Finding a better way to apply peel-off adhesive to envelopes may seem like a minor detail when you’re a £42.5m business like Anton Group, but it all goes towards improving quality and client satisfaction, and that can only be a good thing.
The Essex-based print and mail specialist has been using a Baumer HHS Xmelt system to apply peelable glue to CBC one-piece mailers since 2013. It added another one 18 months ago, then this year put in a third to handle re-moist glue application (ie lick-and-stick return mailers). The results have been both better gluing quality and a reduction in the glue used.
The Xmelt machines were launched in 2006 and comprise the electronically-driven application heads, plus controller, adhesive granule melter tank with multi-zone heating and hoses, to form the complete system.
Over time, Anton Group plans to replace all its old pneumatic CBC gluing systems with multiple Baumer HHS Xmelt units that it can move from machine to machine as required.
“Anton as a business is really pushing direct mail,” says bindery manager Dan Godbold. “That’s where we want to position ourselves. We’re a complete service company.”
CBC is Royal Mail’s term for one-piece mailers that are glued around all four edges. The nomenclature is a little confusing since ‘CBC’ originally stood for ‘customer bar code’, but it’s now a generic term for a type of product that has become increasingly popular.
“Royal Mail gives big discounts for CBC, so the customer can save an astronomical amount of money on the post,” says Godbold.
“Baumer HHS made us a system for peelable CBC gluing, which is now becoming the next big thing in the UK mailing industry,” says Godbold.
The Xmelt glues all sides of the mailer and seals them. If you only glue the fore-edge, in the traditional way, it can cause problems further down the line as mailers with two unglued sides can open and trap another mail item inside causing jams in Royal Mail’s machines and slowing them down. With CBC, nothing can get caught inside. Hence Royal Mail is happy to incentivise their use.
Heads and hoses are fitted with unique identification chips that are detected by the controller on the melter. It can then optimise the parameters, such as temperature, while preventing erroneous settings and making provision for preventative maintenance. There’s also provision for remote control from a networked PC or even over the internet.
The heads don’t need solenoids or airlines, so the heads can be installed in confined spaces. They can apply glue in dots, lines or swathes.
Anton Group’s old pneumatic gun technology for CBC and re-moisten glue application laid down large dots. This put a lot of glue down, which meant the mail pieces had a tendency to tear on opening. The system was also prone to overheating the glue, which caused discoloration and required plenty of cleaning and maintenance. Make-readies were long, there were re-start problems and high running costs.
“For the customer the advantage is quality. All the customer wants is glue that’s clear, and when you open the product it doesn’t tear. Now we can give them a smaller dot on the CBC gluing. Working with the Xmelt system means that we can run at a lower temperature, which means that we don’t get any burning and if you run peelable glue at too high a temperature it can become permanent glue. The Xmelt tank saves energy by 50% because it’s got three-zone heating that stops charring of the glue at the bottom.
The re-moist gluing XMelt system has the same advantages, Godbold says: “What this means is that we’re probably using about 25% less glue and having a neater, more accurate line. It actually resembles the re-moist you get using silk-screen. It’s very tidy. So we’ve got the reliability of an electronic head, with a better finish for the customer. With this re-moist it puts down a cleaner line. It doesn’t burn the glue. You don’t get that slight tinge of burning that you get with the pneumatic systems.”
The Xmelt system at Anton has three heads, all coming through one computer system and one tank. “So that means that it’s very efficient,” says Godbold. “You’re only heating up one tank of glue and one system. The heads are electronic, which means we can fire a very small dot rather than using the old pneumatic heads.”
The head set-up for remoist glue has been adapted to fit to one of Anton’s Stahl folders. The other two systems can be moved as needed between another pair of Stahls, plus MBO folders and Heidelberg saddle stitchers. This concept of electronic heads and mobility is rather similar to that used for print personalisation using positionable inkjet heads.
“This new system gives us a very accurate dot and a very long life, with no parts to service,” Godbold says.
