Factors that affect the buying decision11 December 2015
Productivity, quality and energy use are prime influences on ironer purchase and development. Janet Taylor discusses responses by manufacturers and regional factors that need to be considered
The ironer is at the heart of the finishing line and it is by the quality of the finished goods that the customer judges the laundry's standards.
As Kannegiesser's director of engineering Michael Harre points out, the ironer also has a big impact on productivity of the whole laundry and both factors have a strong influence on purchasing decisions.
The company explains that to achieve the best productivity, the ironer's evaporation rate must be high enough to run the system at high speed and its working width must be able to accommodate the linen. It must be able to produce the quality in both the body and the edges that the customer demands.
Wim Demeyer at Lapauw points out that other considerations can include the available working space, the need to balance production with labour costs, and energy consumption.
However the emphasis placed on these factors will vary. Hospital laundries will make efficiency a priority while those serving hotels and restaurants will need to produce high quality standards as well as operating efficiently.
There are also regional differences to take into account, says Demeyer. In South East Asia and in Eastern Europe there is growing interest in energy efficiency and so demand for gas-heated ironers in growing.
The USA shares this interest, despite stabilising and even declining energy costs. Some local governments offer incentives for purchasing energy efficient equipment.
But health and safety is high on the agenda both in the USA and Europe and more and more laundries are looking at reliability and the lifetime costs.
Harre at Kannegiesser says that requirements also depend on the textiles being used.
Heavy cotton sheets with a high moisture content can be processed at high temperature and high-roll pressure. Thinner pieces and polycottons need a lower temperature to avoid overdrying and also static problems on the folders.
He also points out that research has shown that using lower temperatures can increase the lifetime of linens significantly and so laundries may decide to reduce temperatures but increase ironer capacity to get the same output.
Jordi Compte, product manager at Girbau Industrial, says the ironer purchase must consider all factors and it is a matter of balancing parameters to get a good result. His company's current priorities are reducing consumption, raising production and making ironers easy to use and more controllable. Certainly there are regional variations and the energy choice may depend on local resources.
Gas is generally seen as clean and the PC series uses the G-heat system with 93% efficiency. Where steam is preferred, Girbau has built in a control that adjusts temperature in line with steam pressure - another route to increased efficiency.
Responding to markets
Ironer manufacturers are responding to these varying demands in several ways and each has a slightly different emphasis.
Bearing in mind the increased importance of lifetime costs, Demeyer at Lapauw says the first step is ensuring that machine maintenance is easy and cost effective.
To this end, it uses off-the-shelf components so customers can choose where to buy spares both for convenient access and to get the best price.
Sometimes the solution is found through attention to detail. Lapauw offers a wide range of roll diameters from 500 to 1,600mm and has recently expanded the range of options for customising machines. Finding the right machine may mean a visit to the customer. Recently a US laundry that specialised in event linen wanted to be sure it could handle a wide range of qualities and materials from thin polyester to cotton-rich products.
Often a small diameter, single-roll ironer is chosen in such cases but by testing some of the delicate items at its HQ, Lapauw found that a 1,600mm single-roll, gas-heated ironer was the best choice in this case. The microprocessor control allowed the laundry to set-up programs specifically designed for each category while the large roll optimised productivity.
An exit conveyor at the back allowed work to cool down sufficiently for operators to handle so it could then be stored immediately.
The Jensen Group offers a comprehensive range of ironers to provide for all applications within the heavy-duty industrial laundry sector.
Mono-roll ironers may be preferred by premium hospitality businesses for their high quality standards as they do not need guide tapes, which may mark the linen). Multi-roll ironers (with two, three, or four rolls and varying diameters) may be more suited to hospital work where productivity is the priority.
Steam-heating is an option but, for sustainability, Jensen developed its CleanTech concept on gas heating. The EXPG thermal oil gas-heated ironers are self-contained units with a gas burner and an integrated heat-exchanger. This combination can be used for laundries that want more ironing capacity without having to invest further in the boiler house or for those wanting to free-up boiler capacity for other machines.
The integrated burner on these ironers, combined with the flexible chest allows the temperature to be adjusted to suit the work. Cotton can be processed quickly at higher temperatures, or the heat can be lowered for ironing polyester or for producing high quality results on table linen by running the ironer at low speeds. The carbon-steel roll ensures optimum heat conduction and minimises the friction when linen is wet.
Mono-roll ironers offer a choice of 1,200 or 2,000mm diameters and multi-roll models, 800, 1,000, or 1,200mm. They are also available with a fixed chest but the majority of customers opt for a flexible chest, which ensures full roll-to-bed contact and so increases capacity.
All ironers are available with working widths of 3,000 and 4,200mm.
An ironer for all sectors
The Girbau group supplies both the industrial laundry sector and the OPL and commercial markets, with divisions for each. Its ironer strategy recognises this and with the PB/PBP series, the Compact series and the PC series Girbau has covered the varying needs of each sector in terms of production and technical advances.
Compte lists its most important developments for the ironer market.
Girbau's exclusive energy optimiser in the PC series allows the ironer to be pre-set to switch into an energy saving mode at the end of the day, in line with the type of work, so that it can take advantage of thermal inertia.
The rigid bed used for all flatwork has a robust design that allows the company to offer a seven-year warranty on the chest.
Heat capture technology saves energy by using heat without transmitting it to the exterior, so improving efficiency and the working environment. The Ghelp system in the PC series ironers allows any problems to be diagnosed remotely via a connection in the machine.
Girbau has introduced a new control that has a greater capacity for adjusting all ironing parameters. It also includes the Inteli concept, identifying settings via visual icons.
Harre at Kannegiesser says manufacturers need to supply ironers with high evaporation for productivity and efficiency. As the range of linen handled widens, the ability to adapt ironing temperature quickly to different sizes and thicknesses has becomes increasingly important.
One batch might be heavy sheeting with a high moisture content that needs high temperatures and the next, polyester table cloths that need much lower temperatures. The change must be quick and efficient as it is in the Kannegiesser HPM ironers, which use a
stainless-steel flexible heating band rather than a conventional chest.
This heating band adapts to the roll contours, giving better contact and therefore excellent heat transfer and high evaporation rates, to such an extent that a two-roll ironer has the same capacity as a conventional three-roll ironer.
The productivity gains of a three-roll HPM over a conventional four-roll ironer are even greater. Additionally the combination of excellent heat insulation, and a small footprint leads to extremely low energy consumption.
Alliance Laundry Systems serves the commercial and OPL market with ironers available through both its Primus and Ipso brands. It says that with the European market, energy efficiency is one of the biggest influences both on buying decisions and the technical development. The company now has cylinder heated ironers where a patented metal fibre, pre-mix burner has made its gas-heated ironers around 20% more efficient.
In developed markets high labour costs have meant a focus on lines with both feeding and folding fully automated. Alliance also stresses the significance of total cost of ownership. Developments that assist here include a patented direct drive system, described as maintenance free, for its 330mm diameter cylinder-heated ironers. This 330mm range also features a patented central suction system to remove moisture, so improving performance. Other patented features include automatic speed management integrated with moisture sensors for optimal performance.
Danube, now part of the Onnera Group, also focusses on OPL commercial sectors, but the purchasing influences it quotes are much the same as in the heavy duty sector. Pricing is often top of the list followed by productivity, layout costs and, depending on the customer, finish quality. Again Danube notes regional differences - Western Europe stresses sustainability while Eastern Europe is more concerned with price, and in the USA efficiency and durability are the big concerns.
Research and development is the answer to meeting these varying requirements. Ergonomics and hygiene have been priorities with details such as working height stainless-steel panels, while roll reversing was first developed for Moroccan customers.
Its Smart system helps to meet the efficiency requirements of high grade hotels and hospitals. Danube's recently introduced MIII range has a 300mm diameter and 500mm working width. The gas heated version features a radiant burner, which is said to increase production by 25%.
GMP, the Italian manufacturer specialising in ironers, serves the OPL?market and small-to-medium size industrial /commercial sector. It highlights an increasing need for more performance information in some sectors, particularly OPL and care/residential homes.
This allows management to control and integrate ironer data with those from other machines in the laundry and this produces evident advantages in terms of costs and hygiene control.
With regard to meeting the needs of different geographic markets, GMP notes that in both Eastern and Western Europe the prevailing requirement is an energy efficient ironer that can reduce running costs while producing the optimal finish.
Many non-EU markets are rapidly adopting similar quality standards and opt for European-made products says GMP, as they are offering an excellent price/quality ratio in both the industrial and commercial market.
With regard to the future, GMP has been working with its suppliers to explore fresh solutions in terms of electronics, where there is a good margin for growth.
GMP believes this will lead to more user-friendly ironers with the highest safety standards that can produce the best possible work quality.
Miele Professional has also been concerned with the ironer's ergonomics as well as its performance.
The PM12 ironer introduced at the end of 2014 is said to increase performance by around 50% when compared with previous models and the working height can be adjusted via the ironer's feet and with optional plinths.
Additional programs are now available on the control and these include a cleaning and waxing mode.
Stahl's Master ironers use a heated band design, which is said to increase the contact pressure area by up to 20%.
The design of the "super trough" optimises heat retention and allows even distribution. The ironer is designed so that it is the roll that raises and lowers rather than the heavy trough and this again saves energy.