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70th Anniversary Retrospective 1939-2009

Fife Corp.

70 Years of Manufacturing Excellence


hen the 1939 World’s Fair opened in New York City, World War II was erupting in Europe, and the Great Depression lingered on. While movie audiences sought escape watching a new fantasy, The Wizard of Oz, the World’s Fair lured people with promises of a better future. “Building the World of Tomorrow” was the theme, and one website describes it as “promoting…the unqualified belief in science and technology as a means to economic prosperity and personal freedom.” Meanwhile, 1,400 miles away in Oklahoma City, Irwin Fife also was helping to build the world of tomorrow. Working alone in his garage, he invented a web guide for a friend with a high-speed newspaper press. That was the beginning of Fife Corp., and the

company is celebrating 70 years of manufacturing products considered the “classics” of web handling and web inspection. Today, Fife is part of Maxcess, a holding company formed in 1989 by a group of investors and Fife executives. Their first acquisition was Fife. “Essentially we bought ourselves,” says Fife’s VP of Asia/ Pacific Ron Schmidt. Maxcess acquired Tidland Corp. in 1995 and MAGPOWR in 1998.

1939 at a glance Average cost of new house $3,800 Average wages per year $1,730 Cost of a gallon of gas 10 cents A loaf of bread 8 cents Average price for new car $700

1939 Irwin Fife invents web guide in his garage in Oklahoma City.

1940 Fife moves into a small building/ workshop in downtown Oklahoma City.

World War II begins in Europe. New York City hosts the World’s Fair. Television demonstrated at the New York World’s Fair and the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition. The Packaging Institute holds its first annual meeting. Paper napkins increase in popularity.

Guiding through Experience

Schmidt has been with Fife since 1976, which is not unusual for this company with many long-tenured employees. He knows the company and the industry well, moving from fabricator through customer service, sales, business development, mergers and acquisitions, and more. “Applying web processing equipment is extremely important, and you can’t just read a book or a magazine article and know how to apply it. It takes years of experience,” says Schmidt. “We have a group of individuals that have years—actually, decades—of experience. It’s a great comfort for a customer to know that if someone is standing there looking at your machine and has never encountered this application before, someone else in our organization has.” Fife has continued to lead the web guiding and inspection industry by engineering truly innovative products that increase throughput and reduce scrap. With

its full line of web guides, sensors, actuators, controllers, and web inspection systems, the company has allowed its customers to increase the efficiency and productivity of their machines. Getting these products to customers quickly and efficiently is a key part of the process. Which is where the ETO (Engineered to Order) Systems Group comes in. “The system is rules based,” explains Kevin Flynn, Engineering Design Manager for the Fife and Magpowr lines. “When a customer wants equipment, they can use this system to input web width, tension, all the variables, and the system will make a series of equipment selections suitable for that application. It automatically creates a quote, outputs 2-D drawings and 3-D models, and prepares the entire package. This has cut our process time from quote through order processing from weeks to minutes, that’s a lot of lean manufacturing!”

1941 The Japanese attack the US base at Pearl Harbor on December 7. America enters WWII the next day after FDR declares war on Japan.

1942 Paper makes important contribution in the field of military packaging, and the imperative need for developing packages of moisture, vapor-resistant materials occupies the technical research labs of converters’ plants.

1945 President Truman orders the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 1. WWII ends soon after.

1958 Fife introduces the automatic Edge Guide Power Unit Model HL BG, featuring Modular Corrective Action.

1948 The “doggie bag” makes its debut.

Converters who worked to develop special wartime packages and papers reach the peak of their accomplishments. Multiwall bag manufacturers learn new techniques working with wet strength papers, flexible sealing compounds for bag ends, acid-resistant threads, and water-proof adhesives.

1953 The Pressure Sensitive Tape Council is founded.

1956 The first all-paper clothing is produced.

1957 The Society of Vacuum Coaters is founded.

And what about after sales? “We have historically made a premium product, and we have supported it both from an application and technical standpoint, assuring customers that the system we recommend for them is correct for their application,” says Mike Flannigan, Director of Sales Operations for Fife and Magpowr. He notes with pride that there are web guide controllers that have been in the field 20 to 30 years or more that are still working. “We repair them and we replace when customers want to upgrade, but that is probably the best example I can give of the quality we build into our products. The notion that what we sell has to be reliable and perform its task day in and day out has not changed a bit in 70 years. Technology has evolved tremendously, of course, but the fundamentals are the same.”

1959 First meeting of the Flexographic Technical Assn. is held.

1960 Fife adds the Kamberoller web guide and the Shifta-Roll stand to its growing line.

A Second Home

There’s a theme that runs through conversations with people who work at Fife’s 100,000-square-foot building on the far north side of Oklahoma City. Actually, there are several: They point with pride to their products, they love the challenge of their work, and they use the word “family” when describing their employer. Flynn recalls, “…When I came to Fife, one of the first things I noticed is that it is a very family-oriented company. People were interested in me, not just what I do here. Many friendships are

formed here. We care for each other; we look out for one another. And, because of that, everybody will go the extra mile for everybody else.” “You’re not just a name or a number here, you’re truly a person.” When someone retires, Flynn says, not only does current staff attend, but retirees from 10, 15, or more years ago show up as well. “They still feel connected.”

