P&G issued US patent for reconfigurable converting line for fabricating absorbent articles

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia , December 24, 2013 () – The Procter & Gamble Company (Cincinnati, OH) has been issued patent number 8607836, according to news reporting originating out of Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews editors.

The patent's inventors are Healey, Patrick John (West Chester, OH); Lokar, Stoyan (Mason, OH); Amundson, Daniel Jon (Cincinnati, OH); Benner, James Jay (Boston, MA); Berrizbeitia, Jose Mauricio (Deerfield Township, OH).

This patent was filed on August 20, 2009 and was published online on December 17, 2013.

From the background information supplied by the inventors, news correspondents obtained the following quote: "Disposable, reusable and durable products such as diapers, adult incontinence articles, feminine hygiene tampons, sanitary napkins, underpants, shirts, shorts, swimsuits, gowns, pants, coats, gloves, scarves, surgical drapes, bibs, blankets, sheets, pillow cases, etc. may be manufactured on high speed converting lines. A converting line may utilize a web-based carrier to which many source materials, whether in a continuous web or discrete pieces, are processed and/or attached to the web to create a finished product.

"Although a converting line may allow for high speed production, some converting lines may be inflexible in that line changes are time consuming and expensive. For example, some converting lines may require extensive disassembly and reassembly when conducting maintenance and/or replacing certain components. In another example, converting lines may require substantial disassembly and rework in order to accommodate product upgrades. In one scenario, a product upgrade may, for example, require the following steps: constructing manual or handmade products incorporating the upgrade in order to test the concept and determine consumer acceptance of such an upgrade; constructing a machine production unit that may manufacture the product upgrade and/or the entire product incorporating the upgrade in order to determine product and process feasibility; constructing a high speed test stand that may manufacture the product upgrade in isolation at high speeds in order to test the feasibility of high speed manufacturing; constructing a prototype line that is able to make complete prototype products at high speeds; reconstructing a high speed production line to implement the process changes necessary for the product upgrade; and testing and debugging the production line. In yet another example, converting lines are inflexible to make more than one type of product. In one scenario, in order to make a different product on an existing line, the follow steps are required: portions of the line must be disassembled; reassembled of the line in the new configuration; testing to qualify the line in the new configuration. The aforementioned efforts may be expensive and time consuming, especially when the reconstruction, testing and debugging steps lead to down time of a high speed production line. Further, when a product upgrade is rolled out on multiple production lines, the time and money required to implement even a small change in each individual line may increase dramatically. Often, the time and money required will be prohibitive, and highly desirable product upgrades may be delayed or even eliminated.

"In an attempt to facilitate faster installation, servicing, and adjustment of the working devices, some converting lines may include modular sections joined together. However, such converting lines do not account for difficulties in shipping and require modules to plug into mezzanine type accessory ducts permanently installed. Thus, a converting line configuration that allows for relatively fast and easy product development, relatively low cost and efficient shipping, and reconfiguration is desired, which also minimizes down time due to testing and debugging a production converting line after construction or reconstruction."

Supplementing the background information on this patent, VerticalNews reporters also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The present disclosure relates to converting lines for manufacturing absorbent articles, and more particularly, to converting lines having modular process equipment modules and converting mechanisms reconfigurable for making different absorbent articles.

"In one form, an apparatus for the fabrication of disposable absorbent articles includes: a first converting module, a second converting module, and a third converting module, each converting module including a first wall and a second wall separated by a base and a top and defining an interior space, and wherein the each converting module defines a MD length, a CD width, and a height; a first accessory service module, a second accessory service module, and a third accessory service module, each accessory service module comprising at least one utility duct selected from the group consisting of: a compressed air header duct, a vacuum air header duct, and an electrical power distribution bus duct, and wherein each accessory service module defines a MD length equal to or less than the MD length of each of the converting modules; a first absorbent article converting mechanism disposed in the interior space of the first converting module, the first absorbent article converting mechanism releasably connectable with the at least one utility duct of the first accessory service module; a second absorbent article converting mechanism disposed in the interior space of the second converting module, the second absorbent article converting mechanism releasably connectable with the at least one utility duct of the second accessory service module; a third absorbent article converting mechanism disposed in the interior space of the third converting module, the third absorbent article converting mechanism releasably connectable with the at least one utility duct of the third accessory service module; wherein in a first configuration, the second converting module is disposed between the first converting module and the third converting module along an MD direction, and the second accessory service module is disposed between the first accessory service module and the third accessory service module along the MD direction, such that combination of the first, second, and third absorbent article converting mechanisms are adapted to produce a first absorbent article; and wherein in a second configuration, the second converting module is removed, and the first converting module is connected directly with the third converting module, and the second accessory manifold is removed, and the first accessory manifold is connected directly with the third accessory manifold, such that combination of the first and third absorbent article converting mechanisms are adapted to produce a second absorbent article different from the first absorbent article.

