BY BARBARA NELLES AND BETSI ROBINSON
Throughout the machinery hall at Interzum Cologne in Germany May 5-8, exhibitors put a strong emphasis on speed and automation as a solution to rising global labor costs. And to meet the needs of big mattress producers operating in consolidated marketplaces, machinery suppliers offered efficiency improvements and more options for assembling entire production lines. Many introductions focused on assisting mattress makers in bringing production processes in-house, while at the same time simplifying—or “deskilling”—machinery operations.
As at past shows, mattress makers shopped for multifunctional border equipment and, this year, roll-pack machines, as well. Indeed, the proliferation of compression and packaging equipment to fill fast-growing e-commerce demands was difficult to miss at this show.
Fast, faster, fastest
Speed was a central focus at quilting machinery supplier Meca Srl, with headquarters in Olona, Italy, which featured a new 100-inch version of its multineedle quilter Inventio, billed as “the fastest quilting machine in the world.” Originally introduced at ISPA EXPO 2013 in a 50-inch width, Inventio quilts both panels and borders, directly from material rolls, not precut strips. Inventio quilters use the fully integrated Pegasus computerized control system. Meca’s new Target Nextra multineedle double chain-stitch quilter, with a working speed of 1,600 rpm, is “faster than the speed of light,” according to its tagline. Meca manufactures and sells eight Italian-made quilting machines and recently inked a deal giving Atlanta Attachment Co. Inc. exclusive distribution rights in North America.
Leggett & Platt Inc.’s machinery division Global Systems Group, which displayed more than 50 machines and work aids at the show, introduced Wildstitch, a “technology pack” for Gribetz V-16 and new Paragon quilters that speeds things up, increasing quilting throughput by as much as 25% without stressing the machinery.
The Carthage, Missouri-based company also showcased the new Porter EST-501 automated flange machine, a motorized, belted table for more productive flange operations. It’s equipped with a powerful PFM-4000 flanger.
“This is one of our most popular machines right now—it deskills the flanging operation, while increasing productivity and improving product quality and consistency,” said Paul Block, GSG vice president of international sales Asia-Pacific/sales strategy/product planning. “The EST-501 is designed to flange the thickest, densest mattress panels in the industry. It eliminates nonvalue-added labor and allows operators to train on and run the machine in a matter of days.”
GSG also announced a new partnership with Eton Systems, a Swedish company with U.S. headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, that specializes in helping manufacturers reduce indirect labor by eliminating wasteful handling of materials on the production floor and improving production flow of single pieces. GSG is integrating its systems with Eton’s to create work cells combining the two companies’ technologies and machinery. For instance, after a panel goes through the quilter and panel cutter, an Eton system can automatically pick it up and transport it to the flanging machine.
Machinery supplier FillMatic GmbH, with headquarters in Mannheim, Germany, used miniature “toy-shop” models of its broad offerings, which include automated handling and transport modules for mattress production lines. The company has designed and equipped entire mattress-manufacturing plants for major manufacturers around the world, said Erich Rudolf, head of sales.
Cologne, Germany-based E. Stutznäcker GmbH & Co. KG put the focus on a new prototype of the Mammut P2A, its double-headed, single-needle, lock-stitch quilter.
“Manufacturers want a single needle because they are interested in higher precision quilt designs,” said Nikolaus Fremery, managing director. “While the output is lower (compared with multineedle machines), you achieve greater artistry and more high-style bed looks.”
In addition, the company says its Mammut VMK chain-stitch multineedle quilter is now faster than ever. “It’s not just the quilting operation that is speeded up, the entire machine runs more quickly. Manufacturers are pairing it with the Mammut MPS 250 mattress-hemming system and the Stacker,” Fremery said. “It’s a robust three-part system that yields higher productivity and can run 24/7.”
Speed and innovation were top of mind at Bursa, Turkey-based Elektroteks, which featured quilting, border and packaging machines, as well as a mattress production line. The company singled out its KYK-S automatic tape-edge machine as “super-fast,” capable of producing 200 to 250 mattresses in an eight-hour shift. The company described its Falcon quilter as “the fastest quilter” for panel designs, with a continuous roll-feeding system.
Elektroteks’ sales volume has grown 10-fold in the past five years and it exports to 65 countries, said Serkan Guler, international sales director.
Bringing it home
“Equipment that allows manufacturers to bring production processes in-house—ones they previously sent to converters—is of growing importance because it gives mattress makers more control of costs, inventory and work-in-process,” GSG’s Block said.