1961 The “Bax” is introduced, a hybrid container, that incorporates the features of both a bag and a box.

A film pouch with a built-in drinking straw is introduced.

1965 Paperboard carriers for soft drink bottles debut.

1962 An eastern firm introduces the first rolls of toilet paper printed with patterns as well as color.

1967 The industry introduces a packaging and labeling system in which drugs are packaged by individual dose in an airtight plastic bubble backed by a paper/foil laminate bearing a label with the medicine’s name.

1966 A laminated aluminum foil liner is introduced in breakfast cereals to seal in freshness and flavor.

“A unique Oklahoma business with a rising star” When John Heard started at Fife Manufacturing in 1957, the then junior in high school thought he was only taking a summer job. “I had taken machine shop, and my teacher considered me a good student and recommended me,” Heard recalls. After meeting Irwin Fife and his small staff, Heard quickly realized that he had found not only a second home but a unique Oklahoma business with a rising star. Heard fondly remembers the small company of his youth. “There was Mr. Fife; Walter Ferrell, the bookkeeper; our supervisor, Al Mulligan; five or six people that worked out in the shop in the assembly area; and one shipping guy,” Heard recalls. “On Fridays we would all go and help the shipping department get everything out of the door.”

“When we reached $50,000 in profits for the year, we had a party,” he laughs.“We thought that was really big back then.” After working the summer and parttime during his senior year, Heard knew he had found a future at Fife, and a special bond with Irwin and his dedicated staff. “Irwin Fife was a gruff man, but he had a heart of gold. He treated me like one of his sons.” After leaving Fife in ’63 to serve overseas in the US army, Heard later returned to Fife, with his old job waiting for him (and at the same salary plus cost of living increases). Once back at Fife in 1965, Heard moved into research and development, where he helped design many of the innovative products that have made Fife a leader in the industry. In 2005 Heard retired from Fife Corporation after 48 years, and as he puts it, not because he didn’t love his job, but because it was his time. “It was really a great job,” Heard says proudly. “It led to a lot of good things.”

1968 Carton converters hold the first meeting of the Paperboard Packaging Council (PPC), calling it “a most successful convention.”

Assn. of the Nonwovens Fabrics Industry (INDA) is founded and the World Packaging Organization nears reality as global support for its formation is received.

Ron Schmidt agrees. “We’re a very family-oriented company. We know why people work—to take care of their families, and that’s important to us.” “The work ethic in this part of the country is unmatched,” says Mike Flannigan. “People take pride in what they do, and people take very seriously the task at hand.” Fife not only treats employees like family but considers itself part of the larger family of community, supporting a number of charitable organizations and educational programs as well as the local and state Chambers of Commerce. “The company has been a part of this area for many years,” says Flynn. “Many of the employees, including me, serve on various community boards. Myself, I serve on the board for the local vocational school and have been a mentor along with some of my engineers for a local high school Robotics team.”

Supporting Research

When Irwin Fife made his first web guide, his concept was to be on the leading edge at all times and make every effort to build a product that was durable and maintainable. That means research and development, and toward that end, Fife served as a cofounder of the Web Handling Research Center (WHRC) at Oklahoma State University formed in 1986. The mission of the industry/university cooperative research center, located in the Advanced Technology Research Center on the OSU-Stillwater campus, includes analysis and design software packages for winding, wrinkling, and transport. “Centers don’t usually last more than five years,” says Karl Reid, dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at OSU and director of the WHRC. “For something to be going on this long with this much of a world-wide impact is pretty special.”

“We’re a very family-oriented company.”—Ron Schmidt, Fife’s VP of Asia/Pacific

1969 Humans land on the moon… and so does flexible packaging. Film/foil pouches—developed for turkey, ham, and beef dinners—are taken on the Apollo 11 voyage.

The Disposables Assn. holds its first meeting, reporting success.

1971 Fife founder Irwin Fife dies

Rising material costs put many converters out of business; 13 corrugated plants close in ’71 due to rising costs and severe competition.

1973 The Vacuum Metallizers Assn. votes to change its name and expand membership to include the flexible coating industry. The new name: Assn. of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators (AIMCAL).

Global Champions

Fife’s beginnings may have been in an Oklahoma City garage, but by the 1960s the company was on the move around the world. Global facilities now include a new plant in China, the beginnings of a facility in India and a joint venture in Sao Paolo, Brazil. And when Fife goes global, they do it right. “When we open a facility elsewhere in the world,” says Flynn, “we don’t just send people in and out for training. We have what we call ‘champions.’ For example, I’ve taken on the championship of engineering and production for the facility in China, so I go to China approximately every four to six months and spend about a month there with my extended family, teaching them and setting up the processes and launching equipment.”

Forging Ahead

A company that gets it start during the Great Depression is, quite literally, born to meet challenges. But Fife has always strived to stay ahead, reports Schmidt. “One of the things that has

1975 Fife goes public

Fife moves into a new 100,000-sq-foot facility on the far north side of Oklahoma City.

