Since 20 years, Epsilon Composite is one of the worldwide specialists for carbon fibre pultruded profiles. K2007 show (held on the end of October 2007 in Mnchen, Germany) marked the official entry of Epsilon Rollers, its division specialised in ready-to mount technical rollers, in the market. In 1987, Epsilon Composite founders bet that pultrusion was the right process to spread out and to democratize the use of carbon fibre for composite profiles..
Twenty years later, carbon fibre is not anymore considered as an out-of-reach high tech product with restrictive use and very specific fields of application such as aeronautics: the challenge is over. By capitalising on twenty years of expertise and innovation capacities, Epsilon Composite is now fit to add a new division specialising in "ready-to-mount" rollers to its first activity and this is Epsilon Rollers.
Epsilon Rollers displays a complete solution, including surface coating. Relying on its fully optimised manufacturing process, Epsilon Rollers has entered relationships based on partnership with pilot-customers located mainly in Germany, in Japan and Italy. Its target is to offer an alternative to metallic as well as other composite solutions.
Five 5 industrial universes are concerned about Epsilon rollers products:
Guiding of plastic film
Extrusion machines produce plastic film a few microns thick, often multi-layers. To make them at low costs, in large volumes and on time, you must manufacture wider and faster.
"Very rapidly, you hit problems of dimensional stability If you exceed the limits, you create defects, folds Using carbon fibre allows gaining not only in speed and width but also in quality" mentions Laurent Pommies, Quality Manager at Epsilon Rollers. To preserve dimensional stability, you need to combine specific stiffness and light weight. In Epsilon Rollers solution, improvement of dimensional stability is related to coefficient of thermal expansion of carbon close to zero: an essential benefit, notably in hot parts of machines.
As explained by the Technical Director of a European leading extruder, rollers from Epsilon do not block, do not expand and do not need to be cleaned. There is no better way to describe a maintenance free part.
Conveying LCD screens
Conveying LCD/PDP panels raises the same issue as in PCB printing boards, a field already covered by Epsilon Rollers, but in much more severe conditions. The size of "glass mother substrates" in which LCD or PDP screens are cut, increases for each new generation of machines. Larger widths increase shafts lengths between supports, whereas the diameter of conveyor rolls is limited and the thickness of glass plates is thinner than 1mm. During the various processing phases - stripping, etching, developing - we are very close to the limits of the technology as the extremely corrosive environment impacts badly on product performances and lifetime.
Through integration of different functions, points out Claire Dargaud (Sales Manager of Epsilon Japan), Epsilon succeeded to reduce rollers deformation - that phased out traditional rollers. EPSILON also managed to improve chemical resistance as well as tolerance in a very difficult environment. Our solution brings 30% additional stiffness at a 30% lower cost.
The switch is already in place for the G7 and G8 machines, Epsilon Rollers is now taking an active part in the design of 10th generation production lines.
Long run printing for packaging, bottles, pet food bags and newspapers uses up to 10 colours and relies on high quality printing. But reaching the critical speed of revolving parts, one also reaches the limits of dimensional stability.
"Using carbon fibre has set the limits back" says Jos Portols, Chief Engineer at Epsilon Rollers. "With traditional materials, you were limited in width".
Carbon fibre use made it possible to double the width and to increase printing speed by more than 50%. In addition, carbon composites are well-known for their superior fatigue and damping properties which explains why they are widely used in aircraft industry.
Manufacturing non-woven textile
To increase productivity of non woven processing lines, wider and faster machines are required. When the 3 m barrier was reached, carbon became the solution of choice: today, it is common to achieve 3.5 or 4 meters.
"Non-woven substrates are either thinner & thinner and therefore more fragile or heavier and heavier which implies a higher load in the rollers" explains Dr Pierre Baudry, Application Engineer at Epsilon Rollers. "We have advantageously replaced existing solutions based on filament wound tubes, a comparatively expensive solution, with pullwinding tubes, a one step process. Quite a challenge, if one considers the resistance to change and the difficulty in adopting new technologies."
Newspaper printing presses
Productivity gains (printing 6 pages across instead of 4 and 2 around, code name XXL in the offset newspaper world) would not be feasible without carbon printing rollers, for 2 reasons. Above 2 m width, traditional steel rollers have too much deflection to transfer ink evenly and their weight makes them impossible to carry when it comes to replacing them. Yet quick maintenance is the name of the game in an industry where timeliness is a daily challenge.
" For the equipment 4 new presses for the Milan Daily 'Il Corriere della Sera', we have supplied the machine maker Koenig & Bauer (KBA) with 900 rollers, in a timeframe of 12 weeks: a true technical and industrial challenge coming after several years of development and qualification!" says Dr Pierre Baudry, Application Engineer at Epsilon Rollers.
As described by the Design Department Head of another leading OEM company, the Epsilon Rollers technology is a natural for this application. The next challenge for Epsilon Rollers will be to replace steel rollers in application that do not require carbon for technical reasons but merely for maintenance, weight savings reasons.
Epsilon Composite in figures
- Setting up of the Company: October 1987
- 140 employees, including 10 engineers
- Turnover 2007: 15 Million
- R&D expenses: 10-15% of turnover
- Average annual growth: 38% (1996-2006)
- Production output 2006: 2 000 000 meters of profiles
- Export share: 80% (30% to Japan and 25% to Germany)
- Building area: 8.000m² and a 4.500m² extension area to come.