, ,

The Conversion of Corra Gator-Boardy-Part 2

Part 2: Printer Sections

images are transferred from the print cylinder to the corrugated board

This is the second installment in a series by Jim Brown, a corrugated equipment specialist with more than three decades of experience. Articles will outline what the board experiences during the conversion process, but from an unusual perspective: that of the board itself, in the form of our imaginary narrator, Corra Gator-Boardy.

Ride along with Corra in a series of six mini-adventures on her way from a flat corrugated board to an amazing, corrugated container. Learn about the mechanisms and devices that will launch her into the machine, color her panels, cut out her unique shapes, form her dimensions, hold her together, and prepare her for market.

In our last adventure, Corra had been loaded and launched out of the feed section of the machine, was up to proper board speed, and headed into the first print section. She looked up to see a series of roller wheels, this time positioned above her. These were made of smooth, hard-anodized aluminum. As she advanced into the first print section of the machine, a vacuum blower pulled her tightly against the wheels that protruded through stainless steel grate openings above her. She was traveling at the exact same speed as the surface of the feed rolls.

Just ahead was a second nip, the impression nip. This was the gap between the smooth, chrome-plated, nine-inch diameter impression roll above and the print cylinder below. The print cylinder was wrapped with a custom, soft, urethane print plate that had an image of slices of fruit and some wording engraved into it. The image was coated with a film of yellow, water-based ink. As she rolled forward, the image was transferred onto her outer liner at exactly the right speed. The impression roll helped to ensure that the image was impressed the perfect amount onto her outer liner. Unlike the other nips, this nip is adjustable by raising or lowering the entire upper blower/roller assembly that also contains the impression roll. Just like the feed roll nip, the impression nip pressure must be very precisely adjusted. If it is too far open, the print will skip. If it is adjusted too tightly, the print will create a smudged image.

Corra was really excited now. She had some yellow color and was heading for red! It was a peaceful transition from print unit one into print unit two. She had time to reflect on how the ink had been pumped from the ink bucket to the single blade ink chamber, where it had filled the cells of the anilox roll. The surface of the anilox roll has tiny, reverse pyramidal-shaped cells that are laser engraved into the ceramic-coated surface. There were 250 cells in one linear inch of roll, with the volume of ink that each cell could hold measured in billion cubic microns. Next, the excess ink was “doctored” off the anilox roll surface by the doctor blade to create an ink film of precise thickness that would transfer onto the print cylinder plate.

The doctor blade is the width of the anilox roll and made of plastic, with a bevel on it, much like a disposable putty knife. The main ink flow, along with the ink scraped off the anilox roll, runs out of the ends of the ink chamber into the ink pan and is pumped back to the ink bucket. The ink pump works like a human heart, with check valves that open and close as the pump cycles—first drawing in ink, closing, and then pushing it out.

this schematic illustrates the mechanisms of ink application to the roll

Now she was ready to receive red ink from a print plate that was slightly different, but complementary to the yellow one. And in a flash, half of the fruit image turned orange as the red printed over the yellow. With just enough time to let her ink soak in and dry, she raced through print two and headlong into print three. She was a pro now and was prepared to receive a nice heavy coat of black ink, which made her new image pop. But how, Corra wondered, are my colors aligned?

She remembered learning about a print registration datum target. This is a bullseye symbol located in the same spot on all the various color print plates. It demonstrates if the various print unit plates are positioned correctly in relation to one another. There is usually some small amount of acceptable error left and right (lateral registration) and up and down (rotational registration).

the arrow on the board indicates the direction of travel

To adjust the lateral registration, a print cylinder and its plate must be moved left or right using the lateral adjust mechanism. It is commonly a manual apparatus with a threaded adjust shaft and an aluminum handwheel. When you turn it counter-clockwise, the print will move slightly to the operator side of the machine (where the operator stands). Conversely, a clockwise turn of the handwheel will move it to the drive side of the machine (where the drive motor is located).

Changes in rotational registration require the print cylinder and plate to be advanced clockwise or retarded counter-clockwise. This is accomplished through the print register, which is a motorized differential device. Some are sophisticated, servo motor-driven, harmonic drive units, whereas the older ones are worm gear, electric motor-driven devices. Both lateral and rotational registration can be done with or without the machine running. When the first sheet is run, an operator can measure the amount a color is off and make the necessary adjustment, until all colors are printing as close to on top of one another as possible. The datum target shown in this article is a sample of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black showing their positions, relative to one another. This will affect the accuracy of the images on the sheet, a visible measure of quality.

Next, things will be getting much more intense, as our corrugated sheet will soon fly into the sharp teeth of the die cutter section.

Jim Brown has more than 30 years of experience in engineering and machine design for the corrugated industry. He is currently the Manager of Purchasing at Sun Automation Group.

Originally published in Paper360°,  March 2023

, ,

The Conversion of Corra Gator-Boardy

Part 1: Feed Section

This is the first installment of a series by Jim Brown, a corrugated equipment specialist with more than three decades of experience. Articles will outline what the board experiences during the conversion process, but from an unusual perspective: that of the board itself, in the form of our imaginary narrator, Corra Gator-Boardy. Corra’s journey will include six adventures:
  1. Feed section
  2. Print sections
  3. Die cut section
  4. Slotter section
  5. Folder section
  6. Counter-ejector section

The series creates an engaging way for those within the corrugated industry to gain insight into processes outside their area of specialty, as well as to offer the next generation of professionals or those in related industries a chance to gain more understanding of the process as a whole.