Maxcess international opens engineering and production facility in China.

always insulated us is that we’re in so many different markets. We are in every industry that processes material in a continuous form. From paper, plastic, and wrapping paper to screens on flat-screen TVs, carpeting, metal

in file cabinets, drapes, and more. So when one industry is down, another usually is up. “What helps in addition to our diversity is that we sell components that are small but necessary. It really

1978 The first CMM is held January 23–26 in Philadelphia.

The folding carton industry posts its first $2-billion year in 1977 and sets a record for tonnage volume as well, Paperboard Packaging Council’s president tells the 1978 annual meeting in Chicago.

doesn’t take a lot of money to buy one of our components, and you must have it.” Schmidt likes what he sees ahead for the industry. “I think the future of web processing is very bright. I don’t know of and can’t foresee a faster, more economical way to process flexible material than in a continuous form. There are always new challenges, a new or different type of material to process, a new or different type of processing line, new applications, new customers, and new markets. We invest heavily in R&D and typically introduce two to four products per brand every year. It’s never boring!” For over 70 years Fife has done what successful companies do. It has grown, it has moved, it has diversified. But its basic mission remains true to Irwin Fife’s dream. When asked why he thinks Fife is not only still here but remains at the forefront in its markets, Ron Schmidt concludes: “We treat people right and we know what we’re doing.”

1981 A tamper-resistant decal and label stock is introduced that cannot be removed without leaving the word “void” within a stubborn silver residue.

The first Converflex is held in Milan, Italy.

1982 Seven people in the Chicago area die after taking ExtraStrength Tylenol laced with cyanide. The tragedy leads to new tamper-resistant packaging, as Tylenol is reintroduced in a bottle with an inner foil seal over the mouth, a tight plastic seal surrounding the cap, and a carton with glued flaps.

What the Future Holds

Predictions from a Product Manager


hen product manager Ron Suenram joined Fife in 1979, hydraulics was the industry standard for web guiding equipment. As a progressive company, Fife began work in the early ’80s to move away from hydraulics and introduced more electronic-based equipment to the marketplace. But as Suenram explains, the new technology timing was not right for the industry. “We’ve always been ahead of the curve. We introduced some controllers in the early ’80s that were just too advanced for the market. So our initial entry with an electronic system wasn’t all that successful,” Suenram admits. “But as we moved into the mid and late ’80s, we started to see our customers’ interests moving away from hydraulics.” “We introduced a digital controller in the early ’90s that was extremely successful for us,” says Suenram. “It

cut the necessity for additional junction boxes and relays, because we now had more processing horsepower.” With the success of the digital controller and the approach of the new millennium, the next steps for Fife included networking and realtime data capture. Suenram recalls: “We started looking at Ethernet in the late ’90s, early 2000s. In 2005 we introduced a controller that was Ethernet based, the same Ethernet that you and I know in the office. Our engineers were able to find ways to make the Ethernet work and to control the manufacturing environment, just like in the office.” “We’ve all become data junkies. We get on the Internet, we all know Google, and we try to do research as quickly as we can. The same thing is happening in the controls world. Operators and engineers want to use those processes.

1984 Converting Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) is founded to promote, advance, and represent the interest of converting manufacturers in the industry and markets served.

1986 Fife is a cofounder of the Web Handling Research Center at Oklahoma State University.

The first spirally wound aseptic can is developed.

RadTech is founded.

1988 Fife introduces Video Inspection Systems.

1987 Gravure Assn. of America is founded.

They want that data available as well, so the necessity for networking is certainly there, and it is what’s driving the advancement of our product line.” As for the future of the Fife product line, Suenram contends that it will be all about size. “It’s got to get smaller. Compare it to the cell phone. Remember “Get Smart” when he would talk into the shoe? Cell phones were that big. We’ve seen over time cell phones go to something that was almost too small to something that is a bit more manageable. The same thing is there for us in control technology,” Suenram says. “Real estate is probably one of the most expensive things anywhere—on the side of a machine or in a controls cabinet. It’s important that you are taking up the least amount of space, because it’s dollars for that particular machine builder or customer. “

In addition to the miniaturization of equipment, Suenram also sees opportunity to develop more diagnostic-based tools. “That means being able to come up with solutions for not only the web guide but for letting somebody know there is a problem with a web guide or a problem in an area where a web guide is working too hard. I think that’s going to benefit everybody who is trying to figure out where you need to go for help in the maintenance area or trying to improve the process.” Suenram also predicts vast improvements in sensing technology. “There are machine vision sensors that are already out there, but they are more inspection-based products. When you stop to think what a human eye can see versus what a camera can see, there certainly are differences. The eye still has certain advantages,” says Suenram. “I see a lot of time being spent developing sensors that can see like the eye can see. It’s inevitable.” And when that happens, Fife will be there.

1989 The Maxcess holding company is formed by a group of investors and Fife executives. Its first acquisition is Fife Corporation.

The First Labelexpo Show in the US is held at the O’Hare Exposition Center in Rosemont, IL. A Bacardi liquor gift carton, believed to be the first completely holographic package, is a co-winner in AIMCAL’s Packaging & Label Competition. Sharing the honors is a wraparound label for a Vidal Sasson squeeze tube, another industry first, converted by Spear.

