Making it stick

20.10.2020 Panoval Label S.A. was originally established in 1991, in Switzerland. Building on the company’s strengths in the Far East, Panoval (Asia) was established in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 2017. This state-of-the-art, purpose-built facility includes multiple coating lines and an ISO Class 6 certified cleanroom for high end products requiring the very latest in coating technology. The company is also certified to ISO 14644-2.

Thinh Thieu, Kiet Tran and Wilco van Zwieten with Panoval’s GEW UV curing system.
© Photo: GEW
Thinh Thieu, Kiet Tran and Wilco van Zwieten with Panoval’s GEW UV curing system.

More than 60% of the global volume of pressure-sensitive adhesive labels are produced in the Far East, including those for electronic, medical and pharmaceutical applications. This is the main reason why the company has been founded in Vietnam, although the overall ownership remains European.  Despite having just the one production site, Panoval works internationally with resellers and direct customers, and has built a business with global presence. Their production agility and reputation for flexibility has led to them becoming a leading supplier of specialist, non-standard label stock. Typical customers are flexible packaging resellers, label converters and conventional printers.

Steadily expanding

Panoval employs 25 people currently and is steadily expanding. The management team consists of seasoned and internationally operational professionals with extensive experience in developing and producing label stock laminates for the most demanding applications. Director Wilco van Zwieten joined Panoval as a sales manager in 1993 and is now a key part of that team. His remit is to drive new business and he sees technological advancement and innovation as being pivotal to their success. As he explains: “In such a competitive market, it is the relatively small size of the company and the operation of two very different coating lines that enables us to be so successful. In addition to the higher volume mainstream work we do, our production team are able to run a multitude of smaller specialist jobs, sometimes changing product three or four times in a shift. We use the very latest UV hot melt technology to back up our rubber-based systems. This UV technology is the only one that can potentially replace solvent-based coatings… not right away, but in ten to fifteen years. In order to do this, you need to have a top of the range UV curing solution with all the bells and whistles that backs that technology up. And that is what we designed, in collaboration with the machine manufacturers and GEW, so we can cater for all of our needs in the next five to ten years. We are future-proofed.”

Designed and manufactured in the UK by GEW, Panoval’s custom-built UV curing system includes five NUVA2 lampheads, with capacity to fit up to seven lampheads in all, mounted against a Ø1000mm chilled roller on a Sung An Machinery (SAM) coating line. The lamps are mounted around the drum on a solid frame assembly, which is separate from the roller assembly and slides away from its engaged position on rails. This allows access to the roller surface and underside of the lamphead assembly.

Working with the right people

When initially searching for a UV curing solution, van Zwieten was directed towards GEW by a Malaysian associate who had recently worked with GEW for the design and installation of a UV curing system for release coating applications. Van Zwieten recalls: “I visited the Malaysian factory to see the installation at first hand, and then began talking to GEW. Slowly at first, as we knew we needed a complex, engineered solution with a high level of customisation.” Gradually the momentum built as he worked through Panoval’s requirements with GEW’s ‘Specialist UV’ division. He comments: “We were impressed with the people at GEW… their responsiveness and their ability to answer all of our questions, however technical. It’s all about working with the right people.”

Van Zwieten then visited GEW’s UK production facility during the system build, which provided both parties with the opportunity to discuss the system in further detail and to ensure that it was on track to meet all requirements and expectations. Regarding the design, installation and ongoing technical support for the system, van Zwieten is unreserved: “The whole process was seamless, we have had no issues at all. If a technical issue does arise, we have GEW’s remote monitoring in place to assist us – but we really have had a good experience with this system. He continues: “To date, the only demand we have had for the remote monitoring service is the weekly reports that we automatically receive, which show us useful management information such as running time, lamp hours, energy usage and efficiency. It also gives us peace of mind because we know that if a problem were to arise, it would immediately be flagged up by the monitoring platform.”

As van Zwieten points out, no expense was spared in the specification of the new UV curing system, to ensure that it will meet every demand for years to come. He comments: “A typical laminator will install one or two lamp stations and then be happy. We have differed here and installed a series of five lamps in tandem, which means we can modify the distance between chemical application and curing from one job to the next, enabling us to cater for many different markets that cannot currently be catered for with this technology. This is why we chose to work together with the people at GEW, they have the technical expertise and experience for such a complex system. We now look forward to a rapid return on our investment, with the energy savings and the new work the UV system is bringing in for us.”

UV monitoring sensors

Demonstrating the company’s pursuit of the perfect solution, Panoval have also invested in having five GEW multi-point UV monitoring (mUVm) sensors fitted to each of the UV lampheads, and linked to their ERP system. These can measure at the central position of the lamp, and at the extreme edges of a 500mm web and a 1050mm web. In addition to particle meter readings which accurately measure outgassing levels immediately after curing, mUVm enables the production team to measure and verify that the correct level of UV dose and intensity has been administered throughout the production run. With mUVm it is possible to generate a UV curing certificate for every batch by recording live UV outputs for every lamp. Real time UV output data is exported via a RESTful API interface.

However, van Zwieten’s aim is to further develop the benefits of the UV monitoring system by using its reporting capability to research and establish optimal energy levels for initial tack, adhesion and release of the company’s core range of products. This UV sensor information will then be used to create a 3D cure map of every jumbo roll of product, offering a high level of traceability to end user manufacturers. While this data is particularly crucial to customers in the pharmaceutical, electronics and aerospace industries, it can also be used to set up repeat productions runs, quickly and efficiently.

There are other considerations to be taken into account when adopting UV curing processes, as van Zwieten points out: ‘You need better trained, dedicated staff to work with and understand UV, and you need better equipment to begin with. To compare, there are over 1100 solvent-based laminators in China alone, and they are basic, low-cost machines that are simple to operate. You don’t need a laboratory. But it is a dangerous game – it is toxic and polluting, and it costs a lot of energy.” Contrasting this with the benefits of UV, he concludes: “With UV you don’t need an incinerator, it’s not toxic, you don’t have the fire risk, and the energy savings and environmental benefits are very impressive.” He concludes: “We have found a very competent and responsive partner in GEW. To anyone looking for a UV solution for hot melt adhesive, I would suggest giving them a call.”