Heat Sealer Comparison: Shade Manufacturing

As a leading manufacturer of heat sealers, this is always a tricky article to write. Obviously we have a bias, however we’ve also been in the business for a long time and have seen lots of products and technologies. We’ve survived most of our competitors and have become experts on heat sealing products. So, when in comes to comparisons, I believe our reviews are worth consideration before making a decision on which heat sealer is the best heat sealer for your application.

As of this date (May 2011), heat sealer choices are quite plentiful. In this article we’ll compare heat sealers for manufacturing shades. Heat sealers for shade manufacturing are used to produce pockets, overlaps, spline encapsulation, and hem end closures. Heat sealing technologies used to make these seals include (ordered alphabetically): impulse sealing, pulse sealing, radio frequency and wedge welding. Impulse sealing and radio frequency (RF) are the oldest technologies, followed by wedge welding and pulse sealing as the newest method.

History
Which method used depends a lot on what materials you want to heat seal. In the early days, say 30 to 40 years ago, vinyl was king. Pretty much the only material to seal. And RF was the best way to seal that material. Of course RF had its problems … operator health issues to radio interference to phone system interference and to frequent computer issues. Seals were pretty good, but arcing (burn outs) was common and machine issues caused lots of operator headaches. My father was one of the original developers and pioneers in manufacturing RF heat sealing machines, so growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I heard lots about the problems associated with RF heat sealing.

Impulse sealing was a great alternative for RF heat sealing. When Impulse bar sealers were introduced about 30 years ago, they were an inexpensive alternative to the rather expensive RF heat sealers.  There are basically two kinds of impulse sealers … time controlled and temperature controlled.  Some manufactures combine them.  Many of the temperature controlled units also require water/glycol cooling systems which could be quite messy and dangerous considering high current combined with liquid/leaks.  The true professionals preferred RF over impulse sealing largely because the quality of an RF seal was superior to an impulse seal.  Impulse sealing was (and still is) prone to discoloration and sealing distortions.  RF seals from the inside out whereas Impulse seals from the outside in.  The higher the heat, the more the discoloration on the exposed side of the seal.  When making a shade, discoloration is bad.  So as long as vinyl was king, RF heat sealing was popular.

As material variations expanded … vinyl coated polyester, etc., RF heat sealers became less reliable.  Wedge Welding introduced favorable options.  Wedge welding also seals from the inside out, and discoloration was not a problem.  Wedge Welding’s biggest drawback is registration — keeping things aligned, and when compared to bar sealers, Wedge Welding is slow.  There was a need for something better, so about 7 years ago, Novaseal began experimenting with a new technology called Pulse Sealing.  Pulse sealing is similar to Impulse Sealing in that both Pulse and Impulse sealing use the same Heating Elements.  However that is about the extent of their similarity.  Pulse Sealing frequency modulates the Heating Elements to create a gradual and progressive heating of the material. When compared to Impulse Sealing, Pulse Sealing operates considerably cooler, uses less energy, and doesn’t discolor heat sealed materials.  Novaseal’s patent pending technology is used to heat seal virtually all synthetic materials without discoloration, without distortions, without complicated cooling systems and without the negatives associated with RF or Impulse heat sealing.  As a matter of fact, Pulse Sealing produces the absolute best quality seals available.  Pulse Sealing technology is also the fastest heat sealing method currently available.  With Novaseal’s ShadeSealer line of products, Pulse generated seal can be completed in less than 10 seconds, which is less than 1/3 time associated with Impulse sealing and nearly 1/2 the time of RF heat sealing.  And one of the best things about Pulse Sealing is that it was designed, developed and manufactured in the United States.

Current Day Options

As a result of our poor economy and recession, many Asian vendors arrived on the scene.  I understand certain Asian countries provide better quality than others, however for the most part, Asian vendors are not known for technology.  What they are known for is building low quality machines based on older technologies introduced 20 to 30 years ago at substantial cost savings.  And based solely on their price, several American shade manufacturers have purchased these machines only to learn within a very short time that their machines are limited and cannot be used to heat seal a majority of the newer more popular materials including blackout, solar efficient materials, polyester, digital fabrics, eco green materials or even shade liner materials.  The calls and stories I hear are quite disturbing, especially when I learn that the shade manufacturer spent their last dollar or limited funds on the wrong machine.

Another concern, in my opinion, is Asian heat sealer manufacturers are setting a new standard of low quality featureless heat sealer solutions.  For example, one customer said that he purchased Miller Weldmaster’s Asian manufactured “Impulse Extreme” and Weldmaster tried to assure him that no machine can do better and that Weldmaster’s perceived limitations were standard for the industry.  This myopia creates a sense of mediocrity which alters our perception from new/technology to stagnant.  Make sure you don’t let Asian manufacturers compromise your quest for a better solution.

Support issues.  So rarely do we think of support when we buy something new.  We believe that if it works today, it will probably function normally for a long time.  What we don’t readily think of is that to buy something that costs significantly less, the quality and cost of materials is often less than what we would consider acceptable.  Add to that the fact that countries like China are beginning to experience labor problems which will probably result in even less support than the current minimal support provided.  Replacement parts could take months or longer.  Can you afford to be down for 2 to 3 months?  If you decide to purchase Asian manufactured products, make sure you are fully self sufficient and can rebuild the heat sealer without assistance.