College of Guiding

A Conference Week Event at Maxcess University


tudents can select an individual course to improve their specific operational needs or attend all the sessions. Industry experts from Fife, MAGPOWR, Tidland, and more will teach students how to make the most of what they’ve got, or help them to determine what improvements they actually need. This intensive training event enables students to improve their knowledge and process by learning advanced web handling techniques.

Training modules lineup Monday: College of Tension Tuesday: College of Slitting Wednesday: College of Winding Thursday: College of Guiding and special walkthrough of setup to end-product production with DiTrolio Flexographic Institute

1993 According to the “State of the Industry Report” conducted by the Flexible Packaging Assn. (FPA), even though flexible packaging product shipments fell by 2.7% in 1991, converters’ production levels were up.

Women in Packaging holds its inaugural meeting during SouthPack at the Georgia World Congress Center In Atlanta.

Web guiding basics and control theory

This is a discussion of the different types of web guide applications, which fall into three primary categories: Unwind, Intermediate (Process), and Rewind guides. Categories are broken down further with a discussion on offset pivot guides, steering guides, end pivoted guides, and up/down stream sensors. Also covers what to consider when installing a guide as well as what to do and not do. The different types of control systems—electro-mechanical, electro-hydraulic, and pneumohydraulic—are presented along with: Unwind Guiding, Rewind Guiding, Intermediate Guiding, End Pivoted Guides, Guiding using Down Stream Sensor Edge Guiding, Chasing-Systems, Center Guiding with and without Centerline Shift, Electromechanical, Electrohydraulic, and Pneumohydraulic.

1995 Maxcess acquires Tidland, a manufacturer of slitting equipment, air shafts, and chucks headquartered in Camas, WA.

Troubleshooting web guide applications and control systems. The Maintenance worker’s guide

Attendees will gain real-world knowledge in troubleshooting web guide controllers, guide structures and sensors as systems and as individual modules. Instructors for this course will have a Field Service Engineering background, permitting the course to be taught from real-world experiences. The coursework defines the key troubleshooting techniques used to quickly diagnose and isolate problems to the specific module of a guiding system. These techniques will significantly enhance your abilities to ensure minimal downtime due to maladjustment or failures of guiding system modules. Additional techniques will be taught


1996 Maxcess acquires MAGPOWR, a manufuacturer of web tension and torque control equipment, how headquartered in Oklahoma City. ®

Maxcess University is a a learning resource for the web handling industry. Combining hands-on learning opportunities and online resources to improve the web handling process, the University provides the expertise of Fife, MAGPOWR, and Tidland, as well as other industry experts throughout the web handling industry.

for troubleshooting the specific modules in a less demanding offline environment. The material will cover the various types of guide

1999 Fife introduces first electromechanical actuator capable of shifting loads up to 8,400 pounds, with no additional amplifiers required, and LRC Offset Pivot Guide for Wide Web applications.

1998 Congress passes a bill that benefits converters of food packaging, their suppliers, and their customers. The FDA modernization Act (FDAMA) will speed up the process by which food packaging materials are cleared for use.

control systems: electromechanical, electrohydrualic, and pneumohydraulic. Coursework includes break-out lab sessions where students gain hands-on experience in applying these techniques to real-world problems. Students will be tasked with diagnosing problems to the module level, physically replacing the defective module, and performing the required calibration and set-up procedures to get the system back in full operation.

Selection and application of web guide controllers Modes of operation for the CDP01, D-MAX and Polaris controllers will be presented, including when and how to use them. Input and output specifications for the different controllers will be discussed as well as accessory equipment that expands their functionality. Example system configurations using the controllers with other equipment will be shown. Techniques and examples will be presented for networking controllers to each other and to customers’

Understanding web guide movement.

2000 Fife introduces a laser-based sensor for web operations: Lazer*Wide. The new sensor is capable of operating on web widths from 1â „8 inch up to 200 inches without moving parts or operator intervention.

2001 Fife introduces the SE-38 First*Edge Sensor, the first thresholdbased edge scan sensor that eliminates the effect of opacity variations in nonwoven materials.

Other College of Guiding classes include: The 10 rules of web guiding Identify the cause of a misbehaving web equipment, including. Operating Modes Input and Output Options, Controller Specifications, System Configurations, and Networking Accessory Equipment.

Principles and selection of web sensors

Various sensor technologies will be discussed in relation to different sources versus detection methods and what technologies work for different

Determining what kind of web guide you need.

2008 Maxcess China opens.

2005 Fife introduces D-MAX, the first web guide that speaks plain English, with powerful features to provide the highest level of guiding accuracy in the industry.

See what happened during the day of guiding at Conference Week 2008!

applications. The technologies will be broken down into analog versus discrete and when it is best to use one over the other. Applications that use narrow band sensors with sensor positioners will be compared to wide band sensors. Also covered will be Source Technologies, Detection Technologies, Sensor Positioners, Edge and Center Guiding, Web Width Measurement Applications, and Sensor Selection.

Understanding web guide accuracy.

