New Machines Stacking Up

Article excerpt

For all the attention given shaftless presses, computer-to-plate imagers, and automated palletizers, the hottest piece of iron on the newspaper production floor may very well be the humble stacker.

Suddenly, it seems, every major packaging center vendor offers a stacker. Gammerler is bringing out a newspaper version of the three- stage stacker developed for the commercial market. Machine Design Service Inc. (MDSI) is introducing its first-ever stacker. GMA Inc. is taking the wraps off a machine it hopes will be the next generation of packaging technology.

There are several reasons the market for stackers is getting crowded:

* greater number and variety of inserts

* ever-accelerating demand for equipment that does not manhandle the packages

* migration of machines from commercial plants to newspaper mailrooms. A fourth reason dates from 1995, when a big stacker maker left the North American market. "When Idab went out of business, we felt there was a large opening for a stacker competitor," says Tre Prater, MDSI mechanical engineering manager.

He cites another reason for Denver-based MDSI's stacker: "More and more customers are wanting to go to a single-source supplier who can supply everything from Point A to Point B in the packaging center. This just gets us closer to that."

MDSI's Newspak counter-stacker is designed with what the company calls an "open frame" design that eliminates the cagelike supports that define the stacking area of many stackers. The turntable adjusts to varying widths, and each stacking wall operates on separate motors. The extruded aluminum structure borrows from MDSI's most-low-tech products, its bulk containers.

"I looked at the jarring and stress that they have to go through, and from an engineering standpoint, I can say I am not bothered a bit about this machine," Prater says.

Despite the open frame and patented wall drives, MDSI emphasizes the ease of getting replacement parts. "We don't custom-make anything," Prater says. "Everything is available through many avenues."

Gammerler, too, introduced at Nexpo '99 its first newspaper compensating stacker, the PrintPath STC-70, in a strategic decision to extend its packaging-center line. …