Slitting has made leaps and bounds of progress in the safety departmentproducing a generation of extremely sensitive equipment that will respond to the slightest possibility of injury. According to Scott Beaudoin, vice president of marketing at FlexoExport, Trumbull, CT, "Hands-off slitting operations are a major safety innovation. You can't get near a machine without breaking a light source that cuts off the power."
U.S. slitter suppliers appear poised to devote an even bigger chunk of resources to safety's cause. Beaudoin explains that it currently costs significantly more to build a slitter to European safety standards, but a universal safety standard may be in place by 2000 that brings everyone up to the same, higher level of financial commitment.
Safety enters the crucial zone in slitter rewinder areas that are not yet automated and require operator access. Webco's Preddy highlights the slitting section, commenting that "although automation in this area is becoming more cost-effective, many users are and will, for some time, be making manual settings and adjustments in this area." Current safety aids include improved pneumatic knife shafts and top knife holders, on-machine measurement with or without digital readout, and the ability to change or replace bottom knives quickly and efficiently, without the need to remove shafts, he says.
Blade selections can increase or decrease injury prospects. Jeff Epstein, president of Houston-based Ceramic Technologies, says slitting with standard steel razor blades is very common because of easy set-up, but ceramic coated steel razor blades stay sharper longer, offering a safer alternative. He elaborates that a ceramic coated blade will last 8 to 12 times longer than standard steel blades, staving off injuries with less frequent changes or positioning. Ceramic blades can cost $2 per blade compared to 25 cents per blade typically for steel, a higher cost offset by downtime savings, he notes.