How did your interest in corona treatments start?
In the early 60s, I was a partner in a company that manufactured plastic films and bags. The extruders were beginning to use the first low-frequency rudimentary surface treatments. To activate the surfaces, the generators with transformers would rain down "tiny lightning bolts" via an electrode. Despite the low speed of the systems, it was not uncommon for the material to be pierced and for there to be short circuits. Repeated short-circuiting over time would end up burning out the transformer and jeopardising the line.
I asked Ezio Ferrarini, who had considerable technical experience, to help tackle the double challenge of increasing the frequency (to optimise the treatment) and improving the components.
And so we designed a more powerful and reliable system that used Triodes (oscillating at 1,500 Hz). After two years of market testing with positive results, we decided to found Ferrarini & Benelli in 1965.
In these 50 years of entrepreneurial business, what innovations have you had to face?
I think that our sector has experienced three essential evolutionary steps:
- going from electrotechnical components to electronic ones (SCR and related piloting)
- the digital and software advent that have revolutionised generators and multiplied the operating possibilities of corona treatments
- the most recent plasma treatments.
What factors were the key to your success?
Having immediately understood the importance of internationalisation, having built trusted relationships over time with the big manufacturers who today install our corona treatment systems, and constant technological innovation.
Finally, the contribution of my daughter Claudia: after getting her degree in an industrial major and taking a specialisation course in France, she decided to come back to Italy to help me. In part, she supported the sales, administration and production department managers and in part, she studied applied technology. With this pragmatic, across-the-board approach, Claudia quickly earned everyone's trust in the company.
What does the future have in store for corona treatments?
Packaging material manufacturers are constantly investing in Research & Development to improve the technical features (resistance, recyclability, anti-fog for food products...) and to widen their offer. The discovery of new multi-layer materials, the advent of nanotechnology, the need to minimise costs always pose new challenges for businesses involved in corona treatments. I think that in the future, flexibility and energy, in addition to constant technological innovation, will be fundamental qualities in order to work successfully in this sector.
And what do plasma treatments mean for Ferrarini & Benelli?
An important evolution that allows us to take advantage of our knowledge of surface treatments even outside the world of packaging. Thanks to the possibility of treating three-dimensional objects, plasma is allowing us to work in new sectors (automotive, medical, piping...).
What are you working on?
Right now, I'm dealing with an application specifically for paper factories. We need to equip high performance and high speed extrusion coating lines (up to 500 m/min) that require the utmost reliability for 24/7 production.
I'm working on a corona treatment system that guarantees high performance (thanks to special specifically created electrodes) and reduces risks of downtime to a minimum, thanks to intelligent generator power control and management. The specific digital system processing of our generators allows us to obtain the best results.
Considering the excellent market position that Ferrarini & Benelli has succeeded in reaching worldwide over the years, we might say we've already realized our goals. But every new sector problem or customer need sets me off on the search for a solution, planning a new product or improving existing ones. These are the goals that I try to reach every day.
What do you wish for Ferrarini & Benelli on its 50th birthday?
I hope it carries on another 50 years following the philosophy I've tried to instil in everyone at the company: work professionally and honestly, offer high technology and high quality products, give continuing customer service over time, view market challenges as opportunities for improvement and guarantee future development.