Like the Phoenix: Corona Dynamics rises from the ashes

For the paper, film and foil converting industry, the former surface-treater supplier Corona Designs' latest incarnation brings innovative technology.

By Jim Sooy- Convefting Magazine, Octoher 16, 2009

ln Greek mythology, the Phoenix spontaneously combusts, then rises from the ashes agaln and again. While Corona Designs, now Corona Dynamics, might not have spontaneously combusted, it has, as the Phoenix, risen from ashes at least three times as a viable new business entity.

Darwin and Curt Whiteside

Darwin "Whitey" Whiteside (in photo at left) founded Corona Designs in 1974 after suffering a couple of missteps and a floundering partnership, according to son Curt (in photo at right), one of four partners in the reincarnation of the company as Corona Dynamics. "ln each incarnation the company remained customer-focused and customers were never left in a lurch for support. Customer loyalty was the primary reason for the almost immediate success of each of reincarnation and most customers never knew about the reorganizations until they were fait accompli," says Keith Woodson vice-president and managrng partner.

Whiteside was an independent sales reoresentative and self-taught engineer outside of his knowledge gained as a member of the Army Signal Corps in WWll. His sleuth-like acumen for finding problems to solve made for a line of innovative products that offered customers cost-effective solutions to everyday problems they were experiencing.

Power Treat roller

The company's first product was remanufactured dielectric rollers for crona treating stations. Customer spares were recoated, balanced, and new keyways installed, but what made Whiteside's rollers different was his use of a dielectric epoxy coating. Whitey guessed that the new epoxy would be superior to conventional rubber coatings when it came to withstanding heat and cuts from a converters knife - and his "educated" guess proved to be correct.

Corona Design's refurbished rollers gained immediate popularity for several reasons. First, the epoxy coating was much more efficient at spreading the dielectric charge over a larger area which greatly improved print quality. Second, the refurbished rollers outlasted OEM rollers by about two {o-one, but there was even more good news for converters. Whitey's refurbished rollers cost only about half as much as new rolls - and according to Woodson those numbers are about the same today. (A Corona Dynamics Power Treat roller above)

The process of corona treating was developed in the late 1930's and by the early 1960's pioneering converters were employing the technology to improve ink adhesion and overall print quality. These same converters had determined that the surface tension of inks was much higher than the surface tension of the film and foil they were printing. The difference in surface tension created a condition of insufficient surface wetting which resulted in poor ink adhesion, pin-holing, and overall -poor print quality. "Corona treating is both efficient and econornical. Today, it's used almost universally and extruders treat at the point of manufacture. Treatment degrades over time, and with storage or handling. Many converters employ in-line or "bump" treating on even pre{reated substrates. There is no question that corona treating is absolutely the best way to guarantee the adhesion of adhesives, coatings, or inks on polyolefin or metallic substrates", says Woodson.

(Corona Dynamics Diamond Mesa eletrode shoes)

DiamonMesa

In corona treatment, the substrates surface energy is increased by oxidation. The oxidation is the result of ionization that takes place when a high voltage charge is delivered to a treating station's air gap as the film or substrate passes through. "Conditions have changed, but the challenge of maintaining a uniform distribution of the charge at the lowest possible energy cost remains. There are a variety of factors that determine treatment process and the power required including the material to be treated, additives, web width, line speed, number of sides to be treated, and the surface tension required for sound adhesion of inks and coatings. Forty years ago "slip" additives were introduced to the process at 500 ppm. Today the additives frequently exceed 2000 ppm and the increased amount of additive creates a significant barrier for corona treatment", says the younger Whiteside.

Danuin along with senior machinist Donnie Chapin developed an innovative electrode design which they trade-named the "Diamond MesaTM. The new design improved surface wetting by more than25o/o over conventional electrodes. "l didn't believe our results. I thought that amount of improvement to be improbable - if not impossible, and I put the new electrode on the shef for a couple of weeks before testing it again," remembers the senior \Miteside.

Company Shop

Corona Dynamics machinist working on a new roller in the company's shop.

"Wettability is even more critical today when it comes to achieving proper adhesion of many inks, coatings, and adhesives. And this is especially true with the more exotic substrates, increased line speeds, or when high dyne/cm applications are run. My dad patented the design and over the years it has been re-designed multiple times in a variety of configurations to better meet a converter's specific application", says Curt. Today's Diamond Mesa shoes are Teflon coated and hard-anodized in shoe sizes 1, 2, 3 and 5 inch (web direction) and in 114, 112., and 1inch adjustable widths. The shoes are a high volume product and a revenue mainstream for the company. "The current design provides a more uniform
distribution of high voltage potential points and reduces power requirements by about a third over conventional shoes," according to Chapin.

