In an exclusive interview, Chris Reed of Coveris Advanced Coatings, talks about the specialist work undertaken at the company’s production facility in Wrexham. Nick Coombes reports from North Wales.The Coveris group of companies, which was created in 2014 by merging the Britton Group, Exopack, Kobusch, Paccor, and Paragon, and with other subsequent global acquisitions, now has more than 60 facilities around the world with a global turnover of $2.5billion and is the 6th largest packaging group in the world. One of Coveris’ key features is the diversity of services it offers, and the ISO-certified Advanced Coating facility, based in Wrexham, North Wales, is a fine example.
The Wrexham plant, which has a sister manufacturing facility at Matthews, North Carolina, is one of the UK’s leading producers of precision coated papers, films and speciality substrates for digital imaging, electronics, medical and optical technologies. In addition, it offers contract and toll coating with a variety of coating techniques in clean environment conditions on four machines that range from 300mm to 1650mm in web width. Converting, in the form of sheeting and slitting are also offered onsite.
According to Operations Director, Chris Reed: “We are continually working on new techniques, formulae, and applications that will add a competitive edge to our customers’ products.” By working closely with major OEMs, Coveris Advanced Coatings develops complex coatings that can be applied to a variety of substrates that meet the most demanding applications, “but we are very careful to maintain strict confidentiality for our customers,” he added. With shorter product life cycles and changing technology, contract coating offers converters a degree of affordable flexibility without the need for added investment in equipment and staff.
“We offer small scale trial facilities up to full scale production, with a range of coating processes that includes multi-layer and two-sided products. Our aim is to combine high quality with cost effectiveness,” explained Reed, who said that continued investment is the key to maintaining a competitive position. Most recently, the company has installed state-of-the-art UV curing technology to enhance its capability in manufacturing scratch-resistant films.
The three larger coaters at Wrexham are operated on a 24/7 basis, with the smaller machine used mostly for test work and pilot projects. To offer a bespoke service, the company believes it is vital to work closely with its customers from the outset. “We start with ‘the problem statement’, and work from there. This gives the partnership greater creative freedom, and allows us to deliver highly functional products from an optimised manufacturing process,” explained Reed, who says the company has been very successful in the medical market, where it works with customers to develop solutions that enhances the customer’s product offerings.
Over the years, Coveris Advanced Coatings has developed significant expertise in the use of corona treatment. Back in 2005 it chose the Danish manufacturer, Vetaphone, as its preferred supplier. Internationally acknowledged as a leader in surface treatment, and the inventor of corona discharge technology, Vetaphone has supplied four units to Advanced Coatings over the past 10 years, the most recent being in September 2014.
“There are four Vetaphone corona systems here in Wrexham, and one at our American plant in Matthews. We appreciate the controllable treatment level they offer because that fits well with our bespoke service – and we use them for all our needs across a variety of industries and markets,” said Reed. He added that the reliability and after sales support and service offered by Vetaphone were key elements in quality control. “We pride ourselves here on the minimal variation in product tolerance, and Vetaphone is an important part of that process because its technology allows us to cope with a range of materials and their associated properties.”
Speaking for Vetaphone, Vice President of Sales & Marketing Kevin McKell commented: “The type of work that Coveris Advanced Coatings undertakes at Wrexham requires a high degree of technical knowledge and understanding of how each substrate will behave. There is consequently a great deal of synergy between our R&D and theirs, which makes for a productive working partnership, both here in the UK and in the USA.” With a portfolio of customers to serve from markets as diverse as automotive, textiles, defence, electronics, medical, optical and security, Coveris Advanced Coatings needs all its specialist skills to handle films, foils, paper, and woven and non-woven material.
The coating techniques employed at Wrexham include aqueous, solvent, or 100% solid coated materials, using reverse roll, gravure, reverse gravure, direct and post-metered slot die, knife-over-roll, UV, thermal, and proprietary methods. To allow it to maintain consistently high quality, the company utilises Active 6 Sigma programmes, data logging and control of process variables, real-time correction, laser inspection, online thickness measurement, online optical densitometry, web temperature measurement, and electronic SPC charts. “We leave nothing to chance – it’s our USP,” concluded Chris Reed.