Ride along with Corra in a series of six mini-adventures on her way from a flat corrugated board to an amazing, corrugated container. Learn about the mechanisms and devices that will launch her into the machine, color her panels, cut out her unique shapes, form her dimensions, hold her together, and prepare her for market.

Corra Gator-Boardy began her life as two outer layers of kraft paper glued to a fluted center with starch water and steam (Fig. 1). She was then quickly cut to length by the corrugator cutoff knife, where she officially became a corrugated board.

a fig from there she traveled through the box plant
Figure 1

From there she traveled through the box plant conveyors with many others, destined to become something special. Corra had learned all about her imminent experience: how in the flexo-folder-gluer converting machine she would pass from the feed section, through the printers, die cutter, slotter, folder-gluer, and counter-ejector to finally become a valuable corrugated container. It sounded very exciting, but it was a little scary. She did not know exactly what she would be experiencing during this multi-step process.


Corra was carried up from the plant conveyor onto the prefeeder. The prefeeder shingled her and the rest of the board into the feed section hopper. The hopper is the area between the left- and right-side guides and the feed gates. Corra dropped into the hopper. Her forward movement was stopped sharply by the pair of shiny feed gates. Her belly was pressed against a series of cast aluminum support grates covered with thin, stainless steel wear strips. She was next to be fed into the converting machine.

She saw the machine operator press the feed button. The 100-horsepower motor that was driving the gear train for the entire machine was just about to engage the feed unit. She could hear the air from the vacuum blower whirring around her.

a figure suddenly the grates dropped her onto
Figure 2

Suddenly, the grates dropped her onto a series of urethane wheels supported on several rows of stationary wheel shafts (Fig. 2), and she could see that there was just enough gap below the feed gates to allow her to move forward when the time was right. Without warning, the wheel shafts began to rotate very quickly, and she was accelerated violently from zero to 1,000 feet per minute!

With vacuum pulling her down as well as the weight of the pile of board above her, she was hurled forward into the first nip. A nip is the gap between any two rollers in the machine, the first of which is the feed roll nip. The upper feed roll is covered with soft urethane that grips the board and provides pressure against the lower feed roll. The lower roll is steel with a straight knurl on its surface, a fine series of grooves that run across it (Fig. 3). The pressure between the rolls is adjusted by raising and lowering the upper roll, creating a gap just slightly smaller than the thickness of the board, but not so much as to crush the flutes inside.

a figure operators can raise or lower any of the adjustable shafts
Figure 3

Operators can raise or lower any of the adjustable shafts in the machine using a pair of matched, eccentric housings. The shaft ends are supported on bearings that are fitted into the hole (bore) of the housings, except the bore is machined off center in the housings on purpose. That way, when the housings are rotated in the frames, the adjustable roll moves through an arc, which opens and closes the nip.

The feeder transmission provides both the lifting and lowering motion of the grates as well as intermittent rotary motion of the wheel shafts, all in perfect timing. It is driven by the machine’s main drive and subsequent gear train. The input shaft runs at constant velocity. There are lowering and lifting cams inside, which are round with a gradual lump on them. A cam follower bearing runs on the edges of the cams and is attached to a linkage that, in turn, raises and lowers the grates. A small, external air cylinder (interrupter cylinder) lifts the cam follower off the cams to interrupt the grate motion, which stops the machine from feeding more board.

For the intermittent rotational motion of the wheel shafts, there are custom shaped, adjustable position cam lobes on the input shaft. These cam lobes mesh with a cam follower wheel on a parallel shaft. As the input shaft rotates the cam lobes, the engagement and disengagement of the lobes in the cam follower wheel creates an intermittent rotational motion, which is then transferred by gears to the wheel shafts. This is commonly known as an indexing box (Fig. 4).

a figure the timing is set so that the wheel shafts are stationary

Figure 4

The timing is set so that the wheel shafts are stationary as the next board is dropped onto the feed wheels. Once the full weight of the board is released onto the wheels, the intermittent motion begins. This on-and-off motion keeps the wheels from spinning during the moment of contact with the board. Then it accelerates very quickly to board speed, and repeats the process for each sheet that is fed.

What an amazing device, Corra thought. It accelerates the bottom board from zero to board speed as fast as 400 boards per minute. That’s over six boards per second!

Once Corra is launched into the feed roll nip she is travelling at the correct machine board speed, and begins a more comfortable, constant velocity ride through the machine. The feeder’s job is now complete and prepares to feed the next board in the hopper.


Corra’s next adventure will take her through the printers, a calmer experience that will paint her in living color. Join us in the next adventure to learn precisely how that happens and where she is heading after that.

Jim Brown has more than 30 years of experience in engineering and machine design for the corrugated industry. He is currently the Manager of Purchasing at Sun Automation Group.

Originally published in Paper360°,  January 2023


New LMC Jumbo Rotary Die Cutter Installed at Gerrity in Ontario

SUN Automation Group Installed a Jumbo Rotary Die Cutter (RDC) at Gerrity Corrugated Paper Products Ltd. in Concord, Ontario, Canada

SUN Automation Group (SUN), a global leader in providing innovative solutions to the global corrugated industry, is proud to announce it has placed Latitude Machinery Corporation’s (LMC) Jumbo Rotary Die Cutter (RDC) P-Series at Gerrity Corrugated Paper Products Ltd. in Concord, Ontario.

