Problem: COMCO develops, designs and builds machinery for printing high quality images on various materials (webs) that include plastics and metallized plastics. In the process a number of inks are applied to the web sequentially at separate print stations. After one ink has been applied, the web is heated to set the ink and then the web must be cooled properly before the web enters the next print station. The heating and cooling processes are not considered as energy efficient as they might be. The heating is done by directing a hot air stream over the web and the cooling is done by bringing the web into contact with a cooled roller. Wright Technology Network (WTN) was asked to suggest improved heating and cooling techniques. Also, during plant visits, it was learned that COMCO had a problem hiring highly qualified machinists.
Solution: WTN met with representatives of COMCO at the WTN facilities and later visited their plant in Milford, Ohio. In a subsequent visit to the Milford plant, an expert in unsteady air flow made suggestions on improving the placement of flow-directing vanes in the heater section. He further recommended considering a combination of unsteady and steady air flow to improve the efficiency of the process and suggested some design approaches that might be effective. The expert further offered to do a literature search on impingement cooling to help direct COMCOs future design efforts. That effort is still active.
A retired Air Force heat pipe expert in the Propulsion Directorate was contacted and he recommended a company that specializes in rotating heat pipes. Such a heat pipe could improve the cooling roller design. That recommendation was given to COMCO.
COMCO was given a point of contact at Sinclair Community College to get access to the graduates of the Sinclair machinist school.
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