Digital Magazine

Disc Is the Package

Almost 15 years ago, Univenture's founder, Ross Youngs, invented a way to package and protect CDs. With a Chromas press and a Pillar corona treater, the company continues to innovate the disc package — now with flexo printing.

Diversify, branch out, expand — in the current business climate, doing any of these is probably a smart move. Increasingly, it seems, converters (and manufacturers in general) are educating themselves and subsequently diversifying their product portfolios — some for survival.

Others, like Columbus, OH-based Univenture Inc., seem to be surviving quite nicely. According to Univenture, this manufacturer of disc packaging has grown tremendously since its inception 14 years ago: from $100,000 its first year to more than $20 million annually.

But Univenture is branching out anyway, in particular, into printing. Why? “So we will be flexible enough to morph and change and meet our customers' needs,” answers David Coho, director of sales. “Univenture is a dynamic organization. We're growing, and we're very, very adaptable.”

The Columbus operation's latest venture into adaptability is supported by its 16½-in.-wide Chromas Instaflex flexo press, which is equipped with a Pillar corona treater.

A Growth Venture
A $20,000 personal bank loan is a far cry from Univenture's reported $20 million in annual earnings — even over the span of a decade. But that's how the company began. “I started [the company] with a $20,000 personal bank loan,” reports Ross Youngs.

According to Youngs, in 1988 he established Univenture Disc Packaging and Systems to manufacture compact disc packaging and storage products based on a patented Safety-sleeve® design. [Youngs] raised approximately $170,000 [more] over the next two years.

Youngs used his expansive knowledge of environmental science and industrial engineering and focused his attention on [developing a process] that conserves both ecological and economic resources. “Combined with extensive work experience in the engineering of optical and video discs, my goal was to invent compact disc packaging that would not only protect the discs but also conserve resources,” he says.

It wasn't long before Univenture began to grow itself; the company started one of the first packaging manufacturers' web sites in 1994. One year later, to better serve the West Coast, Univenture opened a production facility in Sparks, NV. And in 1998 it opened a facility in Dublin, Ireland.

Today, the three facilities combined employ 120 people in more than 200,000 sq ft of plant space.

The Politics of Printing
Univenture's move into printing follows Youngs' vision to create a product that's more ecologically friendly and economical to produce. Coho explains: “Currently, a sleeve can be produced with an extra piece of material — a back pocket. We ship that to a customer, who then has to go out and procure a printed insert, which then has to be inserted, either manually or through automation. Now, we can eliminate that extra back pocket; we can eliminate that manual or printed insert — all by printing on the package itself. Continually, we try to reduce the materials required to make a useful and quality product.”

According to Mark Kuhn, Univenture's flexo lead pressman at Columbus, the operation acquired the Chromas Aquaflex Instaflex press in October 1999. The eight-color, ultraviolet press is designed to run 500 fpm, is equipped with two die stations, and can print the gamut of substrates, says Kuhn, “from a one-mil film up to about a ten-point paperboard as well as labels and all pressure-sensitives,” he adds. Univenture prints with inks supplied by Akzo Nobel and INX Intl. The company buys polypropylene from American Profol, paper from Russell-Field and Dunsirn/Avery-Dennison, and vinyl materials from Achilles USA.

The Treater Swap
About a year ago, says Kuhn, the Columbus operation determined a new corona treater was in order. “We were a demo facility for Chromas. They offered us an alternative when the original equipment failed to perform,” Kuhn reports. “So, we swapped the treating system with a Pillar system.”

According to Kuhn, the Pillar system has been “perfect” for the operation. “I spend less time making corrective actions, and I have more flexibility to focus on the printing job.”

The Pillar system is self-contained, he adds, making it easier to service and clean. However, servicing the treater is something he hasn't had to deal with yet. “Pillar does have service tech lines, though I've never had to contact them.”

Univenture's Columbus plant also has extensive prepress capabilities. Reports Kuhn, “We have a full art department, with platemaking, which has been up and running for about a year-and-a-half now.” All prepress equipment in Columbus is supplied by Anderson & Vreeland.

With customers that include virtually all major companies in the software and entertainment fields, customer responsiveness is key, says Coho. Univenture brought prepress in-house to better serve these existing and future clients. “One of the things we've learned in the disc replication industry — that I'm sure carries forward to most industries — is we find out about the projects and the deadlines after they're due. So we have to be at the absolute top of our game. We need to be easy and accessible, so they can rely on us,” Coho reports.

On the Manufacturing Tip
Univenture utilizes an array of equipment for its nonprinting production, including slitting/rewinding equipment manufactured by Greystone.

According to Coho, the company has its own in-house engineering team, responsible for the manufacturer's unique capabilities. “We definitely tap into our engineering resources to help us achieve a quality result. We custom configure our equipment to be able to produce the products our customers require, efficiently and effectively.”

Univenture's U-1000, an automated packaging machine, is one example of the company's in-house engineering expertise. The proprietary equipment has been so successful that Univenture now offers vendor partnerships that allow for placement of the U-1000 in customer facilities. “The U-1000 Technology Group was formed to create and implement new technology, and this brought about a new type of outsourcing, which is common in many industries,” reports Univenture, “wherein Univenture manufactures, installs, and operates its U-1000…in a customer's production facility with no capital investment.”

No matter what your investment, it seems, it pays to diversify these days. (Enron employees can testify to this lesson).

Univenture, however, is one company that needs no diversification instruction. Says Coho, “Our mission is to discover new markets for current products and develop new products to meet the growing needs of our customers.” Thus far, Univenture remains at the top of its class.

Univenture Inc.
4704 Roberts Rd.; Columbus, OH 43228; 614/529-2100; univenture.com

Pillar Technologies, Hartland, WI; 888-PILLAR-6; pillartech.com

Chromas Technologies, St. Bruno, Que., Canada; 450/461-9593; chromas.com

Akzo Nobel Corp., Plymouth, MN; 612/559-5911; akzonobel.com

Inx Intl. Ink Co., Elk Grove Village, IL; 847/981-9399; inxinternational.com

American Profol, Cedar Rapids, IA; 319/365-0599; profol.com

Russell-Field Paper Co., Lemont, IL; 800/323-1947; russellfield.com

Avery Dennison/Dunsirn, Neenah, WI; 800/714-2664; dunsirn.averydennison.com

Achilles USA, Everett, WA; 800/464-4980; achillesusa.com

Anderson & Vreeland Inc., Bryan, OH; 419/636-5002; andersonvreeland.com

Greystone Mfg. Inc., Norwich, NY; 607/336-3700; greystonemanufacturing.com

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