That Comes Standard
ASWF Shows Innovative Approach
by Casey Neeley
Reimagining the window film manufacturing process is what
some would call taking a gamble. But Michael Martin, the president
of American Standard Window Film (ASWF), calls it a sure bet.
The company’s 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility,
which produces both automotive and architectural films, located near the
Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, houses more than just 50 employees
(the company also has a Glendale, Calif., sales office). Inside the plant,
which runs 24 hours a day on two 12-hour shifts, is machinery Martin envisioned
in 2003, which he was told wasn’t possible.
“If you’d asked someone five years ago if they could build this machine
and do this process they would have said it was impossible,” he states.
“We jumped up one day in the desert and caught them all flatfooted. Now
they’ve got to catch up.”
The once-overlooked machinery featured in the ASWF plant is impressive,
creating both automotive and architectural films.
“We’ve created a single-pass manufacturing operation so we minimize both
solid and chemical waste,” Martin says. “It allows us to be much more
competitive in prices.”
He adds, “Most companies have about 75-82 percent yield. We’re running
about a 95 yield.”
One of the biggest advantages of its manufacturing, Martin says, is that
its products are American-made.
“Currently we export more film than we sell domestically,” he says. “Even
in China they view American-made film as the top of the heap ... We kind
of hope it stays that way.”
So just how do they do it?
The machine, which puts out about one thousand rolls of film a day when
it is running at a moderate speed, is really many different machines and
processes functioning in harmony.
“This is probably the biggest coating line that makes window film,” Martin
says. “We’ve taken three coating process and a slitting process and jammed
it into one machine.”
While operating, the machine continuously unwinds rolls of film—as soon
as one runs out another changes over.
The machine is designed to apply three coatings and combine three films
into a finished product.
Operated by a touchscreen system, the machine can be run in discrete sections
rather than having to turn on the entire process.
Following the final lamination, the film heads through the machine vision
inspection area where cameras review it for any defects. The camera looks
for discrete flaws, records them and then “decides” if the film passes
the inspection. Martin says the number of defects found typically is low
and the camera inspection process helps maintain a consistent level of
“Some manufacturing processes make quality calls 30 different ways because
it’s people reviewing,” he says. “When you make a big roll and don’t inspect
it until days or weeks later and realize you’ve made a mistake, that’s
a lot of waste.”
The machine winds 100-foot rolls without stopping. As soon as the film
is cut, one technician tapes the edges, then another slides a sleeve over
the film before sending on a conveyer belt to another technician waiting
to insert the roll into its box. The entire process, from the time the
film is cut to until its fully packaged, takes less than 60 seconds, using
only a four-man team. One person assembles the boxes in which the film
will be packaged. In under a minute, the film is ready to be stored in
the warehouse or sold at retail.
Quality assurance personnel give the film a second look at a light box,
as well as doing checks of the curl of the film to make sure it lays flat
once the silicone liner is removed. They also measure light density and
rub the film with steel wool to check the scratch-resistance.
Martin says he and his team are happy to share any sort of manufacturing
advice with their American-based competitors.
The company is so confident in its process that it even has a video explaining
it on YouTube.
It’s that sort of thinking that has helped the company become successful.
ASWF retail operations are conducted in the same building as the manufacturing
and have become so popular that the company has had to open a 5,000 square
foot retail center in another part of Las Vegas. Walk-ins are frequent.
Continuing to look forward, Martin says his company would consider investing
in future manufacturing opportunities for additional capacity.
Carving a niche spot within the industry as a forward-thinking manufacturer
seems to have served the company well so far. “We’re the only guys doing
this,” says Martin.
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