Another problem in buying Asian made products is our perception that if something isn’t safe or doesn’t perform per specification that we have legal recourse.  Asian manufacturers are not legally accountable which means that if you buy something made in an Asian country and it doesn’t meet safety guidelines or perform as specified, you have no recourse.  You can’t sue.  As an American manufacturer, Novaseal is fully accountable.  So, when you think about it, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for an Asian manufactured heat sealer  is probably significantly more than buying an American manufactured product, and with American you get technology, support and accountability.  Is it possible that companies that buy Asian manufactured heat sealers are actually “penny wise, dollar foolish”?

So, to summarize your options … RF heat sealers are dated and no longer meet needs of the modern manufacturer of shades.  Wedge welding is too slow and cumbersome.  Realistically the two remaining solutions are Impulse Sealing and Pulse Sealing.  And if you remove Asian manufacturers you remove Ultratab, SB2 Concepts, and Miller Weldmaster (“Impulse Extreme”). Sinclair’s “Impulse Sealing System” is, according to their President, of undisclosed origin although not made in either USA or Asia. So there really is only 3 heat sealing manufacturers remaining.  In alphabetic order the remaining companies serving the shade industry are:  Asco (Belgium company represented by Sani and Forest Group), Matic (Spanish company represented by Vertilux) and Novaseal (US company).

Poster-type Press (L to R): Asco, Novaseal, Matic

Press-type:  In the following Heat Sealer Manufacturer Comparison table, we’ve decided only to include manufacturer’s contributing poster-type presses. For the best seals, a poster (vertical c-frame) press is preferred over a cantilevered (horizontal v-frame) press. The cantilevered-type press was common 30 years ago and is characteristic of many cheaper older technology-based Asian heat sealers. Poster-type presses provide even pressure along longer length sealing bars, and even pressure is required for better seals.

Bar Seal Length Poster-type Press Providers
Small: 3-meter Matic Ares Plus (118-inch), Miller Weldmaster Impulse Extreme (118-inch), Novaseal ShadeSealer (126-inch)
Midsize: 4-meter Matic Ares Plus (157-inch), Novaseal ShadeSealer (168-inch)
Large: 5+ meter Asco IL580 (228-inch), Matic Ares Plus (196-inch), Novaseal ShadeSealer (210-inch & 252-inch)

 
Of the 4 companies that provide poster-type press heat sealers, only Asco, Matic, and Novaseal provide midsize or larger heat sealers for the shade industry. For comparison purposes, I’ve compared Asco and Novaseal, the two most popular midsize shade industry heat sealers purchased by companies in the United States.

Heat Sealer Manufacturer Comparison

Feature

ASCO

NOVASEAL

Manufacturing Country: Europe United States
Represented By: Sani & Forest Group NOVASEAL
Technology: Impulse Sealing Pulse Sealing
Comparison Sealing Bar Length: 169-inch 168-inch
Press Technology: Cantilevered (Horizontal V-Frame, Angled) Poster (Vertical C-Frame) Read More.
Automatic Pocket Forming Accuracy: ± 1/8 inch over 169 inches ± 1/64 inch over 168 inches
Seal Width: 1 Seal up to 1″ Width 2 Seals each up to 1″ Width (MultiHead Sealing)
Seal Types: Pocket & Overlap Pocket, Overlap & Spline Attachment
Spline & Zipper Attachment: Add On Extra Option Included (part of MultiHead)
Cycle Seal Times: 20 to 30 second average 3 to 10 second average
Heating Element Tensioner: Springs. Fatigues & Needs Replacement Pneumatic Rocker. Easy to Maintain & Lasts Forever
Sales & Service: Via Distributors Factory Direct
Support Phone Only Web-based, Chat Access, Users Groups & Phone
Warranty 1-year 5-Year Parts Replacement Warranty
Supplies & Replacement Parts: 2 to 3 weeks 2 to 3 days
Ease of Use: Moderate Easy
Range of Materials to Seal: Limited All Materials, Even Woven Wood fabrics!
Seal Quality: Good Best Quality Seals Available

 

… and best of all, Novaseal ShadeSealers cost less than ASCO heat sealers, especially when you consider freight. Within three years Novaseal’s ShadeSealers are projected to hold more value than a comparable Asco heat sealer.

At the end of the day, if technology matters, and I sure hope it does, then there really is only one choice, and that choice is based in Florida and is fully accountable to your shade application needs. Now is the time to become another Novaseal success story … Buy a ShadeSealer today!

Article authored by Glenn Lippman, President/CEO of Novaseal Corporation. Glenn is a national advocate and frequent presenter on topics related to Made in USA and contributor to the Center for America.  Novaseal is the developer of the Pulse Sealing technology. All rights reserved. ©May 2011, revised ©July 2011, Novaseal Publications, Novaseal Corporation.