2008 Maxcess launches Maxcess University, a learning resource for the web handling industry. Combining hands-on learning opportunities and online resources to improve the web handling process, the University provides expertise of Fife, MAGPOWR, and Tidland, as well as other industry experts throughout the web handling industry.

Former president and CEO Doug Fife, son of founder Irwin Fife, passes away.

2009 November, Mack Visit Brooks Exhibitions Ltd. for more news. (MBE) announces the acquisition of CMM from PennWell Corp.

















I am a Print Shop Manager of a small flexographic printing company. I received a phone call at 9:00 pm from one of the press operators that the edge guide had stopped working. We are extremely busy, printing around the clock. We don’t have a maintenance crew at night so I went to the plant to see if I could help. After looking at the guide, I decid-

call at 9:00 pm from one of the press operators that the edge guide had stopped working. We are extremely busy, printing around the clock. We don’t have a maintenance crew at night

so I went to the plant to see if I could help. After looking at the guide, I decided on a whim to call Fife just in case someone was in the office late at night. To my surprise I reached a 24 hour hot line. Within 5 minutes I received a phone call from a technical support person. He walked me through some diagnostic tests only to to discover that it was simply a bad wire I was able to repair myself, saving 10 hours of production before the morning maintenance crew came in. Not only is Fife the leader in guiding systems, their customer support is second to none. These two reasons will keep me a dedicated customer. I would like to personally thank the technical support gentleman who helped me last night but I didn’t catch his name.

ed on a whim to call Fife just in case someone was in the office late at night. To my surprise I reached a 24 hour hot line. Within 5 minutes I received a phone call from a technical support person. He walked me through some diagnostic tests only to to discover that it was simply a bad wire I was able to repair myself, saving 10 hours of production before the morning maintenance crew came in. Not only is Fife the leader in guiding systems, their customer support is second to none. Sincerely,







These two reasons will keep me a dedicated customer. I would like to personally thank the technical support gentleman who helped me last night but I didn’t catch his name. Sincerely, Brian Goodman, Clear View Bag Company

A Maxcess International Company

A Maxcess International Company


By Associate Managing Editor Debbie Donberg

of inspecting it before unless they pulled it off. A UV strobe light will allow them to inspect this printed matter at full production speeds.” Features and more features are what Lance Shumaker’s customers are looking for, says the president of Advanced Vision Technology, Atlanta, GA ( That’s because the consumer product companies are asking for more. “One example is on-line color measurement,” says Shumaker. “Their customers don’t want you to just take a spectrophotometer reading at the end of the roll; they want to know throughout the run what the color’s doing and what the consistency is.” He adds, “Another feature our customers want is automatic pre-registration, especially in CI flexo. Also, plate pressure control at the makeready stage where you can get plate pressure and anilox pressure automatically and faster than you can do it manually.” Shumaker predicts makeready for inking eventually will be the “third leg of the stool.” “We have preregistration and plate pressure control. When you add makeready for inking, you’ll have all the components to make the press a closed loop process control system and have much more consistency over the print quality.”

The future of web inspection is better and better software, Chiricosta believes, meaning “trend analysis over days, weeks, months. Are you getting more of a particular kind of defect, little gels or black specs, etc., during the day, during the night, on Mondays or Tuesdays, second shift, first shift, summer or winter? Do you get gels when you run certain types of plastic, perhaps at a certain temperature?” The software even allows paper mills to send a converter a record of defects to help slitter or rewinder operators plan ahead. Scott Durfee, district manager at Maxcess Intl., which includes Fife Corp., Oklahoma City, OK (www.fife. com), says web inspection customers today are looking for more reliable systems, higher resolution capability, systems that are easier to use, and auto registration. “A number of things are driving these changes, including a higher level of quality expectations from customers, increased cost of raw materials, especially in plastics due to the price of oil, and an increase in process work, although this is beginning to taper off.” Both Durfee and Shumaker agree a crucial segment for web inspection is pharmaceuticals, where a missing character on a label can have dire



orting good from bad is a pretty basic part of any manufacturing process, and according to Bob Chiricosta, marketing manager at Cognex, Natick, MA (www.cognex. com), that’s why most converters begin the process of investigating web inspection. “They’re simply by sorting good from bad, and they think that’s wonderful,” says Chiricosta, “but then they begin to realize they can use this tool to stop making the bad material. And they can increase their yield, which is where they really make money, because they no longer make good and bad material—they make all good material. If they get a streak, they can stop it before they make thousands of linear yards of material with a streak in it, because they’re going to know it instantly.” That’s why, says Chiricosta, “web inspection is not only increasing, it’s exploding!” The hot niche of security is making inroads at Unilux, Saddle Brook, NJ (, explains president Mike Simonis. “In UV security printing, where they’re adding phosphorus into the inks, they can’t see the web with visible light, so they had no way


Getting it Right, the First Time S

InPrint video web inspection from Fife Corp.

consequences. This is where 100% inspection is required, Shumaker notes. “In most wide web uses, you’re not going to stop a press, so sampling is suitable. But pharmaceutical labels must be perfect.” Ron Suenram, product manager for video web inspection at Fife, says today’s web inspection includes smaller video web inspection systems that are completely selfcontained and can be moved easily between presses. “Also, quality is higher, components are more robust, and new technology like cameras and lighting components provide a more accurate depiction of the moving web.” Of web inspection systems in general, Durfee says, “Most converters are dealing with lower profit margins than ever before; they need to find a way to produce less scrap.” And sorting good from bad is only the beginning.

