Peters automates cup printing line with Martin Automatic

Posted: February 03, 2023

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The MBX has eased the loading of the large 60" rolls used for cup production at Peters

Radebeul based Papierverarbeitung Peters GmbH has retrofitted a Martin Automatic MBX unwind/splicer to its Omet VaryFlex 670 press to improve efficiency and reduce waste on its paper cup printing line. The result has been 'amazing' according to owner and Managing Director Achim Peters, who says that automating the handling of 400 rolls per month of up to 400-micron stock has not only improved productivity but boosted the morale of his press operators.

The company, which specialises in the manufacture of paper cups, paper bowls, and more recently labels, has an interesting history. Established originally in 1901 as Sächsische Blechwarenfabrik by an American company to produce paper buckets, the plant fell behind the 'Iron Curtain' in 1945 and survived under the GDR regime until 1989. Uniquely, the US company had retained ownership of the land and buildings during the Communist era, so when Paul Peters acquired the business for his family from the Treuhand in 1991, only the machinery was included in the deal. Sadly, Paul passed away in 2018, but his son Achim and grandson Christian continue to run the company today.

During the GDR days the plant had been producing waxed paper ice cream cups for West Germany so had been able to secure West German technology. After the acquisition, production was switched to single-use PE-coated paper cups. Achim Peters explained: "When we took over the business it employed 240 people under the old regime - we trimmed this down to 36 and doubled output almost overnight! Today we have 75 staff working triple shifts Monday to Friday and produce around 350 million cups per year."

With a strong sustainability ethic, Peters was the first to offer PLA-coated cups in 2009. These featured a corn starch-based texture and were fully compostable, and since 2016 the company has been FSC approved and works solely with paper manufactured from sustainable forests. Peters' latest product is the PAPUR cup, which requires no plastic coating and can be recycled as paper waste or composted.

In addition to the Omet presses at Peters, the company also has a six-colour Arsoma EM410 and six-colour Gallus EM510 both printing water-based flexo. But it was the installation of the Omet VaryFlex in 2020 that prompted Peters to look at automation. "We had first made contact with Martin Automatic back in 2014 so were familiar with their technology and what it offered in terms of increased productivity. This was highlighted by the 670mm web width of the Omet which required considerably more effort for manual roll changes and persuaded us to invest in a Martin," he added.

The Omet press is a VaryFlex V2 designed for folding cartons, which makes it an excellent choice for paper cup production. It features a servo driven infeed and outfeed pull roller and is fitted with six flexo print stations and hot air drying for use with water-based inks. It has automatic electronic register control with Omet's Vision system for advanced register adjustment and is fitted with a BST web video system that includes a monitor and motor-driven camera. For cup blank handling, it has an accelerator and batch separator with de-nesting capability, with delivery onto a shingled conveyor.

Speaking for Martin Automatic, European Sales Manager Bernd Schopferer stated: "One look at the production line here and it's obvious how much difference automating the roll changes can bring. Rolls of 60" (1520mm) diameter 400-micron paper are heavy and slow to manipulate, and with Peters making typically two changes per hour that took 10 minutes each when done manually - it's easy to assess the improvement in productivity that our MBX unit has made."

In addition to reducing downtime and cutting waste material by 10% per roll, Peters has also found that continuous operation produces a better all-round product, especially when cutting inline with material that retains a curve. "We are giving serious thought to the next project being a Martin unwind splicer fitted to the Gallus EM510 press. The numbers all make sense in terms of productivity, reduced waste, and improved operator conditions, and the ROI is relatively short," explained Achim Peters.

With demand for paper cups continuing to grow as more people opt for a 'green' solution to one-time consumables, the company is looking at a bright future. Last year's 350 million cups were split roughly 50:50 between drinking and ice cream/food/baking/wraps. Concluding, with sustainability in mind, Christian Peters came up with two interesting statistics: "Did you know that the wood needed to produce all the coffee-to-go cups in Germany for one year grows in a forest in Finland in just eight hours - and that it takes only 100ml of water to produce each one-time cup - far less than you would use to wash up a reusable cup? Not many people know that!"

With demand for its paper products continuing to grow and the company's production floor full to capacity in its current location, Papierverarbeitung Peters appears well set for a successful future in which Martin Automatic will play a significant part.