We at Smith Corona are always looking for ways to not only innovate our business, but build a greener future through more sustainable means.
While most laminators in the industry use a thermal method to cure their silicone, Smith Corona is transforming our factory to better accommodate ultraviolet (UV) silicone curing.
How? We’re introducing a new on-site gas generation facility to produce our own nitrogen!
It’s a rare feat for a company to make its own nitrogen. Typically this process is done by huge scale corporations, like Budweiser.
Making our own nitrogen creates multiple benefits not only for our business but our entire work environment. And as a result, we’re able to produce a better label for our customers.
Here’s a look at how Smith Corona is taking label manufacturing another step into the future.
Why Make Our Own Nitrogen?
Improving our label making process is a core value at Smith Corona. And because we recognize the importance of utilizing new and advanced technologies, we found that UV silicone curing was one of the best ways we could do this.
As it stands, we’re currently the largest user of UV cure silicones for label release in the labeling industry. That’s right, the largest.
While it’s true other label manufacturers use UV curing technology, they tend to limit it to specific products. For example, Avery Dennison only uses UV-cured silicones for their film liners.
In a previous article, we discussed the benefits of using nitrogen gas with UV curing technology.
For companies that use this method to cure their silicone there are 2 ways they can choose to get the required nitrogen:
- Get it delivered
- Make their own
When we first began our operations, Smith Corona was getting liquid nitrogen delivered by truck daily. When you add everything up, that’s a lot of trips. However, this process was detrimental to the product we were receiving.
Our UV curing process requires an extremely high purity of nitrogen: 99.999% to be exact. And during the process of transportation and having to regasify the liquid nitrogen, it ends up losing some of its purity.
So ultimately, the solution to this problem was for us to make our own nitrogen.
Based on Smith Corona’s current and future gas needs for production goals, an on-site gas generation system was the best option to meet these needs in addition to scaling our business in a more sustainable way.
Here’s how we did it:
Our New Nitrogen Generation System
An on-site nitrogen generation system for a business of our size is truly unique.
Having an on-site facility improves reliability of producing nitrogen over the reliance of having liquid nitrogen brought in by truck. We also have maximum transparency throughout the entire nitrogen making process and are able to constantly monitor the nitrogen:
So how did we get this system built?
Airgas®, an Air Liquide company, a leading U.S. supplier of industrial, medical and specialty gases, assisted Smith Corona through the use of their FLOXAL™ system.
Initially, Airgas was supplying Smith Corona with liquid nitrogen for our UV curing process. But more recently they’ve co-located a facility to our Cleveland, Ohio location, combining their equipment with our property – another unique circumstance for this process.
Here’s some of the equipment we’re working with:
- 50 foot distillation towers – These towers separate any oxygen from the nitrogen.
- Compressors – Rapidly cools the air and helps form liquid nitrogen so it can be turned into gas.
- Vaporizer – Takes the liquid nitrogen and heats it up until it becomes a gas.
Normally, companies that choose to produce their own nitrogen use a process called Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA). This system is the most common and cost effective, and is utilized by small to medium-sized companies.
However, it doesn’t always provide the highest level of purity or nitrogen flow rate. So Smith Corona chose a different option.
To further step outside the box, we’re using a process called Liquid Nitrogen (LIN) Assist. This aids with consistent higher quality and flow rate of the nitrogen, increasing our production and improving overall efficiency.
Medium to large-sized companies that make their own nitrogen favor this method, meaning we’re utilizing extremely large scale generators with technology more commonly found in refineries and industries like steel production.
Choosing to run our facility this way wasn’t just more efficient, reliable, and productive, but also allowed us as a company to increase our sustainability initiatives.
We recognize that the shift toward more environmentally friendly options continues to grow throughout the global market.
Choosing to run an on-site nitrogen production facility allowed us the opportunity to minimize our carbon footprint and grow our sustainability initiatives as a company.
Here’s are just some ways we’re helping out the environment:
Remember that before we began making our own nitrogen gas, we had a truckload of liquid nitrogen delivered from Airgas to our facility daily.
Now that we’re making our own nitrogen, we’ve successfully reduced nitrogen truck deliveries for a smaller carbon footprint.
How much smaller? An estimated CO2 reduction by 40-50% when compared to bulk nitrogen deliveries by truck.
Transporting liquid nitrogen requires certain qualifications more than other delivery items. Because it’s classified as a hazardous material, drivers must have Department of Transportation (DOT) clearance, which is not often available.
Making our own nitrogen gas infinitely decreases the chances of safety issues occurring through transportation.
Less truck traffic, and ultimately personnel on-site to unload and handle these hazardous materials, decreases the chances of any safety issues occurring.
Fewer Emissions & Less Energy
Curing silicone through nitrogen gas and UV technology means we’re decreasing the amount of energy and emissions used in our label making process.
Using UV light to instantly cure silicone rather than running the hot ovens used in the thermal curing process outputs less energy from our faculty overall.
It also means we’re decreasing the amount of emissions released during this process. No burning natural gas for us!
Continuing to Innovate Our Labels
Smith Corona is taking the necessary steps to create the highest quality labels for our customers.
Building a better facility to make us a better company will ultimately help us make a better product.
And our new on-site nitrogen facility will help us get there. This is truly the next evolution of improving the quality of labels!