A combination of bad luck and changing economic conditions led to Corona Design's first reincarnation with its sale in 1987 to Lance and Michele Kimrey. Lance's background in industries related to converting and printing combined with Donnie's engineering acumen had the company back on track in short order finding new solutions lo the some of the problems their customer's faced every day.

Two, new products, a split-box treating station and a "next generation" power supply, emerged from the reincarnated Corona Designs and evolutionary models of both remain in Corona Dynamic's current line. The treating station and the power supply were both designed to be rugged, long-lived, and extremely easy to use and to maintain.

The PowerHouseTM station featured a beefy aluminum frame, hardened chrome guide rods, air assisted linear bearings, safety-interlock doors, and a horizontal (lateral) electrode adjustmenl syslem. lts splifbox design opens horizontally making for easy film drop-in and rapid thread up - and it is still regarded as a versatile, state-of-the-art corona treating station.

Roller Ready for Shiping

A new Corona Dynamics roller being packaged for shipment.

The company's IGBT power supply or high frequency generator was also a ruggedized design. lt was scalable and raised the resident electricity from 50/60 Hz at 230/460 Volts to 10/35 kHz at 10 kV. The Power SourcerM was not only more versatile it required much less frequenl maintenance than other power supplies. lts successor, the Power Source llTM, like the Diamond Mesa electrodes remain a primary source of income for the company.

Corona Design was on the upswing once again and in the years 1989 through 1991 the company moved onto the Dallas' metro area list of fastest growing companies.

Keith Woodson joined Lance in 1995 and worked into his role as National Sales Manager and eventually General Manager during the company's second reincarnation. Woodson, like \A/hiteside is customer-focused and worked with Chapin to redesign the company's bare roll electrodes by enhancing the corona discharge area which in-turn increased the dwell time of the substrate under the corona. This was a significant advantage in that it eliminated the need for multiple ceramic discharge tubes in high-watt density bare roll applications.

Fast forward to 2009, when Woodson, his wife Cathy and partners purchased the intellectual property and customer lists of Corona Designs. With Donnie Chapin, and Darwin's son Curt, Woodson has once again reincarnated the company - this time as Corona Dynamics. Moving into new facilities allowed the trio to replace aging machinery with state-of-the art machining centers and equipment. The new manufacluring floor layout coupled with new jigs and fixtures has increased manufacturing efficiency and customers are already benefifting from reduced labor costs that lower the prices for new equipment and replacement parts while time to delivery has been reduced from weeks to days and days to hours.

Corona Dynamics' Partners

Corona Dynamics' current team of partners at the company headquarters.

Together, Curt, Donnie and Keith have more than 75 years experience with the "Corona "companies. As in previous reincarnations this Phoenix is rising wilh an expanded line of equipment that pushes the design and engineering envelope. A just developed intermediately priced crona treating station is based on the predecessor company's split-box design that is regarded by many in the industry as the most versatile, adaptable, corona treating system ever designed. lt is adaptable for both single and two-sided applications for standard or ridged webs as well as sheet fed production lines. That it can be configured for vertical and horizontal applications reduces its cost, including engineering, design, and production lead times. Put simply, Corona's management team believes the versatility of their split-box design has allowed them to engineer value-added unit that can compete head to head with off-shore imports that are regarded by many as a disposable.

"There is always risk in starting or restarting a company, but in this economy it's even more $o - especially when il's a "design and build" company. And the new company required cash. We needed cash for leasehold improvements, new equipment and fixtures, cash for licenses and permits, inventory, and working capital. Corona Dynamics doesn't exactly fit the parameters of what most entities with money to lend or give away are looking for; it isn't high tech, doesn't promise to save the environment, or provide health care - and grants to start ups are rare at best and to existing businesses - practically non-existenl. \Mrat we found was that most federal or state grants don't go to the needy business at all, but rather to third-parties who promis to guide the new entity to success.

"Curt, Donnie and l, then my wife and I spent many hours analyzing that risk and ihe potential rewards. We know the equipment we build - and what we have to offer. We can see our proposed line extensions and we know our customers and what they expect from us. We know we are a management team recognized for our industry expertise. Past customers have not only voiced their faith in us; they have demonstrated their faith by placing orders and we have not only kept a majority of Corona Design customers, we have added several more in the process. And we only had so much time to shop for money. I was spending a majority of my time procuring equipment and calling customers to let them we would be there for them-and could they place an order now. So in the end Cathy and I mortgaged our ranch. Our revenues are running 150% of what was an aggressive forecast - lhat's all positive. Most of all we know our selves, know our resolve, and our commitment to our customers. We believe we can resurrect this company without repeating the mistakes of the past and we are committed to doing so," says Woodson.

lsn't this the kind of company we all want to do business with?