BY BARBARA T. NELLES
Machine makers tout new technology for improved quality, consistency and speed
If bedding manufacturers invest in the latest equipment available from machinery suppliers, mattresses and foundations soon will slip off assembly lines and into wrappers at a higher rate of speed—and with every interior component perfectly formed, aligned and adhered, and every sewn seam and radiused corner smooth and even.
That is the future BedTimes editors glimpsed as they toured machinery booths at ISPA EXPO 2016 March 9-12 in Orlando, Florida. Manufacturing equipment is one of the exhibition’s biggest draws and this one did not disappoint when it came to digital-age solutions to building beds with maximum efficiency and minimal waste.
Trends that were nascent several years ago—think automation, robotics and even ergonomics—are firmly mainstream now.
At this year’s show—the largest ever—there were more machines designed to reduce operator touchpoints, all but eliminating the likelihood of human error and injury, plus “de-skilled” equipment meant to greatly reduce training time. Also widely available: Touchpad operation of complex machinery, remote plant monitoring via web-based applications and new ways to reduce or reuse post-industrial waste.
Sleep products makers interested in e-commerce—and there were many—chose from a broad range of multifunctional roll-packing systems. Let’s begin there, in this overview of some of the latest machinery and technological innovation.
On a roll with roll packing
Suppliers in every product category placed heavy emphasis on servicing the growing e-commerce segment. In machinery, that interest translated into plenty of roll-packing equipment.
Global Systems Group, the machinery division of Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Inc., displayed the updated TK 381/1 Teknomac Automatic Roll Pack System that automatically wraps then compresses and rolls mattresses constructed of foam, latex, Bonnell springs and pocket coils. The compressed and sealed units either exit the system for flat packing or move on to the roller. The system can accommodate the optional TK 390 folding unit for larger beds that need to be folded before rolling. The high-speed, conveyor-fed TK 381/1 system handles as many as three pieces per minute. It has a patented roll-diameter adjustment mechanism that reduces products to minimum shipping sizes.
Dolphin Pack Srl, a 30-year-old packaging equipment specialist with headquarters in Affi, Italy, offers a range of equipment for wrapping, vacuum compressing, rolling, folding and over-wrapping foam slabs, mattresses and other items. The company’s equipment is both fast and quiet, capable of handling as many as three pieces per minute, said Dalila Isalberti, Dolphin Pack export manager. Certain roll-pack systems can be equipped with a folding device to neatly fold pieces prior to rolling.
At ISPA EXPO, the company highlighted the Mistral 3B MT+Press+Ander Roll Basic packaging line, which launched in 2015. With sensors that automatically identify product dimensions, the modular, automated set-up is intended for small to midsize mattress makers. It handles foam, latex and pocket-spring beds.
Dolphin Pack also announced it’s hiring a sales force to cover the United States and Canada, and is opening a branch office in Charlotte, North Carolina. Previously, its products were sold through an agent. The company also is investing in an enhanced after-market service operation, Isalberti said.
“Everyone is looking very closely at e-commerce,” said Hank Little, president of machinery major Atlanta Attachment Co. Inc., based in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
In response, Atlanta Attachment offers the Auto-Pac 1390HCA, an automatic mattress-packaging system. The Auto-Pac promises high throughput, a 60-ton hydraulic press and highly consistent rolling that doesn’t stress the leading edge of the bed, according to the company.
The Auto-Pac can do everything, including conventional mattress bagging, but is targeted to e-commerce boxed bedding with its compression capability and optional modules for turning, folding and roll packing. The packaging system offers variable compression heights and has optional capability for programmable diameter settings. The unit preserves the integrity of the mattress and its cover, yielding a positive consumer experience when the bed is unpacked in the home, Little said.
Elektroteks Ltd. produces a full range of mattress manufacturing and packaging machinery. At ISPA EXPO, the company highlighted its newest roll-packing system, the ET-Roll-300, which wraps, compresses, seals and rolls foam and pocket-spring mattresses.
According to Orhan Guler, vice president of the Bursa, Turkey-based company, the machine is fully automatic and offers extremely high efficiency. “Mattresses in all sizes are compressed with 50 tons of hydraulic pressure before rolling,” Guler said. “We also are in development on a folding system for the ET-Roll-300.”
