This significant investment – purchased from Sultzer Metco – has enabled the company to develop its own coating standard, now being marketed under the brand name T-Coat+.
The system, incorporating specialised gases (including hydrogen), is among the first to be installed worldwide for anilox manufacture. Commissioned over a four-month period at the end of last year, the system operates in clean room conditions and incorporates robotics to ensure total consistency of the coating process. Another feature is self-diagnostic software that alerts the operator to any error in coating parameters during the process.
In fact, the word ‘consistency’ is the key. It crops up time and again in any discussion with Sandon’s MD, John Millington.
Asked about the benefits offered by this new line, he replies: ‘It’s not just a question of the standard operating procedures and coating parameters employed, but the actual consistency of the product from roll to roll. From our tab sampling procedures we carry out a continual programme of statistical analysis to determine a confidence and capability datum for future reference. That’s why we invested in the diagnostic system that alerts the operator to any malfunction.’
When it comes to the quality of coating on laser-engraved ceramic anilox rolls, John again remarks: ‘It’s a question of consistency. Sandon is totally focused on this important factor. Everything we produce is statistically analysed to ensure that laser engraving can to be carried out to the very highest and consistent standard.’
The Sultzer Metco equipment is a triplex system. However, Sandon has purchased the hydrogen gas option to replace the existing helium gas. ‘This hydrogen system,’ John explains, ‘offers a number of advantages such as improvement of coating consistency, an increase in hardness when required, and a reduction in porosity levels.’
As well as improving coating consistency, having an in-house facility (rather than relying on an outside contractor) reduces stock levels and shortens lead times. In addition, it’s allowing Sandon to explore and develop other products.
‘To demonstrate our growth, and in accordance with our five-year development plan, we’re already discussing the purchase of a second thermal plasma system,’ John reveals
Targeting the South African market
So far, sales of laser-engraved ceramic-coated anilox rolls to South Africa have been a small percentage of Sandon’s business. However, this market is now being targeted. ‘We believe we can support and service the South African market,’ John continues, underlining last year’s appointment of Robert Blythin to handle sales of Sandon products in this region.
‘We believe we can bring products into the South African market to enable printers to improve quality; extend print latitude with a reduced inventories of anilox specifications; and improve overall efficiency – ultimately helping them to improve bottom lines,’ John maintains.
It’s also John’s and Robert’s intention to expand business into the rest of Africa in the coming years.
‘Our strategic plan for South Africa is to become the region’s number one supplier of anilox technology within the next three years,’ is John’s bullish summing up.