Steelcase North America, Grand Rapids, MI, upgraded its office furniture production line.

A variable-speed machine was designed to meet specifications and upgrade the production line.
Steelcase North America, Grand Rapids, MI, an office furniture manufacturer, was facing increased demands for office partitions. The production demands required that some changes be made. "We needed to upgrade our production line, which included purchasing new machines," explained Karl Esch, senior manufacturing engineer for Steelcase's California operations.

As part of the upgrade, a higher degree of equipment automation was desired. At a critical point in the process, fabric used to cover partitions had to be sheeted from rolls, stacked on a pallet and transported to a molding area, where the partitions are heat-molded to frames. Because the equipment that heat-molded fabric to the frames was completely automated, the fabric sheets had to remain within strict tolerances: I0.15" for material length up to 48" and I0.20" for lengths between 48 and 80". Holding that tolerance and keeping the fabric moving presented a problem.

Esch received bids from several manufacturers. Equip-ment that could be handled by one operator, integrated into the production line and custom designed to meet Steelcase's specifications was required to cut the fabric. After considering his options, Esch selected the inline ServoSheeter from Contech, Goddard, KS. The variable-speed machine was equipped with a buggy-type roll unwind, a secondary uncoiler and a web guide, and it cut fabric at a rate of eight 80" sheets per minute.

In addition, the Servo-Sheeter was built to meet Steelcase's production expectations over time. Among other things, the equipment had a drive system that was duty-rated for 24 hr, seven days a week operation.

"Instead of offering cookie-cutter equipment that would have to be worked into a production line, we augmented the design of our standard machines," said Mike Salsgiver, Contech's vice president. According to Esch, "Contech's design meshed well into our production line."