Established in 1992, INX International is the American subsidiary of Sakata INX Corp., a Japanese company that has been producing inks since 1896. As the world’s largest producer of metal decorating inks, the custom-blended ink is primarily used to print on the exterior of aluminum beverage and beer cans.
After a series of problems during the production of their liquid ink mix, INX International identified that contamination from the manufacturing process was entering the process stream. With the imminent risk of the metallic contamination damaging expensive machinery, the company recognized that installing a filtration system could play a vital role in protecting equipment. “Being proactive about filtration minimizes downtime on all our other production equipment downstream,” explains Bill Black, Plant Engineer at INX International.
Because the ink is made in batches, INX was also seeking a filtration solution that would reduce waste and enable the company to operate leaner through improved productivity. The new unit needed to be operator friendly, so it could be easily dismantled and cleaned during color changes with minimal disruption to production.
In an effort to resolve these problems, the ink producer chose a self-cleaning Russell Eco Filter®. The plant employs a fleet of six Russell Eco Filters, which play a major part in ensuring product quality as well as avoiding machinery failures further down the process line. “The liquid ink mix is fed through a filter with a 200-micron screen to remove the metallic particles and other foreign contamination,” explains Black.
The 46,000-square-foot Charlotte facility, which opened in 2004, specializes in formulating ink for metal decorating that is an exact color match to customer requirements. The ink is manufactured 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Every pound of ink produced goes through the Russell Eco Filters,” comments Black.
Once packaged, the ink is shipped throughout the United States and worldwide to the major aluminum can makers, such as Metal Container Corp. (part of Anheuser-Busch), Ball Corp.’s Metal Beverage Packaging Division, Rexam Beverage Can, and Crown Cork & Seal Co. (who makes beverage cans for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser and Monster energy drink, as well as others). To put things in perspective, the plant produces the ink that coats approximately 65% of the cans used around the world, and 100% of the cans in the United States.
Manufactured at the Russell Finex plant, the Russell Eco Filter is a self-cleaning unit that integrates directly into an existing pipeline and is a sought-after alternative to messy bag and cartridge filters. By means of a unique spiral wiper design, the filter element is kept continuously clean, which ensures optimum filtration efficiency. The filter completely eliminates labor-intensive, frequent stops
Because the self-cleaning filters run continuously, Black appreciates their ease of operation and the ability for operators to quickly dismantle the units for cleaning between batch runs.
“The machine is very simple to operate. It comes apart and puts together easy with no bolts or tools needed,” says Black. “The operators take out the filter element and clean the inside of the unit. On start-up, they just open the purge valve to flush out any contamination.”
The Russell Eco Filter is available in a range of sizes to suit different flow rates. INX chose a short body filter design to keep the filtration surface area to a minimum, helping to reduce the time it takes to clean the unit during color changeovers.
“Our material is solvent-based and very viscous, I mean really dense,” explains Black. “We measure our ink in poise, not centipoise, yet everything on the Russell filter holds up really well, from the motor to the gearbox,” adds Black. “On a maintenance level, there’s really not a lot of preventative maintenance involved with the filter. It’s really a good, solid system.”
As INX continues to compete in the decorative printing ink industry, the benefits of installing the filter system have surprised Black. “Overall, I think the filters work great. I appreciate the good local support and quick delivery of parts.” Black concludes, “We’re planning to expand the Charlotte plant sometime in the future, so I anticipate we’ll be adding another Russell filter to ensure ink purity and improve operation efficiency.”