Gerrity chose the LMC Jumbo P-Series RDC because of its size, LMC’s reputation for quality, and SUN Automation Group’s reputation for service and support.

“We needed to replace an older machine of similar size and the LMC Jumbo RDC fits perfectly into our bay and customer mix,” says Chris Maisonneuve Operations Manager of Gerrity.  “From delivery, to install and service, everything has gone well and we couldn’t be happier with our experience and the machine’s output.”

The machine is integrated with an AG Stacker, an Alliance pre-feeder, and C & M conveyer.  The machine was sold by Mikah Thorne, SUN Automation Group’s partner in Canada.  SUN Automation Group will provide service, parts and technical support for the machine, as it does with all LMC equipment throughout Canada, the US, Mexico, and Central America.

LMC is a rapidly growing and world-class manufacturer of Rotary Die Cutters, Flexo Folder Gluers, and other solutions to the corrugated industry, with now over 100 machines in the field across North America.  SUN entered into an exclusive strategic partnership agreement with Latitude Machinery Corporation (LMC) in 2019, and since then has been the exclusive North and Central America representative of all LMC machinery and supports its current customers with parts and service.

“Gerrity is an excellent partner and we are confident in the success of the LMC Jumbo for their needs,” said Greg Jones, Executive Vice President, SUN Automation Group. “We are honored to work with LMC and provide sales, service and support to customers in the North American and Central American Market.”




Top Print vs Bottom Print Flexo Folder Gluer: 3 Pros & Cons

When considering a flexo folder gluer, Open/Close or Set While Run are not the only major considerations to research. Top-printing flexo folder gluers have different advantages and disadvantages than bottom-printing machines and it’s important to understand the difference. Depending on the jobs you run, one configuration may be more favorable to your operation than the other and can help increase capacity and throughput.

Sun Global Product Manager, Rob Casella, often asks customers in the initial stages of consideration if they “want a folder that can die cut, or a die cutter that can fold?” The answer to this question lies in your order mix and production goals and will make the difference in purchasing a top-print or bottom-print machine. Keep those important metrics in mind as you read through this blog from Rob Casella, listing three major pros and cons of top-print FFGs and bottom-print FFGs.

Top Print Flexo Folder Gluer

A top printing flexo folder gluer prints from the top of the machine, folds the sheet down and die cuts up from the bottom. When a customer answers Rob’s question with “I want a folder gluer that can die cut” a top-printing FFG is the machine he recommends. This configuration offers some advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs. Here are three of each:

Pros of Top Print FFG

  1. High Quality Fold. Considering the sheet folds down on a top print FFG, the machine / its operators do not have to combat outside forces, like gravity, to achieve a high quality fold. Since a top print machine does not use gravity to “drop” the panels toward the manufacturer’s joint, the machine needs a series of belts to fold the panels. These belts support the panel and assure an accurate fold. Some machine use “gauging rollers” to assist in the folding process reducing the chance for “rolled scores.  “A top-printing FFG is a folder gluer that CAN die cut but performs best in applications that need precise folds with simple die cut needs.” Due to the high control and support of the sheets, these machines can assure accurate folds and gaps at high speeds, up to 400 kpm!
  2. Works Well with Set While Run. On a set-while-run (SWR) machine, it is much easier for an operator to set the printing plates on the machine from the top, instead of the bottom, during production. A top printing SWR FFG doesn’t need a pit underneath to access the print sections, saving converters a large sum in machine price and installation costs,. Top Print SWR machines are also much safer without pits and reduces the risk of slip and falls.
  3. Less Challenging to Produce Quality Fold. As stated before, it is easier to achieve a high quality fold on a top-printing flexo folder gluer. This means, less experienced operators should experience fewer issues achieving precise folds. Reduce waste due to operator error with a top-print FFG.

Cons of Top Print FFG

  1. Not Best for Aggressive Die Cuts. Though ideal for quality folds, a top-printing FFG is not the ideal match for achieving aggressive or intricate die cuts. Considering a top-print machine die cuts from the bottom, the scrap is ejected above the boardline and can get blown back up towards the sheet and caught in the end product.
    anvil trimmer

    bottom die cutter with microgrind anvil trimmer

    Using a top-print FFG for minimal die cutting such as hand and vent holes is best. Most top print machines use ejector pins to remove the scrap from the die board (not the product). These pins and the die boards add extra cost to the tooling.  The user will need to determine if this additional cost is allowable depending on the volume of boxes produced and repeat orders.

  2. Doesn’t Work Well in Larger Size Machines. JUMBO flexo folder gluers accommodate large sheets, and the bigger the sheet, the more likely it is to drag on the floor when folding down on a top-printing machine. That is why Latitude Machinery and many other FFG OEMs stop producing top-printing FFGs at 50” and switch to bottom printers for their JUMBO (66” and over) lines.
  3. The Sheet Must Be Flipped Before Printing. Sheets coming off the corrugator have their outside liner facing down; on a top print FFG the print side needs to be facing up to print properly on the outside of the box. To do this, Converters will need to have a process to manually flip the box or invest in machinery capable of flipping the sheets before it enters the feed table.

