Die Cutters Emphasize Expertise

Kodak’s Health Imaging Division contracted a die-cutting firm to produce flat, high-density PET liners for its reusable medical X-ray film cartridges. The company, however, reassessed its needs when 15 to 20% of the liners produced were defective because of hair particles, dust, and scrap material that infiltrated the liners during die-cutting.

Kodak then connected with Cowlitz Container & Die Cutting Inc. (Kelso, WA), says Ralph L. Clark, vice president of Cowlitz. Kodak “came to [Cowlitz] with a video of what it’d been experiencing with other suppliers,” he says. “Either what it wanted wasn’t communicated well, or the company it’d hired didn’t have the experience to supply it.”

Cowlitz’s staff accepted the order and decided to cut the PET on a steel-rule cutting die, which produced cleaner cuts on plastic in the mass quantities Kodak needed. Kodak’s previous contractor struggled, Clark believes, because of its unfamiliarity with die-cutting a substrate like PET, making cleaning and packaging the liners difficult and tedious.

Cowlitz designed tools and a process that cleanly cut the flat-sheet plastic liners while disposing of scrap. Once clean, the liners were shot with ionized air, vacuum packed, and shipped as a finished product in bundled packs of 50 to be assembled with X-ray trays. The result generated zero rejects and met Kodak’s deadline.

Most of Cowlitz’s jobs arrive similarly in shambles, Clark says. “A high percentage of the time [companies are] in the middle of the project when they come to us.”

Clark says business also comes from larger packaging firms that outsource small-scale productions they cannot address. Many high-volume plants outsource short, low-volume runs. “We’re seeing a lot more requests for quotations from larger firms,” Clark says.

Another key to Cowlitz’s ability to compete with larger firms, Clark says, is material reduction. Clark said the company designs its tools to utilize a lot of chipboard, often T-shaped blanks, cutting material usage by 28% in the process.


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