ThyssenKrupp puts SATOs Industrial Label Printers to the Test

ThyssenKrupp Electrical Steel GmbH (TKES), part of industrial giant ThyssenKrupp AG, is a manufacturer of high-quality electrical steel, a special product created by the introduction of silicon. Electrical steel uses magnetic properties that make it ideal for reinforcing and controlling magnetic fields in transformers, power generators, and electrical motors.

ThyssenKrupp Electrical Steel is one of the leading manufacturers of grain-oriented (GO) and non-grain-oriented (NGO) electrical steel, producing approximately one million tonnes annually. GO is ideal for stationary equipment, whereas NGOs magnetic properties are better suited to rotating machinery and electric motors. The TKES PowerCore range of electrical steel products is employed in electrical motors for household appliances and power tools, in motors and pumps for washing machines, in magnetic-levitation transport systems, and in high-speed trains. Reference customers include industrial giants such as Siemens and ABB, as well as consumer goods manufacturers such as Philips and Miele.

ThyssenKrupp Electrical Steel has twoGerman production facilities, known jointly as TKES-EBG: one in Bochum, which produces around 50 percent of total output, and one in Gelsenkirchen. There are also three steel mills outside Germany: in Italy, France and India. ThyssenKrupp Electrical Steel employs a global workforce of 3,500, and posted revenues of 725 million in 2003.

At the TKES-EBG plant in Bochum, labelling the coils of processed electrical steel has always proved a difficult task. Not only does cold-rolling at 180C leave the coils hot and oily, labels have to be highly durable strong enough to withstand outdoor storage and subsequent transport to the customer. The company previously used dot-matrix printers to generate barcode labels, which were then attached to pieces of cardboard and wrapped in plastic. This had many disadvantages: the labels were difficult to read and easily damaged, the process was very time-consuming, and the materials were very costly. ThyssenKrupp Electrical Steel decided to improve their labelling system and asked automatic labelling and identification specialists WWP Wahlen & Sieberth GmbH to find a new solution. As a result WWP choseindustrial barcode printers from SATO.

Peter Marchand, authorized representative at WWP, explains that For harsh industrial environments, we only recommend SATO printers. SATO OEM printer modules are the global de-facto standard for large-scale labelling systems. WWP proposed the deployment of printers from SATOs CL range, in conjunction with its OEM printer modules. These products are geared to the high demands of non-stop industrial use. There are now around 70 SATO printers operating in three shifts, 24/7, at TKES-EBG in Bochum. The SATO devices support both direct thermal and thermal transfer techniques. ThyssenKrupp produces its labels using the thermal transfer method. WWP used rigorous testing to find the right labels for ThyssenKrupp. A key requirement was an extremely durable label adhesive. Today, the customised polyethylene labels can be applied directly to the steel coils, or to the plastic packaging. This can be performed automatically, as the coils pass through the packaging or labelling systems, or manually. At TKES-EBGs production facilities, the majority of labelling is carried out by hand, and a big part of printers are therefore free-standing CL units. The carbon ribbons are also made by SATO, and taken from the companys wide range of consumables. Industrial printers from SATO boast a wide range of interfaces to diverse systems such as IEEE1284, Centronics, RS232C Standard and Highspeed, USB, LAN, Twinax/Coax, RS422/485 and Wireless LAN 802.11b, enabling easy integration with ThyssenKrupps existing Unix environment.

The electrical steel specialists at Bochum are very satisfied with WWPs SATO-based solution. For Ulrich Heppner, Head of Production-Related IT at TKES-EBG, the benefits are clear: The changeover to the new printing system with the help of WWP has generated annual savings of 25,000, primarily for consumables. But the advantages do not stop there: printing is not only faster the S Series operates at 300mm/sec, but print quality has also improved, making the details easier to read. Labels are now more durable, too. And thanks to the robust nature of SATO industrial printers, there has been a significant reduction in maintenance costs. All this with 24/7 operation faced with the harshest test, SATOs label printers passed with flying colours.

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