Designed for energy saving, high production and quality29 January 2015
Manufacturers are responding to a market where customers need to produce high quality results, with increasing throughput, greater energy efficiency and lower labour costs. Janet Taylor reports
Customer requirements in the flatwork processing market seem to remain fairly constant but may vary in relative importance both according to the type of business and the region.
Kannegiesser says that despite the challenges posed by changes in the textiles being processed, the ever-increasing demand for efficiency, improved quality and flexibility are always high priority.
Jordi Compte, product manager at Girbau Industrial, says that all these factors are important but at the moment the company sees reducing consumption as requirement that will increasingly become a top priority, while increasing productivity and improving quality and controllability will also be important.
Wim Opsomer at Laco Machinery, a company that is largely focussed on the commercial laundry sector says that energy consumption is becoming the dominant factor in decision factor. He adds that it is not just consumption figures that matter, as there is now an emphasis on correct sizing. Where once laundries looked at larger ironers, with a view to the future high volumes, now customers are taking the view that they should start small and then expand later.
Given the economic pressures that many countries face, costs are also a significant factor. Bernard Jomard, managing director Danube International, says that worldwide, budgets and the return on investment are considerations underlying any purchasing decision.
Wim Demeyer, export sales manager at Lapauw international, makes a similar point. Lately the company has seen that laundries are strongly focussed on productivity and linked to this are looking at the total cost of ownership. He feels that increasingly the ironer is seen as a driver of the laundry's production and its costs per hour are monitored very carefully so durability and low maintenance needs are essential.
Vera Simon, responsible for exports at ironer specialist GMP, which operates largely in the commercial laundry sector, says that feedback from its customers suggests that safety, energy saving and control are influential. Remembering that the human factor, in terms of operator skills, can be particularly relevant in the ironer line, she stresses that the company's ironers are designed to be user friendly.
So how are manufacturers responding to these influences, with reference to the main sector served - large industrial size laundries or commercial operations?
Kannegiesser says that the ironer is the core of the flatwork linen production.
Its HighPower ironer HPM concept is now well established but at its introduction, marked a big change in construction for heavy-duty ironers in its use of a flexible stainless-steel heating band.
This allows increased production in a small footprint as a two-roll ironer has the same capacity as a conventional three-roll machine. The compact design, complete insulation and low heating band mass have resulted in a highly efficient machine with lower consumptions.
It can be either steam or gas-heated and the gas-heated model has several innovative features such as the Eco2power system with a fully modulating burner for stable temperature a three-pass heat-exchanger to increase the heated surface.
As well as paying attention to the ironer itself, Kannegiesser also recognises the part that padding plays in achieving optimum performance and quality.
To complement the flexible heating band system, it has developed the Kanpress spring padding, which creates an equal counter pressure to the band. Combining the advantages of different types, Kanpress has a large reflex area, adapts to varying thicknesses for quality results and is made of stainless-steel for longer life.
The move to gas heating is becoming a notable trend although as Compte at Girbau points out the choice of heating can depend on the energy sources available in a particular region.
However, he says that in general gas is seen as a clean, high-performance source and its PC series ironers include the G-heat system with an efficiency of up to 93%.
The company's steam ironers include a control that adjusts steam temperature and pressure to suit the linen type, so further increasing efficiency.
Compte says that Girbau has ranges to suit different sectors: PB/PBP ironers offer roll diameters up to 510mm and the PC compact series covers 800 - 1,200mm rolls. It also has the P series cylinder models.
Asked to highlight technical developments, he explains that the PC ironers have energy optimiser, an exclusive feature that takes advantage of thermal inertia to maximise energy use.
Heat capture technology saves energy by recovering and re-using heat.
All PC ironers feature the Ghelp system that allows engineers to have remote access to the machines via the internet.
Stahl's Master heavy-duty ironers meet many of the market requirements, including excellent heat storage and uniform heat distribution to maximise energy efficiency and high productivity. The feed side is raised so that the linen quickly enters the ironing path and remains under 180 degrees contact pressure for longer than standard.
Development of the Lapauw range has taken note of the main trends including the emphasis on low costs, high productivity and energy efficiency and also some regional variations. Demeyer says that in certain markets laundries are concerned about the effects of steam on an ironer chest but the Lapauw hinged chest combines productivity of a flexible design with a robust chest that resists heavy wear and tear.
