Coating Like a DreamDate : 05/01/2002
Liberty Diversified’s new division, Dreamworks Coating Solutions, adds coated paper to its product arsenal, making it one of the only papermakers in the Midwest to also offer rollstock coated off-line.
Location and corporate symbiosis are working for Dreamworks Coating Solutions™, Becker, Minn. Since January 1, the newest addition to Liberty Diversified Industries (LDI) has been taking customer orders for coating solutions that can be added to Liberty Paper’s paper. That paper-mill division is conveniently located in the same building as Dreamworks Coating. Overall, LDI designs, converts and markets products for the packaging, office and industrial sectors.
To begin the new business, Dreamworks Coating rebuilt a used 98-in. Jagenberg coater to work like new. “The beauty of this machine is that it enables us to coat other products in addition to linerboard produced at Liberty Paper,” says Bill Kovack, group vice president, Paper and Packaging Group. “We really want to become a boutique coater. We want to work with the customer to develop whatever coated product they need. Larry Newell, who is the general manager at both Liberty Paper and Dreamworks Coating, has an experienced team that will ensure quality paper is produced. It’s just another way for us to focus on the customer’s needs.”
Dreamworks Coating coats the recycled linerboard produced at Liberty Paper, as well as other customer-directed substrates. Products range from an entire line of functional coatings, such as water and grease barriers, to several quality whites, colors and print-quality paper for the corrugated and folding-carton industries. Dreamworks Coating also concentrates on coatings for the fine-paper and high-end graphics markets. “Most of those products will be standard house items,” says Newell. “What we are truly excited about is developing new coatings for customers.” A newly installed rewinder also enables Dreamworks Coating to offer rolls slit, trimmed and wound to specification.
In 1995, after a year of research and building, Liberty Paper Inc. was formed to manufacture 100-percent recycled paper. Using old corrugated containers collected by LDI Fibres, Inc., another company division, Liberty Paper creates linerboard for new corrugated containers and specialty papers for packagers. Besides its popular Dreamcatcher product, Liberty Paper also created Super/Stick, an anti-slide paper, for a customer that had problems with product sliding around on the conveyors. Other customers take Liberty paper and convert it into tube-stock for paper towel and toilet paper rolls.
With a number of well-known products to back up its name, Liberty Paper decided it was time to continue growing within the industry. “It all started with working our strategic plan. Our company believes in growth, and our owner has a vision of doubling the company in size within the next five to seven years,” says Newell. The company reached a crossroads and needed to choose whether to continue to make product similar to what it already made, add a specialty machine, or go down a completely new avenue by producing value-added products on a coater.
At that point the economy took a downturn, and the paper-machinery avenue no longer looked very promising. Liberty Paper switched gears and started investigating coaters.
During its search for the perfect coater, Liberty Paper stumbled across an opportunity for a used coater in Europe. It was purchased, brought back, and refurbishing began last summer, the same time that Dreamworks Coating officially became LDI’s new coating division. “It took time getting everything refurbished because we brought it here without replacing anything. We brought the pieces back and installed it,” says Newell.
The only thing that wasn’t touched was the frame and the steamed air dryers. The two coater heads were sent out, refurbished and modified to be able to each run blade or Meyer rod. “We tried to combine the coater in such a way that it’s very flexible and it’s situated for growth. We have two coater heads right now, and we’ve left space for a third,” Newell says.
The Kreiger infrared dryers were also refurbished and brought up to code. “We have also looked at calendaring equipment for super finishing the top of the sheet,” says Newell.
The electronic drives are all new state-of-the-art Siemens drives, which were provided by a Germany-based vendor, Lebbing. Lebbing also provided all the system software and programming. The coater is designed to run 1,000 fpm with electronics and drives designed to run it up to 2,000 fpm. “We’re probably going to keep it at 1,000 to 1,100 fpm,” Newell says.
A brand new reel at the end of the coater was added along with an off-line Webco rewinder to handle material once it comes off the coater. Via the new Webco, Dreamworks Coating offers salvage work. “If a customer says, ‘I’ve got some rolls that got wet on the edge, can you take them off 3 in. and rewind them?,’ we can do that,” says Newell.
There are three NDC Infrared Engineering process scanners to track the basis weight and moisture of the material being run. The base weight of the roll is measured before being coated; the material is then measured after each coating to operators can tell the final moisture of the product. “We also know the incoming moisture and weight to verify where a coating or raw material issue occurs,” says Newell.
Because its papermill operation was nothing like the coating world, training was a must. “We’re paper makers, we’re not coating people,” states Newell, so Dreamworks Coating turned to its vendors. A service-tech consultant was hired to teach the papermill operators how to use the coater. “He came in and worked with our operators for a couple weeks to help teach them how to set the coater heads up,” says Newell.
Dreamworks Coating managers say they’ve met and exceeded the goals set for the coater. “I’m very proud of the way the operators picked up what they need to do with the type of training that we went through. They didn’t come in with a lot of knowledge specific to coating,” says Newell.
Within a day of training being complete, the operators were adjusting everything as if the vendor was still there. “Right now they’re doing a great job,” praises Newell.
To get its new business up and running, Dreamworks Coating first needed to determine what type of niche to serve. “We decided to differentiate ourselves by being flexible and doing custom things, stuff the big guys wouldn’t do,” says Newell.
With service and quality as a given, Newell also wanted to focus on quick turnaround. “Our customers are always asking for different things.” By analogy, he says, “We’re a small PT boat in the war. The other guys are big battleships. It takes them miles to turn around, and we’re very maneuverable.”
For the time being, Dreamworks Coating is strictly coating paper, but it has received calls regarding other substrates. “We’re going to be very careful as we gravitate into other material to make sure we have the proper protection for our people and the environment. It’s very important we keep our environment safe, so we will evaluate that on a case-by-case basis,” says Newell. But if approached tomorrow regarding new coatings, “we would begin working with them.”
A variety of functional coatings and color-coated paper have been popular thus far for the corrugated business. A T-shirt transfer paper is also in the works for transferring a digital-camera image computer-printable paper to fabric. Dreamworks Coating is also running a trial based on sheet prep coating for silicone-release paper and a few other fine-paper applications.
“Corrugated paper is for strength, not for printing. Printing paper is made to print on without strength,” explains Newell. “People want the boxes to do both.”
Strength and printability don’t often go hand in hand. But with new technology, such as digital printing and chemicals to fill in the gaps, effective printing can be done. “So we’re looking at some translucent chemistries to be applied on top of brown sheet,” Newell says.
As for other markets, Dreamworks Coating plans to approach its customers and see what the future holds. “We don’t want to make products that nobody wants. We want to ask what they see in their future,” he says.