Brooks Manufacturing – Bellingham, WA
Winjet II System Improvements
A major Z-Tec customer with a number of the older WinJet printing systems expressed a desire for improving the system with several suggestions:
- Design and develop a capping station to eliminate the need to remove HP cartridges and store over the weekend and reinstall prior to shift beginning on Monday morning.
- Design and develop an automated wiping mechanism to wipe HP cartridges in place without the need for the operator to lock out the drive, remove the cartridge(s), wipe and reinstall. The wipe-in-place mechanism would eliminate the need to lock out the transfer and reduce the downtime associated with cartridges not printing properly due to dust and contamination build-up.
- Develop a different ink formulation to increase de-cap time, i.e., the amount of time the cartridge can sit idle and then start printing without streaking or poor print quality until the dried up ink on the nozzles begins to flow again.
Z-Tec personnel designed and developed an integrated capping/wiping station, which became a standard part of the WinJet II system. The system caps cartridges in place over prolonged shutdown periods, eliminating the need for removing and storing cartridges.
The wiping portion of the station allows for a brief shutdown without the need to lock out and wipes the cartridges in place, minimizing the downtime and additional handling required for manual cleaning of cartridges.
In collaboration with an ink manufacturer, Z-Tec developed and tested the Z-Ink, which is now used in a number of both the WinJet and WinJet II systems. The Z-Ink exhibits a significant improvement in de-capping time as well as other desirable properties. In conjunction with the Z-Ink development, Z-Tec also redesigned the bulk ink system to optimize the ink delivery and significantly prolonging the life of the cartridges, thus reducing overall operating costs for our customers.
CASE STUDY: Greenhouse – Inkjet Control System
A Greenhouse operation that produces a variety of sweet bell peppers approached Z-Tec with an operating problem. The facility also houses a grading and packaging line where the peppers are washed, graded, and placed into boxes. Inkjet printers are used to print the pepper’s size, variety, packaging date and grower information on the box. The contents of the box are identified by a barcode that is affixed to the box at the grading station and the information can change from one box to the next. Each box needs to be printed on both the front and back.
A printing system, previously installed by a different company, exhibited numerous problems such as:
- Poor or illegible print quality – the supplied print heads could not produce the print quality required by the greenhouse and their customers.
- Missed or misprinted boxes – the decoding of the applied barcodes was unreliable, and the control system would often either not print at all or print wrong information.
- No system feedback to the user – the control system had no feedback such as alarms or error logging resulting in the greenhouse being unable to troubleshoot incorrect or missing print.
- Printing on only one side of the box – even though there were two print heads installed with the system, only one functioned correctly.
- Poor customer support
Drawing on extensive experience and excellent working relationship with several inkjet manufacturers, Z-Tec was able to propose a custom designed solution which met the greenhouse criteria.
The solution included several inkjets from different manufacturers with Z-Tec personnel working with the greenhouse personnel to select the best one for the application. The selection criteria included cost, ease of maintenance and quality of print. After finalizing the hardware, Z-Tec personnel created a custom software package designed to the greenhouse specifications and integrated the components into the final Inkjet Control System (ICS).
Z-Tec personnel installed the ICS on schedule prior to grading line start-up and without disruption to greenhouse operation. The installation, including commissioning, was completed in two days. The newly installed Z-Tec custom designed Inkjet Control System remedied all of the problems experienced by the old system.
PRODUCT TRACKING AND MONITORING
CASE STUDY: Hardwood Manufacturer – Product Tracking & Monitoring
A major hardwood manufacturer approached Z-Tec about tracking boards from the green line through the kilns to the planer. The driving force behind the idea was to determine the recovery and thus the profitability out of small batches of hardwood purchased from private suppliers. Since each batch was individually purchased at different price and yielded different volumes and grades, the system would enable the manufacture to determine best value results and allow for real time quality and profitability measurement of each batch of hardwood. Since it can take up to five weeks to dry certain species in the kilns, the system needed to track each individual piece from the sawmill to the planer with potentially up to a five-week time lag.
Z-Tec implemented an HP based inkjet system at the green line, which coded a load number and piece ID number on the end of each piece after the trimmer. As the piece was printed, the information was fed to the manufacturer’s server, where it was stored in a database record along with input length and output length.
The pieces were subsequently dried in the kilns and several or even months later would be processed in the planer to generate custom size and species orders.
In the planer, Z-Tec implemented a Cognex based vision system with OCR (optical character recognition) software to read the load and ID number back from the processed piece. The load and ID number were then sent to the server along with final length and grade of the piece.
At the end of this process, the manufacturer had all the required information to make an informed decision on quality recovery and profitability of each individual batch of hardwood lumber processed.
This system has now been installed for almost 3 years and is functioning as designed and providing valuable information to the manufacturer maximizing profitability in the plant.