The company also claims to be the only manufacturer that offers chests specifically designed for steam or for gas heating thus optimising the efficiency of each source.
To ensure maximum productivity, both two- and three-roll ironers are equipped with a propeller shaft to synchronise speed between rolls - a cost-effective and maintenance free solution.
Demeyer says that Lapauw has been a leader in ironer technology. It claims to be the first to introduce a flexible chest, bringing its hinged design to the industry 60 years ago.
It has also been a leader in gas-heated chest ironers and brought in its first model in 1994. He also points out that is the gas-heated chest ironer that has been "the backbone" of the steamless laundry system that is now beginning to be adopted in some laundries.
Jurgen Schäfer, director of product management for laundry at Miele Professional International, says that for his company's customers the main focus has been on productivity. This is because labour costs have a great influence on the decision to invest in the ironer line.
This trend will increase in the future, because reducing the use of labour is important, not just because of its cost but also to assist in higher throughputs. However, productivity is still largely dependent on the size of the ironer and the choice has to suit the customer's budget.
In terms of product development, Schäfer feels that little is happening in the smaller ironer sector - up to 300mm. Most companies have had such an ironer in their portfolio for many years.
Ergonomics help production
Miele's PM12 ironer range, which was being launched last month has many USPs. The range offers up to 50% increase in performance compared with the previous models.
Bearing in mind that the ironer line still needs operators, the ergonomics are important and this range allows the working height to be adjusted both via the machine's feet and optional plinths.
The controls introduce additional features such as a cleaning and waxing program and a large touchscreen display that makes the operator's work easier.
GMP's Simon says that the company has anticipated the trends in market requirements in many cases. In the 1990s it had already carried out studies on electric heaters and gas burners and had "know-how" that would allow the introduction of energy-saving features. Market requirements are now leading GMP to work on providing more automatic control features and it is doing this by specific research into electronic control. The results are now being applied, starting with electronic control of GMP's exclusive Venturi burners.
Eco-friendly design will also be an increasing influence in the future.
Electrolux Professional also highlights the increased interest in greater productivity, reduced energy and labour costs. It says that achieving these goals without affecting ironer quality is essential if laundries are to remain competitive in the current market.
Advanced, user-friendly electronics will prove essential both in controlling and optimising laundry processes and in providing the flexibility to adapt to varying customer requirements.
The company explains that its C-flex flatwork ironers have "cutting-edge" technology that makes a noticeable difference in terms of productivity, energy savings and ergonomics.
A single operator can easily run these heavy-duty ironers and they also combine high efficiency with the best finish quality, as they provide constant ironing pressure and maximise the use of the ironing surface.
Wim Opsomer at Laco Machinery says that his company is continuously researching innovative solutions that improve the ironer's energy efficiency.
The recently launched Air-Stream ventilated chest improves ironer capacity by up to 25% without increasing energy consumption and gives an effective energy saving of 20%. Another innovation is the Caloric heat-exchanger, which recovers heat and condensate from the ironer roll. First tests have shown that the Caloric will convert roll heat to produce the energy needed to heat the laundry's main wash-water to 50C.
The use of PLC control and modulating burners represents a third development. Opsomer says that modulating burners are up to 20% more energy efficient than a single- or two-stage burner, while also keeping temperature and capacity stable.
As well using its own brand, Laco also manufactures the Secom machinery range to allow smaller laundries to have industrial style, chest-heated ironers that suit their budget.
Bernard Jomard at Danube says that the company aims to design and manufacture its machines so they are simple to use, reliable and can be maintained easily and with minimum costs. Parts and panels are made from stainless-steel wherever possible to avoid the risk of rust and contamination and to keep them as clean as possible.
The latest development is the Sll flatwork dryer ironer with integrated cross-folder and stacker to save space.
In line with the company's construction policy the chassis is of stainless-steel.
Indemac is a recent entrant to the ironer market and was exhibiting at last month's Expo Detergo for the first time. The Italian company, founded in 2010 to date it focusses on one machine a combined ironer folder that it claims has a special place in the market.