Production line speeds have increased in recent years with advances in both equipment and adhesive technology’s. In earlier years a converter may run 400-600 feet/min, now speeds approaching 1200-1400 feet/min are expected to improve production efficiency. With this increased speed we have seen reduced appearance on certain film structures. This often manifests itself as a mottled appearance which can be interpreted as voids, outgassing, bubbles etc. However, this is typically caused by reduced flow and leveling of the adhesive onto the printed web, metalized film etc. The root cause is most often and imbalance of the wet surface tension of the adhesive and the dry surface energy of the substrate leading to reduced wet out.
Many dials can be turned to help alleviate this phenomenon. Often one or more of the fixes will need to be adopted to improve appearance. In some cases, what works for one film or adhesive may not work for another. Let’s work through the tweaks and adjustments from the start of the lamination application all the way to the end of the lamination process. We will cover adhesive choices and coating weight, temperature settings, primary and secondary treat levels as well as rewind pressures, taper tension, etc.
Dow has worked diligently on this process studying both existing adhesive chemistries as well as providing new adhesive choices. Dow recently launched a high run speed adhesive with trade name PacAcel™. This product, in addition to many other features, has proven to show a marked improvement in appearance at run speeds in excess of 1200 feet/min on a variety of lamination structures. With this product it has been found that the adhesive puddle should be about 105°F(41°C) for optimum appearance. In other cases, with more traditional Dow adhesives we have found that a puddle temperature around 130°F(55°C) is best for appearance. In most cases and application roll temperature of 122°F(50°C) to 140°F(60°C) seems optimum. In addition, nip temperature settings of 120°F(49°C) to 130°F(55°C) seem to be optimum. In addition it has been found that this product shows improved appearance on the lower side of the coating weight range at 1 ppr(1.6 gr/m2). Other adhesives may show better appearance at a weight higher in the typical range at 1.4 ppr(2.22 gr.m2). As always performance versus coating weight should be evaluated but exploring coating weights as it relates to appearance should be explored.
Treat levels should also be closely examined and tested. Most solventless adhesives show optimum wetting when the substrates show a dyne level at or above 40 dyne/cm. Even if films are fresh it is often advisable to bump treat at 1 watt density to clean films of any surface contamination. Check treat with fresh dyne solutions and if below 40 dyne/cm adjust watt density on treater to raise level at or above 40 dyne/cm. Finally, adjustments on the rewind portion of the machine have been shown to improve flow/leveling/appearance. By winding a tight, warm roll appearance will improve. Rewind tension between 30-40 psi, lay on roll pressure also at 30-40 psi and a taper tension at or below 25% are optimal for many machines.
Improving appearance with solventless adhesives as run speeds continue to increase is an ongoing process and active topic. The above guidelines and adhesive choice have proven to work for many film types and machines but are not all inclusive. Again there are many dials that can help improve appearance. It is critical to work with both your adhesive and machine suppliers to understand optimum settings for each film structure. Once a group of settings have been found for that structure it should be saved in the machine settings and be used for that structure. Often multiple settings will need to be saved as film structures change.