Bottom Print Flexo Folder Gluer

A bottom printing flexo folder gluer prints from the bottom of the machine, folds the sheet up and die cuts up from the top. When a customer answers Rob’s question with “I want a die cutter that can fold” a bottom-printing FFG is the machine he recommends. This configuration offers some advantages and disadvantages, depending on your needs. Here are three of each:

Pros of Bottom Print FFG

  1. Best for Heavy Die Cutting. On a bottom printing machine, the die cutter is located at the top and scrap is ejected down, below the boardline. This configuration allows for scrap to fall getting very little of it in the finished product. Bottom printing machines are great for shelf-ready products and other die cut heavy jobs.
  2. Don’t Need to Flip the Sheet. For bottom print FFGs, the print side is facing the proper way coming from the corrugator, eliminating the need to flip the sheet prior to printing. This saves your operations time and money.
  3. Accommodates Larges Sheets. Bottom printing flexo folder gluers print from the bottom and fold the sheet upward. This configuration works well for large sheets, allowing more space for a clean fold. Bottom printers avoid this problem and can easily fold large sheets without worry.

Cons of Bottom Print FFG

  1. Not Ideal for Set While Run. Due to the added complications and cost of high board lines and pits, a bottom printing FFG is not ideal for SWR applications. For bottom printing SWR FFGs, the machine will need a pit placed underneath the print sections to allow operator access during production. This increases machine cost, installation costs and safety risks for operators.
  2. More Challenging to Achieve a Good Fold. For bottom-printing FFGs, we recommend a more experienced operator be placed on the machine considering there are more factors working against the machine to achieve a good fold. “Plowing” is a term used in the past to describe the fishtailing of the manufacturer’s joint. Heck, the machine’s folding rails were even called “plows” at one time.  Since the folding section does not support the panels during the folding process (especially after the panel is beyond “top dead center”, the panel could fall is a way to introduce rolled scores and inconsistent folding gap.folder gluer
  3. May Need a More Experienced Operator. A bottom print machine may need more attention from operators and require a more skilled operator to make corrections, mainly in the fold section. Adjustment of folding rails and rods based on board caliper and grade is required. These machines have a difficult time maintaining an accurate fold and gap at high speeds unless an attentive operator is at the controls.  An experienced operator understands the machines they work on and has more “finesse” in identifying and correcting issues in the machine.

A Folder That Can Die Cut or a Die Cutter that can Fold?

Now that you better understand the advantages and disadvantages of both top printing FFGs and bottom printing FFGs, we ask you the same question. “Do you need a folder that can die cut, or a die cutter that can fold?”…

We’d recommend purchasing a top-printing FFG if you have an order mix that relies on high quality folds, set-while-run production, minimal die cuts, newer operators and the sheets are not too large. If you’re running large sheets or heavy die cut jobs with minimal folding, we recommend a bottom-printing machine with an experienced operator nearby. Of course there are many other factors to consider, and our team is standing by to assist you.

Sun Automation is the exclusive representative of Latitude Machinery Flexo Folder Gluers and Rotary Die Cutters in North and Central America. Our team would be happy to partner with you in your search for a quality top or bottom printing flexo folder gluer that fits your operations best. Contact us today to discuss your production goals to get started.


Data Science, Machine Learning, and the Future of the Corrugated Industry

Data Science is the ability to take raw data, from a wide array of sources, and make it useful, actionable and valuable. Data science, IIoT and Machine Learning have recently come to the forefront of the technology revolution in corrugated, bringing unprecedented insight into the production floor and beyond. Though IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technology has been around for decades, IIoT technology custom to corrugated converting applications is just starting to enter the industry. As we step into this new territory, it is important to understand how these technologies work to fully capture the value it can bring to the future of your operations.

In 2021, Sun Automation unveiled a new corrugated IIoT platform, Helios – expert-driven IIoT and machine learning technology tailored to the needs of the corrugated industry. In developing this platform, we invested our time and resources into data science, IIoT and machine learning and what it could mean for the future of corrugated converting.

Here’s a brief overview of how these technologies work and the relationship they share with the success of your organization.

Live Monitoring

The first step to data science is capturing the data. To capture important data in corrugated, robust sensors and trackers are used to quantify your converting operations into numbers. Components such as the machine’s PLC, heat sensors, speed sensors, tracking software, and other data-capturing hardware help to create a clear picture of your operations in real time. During the live monitoring stage, the IIoT technology will capture and store the machine’s data and present this data to you through visual dashboards.

Since data science is only useful if the data it first captures is clear and accurate, it is important to check the integrity of your live monitoring system regularly to ensure the data it captures is indeed true. Though it is the most basic stage of data science, live monitoring is the foundation for the more complex, smart technologies to come.

Machine Learning

Humans learn to identify and navigate the world around us through experiences and recognizing patterns, often taught to us by others (like parents, teachers, mentors) – machines can now do the same.  As technology advances, IIoT platforms have acquired a higher level of logic and intelligence, through data science, allowing the software to learn how to segment the data into useful information, supervised and unsupervised.

Unsupervised Learning

As your IIoT platform begins monitoring the equipment live, it starts to understand the normal productivity levels, speed, temperature, alignment, and general quirks of the machine, on its own. Once the platform is aware of the normal patterns of your equipment, it becomes skilled to flag data that deviates from the norm. Without user input, the technology can tell which components deviated from their normal speed, temperature, alignment etc. at a specific point in time – hence “unsupervised learning”. Though the software has not yet learned what the anomaly means, it knows the metrics are out of the norm from what it traditionally records on that machine, and it brings the deviation to your staff’s attention.