Reproduced with permission from the January 2005 issue of Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER (PFFC). © Copyright 2009 Penton Media Inc. All rights reserved.


Upgrade the Old, Bring in the New!

Noven Pharmaceuticals turns to Maxcess as a resource to upgrade and streamline its coating and laminating operations.


oven Pharmaceuticals may not be a household name, but the patented creation of this 500-employee company helped revolutionize the way people receive medication. Eighteen years ago, Noven opened its doors and soon after developed a method of transdermal drug delivery it later would license to pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis and Procter & Gamble. Today, Noven is a world leader in the production of the transdermal estrogen replacement patch. With a new transdermal patch product—methylphenidate (for treatment of ADHD)—Noven Pharmaceutical’s transdermal development continues to be revolutionary. However, to accommodate its expanding high quality product lines, the company had to increase efficiency by revolutionizing the equipment on its production floor,

By Associate Editor Nsenga Thompson

which was home to two reliable coating lines. According to Will Jackson, technical manager, one key challenge that Noven’s production team faced with its existing coating lines was the lack of commercially available replacement parts for the equipment.

A Change of Plans

Planning to replace the two coating lines with new equipment, Noven’s executive team met with Maxcess Intl. while visiting PackExpo Chicago in 2004 to discuss possible solutions. Noven asked Maxcess to visit its Miami operation with the goal of helping in the decisionmaking process. But when the local Maxcess district manager examined Noven’s existing lines, he soon discovered that significant gains in production capacity could be achieved by rethinking the existing process line and integrating new equipment.

Noven Pharmaceuticals fine-tuned its patch manufacturing process with products supplied by Maxcess Intl.

To achieve its production expectations of reduced downtime and waste in a cost-effective manner, Noven decided to add a new 30-ft coating line

in addition to upgrading its existing lines, utilizing solutions from all three Maxcess brands: MAGPOWR, Fife, and Tidland.

Reproduced with permission from the September 2006 issue of Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER (PFFC). © Copyright 2009 Penton Media Inc. All rights reserved.


Using MAGPOWR CYGNUS PID tension control, Noven retains precise load cell/tension sensor control to ensure uniformity without wrinkles.

The project began with the two existing coating lines receiving complete upgrades to take advantage of newer technology. The existing MAGPOWR tension control system was updated to MAGPOWR’s Versatec and Cygnus systems and TS series load cells. All controls then were integrated into a DCS (distributed controls system) with touchscreen controls. All Fife pneumohydraulic guides were updated to Fife electromechanical models, controlled with a CDP-01 web guide controller, and integrated into the DCS touchscreen control system. Tidland’s cantilevered shafts were changed from button and lug styles to the external element design, and Performance Series knifeholders were added. Jose Lima, director of manufacturing operations, comments on the huge benefits that have resulted from the upgrades. “Standardization of the equipment has led to a reduction in the number and variation of spare parts, streamlined maintenance, and the ability for operators to move between multiple machines without additional training.” He also is pleased with the coating lines’ fully automated performance. “There is no human factor of subjective intervention, so runs are consistent through an entire shift as well as through shift changes. This consistency is critical in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. The


Retrofit Benefits Performance

Crucial point location of control processors for guiding, chasing, and tension yield easy local access for fine-tuning the process, in addition to providing simple integration through central PLC automation. Products shown: Fife web guide controllers and infrared sensors with a wide proportional band.

faster production process moves smoothly from setup to line speed.” Another challenge addressed was tension control in the lamination process. According to Carlos Gonzales, technical supervisor, “I learned that our tension and guiding system is what it’s all about. With the great brake system that we implemented and the guiding system, we have better tension throughout the lamination systems.”

Reproduced with permission from the September 2006 issue of Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER (PFFC). © Copyright 2009 Penton Media Inc. All rights reserved.


Recent technology investments in converting equipment, including the Fife offset pivot guide with web guide controller, fulfill engineering design concepts as well as the pharmaceutical necessities that are paramount in manufacturing a high quality transdermal delivery system product. Reproduced with permission from the September 2006 issue of Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER (PFFC). Š Copyright 2009 Penton Media Inc. All rights reserved.


Noven says Tidland safety chucks provide quick mount/dismount on roll shafts with sealed internal bearings and clean room compliance. Here the dermal material has just left a chill section, and scrap is being rewound after the die-cutting process. Reproduced with permission from the September 2006 issue of Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER (PFFC). Š Copyright 2009 Penton Media Inc. All rights reserved.


