As 21st century technology evolves it might appear that the once great-perforated ‘lick and stick’ postal stamp is disappearing in favour of self-adhesive variations. However in certain areas of the world, this is far from the case and this long-established industry is still growing.

APS Engineering is an industry leader in the design and manufacture of stamp rotary perforator systems, and for its latest project APS was commissioned by a Dutch secure printing company to upgrade its existing perforator machines. APS set itself the challenge of utilising a drive solution that was not only technically efficient but offered innovative features that aided day to day operation.

Taking this into account APS concluded the most viable option would be to implement a variable speed drive solution that features the latest in terms of communication abilities, meaning performance can be optimised and monitored remotely.  Having a long-term beneficial relationship with Control Techniques that has spanned several decades, APS trialled and selected Unidrive M, the latest generation of variable speed drives from Emerson Industrial Automation.

In the early years of issue stamp-sheets were printed on imperforated paper and had to be cut out individually using either scissors or a knife.  Not only was this incredibly time consuming but it was also prone to errors.  Due to this the print postage industry looked for a more efficient way to do it.  In 1848 Henry Archer patented the world’s first perforation machine.  This led to commercially viable perforators and in 1853 perforated stamps were born.

Technology has of course moved on since 1853 and by offering systems that are not only high performing but also innovative in features, APS Engineering are leading the way in rotary perforators. Having been a part of this industry for over 30 years, APS supplies systems to many parts of the world such as Europe, Japan, India and Asia.

At the heart of every system that APS provides is precision. Perforations have to be accurate to ensure the usability of the stamps. APS perforators perform many diverse functions, from full to partial perforation and can be supplied in almost any perforating width up to 900mm. Systems are also able to run at maximum possible speeds of 150 meters per minute.

Whilst APS does manufacture new machines, this project was to upgrade existing machines to 21st century technology. The original variable speed drives (VSDs) used were Control Techniques drives so it was only natural the Newtown-based manufacturer’s drives were implemented again in the regeneration.  

For this particular application VSDs are used to ensure process and quality improvements are achieved through the accurate control of the motors utilised on the machine, thus delivering precise perforation.  The Unidrive M family of drives, in particular the company’s chosen M700 drive, offer the precision and speed of motor control that is needed for this application.

With any application the optimisation of drive performance is crucial, but the daily monitoring of performance is imperative. Easy to read displays on the Unidrive M front panel allow onsite maintenance personnel to clearly see important parameters and intuitive interfaces allow for speedy adjustments if needed.

What’s more, with the inbuilt communication modules APS is able to apply its expertise in performance monitoring. Utilising an Ethernet connection APS is able to log into the Unidrives to accurately monitor drive performance.  In the past APS engineers would have to visit the site or rely on maintenance engineers in the production facility to optimise.  As the majority of its business is overseas this could prove costly in terms of finance and resource. Now, with remote communications capabilities, APS can make real time adjustments should they be needed, ensuring that production stays accurate.  Unidrive M’s software also delivers a suite of diagnostics which are vital for maintenance should the system encounter any operational issues.  

For this application the complete sequence and machine logic can be programmed or implemented directly into the Unidrive thus negating the need for external PLC’s.  In essence everything that’s needed for machine control is ‘on board’ with Unidrive M.

Per Lutteman, managing director at APS, said: “Whilst performance of the drive is very important to us, the relationship we have developed with Control Techniques over the last few decades is invaluable.

“The technical support we receive from the engineering team at Control Techniques is in-depth and professional. What’s more, Unidrive M gives us a real opportunity to differentiate our products from our competitors with the delivery of precise control and the remote monitoring capabilities.”