The ET-Roll-300 does away with hand bagging of beds and also functions as a mattress wrapper when used without compression, according to the company. The system is suggested for use with polyurethane foam, latex or pocket-spring mattresses. It self-adjusts for different mattress sizes and allows the operator to adjust the roll diameter.
C3 Corp. is an engineering firm and machinery supplier located in Appleton, Wisconsin. During ISPA EXPO, it announced the expansion of its Wisconsin facilities and continuously demonstrated its new high-throughput roll-pack system, the RCR 1000.
“Pocketed coil mattresses are a large chunk of the market, and this machine helps them compete in the e-commerce space,” said Mark DesJardin, C3 sales and marketing coordinator. “Because of our paper industry background, we were able to engineer absolute consistency in the fold and in the size of the rolled package—over and over again.”
The RCR 1000 compresses, neatly folds and rolls mattresses. A compressed, folded and rolled queen size will slip into a 15-inch-by-15-inch-by-40-inch box, DesJardin said. The company’s machinery runs open-source software and uses universal replacement parts.
Mert Makina, an equipment supplier based in Kayseri, Turkey, offers the versatile M-2100 Roll & Flat Mattress Packing Machine, a semi-automatic roll-packing machine. It, too, handles every type of mattress, from foam to springs. Its hydraulic press exerts up to 60 tons of pressure to compress beds.
Pocketful of news
The current popularity of pocket-spring mattresses is bolstered by the fact that many of them are roll-pack friendly. As the use of pocket springs grows, equipment for producing them grows too—evolving to allow everything from faultless ultrasonic welding to the use of multiple coil types within a single unit.
Lian Rou Machinery & Equipment Co. Ltd., based in Guangzhou, China, specializes in pocket spring and packaging machinery for the bedding industry. It featured several innovations in pocketed coil machinery at ISPA EXPO.
The LR-PS-DL Pocket Spring Machine is a coiler that produces a tiered pocket-spring unit with ultrasonic welds. The shorter top row functions as the mattress comfort layer, while the lower gauge, taller coils beneath it form the supportive mattress core.
Lian Rou also introduced the LR-PS-W, a pocket-spring machine capable of working with two types of wire gauge to create zoned mattress cores and a firmer seat edge. The machine can be programmed to change both the diameter and the height of individual springs.
Macau Tai Wa Machinery, headquartered in Andar, Macau, also specializes in spring forming machinery. It placed its focus on the new, super-fast TWM-PS140 Pocket Spring Coiler. The unit produces 140 springs per minute, or 40% more than the previous model. In addition to faster speed, the machine features see-through glass panels and is available with a rust-resistant aluminum finish.
The company said its patented coilers use sophisticated servomotors, are extremely efficient to operate, and form and wrap a wide range of coil heights using failure-proof heat sealing.
Sticky subject: foam cutting and bonding
Foam-cutting equipment has evolved to handle all of the new foams and gel foams used in today’s beds, while adhesive lines are doing away with hand spraying. Foams in different densities and with extra ingredients can make a mess of cutting blades and cutting machinery—and are just more difficult to handle and to cut, suppliers say.
ESCO (Edge-Sweets Co.), based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, produces foam fabrication and sewing equipment, but focused on innovations in foam equipment at the show. It’s an area in which customers’ needs are rapidly evolving, the company said.
“We are a 100-year-old company and, for a long time, our clients were happy with basic technology,” said Rick Seely, executive vice president of ESCO Automated Cutting Systems. “But the introduction of advanced foams, as well as gel foams, means that you need tougher machinery to do the job.”
ESCO’s high-speed, extremely precise HTX 51-88 horizontal foam slitter slices a wide range of polyurethane foam blocks into sheets. The company also touted its Profilematic CNC Vertical Wire Saw, an automated cutting system that frees up operators to perform more value-added duties in the plant.
All the company’s automated equipment operates with ESCO proprietary software that’s updated annually and can be customized to customer requirements. The company is open to suggestions when it comes to design and functionality. “We listen to our customers and because we own the software, we can tweak things and incorporate their ideas,” Seely said.
