A proven strategy

By Editor in Chief Mark Spaulding
Converting Magazine


IL-based specialty-substrate provider Connemara Converting upgrades with a Valmet TSK sheeter for cut-to-register holographic papers, OPP-film labelstocks.

Offering sheetfed label printers a choice of specialty substrates is nothing new to the converting industry. But serving these customers without the burden of extended leadtimes or unacceptably large minimum orders is what’s really behind the success of Connemara Converting.

“Our selling proposition is we will inventory all the types of products you would typically have a label printed on, cut it to the size you want, and the quantity you want and ship it when you want it,” says Charles B. Connolly, president of the Bensenville, IL-based company.

That basic idea has proven its value. Founded in 1997, Connemara has grown to fill its 40,000-sq-ft facility, running three shifts, five or six days a week. In addition to its primary business of sheeting specialty substrates, Connemara also provides slitting and rewinding services as well as contract rewinding of giftwrap onto rolls. Annual sales are now in excess of $30 million.

The converter’s ever-increasing range of substrates includes metallized paper, HoloPrism® holographic paper, C1S labelstock, wet-strength label paper, synthetic paper for in-mold label applications and oriented polypropylene labelstocks, among others. “From the very beginning, we’ve gone out and sourced what we think worldwide are the best products that can support the customers’ requirements,” Connolly says.

Superlative search

That search for the superlative extends to Connemara’s recent installation of a new high-speed sheeter. “The new sheeter had to provide dust-free sheeting of paper and board, avoid guillotine trimming, provide weld-free sheeting of OPP films and cut metallized, holographic paper and board in tight register. An additional challenge was that the machine had to fit into an existing space and be suitable for fast turnaround, short-run work,” Connolly says.

The choice: A new TSK sheeter from Valmet Converting. The 57-in., dual rotary-knife system joins an older SHM 1700 single-knife sheeter and a 95-in. Black Clawson duplex slitter on the plant floor.

Because Connemara Converting has no on-staff engineering team, Connolly took a cue from his own business’ concept and outsourced the project to Beach Technologies (Cary, IL). “It was a big undertaking for a company our size, not so much the money but the time to handle it while we’re running our business,” he says.

Working with Connemara’s production staff, Beach developed specifications and investigated several vendors. “We literally looked at suppliers from around the world,” explains Michael Beach, president. “Valmet is one of the few suppliers to both the plastic-film and vacuum-metallizing industries, making them uniquely qualified to meet Connemara’s demands.”

With the decision for the TSK sheeter made, Beach also handled the sticky logistics of purchasing machinery from overseas. Acceptance trials were run at the end of 2001. The system was then delivered in February, commissioned in March, and has been running around-the-clock since April.

“We couldn’t have gotten this thing put together as quickly and as efficiently as we did without the help of Beach Technologies,” Connolly says. “It was useful that we had them to help with the installation.”

Success is in the cards

During Converting’s visit, the TSK sheeter was running two 57-in. webs of black-adhesive-laminated stock used for playing cards. These were cut at 560 fpm into standard 28 x 40-in. sheets for offset printing. Sheet length, sheet squareness and cut-to-register accuracy are consistently +/-1/32 in.

The TSK, outfitted with an eight-roll backstand, employs Unico drives, a Siemens Simatic operator-control panel, Tidland III manually adjusted knifeholders, and Fife CDP-01 web guides. Rather than the traditional vacuum method of accomplishing sheet overlap, the TSK uses a series of 10 air nozzles to blow down the sheets for stacking.

“It’s extremely capable of sheeting lightweight papers (25-lb) and films,” says Connolly, “but it’s also quite capable of converting up to 24-pt board stock.”

Unusual to Connemara’s operation, the TSK sheeter was purposely installed at a raised level to allow for a deeper delivery area of finished product—and thus also provide for longer run times. Separate systems gather paper or plastic-film trim waste for later recycling.

Eye-marks the spot
In expanding its sheeting capabilities, Connemara specifically sought out a cut-to-mark, registered sheeting system. “There’s a lot of demand growing for sheeting of registered holographic boards and papers,” Connolly explains. “The hologram producer makes an image on the substrate, which is then cut-to-register, and the printer lays his inks on top of it. It really sophisticates the holographic look the end user is trying to bring to the finished product.”

Connemara has sheeted some of these innovative products, including the 2001 AIMCAL award-winning Elvis Presley TV Guide cover, and game boards for Monopoly. PROMA Technologies is Connemara’s exclusive supplier of metallized and holographic paper.

“They are a true sort of trading partner of ours,” Connolly says, “and really what we have built our business upon. It’s the paper they produce, and we in turn convert and distribute.”

The TSK’s performance guarantees for no “edge-weld” sheeting of plastic film also helped sell Connemara on the equipment. The converter is at the forefront of meeting today’s demand for plastic substrates in the cut-and-stack label marketplace, specifically OPP film replacing C1S wet-strength paper.

“I think you’ll see that trend continue,” Connolly says. “That’s what drove us to upgrade our equipment so we could satisfy that requirement from our customers. We’re betting on it.”

Originally printed in A Proven Strategy

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