At Diamond Packaging in Rochester New York, innovation for changing market needs is one of the most consistent factors in the company's long history of success. Founded in 1911, Diamond has evolved with the industry throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries, continuously working with the best technology available to push the boundaries of what folding cartons can do. The company began when boxes were simply a means to get a product safely from point A to point B, but has since become an industry leader in value-added packaging, creating cartons, blister cards and related highly decorative packaging that stand out on store shelves, and engage the consumer with the brand.
Over eighty percent of the work that Diamond does today is for the cosmetics and personal care industries, in which the aesthetics of the packaging plays a large role in the product a consumer chooses. Diamond utilizes highly advanced and difficult techniques such as 8 color printing over foil and windowed packaging with all materials, without compromising durability. "We like to use three or four decorative processes for any given project," said David Rydell, the company's Chief Operating Officer. "That kind of work really separates us from the competition." In fact, Diamond Packaging specializes in difficult work, taking on the sorts of challenges that many other companies would shy away from. Virtually all of the steps of their projects are done in house, overseeing each individual detail of production. This means testing and tinkering with multiple available options to find the best solution to meet their customer's needs.
One such solution is the BOBST Plasma Treater. Simply put this add-on device uses high voltage electricity to superheat air, breaking atoms into super-charged ions. This stream of ionized gas is then directed through a nozzle which is positioned, immediately prior to glue application, at the flap that will become the glue joint of the carton. The ions break down the surface tension of the substrate, essentially creating a "roughing" effect which allows it to hold more adhesive, thereby creating a much stronger glue bond.
"We work with foils, metalized polyboard, laminates, and other specialty coatings," said John Whitely, Diamond's Converting Manager. " These are typically glue's worst enemies, surfaces that glue just doesn't want to adhere to." That sort of product mix is what led the company to plasma technology. "Initially we had one particular high end project that was spec'd as using a specialty acetate laminate overall - over the glue flap and everything. We couldn't find an adhesive that was aggressive enough to reliably stick," Whitely said. After consulting with several different glue suppliers, Diamond "...finally talked with BOBST, and they provided a Plasma Treater for a trial, and that enabled us to have a much more aggressive and consistent bond."
Because Diamond Packaging specializes in decorative and difficult work, the Plasma Treater has become an important tool in its arsenal. "Prior to having this capability, we had done some plastics and laminate projects. But there was always a cure time. We would glue the cartons and then have to wait 12 to 14 hours for the adhesive to set," said Rydell. "We wanted something that we could evaluate coming right off the gluer."
By changing the surface tension of tricky materials, the Plasma Treater creates a consistent, high quality glue bond, without the errors and guesswork that usually comes with difficult adhesive jobs. Once Diamond started using the Plasma Treater, they "went from having an intermittent glue bond to achieving 90 to 100% adhesion consistently," said Whitely. "And now we know what's coming off the back of the line is good."
A large part of the Diamond team's work is problem solving, and that is, in essence, what the Plasma Treater does. Whitely said, "For instance, if a converter were to inadvertently UV coat an area intended for adhesive they could salvage the job by using plasma to create a solid glue joint. That one job alone could potentially pay for the plasma unit itself. So that was another aspect in our decision, knowing that should we have an error upstream in the processing we would still be able to deliver a quality product to the customer."
With each process that Diamond performs on a job comes more time and effort. However, there are some machines that make the job easier. "The plasma unit has never been a restraint, in fact in most cases it enables us to run faster with more reliability," said Whitely. Unlike some add-on machinery, the Plasma Treater is easy to operate and very low-maintenance. While other pieces of equipment can slow down work on the line, "the Plasma Treater has never held us back," Whitely emphasizes. "In fact, it enables us to run faster with more reliability. And you know right away that you're getting a very high quality product right off the gluer."
Diamond now owns two Plasma Treater units that are highly portable, and easily moved between their seven glue lines. The units are one of the many tools that Diamond uses to solve the problems their customers bring to them, but they're a favorite among the operators on the line. As Rydell explained, "A lot of times when you add ancillary equipment to a folder-gluer such as labeling machines, in-line windowing capabilities, or multiple glue systems with in-line detection, it adds a lot of extra work. But the operators know when they put this on, that it's as simple as hooking it up, putting the trigger on, and after that it takes care of itself. It's one less thing they have to worry about, where all the other pieces of add-on equipment on the machine are occupying their time."
At Diamond, doing more means developing techniques internally, pushing the market forward, and expanding what packaging can do along with their capabilities. Pressmen at Diamond perfected the process of printing over foil, so they didn't have to use metalized board to achieve the look routinely requested by their customers. "We take specialized jobs and tinker with them." Rydell said. "We figure out how to get them to work and work well."
The industry has recognized Diamond's commitment to problem solving through innovation. In 2013, Diamond received fifteen packaging awards for their work, including Folding Carton of the Year, in the 70th Annual North American Paperboard Packaging Competition, and Best of Show, in the 27th annual packagePRINTING Excellence Awards Competition. And, of enormous pride to the company, Proctor and Gamble has twice chosen Diamond as an "External Business Partner of the Year" - one of only twelve to fifteen suppliers annually to receive that distinction out of more than 80'000 global suppliers.
As the packaging industry transforms to meet the needs of the 21st Century, Diamond leads the charge. This means finding the best possible people, the best possible suppliers, and of course, the best possible equipment. Tools like the Plasma Treater help Diamond take on projects that they once could not, and to uphold their commitment to do more for their customer. "The Plasma Treater makes us 100% more efficient on specialized projects because it lets us succeed rather than have to deal with inconsistency. We like to stack the deck in our favor using several special technologies," contends Rydell with a smile.
Diamond Packaging plans to continue to push the boundaries of what their products can do, and they see the Plasma Treater as a key component in their future innovation. As Whitely said, "We're really just getting started with this technology and we think that there will be many more benefits that we'll realize as we go forward."