“When a head is finished, it’s finished as a unit, and you just put another head on. But during its lifetime that head is very efficient, lasts for a very long time and has zero maintenance.
“As soon as you put the head into action it’s extremely reliable. With the other heads you might spend an hour or two messing about cleaning Mac valves, nozzles, filters. Because this system doesn’t use Mac valves there is no air line for the glue to go back up.”
In use, the Xmelt quickly won over Anton’s operators. “There are many things that the operators like about the systems,” Godbold says. “If we were to have a double sheet go through before, we’d have had a jam up, but now we can continue to run interrupted and then remove doubles in the delivery. Also, with our old re-moist heads, the operators dreaded shutting down for a few minutes to make an adjustment somewhere else, as when you got back to work the heads wouldn’t fire again, they’d be burning, or there’d be glue in the head or some other issue. Baumer HHS heads will stop and they’ll literally just start up again, so downtime has been significantly reduced.
“Operators like the system because it’s a touchscreen computer system to lengthen or shorten the line and it’s got a 1,000 job memory. And because it’s all on one tank, it’s reliable.
“With this system, it doesn’t matter what goes where because it’s all driven electronically. This is what makes it easy for the operator. There’s no compromise. He can get exactly what he wants. So the operators love them.”
Godbold hasn’t got much bad to say about the Xmelt, but when asked if there’s anything he’d change, says: “What I would like would be to get the touchscreen system and the controller built into the mailing machine itself with more channels.
“If I had those on each mailing machine, then I’d just pull over a tank in and plug it in, then I could be running CBC peelable glue, and re-moist, all off the same controller. Then the operator is just looking at one screen, and flicking between the glue systems for the application.
“We’ll often need peelable and re-moist running at the same time, so if we could have it all through one PC it would make it a lot simpler for the operator. I’d have lots of tanks with different glues, and just plug in what I wanted.”
“We dealt with HHS UK but they took me over to Germany and I learned how to take the technology a stage further. It’s a very impressive set-up in Germany, it’s absolutely massive. They are very supportive, very open. It really is good, certainly worth the money, it’s great.”
Hotmelt output 8-11.2kg/hr
Dot frequency Up to 400 per second
Head cut-off speed 2.5 milliseconds
Maximum glue viscosity 3,000 mPa s (millipascal second)
Job setting memory 1,000 jobs
Glue temperature range 20-200°C
Maximum number of heads 8
Price It’s a modular system so the price will vary from £10,000 to £50,000 depending on spec
Contact Baumer HHS 01733 391333 www.baumerhhs.com
Anton Group has been established for 40 years and has grown through expansion, acquisition and investment to become one of the largest print and direct marketing service providers in the UK. It works with big brands across the retail, media, finance, mail order and utilities sectors.
Today it is a £42.5m business and employs about 350 people at its plant in Laindon, Essex.
Anton provides a complete end-to-end service from the provision of digital and litho print and finishing services, to executing data-driven cross-media campaigns across multiple channels. The digital printers include eight Kodak NexPress five-colour toner machines, plus inline inkjet personalisation on offset using Kodak Prosper inkjet heads. There are 6 B1 presses, all Heidelberg Speedmasters.
The firm has extensive finishing facilities plus nine 4/6 station enclosing machines with three-way OCR camera verification. The capacity is more than 2 million mail packs per day.
How it has performed…
“We’re having faster makereadies because you switch the head on and they just run,” says bindery manager Dan Godbold. “So we don’t have any issues with changing Mac valves or cleaning filters. They’re simple; they’re just the heads, so there are no start-up problems from cold. So you save loads of time. On the run they’re so reliable you can just forget about them, so you’re getting better productivity.”
Why it was bought…
Customers were increasingly asking for CBC envelopes, which Anton’s old pneumatic gluing heads struggled with; they’d put down too much glue, which discoloured and sometimes refused to peel so the mail piece tore. The Xmelt system’s electronic heads put down controllable glue dots, resulting in the desired peel-ability while looking better and saving on adhesive.