As anomalies are flagged, production staff become more aware of the factors affecting the productivity, efficiency, and safety of their equipment, helping to prevent and minimize downtime. At this stage, anomaly detection is the first tier of IIoT intelligence – simply recording anomalous data with a question mark. Combined with the knowledge of a veteran operator, that is when supervised learning begins and the power of IIoT comes full circle.

Supervised Learning

Supervised learning takes IIoT platforms to a new level of intelligence, through user input. Just like veteran operators become masters of machines after decades of listening, tinkering, and learning, the more the platform observes and interacts with your machine and staff, the more valuable the data science becomes. As downtime and flagged anomalies occur, your staff can label the recorded data as events such as maintenance intervals, known equipment failures, sheet jams etc. in the platform. Combine this operator-labeled data with the metrics from the machine, and the IIoT platform will learn to identify the patterns that lead to known events and can notify operators of expected downtime. This level of artificial intelligence can provide insight to improve maintenance schedules, part procurement and ultimately equip your staff for maximum productivity and minimum downtime.

As anomalies are identified, solved, and labeled in the IIoT platform, through supervised and unsupervised learning, your current and future operators become more equipped with the knowledge they need to better manage the ups and downs of your unique operations. Machine learning is unique to each asset in your fleet and the data models are trained specifically to your operations, creating an intelligent digital blueprint for the success of your equipment. That is the beauty of data science and machine learning, the more experience the platform has with your equipment and staff, the smarter it becomes.

The Future of the Corrugated Industry

Data science and machine learning technologies could easily be the solution to many common pain points in the corrugated industry. With its ability to report data not readily understandable, identify the source of problems without operator intervention and predict machine failures from legacy data, an IIoT platform provides incredible opportunity for increased uptime, improved performance and a high ROI. Solidifying your future starts now. Since operator interaction with the IIoT platform is so critical to prevent future downtime, the time to invest in an IIoT solution is soon – before your veteran operators retire, so this recordable data is used for machine learning and benchmarking your equipment.

We believe the future of the corrugated industry involves personalized, artificial intelligence that works alongside your production staff to create the most intelligent, efficient and profitable systems. We believe, the future is Helios. Learn more about the Helios IIoT Platform, powered by Sun Automation, and calculate your ROI to see how data science and machine learning could impact your future in the corrugated industry.


Schedule a live demo today!


, , , ,

Why the Corrugated Industry needs Machine Learning Technology

As the capability to make industrial machines more intelligent improves, there are now more reasons than ever to invest in technologies that will future-proof your equipment. The retirement of many veteran machine operators coinciding with the influx of new, undertrained workers is at the root of many headaches for converters today. An increase in unplanned downtime, operator safety risks and machine maintenance costs are just some of the consequences of this staffing predicament.

However, the traditional operator challenges plaguing the industry these last few decades are issues that have been solved in many other manufacturing sectors through technology. So why not in corrugated too?

There are now IIoT (industrial internet of things) solutions designed to increase your bottom line and compensate for the qualified operator shortages in the corrugated sector. With remote monitoring, machine learning and artificial intelligence, IIOT can not only read and report your machine data, but over time can learn and predict maintenance needs to your production staff. This is the kind of visibility that allows staff to make more informed, strategic decisions for the betterment of your organization.

 Mitigate workforce challenges

As more veteran operators are rightfully entering retirement, converters are finding their skills and experience incredibly hard to replace. Their experiential knowledge acquired through many years of operating the same converting equipment may have never been passed down, walking out the door with some of your best people. As younger, less-skilled operators and maintenance technicians move into those positions, you may have noticed that your operations have become a bit more clunky and inefficient, since they simply don’t know the quirks and tendencies of the machines.

Corrugated IIOT technology brings the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to your production floor, providing actionable insight used to optimize your fleet operations and maintenance activities effectively. The software acquires a wealth of tribal knowledge as your team interacts with it, training the machine to later predict machine failures and suggest submitted resolutions – educating operators for years to come. In the age of endless information at your fingertips, it’s time to use that technology to capture and share key equipment knowledge that keeps your operators safe and your presses running.

Increase your bottom line

As your operators become more skilled and informed by IIoT systems, the results are simple: cost savings and reduced downtime. With the average cost of downtime at $1,000 an hour, according to industry benchmarks, you need to keep your unplanned downtime to a minimum to remain profitable. IIot software is capable of saving time and costs by notifying your team of optimal maintenance intervals, allowing your team to consolidate schedules for maximizing your technicians’ time. Additionally, the visibility provided by IIoT software allows your production staff to quickly identify machine anomalies and, overall, optimize your fleet and staff. Multiply these efficiencies across multiple machines, and your production floor’s ROI increases dramatically.

Connect and inform leadership

Visibility is the key to informed decision making. Being aware of your production numbers, unplanned downtime, maintenance schedules and more, is crucial to optimizing your production floor for efficiency. With corrugated IIoT software, your production staff have the machine-learning tools they need to capture and predict important events driving the productivity and safety of your converting equipment. However, without this technology, equipment knowledge tends to be siloed, maintenance schedules are based on tradition rather than data and your operations slowly fall behind the competition. Effective leadership is informed leadership and with the machine-learning technology of corrugated IIoT software, your staff will have actionable data to structure their fleet and team for maximum productivity and profitability.

