Issues with Finishes
Problem: Inner packaging (corner pads and edge guards) are leaving impressions on the surface coatings of finished products. This is often referred to as printing or transferring.
It is possible that Western’s Inner Pack is causing the problem. If this is the case, we will do everything possible to remedy the situation and deliver the high quality corner and edge protectors our customers expect. However, based on years of experience troubleshooting printing issues with our customers, it is unlikely that Western’s pads are the root cause of the issue.
This is what we have seen time and again while resolving issues with our customers over the years: Changes in either the environment (specifically temperature and humidity), in the finish composition, or in production practices end up leading to the finishes not drying or curing properly. The result is often printing and transferring impressions from packaging material onto the finished goods. The following guide can give you options for testing for this problem, determining the root cause, and recognizing a pragmatic solution.
How to test for printing problems before products leave the factory:
If a finish is believed to be cured when it leaves the factory, but customers complain about impressions found on shipped goods upon receipt, here is one method of testing to confirm the product’s finish is adequately cured (dry) before it is packaged:
- Package a product normally. Set it aside with some weight on top of it to simulate the package being under load during shipping.
- Check after 24 hours. Generally, this is all the time needed before uncured or slightly wet finishes will show visible markings.
- Look for evidence. Open the package and look for marks from the type of inner pack used. It is easier to see these marks on darker, high sheen finishes, and harder to see on lighter finishes. Ribbed, molded fiber inner pack will leave rib impressions. Corrugated inner pack will leave flute line impressions and EPS inner pack will dull the finish in contact areas. It is not uncommon for undulations in carton flaps to cause printing as well.
- If printing is found: This is strong evidence that the finish is not drying or curing properly, and is probably the root cause of the printing issue.
How to determine the reason the finish is not drying or curing properly:
Based on many years of experience helping customers solve finish issues, we can usually help our customers assess why this is happening by running through this list of questions:
- Has there been a recent change in finish suppliers?
- Has the type of finish been recently changed?
- Has the method of paint or stain application recently been changed?
- Has the equipment used for the drying process recently been changed?
- Has the length of drying time for the finish recently been reduced?
- Is the wood material being checked for proper moisture content not just when receiving delivery, but also prior to entering the production process? Is there a new wood supplier?
- Do seasonal changes in the plants require modifying coatings used in warm, humid months?
Buffing or Deluxing. While this is no longer common, furniture companies used to practice “buffing” or “deluxing.” After the products were finished and the finish had cured or dried, employees would use orbital sanders with buffing pads attached to increase the sheen on their products. This practice would often heat up the top coat of sealer or lacquer, softening it back up and leaving the product susceptible to printing.
How to correct each of these issues:
- If a new finish supplier is being used, work with that company to discuss whether adjusting their formula for the drying time is necessary in the climate where it is being used.
- If the type of finish has been recently changed, work with the finish supplier to assure adequate curing time based on the climate where finish is being applied.
- If the method of finish application has been changed recently, work with the finish application company and finish supplier to re-evaluate the process to assure finishes are adequately curing.
- If the equipment used for the drying process has recently been changed, the equipment may require more fine-tuning to work properly.
- Sometimes drying time gets reduced as a cost-cutting measure. This can work if the finish chemistry is adjusted to shorten curing time. Work with the finish supplier to evaluate options.
- If moisture testing is not being done prior to production, introduce a procedure to test the wood—especially with a new supplier.
- If seasonal changes in the plant(s) require modification of coatings, work with the finish supplier to make sure adjustments are accurate and frequent enough through changing conditions.
Problem: Rubbing or abrasion marks on products are leading to returns and complaints from customers.
An Improperly Sized Carton: Abrasion issues frequently stem from an improperly sized carton. The adage “inner pack is only as good as the outer carton” is still true today.
If you pack product, you know the latest challenges:
- Manufacturers must do more with less—in product and packaging, cost containment is crucial.
- What’s more, environmental regulations have changed the nature of paint or applied finishes. Many are softer and more delicate than their catalyst-based predecessors.
- Most corrugated carton manufacturers now use a larger amount of recycled fiber, reducing container strength and protection.
- The shipping environment has changed, too: common carriers, leased trucking fleets, and LTL shipments all mean more handling and less control.
All of this puts more emphasis on the need for correctly sized cartons combined with appropriate protective inner pack. A poorly sized carton does not properly secure corner pads and edge guards in place. Movement occurs between the inner pack and finished goods during shipment when products are jostled in transit. This creates friction, heating up the finish, softening it and causing rubbing or abrasion marks.
Properly Sizing a Carton
A properly sized carton, when closed, will not allow any movement of the product contained. If it is an outer carton, it can be easily closed without bulging corners or splitting sides. A proper fitting outside carton will provide better protection during shipment and will keep inner packaging in place with less movement. This will help it perform against the rigors of today’s challenging distribution environment… especially in less-than-truckload shipments. Tests have shown cartons get looser during shipment. Starting with a well-fitting carton will increase its chances of holding up and looking better once it arrives, in part because the inner pack will have been allowed to do its job by being held snugly in place against the packaged item.
Standard pads on a delicate finish
Western developed our Shock Block line to better protect fine finishes. If you have a properly sized carton and still find abrasion marks when using our standard pads, consider trying our Shock Block line instead.
Get Expert Advice
If this information does not help you to find a solution to your packaging issues, call us. We’ll be glad to help. Western prides itself on our responsive customer service and outstanding field support.