The immense popularity of foam components and cores goes hand in hand with the need for efficient equipment for adhesive application. It’s an item that was on many mattress manufacturers’ shopping lists.
Atlanta Attachment offered the new, labor-saving Rail Glue Machine 1967-AX-L that constructs foam encasements without glue guns and hand spraying. Adhesive is dispensed automatically through applicators that paint glue onto foam rails in a hands-free operation. The machine has a small footprint, is fast and efficient to operate, and is easy to clean up, according to the company. The unit can be programed to apply glue to one or both sides of rails, as well as on alternate rail ends.
Terry Borchard, director of sales and operations for Bäumer of America Inc., based in Towaco, New Jersey, (the U.S. sales unit for Albrecht Bäumer GmbH & Co. in Freudenberg, Germany) said his company is focusing on its Lamit bonding machinery.
Thanks to its acquisition of Lamit in early 2015, Bäumer now offers a complete lineup of equipment for foam-bonding processes. At the show, it featured the Bäumer Lamit Twinglue and the Lamit-HRB-PUR bonding line. (See story on below.) Bäumer also specializes in the use of robotics to feed, place, assemble and stack foam components.
Factory of the future
GSG made use of robotics when it displayed the versatile Gateway GS-19E hot-melt glue system (capable of building foam encasements or laminating foam layers) with the Gateway MB-45 Pick and Place Robot. The MB-45 will load a conveyor from two stacks of materials and the machinery duo can significantly increase material handling efficiency, according to the company.
“This is true automation on display, as the MB-45 unit can pick up a foam sheet and place it on the GS-19E to be automatically positioned, then conveyed through the glue bridge,” said Mike Miller, GSG president of sales and market development. “It greatly improves throughput and quality, while de-skilling the operation.”
Not all automation requires the use of robotic arms. In automated sewing systems, GSG displayed the TK Automatic Border Line. It is three or four independent Teknomac machines working in unison to feed materials off rolls. The system then automatically cuts and sews closed, decorative borders that can include ribbons, tapes, vertical or horizontal handles, over-locked edges, brand labels in the over-locked edge, or a law label in the closed seam of the border.
“The line offers incredible automation that drastically reduces labor and keeps consistent, high-quality production coming through the system, with only one operator loading materials,” Miller said. “This is truly ground-breaking technology.”
MPT Group, a machinery major based in Bacup, England, launched a fully automated tape-edge line at ISPA EXPO. The new Matramax Auto tape-edge machine eliminates manual handling of mattresses and, when integrated into a modular conveyor system, yields increased plant productivity. Among its many features, Matramax Auto has a high-speed chain-stitch sewing head, touchscreen controls, variable speed control and auto-flip facility.
Mert Makina is a pioneer in automatic production lines in its home country of Turkey, said Pinar Yaltir, Mert Makina international sales executive. “We are specialized in (installing) a fully automatic mattress finishing line, automatic hot-melt glue line with conveyor system, and other turnkey projects, as well as providing technical services and assistance after closing the deal.”
“Imagine producing a mattress within minutes to spectacularly lower your operational costs and increase the quality of the product,” Yaltir added. “Our team makes that dream come true. We have the experience, equipment and the crucial know-how to assist customers.”
Certainly, keeping automated lines on schedule and running smoothly is a top priority for sleep products manufacturers.
GSG created Greenlight XT, which provides automated equipment performance and plant maintenance reporting. The web-based tool takes the guesswork out of machinery performance and allows key managers to remotely monitor plant production via a platform that is accessible from any computer or smart device.
Greenlight XT gives management the ability to “analyze performance of individual machines within all facilities, providing production metrics that include variables such as production count, percent of run time versus downtime per machine, delays and much more,” Miller said.
He added: “Machinists and engineers embrace Greenlight as it does away with spreadsheets, clipboards or other inefficient reporting methods, and provides real-time maintenance alerts. This type of technology is becoming more important as companies evolve in their production techniques, monitoring and reporting. Best of all, Greenlight can be added to any new or existing machine without the extensive programing required of similar systems.”
Easy does it
Operator ergonomics are a growing concern on the factory floor because well-designed machinery reduces operator fatigue and injury, and speeds production.
