.
  4. A weather sealing/stripping manufacturer uses Ion Air Jets to remove statically charged dust from their rubber & foam product extrusions, allowing for increased line speeds and better cuts for the products they cut for specific seal packages for the residential & commercial door and automotive industries, among others.
  5. A major provider of electrical and electronic contactors uses Ion Air Jets to blow off contact strip as it rolls off large reels to remove protective film and static.
  6. A manufacturer of wire marking machinery installs Ion Air Jets on their machines that are used to print on products with especially static-prone jackets, to ensure clean and crisp markings
  7. A cable manufacturer that caters to the computer & electronic industries uses Ion Air Jets to remove static & dust as foil is applied to PVC coated wire.  This eliminates the static charge that was causing inconsistencies when the adhesive was heated to activate.
  8. A wholesale food equipment distributor uses Ion Air Jets to blow out bottles during the sterilization process, prior to filling.
  9. A maker of specialty polymers uses Ion Air Jets to keep fine powders from accumulating in the entries into their hoppers.
Some applications call for a fixed-in-place solution, like the (above, from left) Super Ion Air Knife, Super Ion Air Wipe, Ion Air Jet, and Ion Air Cannon.) Others are best suited to the hand-held convenience of the Ion Air Gun.  Whatever your static problem is, though, EXAIR has a solution for you!

If you have a problem with static, the Ion Air Jet is just one of the solutions EXAIR Corporation can provide.  If you’d like to find out more about how we can help, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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