The future is here

The cost of a single converter developing an IIoT machine learning software for their plant is simply unreasonable – it would take years to see your ROI. But unless you’ve purchased new capital equipment in the past few years, your existing machines may not be equipped with the technology needed to digitize your operations and data. That is why Sun Automation has created a IIoT, machine-learning solution for converters seeking visibility into their machine and operator performance – Helios. In 2021, Sun Automation launched Helios, a AI/machine learning platform that monitors, learns, and predicts important events driving the productivity, safety and profitability of your corrugated equipment. We are excited and eager to bring the power of IIoT to the corrugated converting industry! Visit the helios website to learn more, calculate your ROI with Helios and schedule a live demo >>> www.gohelios.us


Schedule a live demo today!



, ,

Premier Packaging Ups Capacity With New Latitude Machinery Investment

Article first published in the April 2020 issue of Board Converting News

About Premier Packaging

Premier Packaging began in 1994 in Louisville, Kentucky, as a single sheet plant. Increasing demand from the Indianapolis/Chicago region led the company to open its new facility in Indianapolis in 2016. From an order-quantity standpoint, the Indianapolis plant is far from the average sheet plant–its average order quantity is around 5,500 pieces,where most sheet plants are averaging orders of around 1,000 or 1,500 pieces. In the 2018 peak season between October to December, the company was producing boxes using a 50-inch Serenco, which was running seven days a week, 24 hours per day in Indianapolis. The staff was running shifts around the clock: two 10-hour shifts during the week and two 12-hour shifts on the weekends.

The ability to manufacture inside/outside print boxes has allowed Premier Packaging to meet the needs of the massive e-commerce market.

In order to reduce labor costs and the amount of overtime, and to meet the growing volume demand, Premier Packaging was in need of a machine that could produce very big truckload quantities for high capacity customers. Concurrently, they also required a machine capable of quick changeovers, as they field orders as small as 100 pieces that meet the needs of local mom-and-pop businesses as well. “We produce pretty much everything, from a full die-cut all the way up to inside/outside print boxes, regular slotted carton (RSC) boxes, full overlap (FOL) boxes, and beyond,” says Bryan Fitch, General Manager of Premier Packaging’s Indianapolis facility. “When we’re not in our peak season, we need to be able to change order to order so we can stay cost-competitive in the corrugated industry.”

An Investment in LMC

“We needed to invest in machinery in order to grow and keep our operating expenses down, and after installing our new Latitude Machinery Corporation (LMC) investment, the difference was immediate,” says Fitch. The Indianapolis facility was outfitted with a 3-color Latitude Flexo Folder Gluer PP1230. The increase in output since the changeover has been noticeable for the management of the facility and for the bottom line of the organization. Premier Packaging is able to run 37 to 38 million square-feet per month, while simultaneously decreasing the shifts they had been running. In the peak season of October through December of 2019, following the installation of the new LMC machine, the Indianapolis facility produced 25 percent more footage of corrugated while staffing only two weekday shifts.

“The Latitude machine has definitely helped our bottom line and has opened up capacity for us,” says Fitch. “In the past, a lot of items might have caused us to raise our inventory levels through peak season. But because of the speeds of the machine, the capacity it has and the quick turnaround time on setups, we are now able to get a lot more done in the same amount of time.”

The ecommerce industry is growing at 15 percent per year in North America–Amazon alone has more than 250,000 staffers in 110 facilities in North America alone. Premier Packaging’s investment in the Latitude machine helped them to meet the current needs of the e-commerce market while planning for future growth in this rapidly expanding vertical.

Support From SUN Automation

The installation of the new Latitude machine began in late August of 2019 with the goal of an October 1 start date. Because of the output demands of peak season for Premier Packaging, they needed to start off with a full understanding of the machinery so that they could run at maximum capacity and not compromise margin and output. Premier Packaging staff training with the SUN Automation Group and Latitude experts began early in the process, with the goal of maximum efficiency and profitability. Starting October 1, the machine was able to operate at top speed. This was a major factor in their record-setting three-month window during peak season in 2019.

Earlier in 2019, SUN Automation became the exclusive representative in North America and Central America for LMC., providing machinery, parts and support. LMC is a world-class manufacturer of corrugated converting equipment, specializing in flexo folder gluers and rotary diecutters. Known for its reliability, Latitude equipment is a global success with machine sizes ranging from mini to jumbo. The Taiwan-based company has partnered with SUN Automation to offer new and existing North and Central American customers like Premier Packaging the trusted service, support of a North-American based industry leader.

The intuitive Latitude machines are easy for the staff of Premier Packaging to use when setting up orders. And with the technology available with modern machines from Latitude, technicians are able to remotely access the machines to help troubleshoot in real time without always having to send a technician to the facility or explain solutions remotely. “The machine is very easily operated and self-explanatory. All of the buttons are self-explanatory–the dimensions and how to move the machine around are very simple,” says Dennis Wood, Director of Manufacturing at Premier Packaging. “Our crews picked up on the machine very well. And the communication with SUN Automation Group works very well. SUN has been very responsive–we have a 24-hour hotline to call if there are issues.”

The key to keeping the machine running at maximum efficiency is keeping it clean. The fixed-frame architecture of the Latitude machine, as well as the ease of opening up the machine for service and maintenance, keeps downtime to a minimum. Premier Packaging shuts the machine down for only six hours per week, typically Thursday morning or Thursday night. Timing straddles the shift changeovers, which means that crews from both shifts are able to split the cleaning duties up between them.

