Committed to investing in innovation
Tinmasters has always been committed to investing in innovation because we want to ensure we can always provide our clients with the best available solutions.
We were the first metal printers in the UK to install a 4 colour print line (in 1996). Now (in 2018) we have installed a high-speed, highly automated, state-of-the-art MetalStar 3 printing press.
We work hand-in-hand with the UK’s leading researchers in materials and surface treatments, to ensure we are ahead of the curve when it comes to testing new techniques and technologies.
And when we come across a problem with no obvious solution we are quick to find our own, by commissioning new software, for example (PrintPlan) or implementing ideas that have proved successful in other industries (Auto-vis®).
Tinmasters Innovations and Technology
Fine-tuning processes with the Welsh Printing & Coating Centre
We have been able to solve some of our own business challenges with the support of the Welsh Coating & Printing Centre (WCPC), an organisation that is linked to the University of Swansea but has an industry-facing focus.
For example, when concerns were raised worldwide about the long-term health implications of BPA (an additive that had been routinely used in plastic coatings) Tinmasters worked with the WCPC to develop and fine-tune our production processes using BPA-NI (non intent) coatings. This ensured we were able to adapt to the new requirements quickly without compromising our high quality standards during the transition.
Putting theories into practice with Swansea University
Printing onto metal is a science in itself and the materials research team at Swansea University are leaders in their field, especially when it comes to surface treatment technologies.
Tinmasters has been working with the Swansea team for many years, providing the vital industry perspective that helps the researchers to turn their academic theories into testable prototypes.
Supporting research into anti-counterfeit devices
Swansea University’s College of Engineering is one of the top industry-led research departments in the UK. In 2016 the College founded the Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) to provide postgraduate-level research opportunities for students undertaking industry-defined projects. Student scholarships are offered under the M2A scheme and jointly funded by the Welsh European Funding Office, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Centre for Doctoral Training in Industrial Functional Coatings and the industry partners taking the lead on the projects.
Tinmasters has initiated a large research project through the M2A scheme with the title ‘Brand Protection for Steel Packaging Products’.
The aim of this project is to develop an anti-counterfeiting feature that provides multiple levels of security covering every stage of the supply chain, including the final product authentication by the consumer. Once we have a tried and tested solution we will be able to offer customers the option to shield their metal packaged products against counterfeiting using our own advanced security techniques.
This is a particularly important field of research for any companies that manufacture infant formula, especially those who export products to China, following recent counterfeiting instances.
Tinmasters is delighted to be sponsoring Anna Toutounzi, the PhD Engineering student who is undertaking the research project into anti-counterfeit protection systems on our behalf.
Introducing Auto-vis® – an industry first
As well as operating at the leading edge of metal printing technology, we also look at the best practices in other industries to see if there is more we could be doing. One example of this is Auto-Vis Print Excellence®, our own fully automated inspection and classification system used at the point of packing to ensure 100% print excellence.
For years the automotive industry has used end-of-process dedicated inspections to ensure the aesthetic quality and finish is of an exceptionally high standard. We have adapted this idea to ensure a final inspection of the print quality of both the top and bottom of every metal sheet coming down our lines is automatically examined for minute errors. We are inspecting and classifying automatically (i.e. automatically rejecting defective sheets that need to be pulled because of tiny flaws that had not been picked up by earlier manual inspections). This ensures we have the highest possible level of quality control across our entire production.
Commissioning PrintPlan – tailor-made scheduling software for metal printers
In 1989 Tinmasters decided to commission a bespoke print scheduling solution to help us in planning our workload to accommodate ad hoc and contingency requests. We approached Suilven Associates, an IT company that specialises in developing software solutions that help organisations to manage their supply chain, and they in turn created an entirely new programme called PrintPlan.
PrintPlan brings all of the tasks and processes involved in metal printing together into one fully-integrated information sharing and scheduling system. Having all of this information linked together in one place gives us the ability to adjust our service levels as necessary – including doubling our productivity with as little as a week’s notice. It also ensures we can move quickly through the many pre-press processes, confirming all technical specifications (file types, colour standards), checking we have the necessary materials in place (tinplate, coating, inks, varnish) if required and raising a detailed quote for approval.
PrintPlan was and remains the only scheduling software designed specifically for metal printing. The first version proved so successful that Suilven Associates was able to market it to other companies in the same industry. As PrintPlan’s first customer, Tinmasters has continued to work closely with Suilven Associates, contributing suggestions for future updates to ensure the latest version of the software always reflects new and emerging requirements.
For more information on Suilven Associates please visit www.suilven.com
TinMasters remain at the forefront of system developments today, enhancing the PrintPlan system to allow them to run a tight, lean operation that delivers superb service to their customers. They have a great, outward-looking team who are a pleasure to work with.