Making the Patch Vivelle-Dot is said to be the smallest estrogen patch in the world. It owes its small size, excellent adhesion, and low irritation profile to Noven’s patented DOT Matrix technology. The company’s transdermal patch is comprised of a blended adhesive and release liner substrate. The adhesive is prepared in a clean room environment and then transferred to a coating line. The adhesive is then coated onto a release liner and laminated to the backing, resulting in a final product to be applied to the patient. The specially formulated ingredients are prepared in a manner that concentrates the drug and optimizes adhesion, which allows Noven to develop smaller, more wearable patches without adding irritating enhancers. The company’s research and development team, led by Juan Mantelle, developed DOT Matrix technology in-house. In addition to the Vivelle-Dot product, Noven says, DOT Matrix technology permitted the company to develop the first (and what was for five years said to be the only) two-drug patch approved in the US (CombiPatch).

Integrating the New

In addition to the successful overhaul of its existing lines, Noven brought in a new, 30-ft proprietary coating line. “The main concern was the cost of floor space, which typically is $500 per square foot in pharmaceutical manufacturing,” Lima explains. “The local Maxcess representative brought in Partek Automation, an equipment OEM, to oversee the integration of equipment into an entirely new process line.” An internal team at Noven designed the concept of placing

Noven Pharmaceuticals uses a Fife web guide controller with ultrasonic sensor to guide two webs to the sealing nip prior to oven/dryer.

the dryer over the unwind and rewind sections to maximize the use of space. After the initial installation, Maxcess provided ongoing technical support as requested. Jackson has been pleased with the expertise Maxcess offered Noven throughout the two-year process. For him, it’s been a valued working relationship. “We’ve been working well with the Maxcess technician. If we want to upgrade something, we tell him this is the problem we have, and he’ll come in and assess the job. Once we purchase [the upgrade], he comes in again. We have a pretty good working

relationship as far as working out any bugs. Once he knows what our problem is, he lets us know our options, and then we can choose from those options.” For Noven, the results of upgrading and bringing in a new machine definitely have met expectations. Jackson comments, “We always had a great process. We lived with some of the problems with the old equipment, and basically we’ve enhanced what we had. We now have more control of the web, less mechanical breakdown, and faster setups.” With its coating lines upgraded, Noven Pharmaceuticals can

continue to focus on its core business—the next revolutionary development in transdermal drug delivery.

Converter Information Noven Pharmaceuticals 11960 SW 144th St., Miami, FL 33186; 305/253-5099;

Supplier Information Maxcess Intl. (Fife, MAGPOWR, and Tidland), Partek Automation,

Reproduced with permission from the September 2006 issue of Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER (PFFC). © Copyright 2009 Penton Media Inc. All rights reserved.




If you build it…

An extensive press retrofit lets Starport Technologies move into RFID-label converting


y family grew up in the label business,” says Jeff Nedblake, principal and managing partner of label converter Starport Technologies LLC in Kansas City, MO. “My grandmother started the business in 1933, and it was operated by the family until the sale of Package Service Co. to York Label in October 2007. Before the sale, the RFID (radio frequency identification) production was spun off into a separate division in March 2007. This division became Starport Technologies LLC.” Starport, working with The Information & Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC) at the University of Kansas, has been granted the right to manufacture and market RFID tags using patented RFID technology developed at the university. “We’ve negotiated a long-term, exclusive license allowing for Starport Technologies to use the University of Kansas’ technology for the production of numerous By Contributing Editor Barb Axelson

tag designs into consumable formats for metal and plastic liquid-filled containers,” Nedblake explains. “The KU tag is another important tool in our expanding range of RFID solutions. ITTC researchers found an innovative solution to address the metal/liquid problem, which we commonly hear from customers. [The high dielectrics of liquid and conductivity of metal can create malfunctions for the RFID label/ reader relationship]. This technology will give our customers a variety of terrific new tools to manage their assets.” Starport makes two types of RFID tags—Portunus and Adamas—which are said to work on metal. Portunus is 2 x 4 in., made of polycarbonate to withstand rugged environments. Adamas is made of high-density polyethylene and measures 21⁄2 x 5 in. They both feature 0.06-in. copper backing and adhesive tags, with inlays in the label. The assettracking tags are used in machines, medical equipment, laptops, and

On the Tamarack Products RFID-applicator section of the Nilpeter press, retrofits include a Fife offset-pivot web guide (Symat 25, Polaris control, and SE-31 ultrasonic sensor).

Reproduced with permission from the July 2008 issue of CONVERTING Magazine. © 2009 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.




Retrofit overview A.To maintain tension of the pressuresensitive PET label stock, the retrofitted Nilpeter F3000 label-press unwind now uses a MAGPOWR Spyder tension control, PS90 power supply, a MAGPOWR CL1-50 load cell, and DTM. B. For extreme side-to-side accuracy in positioning the p-s label stock into the first print station, a web guide for the existing unwind was upgraded to a Fife Symat 50, a Polaris control and SE-31 ultrasonic sensor. C. In the downstream Tamarack Products, Inc., RFID applicator, a driven rewind station was added and fitted with a Tidland Series 650 roll-centering shaft. D. The new laminator unwind stand was outfitted with MAGPOWR tension controls and load cell, etc., similar to the existing F3000 unwind. Side-to-side web position is controlled by shifting the entire unwind stand using a signal from a Fife SSA-12 web guide. Also a Polaris control, SE-31 ultrasonic sensor and a Tidland Series 650 roll-centering shaft were added.

equipment for the US Department of Defense—to name a few applications. Nedblake says, “Our tags are not so much a product as a system.” According to Nedblake: “A lot of customers we deal with are in their first steps, doing betas or pilots. All of our pilots have By Contributing Editor Barb Axelson

Left to right: John Migliazzo, principal with J&J Converting Machinery; Brad Nedblake, Starport Technologies production manager; and Jeff Nedblake, Starport general partner; with the retrofitted Nilpeter F3000 press.

been successful. There’s a range of those who are testing; the numbers will come. The tags can be read from 25 to 30 ft and are the highest performing tags in the market.”