The 1331BC Automatic Ergonomic Foundation Cover Stretch and Staple machine from Atlanta Attachment takes a labor-intensive manufacturing step and reduces it to two steps. The company says it lessens the likelihood that operators will develop carpal tunnel syndrome, a common condition that can be caused by the repetitive manual stapling of foundation covers.
“The 1331BC foundation stapler is selling very, very well at this show,” Little said. “The machine can pay for itself in a year.” The easy-to-use stretch and staple machine accommodates all mattress sizes. With one turn of the foundation, the 1331BC automatically stretches and staples foundation upholstery to all four edges of the bed base. The operation is repeated to attach the dust cover. The system has an output of about 60 units per hour for both operations, and 120 units per hour for foundations, only.
Paul Block, GSG vice president of sales strategy and product planning, said GSG’s Mattress Master OPTIMA is a hot seller because of its ease of use. The semi-automatic machine takes the pain out of tape-edge operations. It’s equipped with a strong turning arm, a flip device and motorized belt tables, making the tape-edge process far less strenuous, more precise and more ergonomically safe for the operator, according to the company.
“The ergonomic system de-skills the operation at a tremendous value and will help give straighter tape lines and smoother corners, while keeping the operator working at peak efficiency,” Block said.
Today’s mattress makers are drawn to “anything related to de-skilling operations, reducing personnel training time and increasing throughput,” Little said. Nowhere was this trend more evident than with sewing equipment.
For instance, Atlanta Attachment’s new Automatic Panel Serger and Flanger 1317A, with its Serial Bus Control system, offers electronic edge guiding for straight seams, automatic corner sewing with adjustable radiuses, thread-break detection, a conveyor table, and a heavy-duty five-thread, safety-stitch head.
“Once you load the panel, the machine runs itself,” Little said. “A single operator can run two machines at the same time. Once the operator advances the panel for automatic sew, the result is far more consistent, with perfectly even corner radiuses.”
And then there is the Porter International EST-501 ErgoSmart Table from GSG. It’s a motorized belt table equipped with a choice of powerful sewing heads for serging and flanging operations.
“The duo greatly de-skills the flanging operation while increasing productivity and improving consistent product quality,” Miller said. “Operators can master the flanging process in a matter of days on this machine, rather than years required in learning manual methods. It is designed to flange the thickest, densest mattress panels in the industry and it reduces nonvalue-added labor.”
Easier—but still fancy—decorative borders are within reach, too, with MPT Group’s new BordaTac S2 Simulated Side Stitching Machine. The BordaTac S2, which was unveiled at ISPA EXPO, creates “the best hand-stitched border effects on the market today,” said Andrew Trickett, MPT international sales director.
The BordaTac S2 stitches borders from 7 inches to 17 inches wide and is equipped with two or four Pfaff heads with Swinging Needle Technology. The machine features automated batch production, as well as automated tack position: The user can select a width and tack configuration and the machine will automatically reposition the heads with no mechanical set up required.
MPT also launched the revamped PFH-50 Automated Handle Maker, now with thread-break and material run-out sensors. The unit has a high-speed guillotine cutter and chain-stitch sewing head. It’s available with an optional touchscreen display.
“The PFH-50 is available in a range of formats to suit any client’s budget,” Trickett said. “So, if you’re looking for a basic system and a machine with a full range of features, including batch controlling, the PFH-50 has something to offer everyone.”
All of these sewn pieces have somewhere to go in the plant. They can fly there with the Eton Mattress Production System from GSG, an overhead material-handling system installed and operating throughout GSG’s machinery space at ISPA EXPO. By placing RFID chips in each item, plant managers can easily track production data.
“The Eton system helps increase profits, while shortening lead times, and ensures optimal workflow,” Miller said.
Perfection in pillows
The new Easy Blow pillow line from Brighi Tecnologie Italia, headquartered in Forli, Italy, processes, fills, finishes and packages feather and fiber pillows at a high speed. Each pillow is preweighed to receive just the right amount of fill.