"In another form, a reconfigurable converting line for the fabrication of disposable absorbent articles includes: a first converting module, a second converting module, a third converting module, and a fourth converting module, each converting module defining an interior space, and wherein the each converting module defines a MD length, a CD width, and a height and wherein the MD lengths of each converting module are substantially the same; a first accessory service module, a second accessory service module, and a third accessory service module, each accessory service module comprising at least one utility duct selected from the group consisting of: a compressed air header duct, a vacuum air header duct, and an electrical power distribution bus duct, and wherein each accessory service module defines a MD length equal to or less than the MD length of each of the converting modules; a first absorbent article converting mechanism disposed in the interior space of the first converting module, the first absorbent article converting mechanism releasably connectable with the at least one utility duct of the first accessory service module; a second absorbent article converting mechanism disposed in the interior space of the second module, the second absorbent article converting mechanism releasably connectable with the at least one utility duct of the second accessory service module; a third absorbent article converting mechanism disposed in the interior space of the third module, the third absorbent article converting mechanism releasably connectable with the at least one utility duct of the third accessory service module; a fourth absorbent article converting mechanism disposed in the interior space of the fourth module, the fourth absorbent article converting mechanism releasably connectable with the at least one utility duct of the second accessory service module; wherein in a first configuration, the second converting module is disposed between the first converting module and the third converting module along an MD direction, and the second accessory manifold is disposed between the first accessory manifold and the third accessory manifold along the MD direction, such that combination of the first, second, and third absorbent article converting mechanisms are adapted to produce a first absorbent article; and wherein in a second configuration, the fourth converting module is disposed between the first converting module and the third converting module along an MD direction, and the second accessory manifold is disposed between the first accessory manifold and the third accessory manifold along the MD direction, such that combination of the first, fourth, and third absorbent article converting mechanisms are adapted to produce a second absorbent article different from the first absorbent article.

"In yet another form, a method for changing a converting line from a first configuration for fabricating first disposable absorbent articles to a second configuration for fabricating second disposable absorbent articles different from the first absorbent articles includes the steps of: providing a first converting module, a second converting module, and a third converting module, and wherein each converting module defines a MD length, a CD width, and a height, the second converting module releasably connected with and between the first converting module and the third converting module; providing a first accessory service module supported by the first converting module, a second accessory module supported by the second converting module, and a third accessory module supported by the third converting module; providing a first absorbent article converting mechanism supported by the first converting module, a second absorbent article converting mechanism supported by the second converting module, and a third absorbent article converting mechanism supported by the third converting module; disconnecting the second converting module from the first converting module and the third converting module; removing the second converting module and the second absorbent article converting mechanism from between the first converting module and the third converting module; and supporting the second accessory service module from the first accessory service module and the third accessory service module."

For the URL and additional information on this patent, see: Healey, Patrick John; Lokar, Stoyan; Amundson, Daniel Jon; Benner, James Jay; Berrizbeitia, Jose Mauricio. Reconfigurable Converting Line for Fabricating Absorbent Articles. U.S. Patent Number 8607836, filed August 20, 2009, and published online on December 17, 2013. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=116&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=5779&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=20131217.PD.&OS=ISD/20131217&RS=ISD/20131217

Keywords for this news article include: The Procter & Gamble Company.

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