Local collaboration key

So how has this fairly new company, composed of five people at

present and operating in a 10,000-sq-ft facility, come to this rather impressive point? Retrofitting played a large part in revving up an existing Nilpeter F3000 printing press to produce the meticulously aligned RFID labels, which involve multiple layers of expensive material laminated together to form a single piece.

Larry Johnson, Starport vp of manufacturing and R&D, researched the options and worked with John Dignam and John Migliazzo of J&J Converting Machinery in nearby Grandview, MO. The two Johns, both of whom are mechanical engineers, had

Reproduced with permission from the July 2008 issue of CONVERTING Magazine. © 2009 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.




Item-level RFID sales to top $8.26 billion in 2018 It used to be thought that item-level RFID meant little more than tagging very low-cost retail items—something to do last of all. However, it has become big business and far more profitable than many other RFID sectors because it gives excellent payback to everyone, not just retailers, says a new study by UK consultancy Research and Markets (www. reports/c93221). That group forecasts that item-level RFID business worldwide will rise from $251.8 million this year for systems including tags to $8.26 billion in 2018. Detailed forecasts are given in the study, including number of tag units sold over the next 10 years, average tag price, and tag value, in addition to systems value. More than 100 case studies are provided in the study, such as mass-retailer Marks & Spencer in the UK using more than 100 million RFID tags to date to tag clothing and increase sales by reducing stockouts. Another example is clothier American Apparel, which is doing similar item-level RFID work and reporting sales increases of 15 to 25 percent when all items are available on the store floor.

worked together before launching their six-year-old company, which specializes in used and rebuilt label presses, equipment brokerage and rebuilding, press service, machinery moving and installations. Although J&J often starts with used machinery, in the course of the rebuild they upgrade a machine’s productivity by adding components such as tension controls, UV dryers, and AC motors and drives. In 2004, a controls engineer joined their team, and the use of servo-driven motors and PLCs further expanded the capabilities of the supplier’s rebuilds. By Contributing Editor Barb Axelson

A range of components

Together with Johnson, J&J spent four to five weeks on the project, including design, engineering, ordering components, and building an additional unwind and frame. Actual work on the press totaled two or three days in-plant at Starport’s facility. In total, Starport needed an unwind, web guide and tension controls (supplied by MAGPOWR and Fife) and a core holder (Tidland) with five edge guides (Fife). According to J&J’s Migliazzo, “We gave Starport a new capability. Even a brand new machine would have had to be customized for them. They saved a sizeable amount of money.” Johnson estimates that new equipment would have cost between $400,000 and

$500,000, but the retrofit was less than 10 percent of the cost. Starport makes other RFID labels as well, including basic supply-chain tags (“slap-and-ship”), and is coming out with a new foam label this summer, priced under a dollar and tested

with KU. Neblake says, “It’s not as rugged, but it’s more flexible, made of 1⁄8-in. foam, with a gap between the metal and the RFID inlay.” It looks as if revamping older equipment can also help revamp an entire business.

Converter Information Starport Technologies LLC, 816.891.9944, fax: 816.891.6790,

Supplier Information J&J Converting Machinery, 866.823.9900, 816.285.0917, MAGPOWR, 800.MAGPOWR, Fife Corp., 800.639.3433, Tidland Corp., 800.426.1000, TAMARACK Products, Inc., 847.526.9333, www.tama

Reproduced with permission from the July 2008 issue of CONVERTING Magazine. © 2009 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Over 70 years ago, Fife pioneered the modern web guide. Since then, we have continued to lead the web guiding and inspection industry by engineering truly innovative products that increase throughput and reduce scrap. With our full line of web guides, sensors, actuators, controllers, and web inspection systems, you are sure to increase the efficiency and productivity of your operations. For more information about Fife Corporation and our web/strip guiding and web inspection systems contact: USA Fife Corporation P.O. Box 26508 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73126 Phone: 405.755.1600 1.800.639-3433 Fax: 405.755.8425

EUROPE Fife-Tidland GmbH Fifestrasse 1 65779 Kelkheim / Ts Germany Phone: (49) 6195.7002.0 Fax: (49) 6195.7002.933

ASIA 328-1 Sanno Cho Inage-Ku Chiba City, Chiba Pref., Japan 263-002 Phone: (81) 43421.1622 Fax: (81)43421-2895


Maxcess International Companies Europe (49) 6195.7002.0 Asia (65) 834.1998

Guiding • Inspection 1.800.639-3433

tension control 1.800.magpowr

SLITTING • winding 1.800.426.1000

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Fife 70th Anniversary Retrospective  

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