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API Alignment Services Cut Costs

International Paper Co. saves money with Radian Plus laser tracker and vProbe

Published: Monday, May 22, 2023 - 12:00

(API: Rockville, MD) -- Accurate paper production depends on proper alignment, from calendar stacks to press rolls to unwind stands, felt stretches, and much more. Paper mills traditionally bear these alignment costs in one of three ways: 1) They can contract optical alignment services from a vendor and endure that cost plus downtime for the measurements; 2) they can purchase a laser tracker and training personnel for in-house measurements; or 3) they can live with the costs of increased waste and scrap or repair times for misaligned machines.

However, International Paper Co. (IP) found a better way. Discovering that falling laser-tracker costs and financing options could make ownership even more cost-effective, IP purchased a Radian Plus laser tracker and vProbe from Automated Precision Inc. (API). Through this purchase, IP was able to:
• Secure training for its reliability engineers and general mechanics from API Services
• Reduce monthly alignment costs sevenfold
• Reduce downtime outage length

Founded in 1898, IP is a leading global producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, pulp, and paper products, with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, North Africa, and Russia. The company produces packaging products that protect and promote goods and enable worldwide commerce: pulp for diapers, tissue, and other personal hygiene products that promote health and wellness; and papers that facilitate education and communication. Headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, IP employs more than 50,000 people and serves more than 25,000 customers in 150 countries.

At its mill in Georgetown, South Carolina, IP was tracking the annual costs of contracting optical alignments services totaling $173,000 (2017), $196,000 (2018), and $139,000 (2019). Through August 2020, IP had already spent $65,000, and its annual outage alone was costing $40–$50,000/year. On top of the cost, the quality of vendor alignment varied from year to year.

The company had discussed buying its own laser tracker for in-house alignments for years, but typically ran into three roadblocks. If they used IP maintenance people, they wouldn’t have them available to work on other jobs. Secondly, the cost of the equipment would be too high for intermittent use. And third, who would be responsible for the equipment?

But the falling cost of laser trackers and a new purchasing option prompted a reconsideration when IP learned there were two ways it could buy a laser tracker for less than it was paying for yearly alignment services: either $150,000 upfront, or financed for five years for about $2,500/month. This would reduce the average monthly alignment costs by a factor of seven, ensure the quality of alignments, and allow IP to manage the manpower cost of operating and maintaining the tracker.

After arranging demonstrations by three laser tracker providers, IP chose API due to two salient features:
• Radian Plus and vProbe are designed for ease of use and portable measurements
• API has a “globally local” services team that would come onsite with the tracker delivery to provide comprehensive training for IP’s people.

Radian laser trackers are the smallest, lightest, and most accurate on the market. Radian Plus features an IFM laser, accurate to 15 microns +/-5 microns per meter, and integrated controller, wireless operation that is Wi-Fi-enabled with an 8-hour measuring life per battery, plus compatibility with vProbe and iScan3D accessories.

API’s vProbe tactile probing sensor provides targetless, full-volume measurements from the smallest, lightest smart probe. The vProbe features RFID-chipped styli for instant software recognition, smart buttons to trigger single-user measurements, 8-hour battery life, point measurement and dynamic scanning, and wireless operation for truly portable measurements.

Since 2008, API has been building a team of real metrologists to provide contract services and customer support around the world. Its application engineers are experts with API’s equipment and offer more than 200 years combined real-world metrology experience.

After the tracker arrived as scheduled, IP’s reliability engineers and general mechanics received comprehensive training from API. The Georgetown mill is already using Radian to align calendar stacks, press rolls, unwind stands, felt stretches, couch rolls, and breast rolls, and has seen not only a dramatic reduction in alignment costs, but more consistent quality with alignment results and less downtime for annual outages.

API’s unique combination of state-of-the-art, laser-based dimensional metrology equipment, and globally local contract metrology service experts were able to help IP reduce costs and quickly train its own personnel to perform the needed measurements.

See this story and learn more about API here.


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