Helping Premier Packaging Deliver

Serving a wide range of industries and companies ranging in size from mom and pop to global brands have given Premier Packaging a reputation for quality and dependability. With its new Latitude machine and the training, service, and maintenance support from SUN Automation, Premier now has the tools and the capacity to continue to live up to its name.


Watch the customer testimonial video:


Post-Pandemic Advantages of the SUN625 Rotary Die Cutter

Operator shortages, outdated technology and the demand for high quality boxes are all known production challenges that have affected Box Makers for years. However, due to COVID-19 and the multiple ripple effects of the 2020 pandemic, unanticipated complications and increased severity of existing challenges have caused concern for many Corrugated Converters around the world. Now more than ever, facilities need converting technology that places a high priority on operator safety, ease of operations, box perfection, productivity, low cost of ownership, and ease of cleaning. Well, call our engineers clairvoyant because the SUN625 Fixed Frame Vertically Opening Rotary Die Cutter was designed with those exact advantages in mind.

“SUN Automation created the SUN 625 Rotary Die Cutter with the operator in mind – to provide them with easy job set up, reduced maintenance times, comfort of a safe production environment, and the ease of machine operation, all while management benefits from the SUN625’s high production volumes and lower cost of ownership.” – Eric Aulton, SUN Global Product Manager – Rotary Die Cutters

About SUN 625

The SUN625® RDC is not a typical rotary die cutter. It is a fixed frame, vertically opening, flexo printing RDC, capable of feeding, printing, and converting a 125” blank, and engineered for 24/7 production environments. SUN625 is the only fixed frame, vertically opening rotary die cutter on the market. The use of SunTrac vacuum transfer system overhead is the key to the open architecture and clear line of sight within the machine. Unlike traditional split line open/close systems, operators can easily and safely walk in, out, and through the SUN625, providing access to all internal components without disrupting auxiliary equipment. SUN625 features several of SUN’s leading machine components known for their performance and quality:


With the increased safety requirements and workforce shortages caused by COVID, the SUN625’s fixed-frame vertically open design is ideal for improving operator safety, production automation and cleanliness.

Operator Advantages: Ease of Operations, Cleaning & Safety

With the vertically-opening, fixed frame architecture, the SUN625 Rotary Die Cutter has a well-lit interior and boasts multiple features that make operating the die cutter much easier and safer for your team. While inside the SUN625, operators can easily communicate with each other, cleaning high traffic areas and performing set up and maintenance tasks safely and efficiently. High visibility within the machine’s interior dramatically improves safety, as operators can see if something or someone is in the machine and avoid major accidents. In addition, there are no exposed impression nips, protecting your operators from potential harm. Easy access to printing plates, ink systems, and other important production components, without disturbing the pre-feeder, allow for quick job changes and increased productivity. Also, cleaning the machine is easier, and now more important than ever, to keep your operators safe from COVID-19, as well as, improve sheet quality and output.

Integrated on all SUN625s, the SunSet® touchscreen operator interface is a fully automated solution to machine set-up. This system utilizes order storage to retrieve the parameters in which previous jobs were run and the high graphic operator interface makes set-up fast and simple. The system’s uncomplicated controls make training and using the interface easy for any operator regardless of experience or skill-set and comes standard with remote connectivity to provide support and upgrades by the SUN Service team.

Considering the shortages of qualified operators in the industry, now with the safety and staffing challenges due to  COVID-19, protecting your operators and maximizing their abilities is a job the SUN625 was engineered for.

Management Advantages: Productivity & Profitability

The SUN625 Rotary Die Cutter was engineered to be a versatile, low-cost, high-producing workhorse for the economic Converter. With the ability to run 200 kicks per minute / 12,000 sheets per hour, this true 125” RDC was built to withstand the demands of a three shift 24/7 high production plant, while keeping maintenance costs low. Management can fully utilize, not only the speed of the machine, but its wide range of capabilities: running everything from lightweight single wall with high recycled fiber to rigid double wall,  small sheets to large sheets, simple print orders to complex print orders, and single piece to multi-out patterns. The SUN625’s vertically-opening, fixed frame design, as noted earlier, allows for quick operator set up/maintenance  and cleaning, which minimizes safety risks, reducing downtime and increasing productivity and profitability. Notably, the SUN625 rotary die cutter costs significantly less than other competitor RDCs of similar features, uses less real estate within your facility, has a proven low part-failure rate and very low costs for replacement parts.

As management navigates the economy and industry during these unpredictable times, investing in converting machinery that is economic, efficient and profitable is a must.  The proven low cost of ownership over the lifetime of the machine, plus its sheet versatility and productivity features, make the SUN625 a profitable choice, with little risk for Converters, during these challenging times.

The Best Choice for A Promising Future

Purchasing a Rotary Die Cutter is never an easy decision. With the added factors of COVID-19, staffing shortages, safety requirements and more, choosing a rotary die cutter that both operators and management love is key to solidifying your future within the corrugating converting market. The SUN625’s architecture and machine features offer increased safety, cleanliness, visibility and ease of operations for operators, while being a profitable and productive investment for management. Contact SUN Automation Group today to learn more about this innovative workhorse and request a quote.




Open/Close or Set While Run: Which Flexo Folder Gluer is Right for the Job?

