New Web Dynamics Seminar

Eastman employees learned the science behind their work in the new CAFM Web Dynamics Seminar.

Fifteen Eastman Chemical Co. employees learned the science behind their work in performance films and how to better detect and resolve problems in production at last week’s “Web Dynamics” seminar in Martinsville.

The four-day session, “Web Dynamics,” is the newest program offered by the Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing (CAFM). It was the first professional “expert seminar” using the new academic coater at the New College Institute (NCI).

The workshop covered key concepts to optimize performance film equipment and process designs as well as practical steps to eliminate waste from breaks, deformation, scratches, alignment errors, wrinkles and roll defects, according to information from Ralph Schultz, a senior process engineer with Eastman Chemical. Its goal was to lead to practical solutions to common problems, he added.

The training was unique because it gave equal weight to classroom instruction and hands-on experience with the coater, according to Kevin A. Cole, senior engineer in web handling development with Optimation in Rochester, N.Y., who taught the training program.

Optimation built the $1 million academic coater, which combines performance film coating, drying, lamination and web dynamics. The equipment merges the film processes used in a plant with academics for workforce training, Schultz said. It is not designed to produce a product other than for training purposes, he added.

The coater was unveiled to the public in August, and it has been used for demonstrations for students in the CAFM Advanced Film Certification Program and others. Last week’s course was the first time it has been used for a full professional training course, Schultz said.

Schultz said the seminar participants spent their mornings in the classroom and their afternoons getting hands-on experience with the academic coater. All the participants were engineers, technologists and expert operators, Schultz said.

This training taught them the science behind their work at Eastman, several of the students said. “Sometimes you know how to fix (a problem), but not the science behind it,” said Dave Pruitt, a manufacturing technologist at the Patriot Centre site with 3 1/2-years with the company. “The film industry is hard to learn. It’s finicky, precise. The more science you know, the better off you are.”

“We’re getting a great understanding of the processes we do every day,” said Steven Deal, a machine tech in the dye department at Eastman in Fieldale. He has been employed by Eastman and its predecessors for 13 years. “We are getting a more technical understanding of the machinery … (and) learning the whole process,” he added.

Clifton Scott, who is a research and tech pilot coater at the Fieldale operation with three years of experience at the company, said he works on machines similar to those at NCI. “We’re learning the physics behind web dynamics” which will help the employees when detecting, preventing and repairing problems, Scott and several others said.

They also praised the hands-on nature of the training and said that helps them relate what they are learning to the machines they work on.

Chris Roach, a machine tech at Eastman’s operation in the Patriot Centre industrial park (formerly Commonwealth Laminating and Coating), said the training gave him new ideas to take back to the machine operators in the plant. That way, when problems occur, the operators will have a broader base of knowledge to find a solution, he added.

Roach, who has worked for Eastman and its predecessors for nearly 11 years, liked the fact that the training was geared to window film. “Working with window film is an art,” he added.

In addition to the benefits of the training mentioned by the participants, Cole said it can help employees develop new products “with preexisting web handling principles.”

Cole taught the training and Schultz was its host, Cole said. Schultz said plans are for Cole to hold two such training sessions here each year of the more than a dozen public and private sessions he conducts each year. Cole praised Schultz for his work in developing the performance film training program and coater, calling him “visionary.”

In addition to professional training, the academic coater will be used to train students in the Advanced Film Certification, a 28-credit program through Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC). Students take classes at PHCC and the New College Institute and complete an internship through Eastman. After graduating from the program, students are guaranteed a job interview at Eastman. While the program is called Advanced Film Certification, 80 percent of the skills it teaches could be used in any advanced manufacturing setting.

“Web handling is a process engineering discipline focusing on improving productivity and reducing waste of product made from papers, films, foils, nonwovens, textiles or any thin, continuous material,” said Schultz. Many manufacturing trends create new challenges for web handling and winding, including thinner, wider, or more delicate products, faster or more integrated processes, and ultra-clean or hazardous environments — all increasing the potential for web handling defects, he stated. Learning to handle these materials, processes, and environmental challenges will provide a company with a competitive advantage, he added.