Brighi designs modular pillow production equipment that can be purchased separately or integrated into a single system. Its pillow equipment produces all standard U.S. pillow sizes and also handles U.S. law labels. Business is flourishing, and the company has updated its equipment to meet the needs of the U.S. market, said President Alessio Brighi. “We’ve had major growth with year-over-year sales doubling for two years in a row,” Brighi said. “And 35% of that business is in the U.S.”
The company is servicing that business with a new U.S.-based technical team that specializes in providing custom solutions and automation engineering for Brighi customers. A new U.S.-facing website, BrighiTechInnovation.com, recently launched in support of those efforts.
This is hogring heaven
“Mattress makers shouldn’t be without this high-capacity hog ring tool we’re introducing here at ISPA EXPO,” said Mark DeBlase, director of sales and marketing for Vertex Fasteners, a division of Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Inc. “This new tool holds 300 hog rings—three times the typical amount—so it increases plant productivity because you’re not stopping production as often to reload.”
Clean-up is a breeze
D.R. Cash Inc., with headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, added to its collection of build-up tables with the latest version of the BT15 Foam Encasement Table. The table features adjustable walls on all four sides to completely enclose and stabilize any standard-size mattress, from twin to king. On one side, a drop-down wall allows for easy mattress removal. The stainless steel table top has a “release coating” that makes glue clean up easily with no solvents required.
Bäumer introduces hot-melt roller bonding
In March, about 100 participants from around the world visited the headquarters of Albrecht Bäumer GmbH & Co., in Freudenberg, Germany, for the launch of the Lamit-HRB-PUR bonding line. The new system uses innovative roller bonding—in place of nozzle-gun bead application—to apply PUR, a class of single-component, polyurethane hot-melt adhesives used to assemble mattresses.
Standard polyurethane, viscoelastic or latex foams move along a conveyor under a rotating roller that applies the heated and reactive PUR adhesive. An optional conveyor, the Lamit-CT, can position additional foam sheets onto the already bonded layers.
Bäumer, a manufacturer of machinery and equipment for the foam industry, acquired the product portfolio of bonding machine manufacturer Lamit in January 2015.
The event at the company’s headquarters also included demonstrations of three additional bonding production lines, as well as presentations by adhesive manufacturers. The focus was on new technologies and adaptations of adhesive coating systems for mattress manufacturing.
From wasteful to useful
Atlanta Attachment Co., with headquarters in Lawrence-ville, Georgia, unveiled a unique, standalone piece of equipment at ISPA EXPO 2016, the 1393FPS Foam Panel Slitter. Responding to customer demands for new ways to recycle scrap materials, the unit takes transitional waste or “crop-out” from quilt panels and swiftly slices it into swatches for padding the corners of wood foundations.
“Many plants are hand cutting this crop-out material using scissors or knives,” said Jeff Kane, Atlanta Attachment senior design engineer. “But this is a more ergonomic and safer solution.”
The unit’s eight slitter blades slice quilted panels—up to 3 inches thick and 60 inches wide—crosswise, into adjustable-width pieces. It boasts an auto-stop when out of material and promises quiet, reliable operation.
First-time exhibitor Mert Makina makes it all
Mert Makina, an equipment supplier based in Kayseri, Turkey, made its first appearance at ISPA EXPO 2016, but has been supplying machinery to the furniture and mattress industries for more than two decades. It exports to more than 65 countries.
“Three thousand of our machines are running in mattress plants all over the world,” said Pinar Yaltir, Mert Makina international sales executive. The company began with sewing equipment, including tape-edge and multineedle quilting machinery. Today, it’s a one-stop shop for mattress makers, selling 90% of the standard equipment needed to run a mattress manufacturing plant. Its sewing machinery includes the fully computerized M-9000 Multineedle Lockstitch Quilting Machine, a high-speed quilter capable of handling the thickest materials.
Mert Makina’s scope of offerings is one of the things that set it apart from regional competitors, Yaltir said. “Most Turkish companies in our sector specialize—whether it’s springs, packaging or sewing lines.”
Mert Makina specializes in turnkey projects—designing and equipping entire manufacturing production lines. Other company strengths, Yaltir said, are creating ergonomic, operator-friendly machinery and providing comprehensive, flexible after-sales service and parts. “We closely follow developments in the industry and adapt to the needs of our customers,” he said.