– with improved adhesion on commercial wallcoverings
The Len-Tex Corporation, based in North Walpole NH, is one of America’s leading manufacturers of commercial vinyl wallcoverings for hotels, hospitals, schools and retail outlets. Careful material selection that offers high performance as well as being environmentally-friendly creates wallcoverings that emit a lower level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) over the course of their useful life, and are the optimal choice for promoting healthier indoor air quality.
The switch to manufacturing healthier products and sustainability in 2010 was driven by CEO Don Lennon, who commented: “Indoor air quality is an environmental issue that we take very seriously here at Len-Tex. Our wallcoverings incorporate ‘Clean Vinyl Technology’, which is a proprietary formulation that contains no phthalates, heavy metals, or formaldehyde. It’s not vinyl itself that’s the problem, it’s the additives.” The company’s wallcoverings now meet the most vigorous industry certifications, which Lennon says: “is tangible proof of our commitment to industry-leading initiatives that promote healthier living spaces and work environments.”
The secret behind the product is the top coating that Len-Tex has developed to enhance the durability and cleanability of the wallcoverings, while also protecting their appearance. The finish resists both alcohol and alkaline-based cleaners, and also offers good abrasion protection. But to prepare the surface of the vinyl for optimal printing and coating, Len-Tex needed a more consistent finish for water-based chemistry.
So, they turned to corona treatment, and installed two American-built offline units. “These proved somewhat effective in maintaining the quality of the finished product, but were inefficient and unreliable,” according to Maintenance Manager Dick O’Brien, and it was a recommendation from Jeff Gagnon at nearby converter Worthen Industries that offered Len-Tex a clue to greater efficiency in surface treatment.
“The solution turned out to be fitting corona treaters on the print lines, and we investigated all the main contenders before selecting Vetaphone as the best balance of performance and price,” said O’Brien. The Danish company are the pioneers of corona, having invented it back in 1953, and it was this in-depth knowledge and expertise that impressed Len-Tex and secured an order for three systems. “By comparison with the offline process, we are way more efficient and have seen an impressive drop in waste from around 10% to less than 2%. With our material, that’s a great boost to productivity and reduced cost,” he said, adding that the Vetaphone VE1C treaters and iCorona2 power generators also take up far less space than the systems used before.
The changeover from offline to online was not an entirely smooth transition, but O’Brien says he was most impressed with the rapid and professional response from Vetaphone, and the manner in which the glitches were resolved. “Vetaphone are a first-class outfit with top quality products and have the after-sales support to match up – otherwise we should not have had the confidence to order a fourth system from them,” he explained. The company has three 5-colour lines in production, all with Vetaphone units fitted, and the fourth line to which the new corona system will be fitted is a 4-colour – all are 54” (1370mm) wide and operate at around 120 ft/min (36m/min).
Advantages of the Vetaphone units include sustained performance in humid conditions and the speed and ease with which the treater heads can be cleaned and maintained. “We have also been able to redeploy the two members of staff that were needed to run each of the two old systems, so we are enjoying improved productivity in that area too,” said O’Brien, who appreciates the precision he has with the new corona treaters on difficult materials.
Mary O’Neil, who is Sustainability & Procurement Manager at Len-Tex, says the company’s environmental ethos chimes well with the millennial generation, whom she says are eco-conscious and determined to do what they can to improve living conditions on planet earth. “If the three Ps – People, Planet, and Profit are the fundamental reasons for being in business, then it’s the duty of all manufacturers to work with a ‘green-code’, and quality control is a vital part of the process.”
The wallcoverings produced by Len-Tex all meet with the most stringent of international standards in terms of public health, sustainability and environmental protection. “It is essential that we have these independently audited accreditations as part of our Transparent Manufacturing,” she said.
With sales up 17% from last year and the plant manufacturing around 4.5 million yards (4.1m metres) a year on three production lines (the fourth is still under construction), Len-Tex’s 90 employees are kept busy in the 110,000 sq ft (10,300 sqm) factory unit adjacent to the Connecticut River. The development of its ‘Clean Vinyl Technology’ has transformed the company’s business and steered it well into the 21st century.