Equipment innovations for sewing intricate bed borders have been scene-stealers at recent equipment shows and they continued to shine at Interzum Cologne. Atlanta Attachment showed off its new, semi-automatic Universal Dual Handle machine, which features bar tackers that can be adjusted to produce either vertical or horizontal handles of varying lengths. Dual heads, which lock in place and tack both ends of the handle at the same time, can be repositioned with the touch of a button.
“It gives the smaller to mid-range manufacturer some flexibility,” said President Hank Little. “We’ve had a lot of requests for something that isn’t fully automatic and is flexible.”
Atlanta Attachment also rolled out the Quilting Repair Machine with under-bed thread trimming controlled by an automatic presser foot. The machine, powered by a servo motor, is particularly helpful when working on large panels, Little said.
But it was the company’s new partnerships with Meca Srl and Bologna, Italy-based Aper Srl, that Little talked up most at Interzum.
“We are adding to our international staff and international presence,” Little said. “We are representing Meca exclusively in North America and Aper in North America, Australia and New Zealand. I refer to it as a strategic alliance.”
GSG answered the growing need to bring material lamination in-house with its Gribetz Strata, which adheres FR material, foam or fiber to rolls of ticking for borders or panels. The Strata operates using a dry adhesive that is easy to control and can handle materials up to 90 inches wide. The company also introduced its Porter International ZipCutter, an affordable flat-goods cutter that helps bring sewn-cover production in-house while eliminating labor-intensive hand cutting. The ZipCutter has a computer-controlled rotary cutter with omni-directional cutting capability. Along the same lines, GSG’s Nähtec NC1200 zipper sewing station efficiently joins two mattress cover halves with a hidden zipper, bringing zippered covers in-house for mattress makers. The sewing station is conveniently located at the center of the machine for ease of operation.
Maquinol Intelligent Machinery, based in Estarreja, Portugal, featured the Colmat Exacto, a foam-core production line that allows smaller manufacturers to mix and pour their own mattress cores in a variety of profiles.
“The system operates with a touchscreen panel and uses a Dow Chemical product that cures quickly without being sticky,” said Sumya Diaz, Maquinol sales manager. “We suggest you purchase six molds for this system. Others offer an injection system, but that’s more expensive and there is no waste with ours. It’s a small production line that allows you to adjust the density of the foam for a high-end, latexlike foam feel.”
‘Adhering’ to versatility
GSG introduced the Gateway GS-19E hot-melt glue system, a glue bridge equipped with multiple fixed and moving glue guns. The machine is part of a flexible, automated system that can be set up in different configurations to create foam-encased buildups or to laminate foam layers.
Wesel, Germany-based bonding machine specialist Lamit, which was acquired by Albrecht Bäumer GmbH & Co., introduced an innovative adhesive application system that combines two bonding processes in a single machine. With the Lamit Twinglue, mattress manufacturers no longer have to choose between water-based dispersion or hot-melt adhesives, according to the company.
Also new from Bäumer is an automated multifunction table that can be added to the existing base of Bäumer’s horizontal contour cutting machine, making it possible to separate foam blocks. Harald Kullmann, Bäumer sales director, said the table offers “superior precision and higher operating speed.”
FillMatic introduced the SRA gluing machine, which uses Simalfa 315 OF water-based adhesive, for economical and efficient mattress production.
This machine “completes our capabilities and is designed for one-of-a-kind mattress specialists building complex beds, who previously were applying adhesive by hand,” Rudolf said. The rugged SRA has conveyors with silicone belts, a press with automatic height recognition, adjustable compression and can be adapted to an existing line.
Elektroteks’ new FixET automatic hot-melt glue line has an average edge-gluing time of 20 seconds, according to the company.
Roll-pack machines to the rescue
Mattress makers looking for compression and roll-pack equipment at Interzum Cologne had a lot to choose from. Machines vary in capacity and speed, how they handle the compression and folding process, and whether they work with innerspring beds. The newest machines can add plastic-film overwrap to the compressed and rolled bed for more protection during shipping and handling.
The GSG Teknomac TK381/1 roll-pack system with automatic wrapping and compress-and-roll technology is not new but is dramatically faster and “a big part of the business now,” Block said. The high-speed unit compresses and, if desired, roll-packs foam or innerspring mattresses—as many as three pieces per minute. It also allows operators to adjust the size of the roll.
Another GSG machine, the Merello ME105 mattress-packaging machine, is the “fastest wrapper in the mattress industry” and able to package as many as five units per minute, Block said. It self-adjusts to accept varying unit sizes and has reliable Cold Seal technology.
The FillMatic RollPack, which was introduced in 1996, “is very popular right now,” Rudolf said. The machine flat packs or roll-packs mattresses in plastic film at a rate of one piece per 12 to 30 seconds.