There are multiple quality Flexo Folder Gluer (FFG) manufacturers in the market, but not every machine offers the features you need to produce the boxes in your current or aspiring order mix, efficiently and economically. Auditing your print jobs and process aspirations is the key to understanding what machine features you’ll need to achieve your goals, for long runs or small orders. There are many things to consider when purchasing a Flexo Folder Gluer, and if your due diligence is not thorough, you could be making the wrong decision for your company.  Consider the following when deciding on the right capital investment for your order mix, your employees and your future.

Send us your order mix and production goals and our system can calculate which Flexo Folder Gluer size, configuration, color stations and machine features would generate the best ROI for your operations.

Long Run Print Jobs (> 5,000)

Flexo Folder Gluers have evolved into fast, powerful workhorses, capable of high speed converting of sheets, to meet the demand of the corrugated packaging industry. If primarily converting corrugated board in mass quantities, consider the following in your purchase of an FFG.

Open/Close Systems

If you are seeking a Flexo Folder Gluer to increase capacity and productivity and have few changeovers per shift, an Open/Close system may make the most sense for your operations. Open/Close systems do not allow operator access to the internal machine components during production. The configuration is either off and open for job changeovers or closed for production – there is no in between. These powerful FFG systems, like the Latitude P-Series, are built for speed and capacity, getting those large orders out the door efficiently and effectively.

In our experience serving box makers, we believe that an Open/Close FFG is best for printers producing 10 or less print jobs per shift. We’ve observed printers spending between 20-30 minutes preparing an Open/Close machine between jobs, and that downtime can add up if job changes become frequent. For example, let’s say the machine can produce an ROI of $1,000 per hour, and it takes operators 30 minutes for changeovers; with 10 job changes per shift, you would have about 5 hours of machine downtime, losing virtually $5,000 per shift. This could add up to a whopping 5+ million in loss value every year, assuming 24/7 operations.  That’s why speed, capacity and quality are the highlight of these converting workhorses, making them a smart option for converters with few job changes per shift.

Set While Run

Although Open/Close systems have been the system of choice for mass box production, some corrugated converters are finding that Set While Run machines can optimize their work force during long run orders.  We have witnessed Converters reduce the number of operators per shift, using Set While Run technology, while still maintaining their machine productivity and box quality.  During long runs on an Open/Close machine configuration, operators may have down time as they wait for orders to complete before setting the machine for the next job. However, with Set While Run, one press operator can float between multiple stations and prepare other machines for the next order in the queue. Printers taking advantage of this method can maximize their operators’ time on the floor and reduce downtime immensely.

Short Run Print Jobs (< 5,000)

As order mixes shift from millions of shipping boxes to seasonal branding vehicles, short runs have quickly become the money makers of the box industry… if you have the equipment to produce them efficiently. Orders of 5,000, or less, are now more common than ever and a Set While Run machine is the choice for this order mix. Here’s why…

Set While Run

For Corrugated Printers producing 10+ print jobs consistently per shift, we recommend Flexo Folder Gluers that are Set While Run. Set While Run technology allows operators to prepare unused print stations for the next job order, while the machine is still producing the first. Access to the plate cylinders, ink stations and other components are available while the machine is still in production. This allows operators to change plates, modify inks and prepare other consumables for the next job, without interrupting production. When a short run is done, the operator need only to perform a few simple tasks to begin the next order. With minimal downtime, ease of operations and high-quality printing and folding, Set While Run FFGs, like the Latitude PP-Series with inside printing capabilities, are a solid choice for dynamic printers producing small quantities throughout the days.

Long & Short Run Mix

But what if your order mix changes by season? What if it’s practically half and half? If throughout the year there is seasons of both long runs and short runs, a Set While Run machine is the best option for your operations. During seasons of small order quantities, the ability to set the machine for the next order, during production, is a must in order to remain competitive. When the long run contracts renew, having a machine that is powerful and fast is key to remaining productive and profitable. LMC’s unique/smart design make the set while run machine a very affordable option over the open close configuration without increasing the required machine footprint. The flexibility and functionality offered by a Set While Run configuration makes it a great hybrid option for converters who navigate seasons of large and small order quantities.

Custom FFG Generator

Purchasing a new Flexo Folder Gluer is a risky venture that converters take with the hope of solidifying their future within the box industry. SUN Automation is happy to assist you in your search for the perfect Flexo Folder Gluer for your order mix and your future. Take advantage of the SUN Custom FFG Generator – send us your order mix and production goals and our system can calculate which Flexo Folder Gluer size, configuration, color stations and machine features would generate the best ROI for your operations. For decades, SUN has provided quality corrugated converting equipment to the box industry with the parts and service support you know and trust. With the partnership between SUN Automation and Latitude Machinery, SUN Automation now offers quality Flexo Folder Gluers and other Latitude equipment to the North and Central American market. Latitude Machinery Corp. manufacturers Flexo Folder Gluers ranging from Mini to JUMBO, and are “probably the best machine as far as boxes of any plant we have in our company” according to Brian Fitch, General Manager of Premier Packaging, Indianapolis facility (View Customer Testimonial). LMC is a Taiwanese company located in the independent nation of Taiwan and a long-time ally of the United States. Speak with a Specialist to discuss your capital equipment goals and how we can assist you with Everything Corrugated Under SUN.

Copyright © SUN Automation Group®. All Rights Reserved.
12201 Long Green Pike, Glen Arm, MD, 21057
Phone: 410-472-2900 - Fax: 410-472-2907
100% Employee Owned