Automation speeds decorator sheet changeover

An automatic dropdown sheet-support system has been developed by UK metal decorating equipment specialist Crabtree in response to customer demands for improved efficiency and reduced changeover times.

At the push of a button, the innovation is said to add more flexibility to Crabtree’s Fast Ready press.

Crabtree will tailor designs to meet individual customer requirements. Options include a full sheet size range of 710-1,200mm without the need for manual input; push button or CNC operation; rigidised anti-scratch, reduced friction, improved sheet transfer support surfaces; and both CNC or manual retract options.

In addition, the company has developed a new easily-maintainable side guide bobbin configuration. This mitigates the risk of sheet tracking while reducing friction with a free-running mechanism. It also reduces the risk of damage, failure and wear, while cutting the need for human intervention.

Meanwhile, the use of a high-quality lead screw and a linear slide mechanism ensures accuracy and longevity together with increased durability.

The system’s reliability has been proven on a test rig at Crabtree’s Gateshead premises, which has been running continuously for several months. This is equivalent to about 25,000 operational cycles, thereby simulating three years of production, with no mechanical failures.

This performance is supported by the experiences of one customer that has a typical four-unit press configuration with eight to ten changeovers per shift. The average time taken to remove supports was five minutes per unit, or 200 minutes per shift. For a typical plant running a two-shift operation, six days a week, that equates about 40 hours a week.

By retrofitting with Crabtree’s auto-retracting push button system, which takes about 35-40 seconds to change all units simultaneously, that amounts to an average of six minutes per shift or 72 minutes over six days – effectively just 1 hour 12 minutes.

More information from Crabtree of Gateshead, Kingsway, Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, NE11 0SU, UK. Tel: 44 191 487 5071. Website: