The design of a laundry’s finishing line must take account of a group of factors that ranges from the type of work and volumes handled, the operational cost and the required quality standard to the environmental concerns and any relevant local regulations.

For each business such factors will need to be balanced in a different way and the manufacturers and suppliers need to be aware of these differences. Perhaps even more than the laundry customer they will therefore think in terms of

broad-based solutions that go beyond an individual piece of equipment. Though each market and sector will be different, there are global trends that influence developments. Environmental concerns have long had an influence, as laundries seek to minimise their consumption of resources, such as water and energy, to improve efficiency and also reduce costs. Such concerns have led to a greater popularity of gas-heated equipment.

In the main, laundries serve two broad sectors, healthcare and hospitality. As Jensen points out, each has a slightly different focus. In healthcare, the large hospitals still focus on high capacity and volume while hotels/restaurants, particularly those at the top end, are concerned more with the linen’s appearance and the standard of finish.

The Belgian manufacturer Lapauw also takes the view that requirements and priorities will vary considerably from sector to sector.

Recent discussions between Lapauw and its customers from the healthcare sector revealed that they are looking for productivity and efficiency in all aspects, ranging from the way that sheets are fed to machine maintenance.

The company says that its recently introduced Extra feeder meets the healthcare sector’s requirements in both respects.

The operator only needs to present any one of the edges to the feeding station and the Extra will do the rest. As for maintenance, the feeder uses an innovative vacuum suction system to transfer the sheet to the ironer. Because both the complexity of the feeder and the number of moving parts are reduced, maintenance requirements are minimised.

The type of work being handled will influence the type of equipment needed and at Girbau Jordi Martinez, product manager for the industrial laundry division, highlights certain linen trends that are influencing developments.

Across Europe the use of duvets is increasing while traditional sheet-based bedding declines.

Feeding equipment thus has to cope with heavier and thicker items and also with more complex shapes such as fitted sheets.

Martinez again feels that developments in the textile sector are influencing machine design. The use of synthetics, including 100% polyester, is increasing and new materials are being introduced. 

Such trends are making themselves felt in the way manufacturers are developing equipment for the line.

The use of thicker, heavier items is having an effect down the line, but particularly at the feeder point.

As just one example Kannegiesser has designed a line that will help laundries achieve both good standards and efficient production on duvets as well as a good result on table-linen. This combines the EMQ four-station feeder with a three-roll HPM heating-band ironer and a reverse belt RFM folder. The EMQ feeder will provide a straight leading edge presenting the cloth or duvet cover squarely to the ironer.

The ironer has a high evaporation rate and this assists in both providing a high production rate and good standard of result, even on duvets.

Though every laundry has different priorities the need to balance quality with efficiency and cost will always be present.

As environmental awareness has grown, the emphasis on sustainability within the laundry and also the need to be efficient in costing has brought gas-heated ironers to the fore.

Jensen points out that the gas-heated thermal oil ironer makes it easy to achieve a balance between quality and performance. Using oil as the heating medium rather than steam allows ironer temperatures up to 230C, which also increases production rates. The gas burner will also let ironer temperatures be adjusted as necessary.

The flexible chest ironer has a smaller surface area to heat so the temperature can be adjusted quickly when switching from one fabric type to another. The combination of thermal-oil heating and a flexible chest also provides the optimum contact angle. So a mono-roll, gas-heated thermal oil flexible chest ironer can often replace a traditional steam-heated multi-roll ironer.

Lapauw has long been associated with gas-heated models. The 4000XXL gas-heated ironer has a 1,600mm diameter roll that provides a large ironing surface.

It also uses Lapauw’s flexible bed system to maximum advantage, giving 286degree bed-to- roll coverage while the integrated hydraulic system applies constant pressure to the linen.

The ironer’s touchscreen microprocessor puts the laundry in full control of the bed temperature and ironing speed. It also controls Lapauw’s smart modulating burner, which heats the thermal oil that is pumped around the ironer bed.

While the ironer forms the heart of any finishing line, the feeding and folding equipment at either end also have an important part to play. They too must deliver a good performance both in terms of quality and production rate.

Though as Girbau’s Martinez observes, less industrialised countries where labour is relatively cheap, still often feed by hand, automation is taking over across Europe.

The increased use of duvets has made clamped feeding advantageous and this method produces a good rate of production on thicker material, says Martinez. He adds that automated feeders can often produce an even higher quality than that achieved by manual feeding at lower speeds.

Automated feeders also have another advantage as they can make the task more comfortable for the operator. Work stations can be adjusted to suit different heights.

To bring the automation of the feeding and folding tasks to a wider audience Girbau has introduced the Lite range. These machines are simple to use, reliable and “attractively priced”.

The company can therefore provide a full ironer line that will help laundries to automate. This comprises the DRF feeder, which can handle a variety of garments, the PC120 flatwork ironer, matched by the FL series folders, which provides models to suit differing capacities, folding quality and price and the FT smart folder for use with towels and similar items.

The ironer in this line uses 1,200mm diameter rolls and is available in one, two- or three-roll versions and with steam, oil or gas heating systems. It also incorporates the company’s Inteli-control to regulate temperature, speed and ironing pressure.

Full line running costs

The economic climate of the past two years has brought running costs to the fore. Here the commonly held philosophy of thinking of complete solutions rather than single machines has a great advantage.

Jensen says that it is the running costs for the entire line that count and controlling these is much more important than achieving a low price on a single machine.

The company backs this argument with an examination of its self-contained gas-heated ironers. The gas consumption per kg of water evaporated is very low on these machines. Indeed the evaporation capacity can be 20 – 40% higher than on a similarly sized steam-heated ironer while the energy consumption can be

20 – 40% lower. So even though a gas-heated ironer may be more expensive to purchase, it may have a shorter payback time, perhaps months rather than years, provided the laundry can use the extra capacity to good advantage.

In this respect, it is important to combine the ironer with feeders and folders that can match the ironer’s production rate while still maintaining quality. Jensen’s recent introductions satisfy this need. The two-lane Quick Automatic remote feeding system has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the Italian healthcare sector. This allows cornerless feeding of sheets into a buffer line for use when needed.

The operator does not need to spend time looking for two corners but simply feeds the piece into a triangular area. Using this system a Jensen customer has achieved a peak capacity of 2,500pieces per hour with only one operator.

Jensen can also provide high productivity at the end of the line. By using toothed belt drives in the lateral fold as well as in the cross-fold section, it achieves higher speeds without compromising quality. Toothed belts are also easier to maintain.

The Kannegiesser private exhibition, held in Germany last month, also introduced innovations to assist in the finishing line – the CSP/PU batch separator system and the EMX two-station feeder.

The separating system has two parts – first the CSP shakes and loosens the compressed linen that comes off the extraction press or centrifugal extractor then the PU clamp completely separates the linen so that the operators at the feeder are presented with linen that is ready to be fed into the machine.

The EMX two-station feeder is designed for high productivity. When used in conjunction with the CSP/PU batch operator system, it can consistently feed up to 1,200sheets per hour. The operator simply inserts one edge into the clip and the feeder will then find the leading edge, spread the sheet and feed it into the ironer.

Kannegiesser believes strongly in the solutions approach and all components in its ironer lines have integrated control systems. Feeders, ironer and folder can all be linked so that any changes in the control are programmed centrally and passed along the line. In this way the line can be adapted to any changes in the type of work being handled without the need to run machines without work.

Integration has also been the theme of a recent innovation from Lapauw. The I-box is a mono-block design that combines all components of the line in one unit that reduces the floor space needed by one third and will also fit in a 20ft container so reducing transport costs. Installation is also convenient as the components are already aligned and connected.

The I-box also optimises operator use. The stacker output conveyor faces towards the feeder side and is within a metre of the feeder operators. There is therefore no need to have an operator on the delivery side.

As well as being convenient, the I-box is also designed for performance. The ironer is an XXL flexible chest design with a 1,200mm diameter roll over 286 degrees. The company says its performance is equivalent to the two-roll XXL 900mm ironer. The I-box can be used for small-pieces as well as large.