Exterior colors have been a growing trend in the building material industry for quite some time now. Windows are no exception to this. With increasingly popular designs such as the “Modern Farmhouse” look, bold contrasting colors are becoming more common among new construction builds and renovations alike.
Lamination In-House: Controlling the Source
Since our company was founded, we have made it a priority to achieve a level of self-sufficiency by controlling the source of our many manufacturing processes by bringing them in-house. Whether it be bending our geometric profiles, tempering and laminating our own impact-resistant glass, or product testing in our very own research and development center, we pride ourselves on our ability to do it all under one roof. Bringing profile lamination in-house is the next step in our goal of controlling the source. Our Research and Development team has been working closely with our laminate supplier Renolit, and Viwinco management to ensure a smooth rollout for the new machinery and processes.
While bringing additional processes internal does add complexity to manufacturing, the rewards often outweigh the risk. Some of the most notable benefits are the ability to closely monitor product quality and reduce extended lead times.
Managing a process in-house allows us to identify quality issues as they occur, and address them with a quicker response time. This also allows us to control routine maintenance to ensure machinery is running efficiently and to reduce variability in production.
- In regard to lead times, if demand for a certain product spikes, we have the means on-site to scale production without the need to outsource additional material.
Profile Laminator Short-Term Plan
One of the main objectives of the short-term plan for the laminator is to help mitigate some of the supply chain material shortages that have been occurring as a result of COVID-19. Currently, Viwinco R&D Director and 3rd generation employee, Skyler Barnes, is working with Special Projects Coordinator, Steve Stauffer, on calibrating the Barberan PUR-33-L laminator, and laminating products currently in our backlog. Once calibrations are complete, Skyler will then focus on training operators for the new laminator line. The laminator will then be used to assist manufacturing with the production of laminated products.
Profile Lamination Process
The process begins with the calibration of a series of rollers, oriented to conform the laminate material around each individual profile. The number of rollers, types of rollers used, and orientation are all dependent on the complexity of the profile the laminate is being applied to. Once the rollers are configured, the vinyl profile is loaded into the laminator and the steps are as follows:
- As the profile is pulled through the machine, primer is applied to prepare the profile for adhesion to the laminate. An ultraviolet light is used on the profile, which reacts with the primer causing it to glow. This serves as a visual queue to the operator, indicating whether or not sufficient—and consistent— amounts of primer are applied.
- The profile then goes through a series of heat guns and an infrared oven to warm the primer and profile. The laminate is simultaneously pulled through a series of rollers from above, and a small bead of adhesive is applied.
- The EXOFOL FX laminate is then placed onto the warmed profile. As the profile goes through the machine, rollers are used to form the laminate around the contour of the profile. This ensures that the adhesive is spread evenly underneath the laminate, leaving no cracks or wrinkles.
- Once the laminated profile arrives at the end of the machine, the excess laminate is cut by an operator.
- It is then inspected for quality and loaded onto a rack where it will cure for 24 hours. After the product has cured, it is moved to the next stage of production.
Profile Laminator Long Term Plan
The long-term plan for the profile laminator is to control profile lamination in-house. This provides us with several benefits, two of the most significant being: controlling quality and flexibility on laminate lead times. Controlling the source allows us to control the lead times, resulting in shorter turnaround times on laminated products. Laminating in-house will also allow us to quickly adapt to new emerging color trends.
The implementation of the new profile laminator is not a change that occurs overnight. Planning, calibration, training and scaling are all things that we have been working at for some time now. While COVID-19 continues to create challenges for supply chain and manufacturing, we have already seen the laminator’s benefits. We are excited to see its long-term impact and look forward to providing an even better service to our customers.