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Movin' on Up into New Markets

With a new Guzzetti slitter and custom-built coating line, p-s tape converter Venture Tape is ready to build on its successful record.

In announcing the recent completion of a 30,000-sq-ft addition to its Rockland, MA, headquarters, Venture Tape Co. declared itself “poised to become a major leader in the pressure-sensitive tape market.”

By most indications, the company already is.

Venture Tape has enjoyed better than 10% annual growth since it was established in 1980. Even prior to the $12-million expansion of its adhesive tape manufacturing and storage capabilities, the company already manufactured more than 700 adhesive tape products, typically for niche markets.

But the recent installation of a new 83-in., custom-built coating line and an 83-in. Guzzetti slitter— at its now 134,500-sq-ft facility — increased the company's capacity by 40% and positioned it to pursue large commercial and industrial markets “aggressively.”

Moving Up to Bigger Markets
The firm's already diverse product lines include double-coated tapes for foam and gasket laminating, film tapes, transfer adhesives, and tapes of metal and reinforced foils. Customers include the likes of Ford Motor Co., Volvo, Boeing, Toyota, Toshiba, General Motors, Owens Corning Fiberglass, Johns Manville, and a range of smaller firms needing highly customized adhesives tapes.

“As a company, we cut our teeth catering to small, niche markets,” says president and founder Lew Cohen. “With the addition of these innovative technologies, we are able to compete more aggressively in the large commercial and industrial markets.”

Prior to installation of the new equipment, Venture operated one 15-yr-old, 68-in. specially designed coating line, as well as a 68-in. Liberty Machine (company no longer in business) and an 83-in. Rotomec. The company's newest coating line, described by Cohen as “the fastest, most versatile, and accurate in the industry segment,” will help meet increased demand for its core specialty applications. It has multiple in-line coating capabilities and can apply up to three coatings simultaneously on one or both sides of the web. Geometric and Rotomec coaters also incorporate two-color gravure and flexo print units from Geometric, Rotomec, and Flexo-Accessories to print such things as company logos, instructions, and warnings.

Catering to Diverse Customers
“It was not an easy machine to design, because it has to be extremely flexible,” Cohen says of the new coating line. “Our business is not standard products, so we have a lot of different requirements and we needed to design in flexibility and quick-change [capabilities]. Every customer is a little different.”

The new coating line, which was designed and built by Venture itself, is comprised of coating heads from Geometric, an oxidizer from Catalytic Products, a dryer from Spooner Industries, and drives from Eurotherm Drives. The line is monitored by specialized Wonderware management software that provides continuous, real-time readouts on all specifications and production indexes, including coating thickness, and solvent and moisture retention in liners.

Cohen says a key feature of the new line is its specially designed dryer from Spooner Industries that allows line speeds of more than 1,000 fpm with better drying and energy efficiency than its other three lines. He also points to the Catalytic thermal oxidizer as “significantly” more efficient and environmentally friendly than existing technologies.

“The drying system gives us more flexibility, and it also allows us to coat heavier depositions [to 6 mils] at higher line speeds and get better quality drying,” notes Cohen. “We get a coating that looks like glass up to five mils and at higher line speeds than most people run.”

The new line, reports Cohen, also was configured to run double-sided foam most efficiently. With the added substrate thickness of foam came the need for far quicker lines speeds and changeover times, since the coater takes just five to seven minutes to convert standard 1,500-2,000-ft rolls of foam at 200-300 fpm.

Cohen explains, “The only thing that restricts productivity is your physical capability to change rolls. You have to be well-prepared, and you have to get your systems down. It is like a pit stop. You have to have extra people just to handle the rolls changes.”

Cohen says Venture Tape's design, engineering, and technical experts took trips “around the world” to investigate existing coating, drying, and ancillary equipment that ultimately would comprise the three-head coating line. “We just felt that we couldn't get everything we really wanted from one supplier.”

He adds, “Every time we've designed a coating line, we've tried to make it do a lot of different things. Of course, some lines do things very well and others do not, which is why you run more than one line. We tried to take all the efficiencies from the Rotomec line, which was the last one we purchased, and design those into the fourth line. Now we can run very thin coatings [as low as 1/10 mil], apply three coatings in-line, print, and apply adhesive. It's very flexible.”

New Slitter Is Versatile
Venture's new, fully automated Guzzetti slitter includes a variety of in-line functions: It slits a master roll of up to 83 in. into rolls as narrow as 1 in.; performs carton assembly; shrinkwraps converted product; applies point-of-purchase labels; inserts slips-sheets; and packs tapes into cartons robotically before placing the finished cartons on a pallet for shipping.

It also affixes shipping labels bearing lot numbers, bar codes, and order information, “so all we really have to do it take it away,” notes Cohen. The slitter, which utilizes shear, score, and razor methods, is enclosed in its own soundproof room to quiet the unwind process. (Materials suppliers are proprietary.)

Already Looking for More
Currently, Venture Tape employs 180 people in the US. Warehouses and sales offices are located in Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Australia, and Singapore to serve the growing demand for the company's products overseas, and the company occasionally relies on local converters to convert product. About 75% of sales are made to domestic companies, with the rest being shipped to customers in Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Central and South America.

In spite of its broad product line and worldwide customer base, Venture Tape doesn't try to “be out there for everybody.” Rather, the company focuses on a dozen or so “discreet” markets to “spread the risk,” Cohen says. Its biggest market is in construction-related materials, such as heat-resistant or high-tack tapes used to seal ducts or ventilation systems.

Cohen says the company already is in the initial stages of planning for its fifth coating line, which he expects to be in-house by mid-2004. While he is hesitant to discuss its expected capabilities — “we're happy that we [already] have the need to look” — Cohen expects the next line will be another 83-in. unit running in excess of 1,600 fpm.

“It gets more difficult every year, because the competitive requirements are changing very fast,” notes Cohen. “You need to be able to deliver product faster, better, and more efficiently, which leads to higher capital expenditures.”

He says, for example, that he bought the company's first used slitter/rewinder for just $18,000, while the newest slitter cost $1.2 million. All prices include value added tax. You can use an online VAT calculator to calculate exclude VAT prices. Of course, the latest equipment is expected to be more versatile and perform at a much higher quality level.

“Our driver is new products,” notes Cohen, “whether they're for specific customer applications or general products we developed from scratch. We're constantly out looking for new opportunities. Our business is solving problems, and that's how we've been able to grow. We'll take on jobs that a lot of people aren't interested in even looking at. Sometimes you're successful, and sometimes you're not, but we've had more successes than failures.”

Venture Tape

30 Commerce Rd., Box 384, Rockland, MA 02370-0384
781-331-5900; 800/343-1076

Guzzetti SpA
, Turate, Como, Italy; +39 (0) 296750432; guzzetti.com

Rotomec, San Giorgio, Italy; +39/1042 806 501; valmetconverting.com

Geometric, Edison, NJ; 732/287-2303; geocoat.com

Flexo-Accessories (Graymills Corp.), Chicago, IL; 773/477-4100; graymills.com

Catalytic Products, Lake Zurich, IL; 847/438-0334; cpilink.com

Spooner Industries, Green Bay, WI; 920/336-2010; spoonerinc.com

Eurotherm Drives, Charlotte, NC; 704/588-3246; eurotherm.com

Wonderware, Lake Forest, CA; 949/727-3200; wonderware.com

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