Montemurlo, Italy-based Gruppo Grassi, which offers a full range of mattress machinery, said sales were brisk for its roll-packing equipment.
“We sold six roll packs in two days,” said Gianroberto Cioni, chief financial officer and export manager. “Our machinery is getting faster and stronger, and across the board, its automatic cycles remove workers from the process and reduce production time.”
The company’s top Line Vacuum Mattress system can roll and pack four mattresses per minute. Another Gruppo Grassi packing machine, the Variomatic Plus, has two exhausts for coordinating with either automated lines or manual labor. It works with foam and innerspring beds and will apply an additional polyethylene overwrap.
Dolphin Pack, with headquarters in Affi, Italy, displayed its full line of packaging equipment, including the new Ander Roll R roll-compression unit, as well as the new Mistral 3B MT Basic bagging machine, which works with all mattress sizes.
The two new pieces of equipment are simpler versions of Dolphin Pack’s premiere bagging and rolling machines and are targeted to lower-volume manufacturers, as well as regions where labor costs are not a growing concern, said Cris Verselloni, U.S. sales manager.
Mario Sala, principal of Sala Macchine Speciali Srl, based in Serengo, Italy, which specializes in compression and wrapping machines for mattresses, said many major U.S. bed manufacturers stopped by to see the company’s Italian-made wrapper and rolling press machines. First introduced in the 1980s, both types have been improved, Sala said. The press uses conveyors instead of rollers, and the equipment can be adjusted to the final diameter of the mattress. The machine also will apply a final film over the rolled bed, if required. The rolling press accommodates foam and innerspring beds and can compress and roll one bed every 20 seconds.
Speed and simplicity were the themes of Macau TaiWa Machinery Co. Ltd.’s new introductions for mattress manufacturers looking to produce their own pocket springs. The Macau-based company’s improved High Speed Pocket Spring Coiler churns out 100 springs per minute, according to sales director Nelson Wu, and its High Speed Pocket Spring Assembler offers zoning by wire, nesting or spring diameter. Both machines offer improved consistency.
“Simple is very meaningful to buyers nowadays,” Wu said. “We offer efficiency for mattress manufacturers.”
MPT Group, a machinery supplier based in Lancashire, England, showcased its improved Infinity Sleep Support System, a continuous-wire spring unit fabricator that now can produce units up to 7 3/4 inches tall that better adjust to the contours of the body, said Andrew Trickett, managing director.
MPT also rolled out its new Auto-Tuft, a fully automated mattress-tufting system capable of tufting as many as 250 mattresses in an 8-hour shift. The machine requires only one operator, virtually eliminating the need for material handling and features a horizontal feed suitable for all spring types, Trickett said.
The star of the show for machine parts supplier Jumpsource, with headquarters in Beverly, Massachusetts, was a knotting wheel replacement part the company fashioned for a spring-making machine. It’s a small but expensive part requested by a number of customers, said Sam Porter, vice president of operations.
At Interzum Cologne, Brighi Tecnologie Italia introduced several unique machinery lines designed to improve the process of manufacturing and packaging pillows.
“We’ve had requests for more automation and for products that can deliver more accuracy with details,” said Matteo Tagliaferri, export sales manager for the company, which has headquarters in Forlimpopoli, Italy. “Our customers are focusing more on the quality of the product in every stage of the manufacturing.”
The new Perfect Fill Line boasts a “100% accuracy preweight silo and filling station” for blown pillows with any filling, Tagliaferri said. Combined with Brighi’s new Easy Blow Line and its flagship Easy Pillow and Easy Bag lines, “We can take care of the entire process, basically from the bale of virgin fiber or the bag of down all the way to the packaged pillow in the box, without human intervention,” he said.
XSENSOR tweaks software for Asia, Europe
In its first solo showroom at Interzum Cologne, XSENSOR Technology Corp. introduced new features in its pressure-imaging software that specifically were targeted to consumers in Asia and Europe.
“It makes interpretation of the results easier to see and understand,” said Stephen Anstey, vice president of international business development. “We find that customers outside of North America can be less trusting of technology and want to know more of the ‘why’ and ‘how.’ You can zoom in, in real time, to review pressure statistics and there are explanations on screen that help interpret results, so you don’t need to know a lot about pressure mapping to understand.”
The Calgary, Alberta-based company also added a feature that combines pressure-mapping results for couples, so they can choose a bed that works for both of them.
Read each section of the complete Interzum Cologne report for mattress manufacturers:
(You are here) Rocking and ‘rolling’ in the machinery hall