A tour round Vetaphone’s newly designed headquarters in Kolding
In September 2017, the manufacturer of surface treatment equipment opened its extended headquarters in Kolding. Vetaphone has added 1,500 sqm of floor space for sales and administration, doubling the previous area. The editorial team of NarrowWebTech took the opportunity of visiting these architecturally attractive premises.
by Rosina Obermayer
The existing 1,100 sqm building has been redesigned to meet the requirements of lean manufacturing. With 350 sqm dedicated to a showroom and test facilities, customers will be able to discover, test and experience for themselves how to achieve the required surface tension to achieve ideal adhesion properties for inks, varnishes and other coating substances. The new premises were formally opened by Frank Eisby (CEO) and Jan Eisby (CSO) shortly before Labelexpo Europe 2017.
Once upon a time in the 1950s
The adhesive properties of synthetic substrates for printing inks, varnishes and other coating substances are of vital importance to enable an acceptable product quality level to be achieved for all printing processes. This largely depends on the surface properties of the respective substrate, defined by its chemical nature.
For example, plastics are synthetic materials containing long molecular chains which are usually joined end to end to form even longer chains, this leaves only a few open chain ends. This means that there are only very few chemical reactive bonding points on the surface, which causes low adhesion and wetting properties for any subsequent coating treatment. This may cause serious problems for printing and converting processes.
One possible approach to solving this problem is to change the surface properties by altering the chemical structure of the respective substrate. This was the starting position when Danish high frequency technology engineer Verner Eisby was asked to find a solution to this problem. He came up with the approach, that high frequency electrical charges would provide a more efficient end controllable process of increasing the adhesion and wettability of plastic surfaces.
During corona discharge treatment, electrons are accelerated into the surface of the plastic substrate causing the long chains to rupture, resulting in a multiplicity of open ends and free valence electrons for chemical reactions.
The process of corona pre-treatment
The ozone generated by the electrical discharge creates oxygenation, which in turn forms new carbonyl groups with a higher surface energy. The result is an improvement of the chemical connection (dyn/cm) between the molecules in the plastic and the applied media/liquid. This surface treatment will not reduce or change the strength or the appearance of the material. The corona pre-treatment only changes the top molecule chains, which is 0.00001 micron thick as this layer defines the level of adhesive properties.
In 1951, Verner Eisby founded Vetaphone A/S with the aim of developing surface treatments for plastic materials, nowadays known as corona treatment. Since the 1990s the Danish company has been led by his sons Frank (CEO) and Jan Eisby (CSO) and has a current workforce of about 65 employees.
In the 21st century, Vetaphone corona pre-treatment is the standard equipment for a number of OEMs such as Mark Andy and Nilpeter. At Labelexpo Europe 2017, more than 40 Vetaphone corona systems were working on narrow web presses including production lines at AB Graphic, Domino, HP Indigo, Omet and Screen.
The difference between corona and plasma
The key difference between corona and plasma treatment is a question of control. Corona applies energy in an uncontrolled atmosphere, whereby plasma applies energy in a controlled atmosphere. Both separate the atoms and molecules. It is important to note that corona creates uncontrolled molecular bonds on the surface and ozone in the atmosphere. Plasma on the contrary grafts controlled molecular bonds onto the surface; no ozone is created.
Although plasma needs more energy and has a higher investment level than corona, there are applications for which plasma is the better choice. This depends on the requirements of the individual label print shops, and particularly the type of substrates they use. “Unique labels typically use special inks and lacquers, lamination, multi-web applications and other techniques”, Frank Eisby explains. “The chemical constituents of these substrates require a chemical treatment process as well as a physical one. In these instances plasma treatment is necessary to ensure good bonding.”
Eisby continues, “Plasma should not be considered as a replacement for corona, more a logical development of technology to keep pace with the requirements of more sophisticated materials and processes.”
In 2017, the company announced that it had manufactured its 10,000th narrow web corona pre-treatment unit. “With a share of the narrow web market in excess of 75% and still increasing, we are looking, in the future, to focus our attention on the wide web printing, converting, and extrusion market sectors, where we have already enjoyed success in building close partnerships with OEMs”, states Jan Eisby. Last year Vetaphone strengthened its international presence with an expanded agent network in Germany and Asia, and a technical sales specialist team which aims to further develop OEM relations and sales.
In order to meet the demand of the market, Frank and Jan Eisby launched a programme of growth for the company in 2012 that would see the business double in size by 2020. In 2017 sales targets were reached, so the two brothers are more than confident that they will be successful in reaching their 2020 goal. According to the Danish manufacturer of surface treatment equipment, with a 12% increase it was the best year ever.
“We are now ready to take Vetaphone to the next level as our international journey continues. With our new facilities and strengthened sales and service support teams we can serve the global market and meet the higher levels of demand that this requires”, says Frank Eisby. The company is further planning to set up a treatment technology centre in Kolding, Denmark and to focus on continued product development and the implementation of lean production and quality management.
Having visited the newly opened headquarters in Denmark there are good reasons why Vetaphone should be optimistic regarding their future plans. Their market share in the narrow web market of about 75% is impressive.
Also the focus on corona and plasma as the core technologies of Vetaphone since the beginning have proved to be relevant and essential. The focus on plasma development and test facilities looks to be a good decision. Showing the label producer in the niche applications where plasma is more suitable than corona is also relevant for both parties. Or as Vetaphone points out: “We have to prove the concept in a completely new way”.