After 23 years: VESTRA says thank you!
VESTRA was founded as an independent pilot coating facility (LLC) on the premises of Papiertech-nische Stiftung in Munich on 31 January 1994. The construction phase started in November 1994 and was completed by a start-up ceremony with many guests on 10 July 1995. The company‘s first partners and board members – in addition to Papiertechnische Stiftung, whose managing director Mr Professor Heinrich Baumgarten had initiated the project – were the companies AVEBE, Euroclay Hirschau (AKW), GAW, Jagenberg, Krieger, OMYA, Rhône-Poulenc, Siemens and Sulzer-Papertec (since 1996 Voith-Sulzer Krefeld). This mixture of companies provided an ideal basis for the successful market launch of the new pilot coater.
The improvements and developments made in the first years of VESTRA can be characterised by the slogan „faster and faster… lighter and lighter“, which was also the general trend of the graphic paper sector during that time and naturally reflected in the work of VESTRA. With a maximal speed of 2500m/min, the pilot coater was capable of meeting the highest requirements of the sector. Customers came almost exclusively from supply companies back then – most of them wished to design and optimise products such as binders and pigments or processing aids. Many bookings were of course also made by the partners and board members of VESTRA themselves, who had established a “Technical committee“ for multi-client projects that were conducted jointly with users from the paper sector. Another focal point were trials financed through research projects of PTS and “on the free market“.
To remain fit for the market and its changing requirements, the partners decided to install a film press in 1996. This turned out to be a good decision when looking at the subsequent developments in the paper and board sector. The scope and opportunities of the pilot coater were further increased by a third applicator unit, the “Modular Combi Blade (MCB)“ supplied by Jagenberg in 1998. After Jagenberg’s takeover by Voith, the MCB was equipped with a Jetflow F as fixed solution.
Approximately at the turn of the millennium, the growing competition from digital media began to cause a lasting recession in the graphic paper segment which triggered off a period of upheaval in the entire paper sector that continues until today and resulted in a decreasing number of trial bookings from supply sector companies. To compensate for this, the VESTRA team managed to win more customers from paper and board mills. As a whole, however, the changes still led to severe economic problems that resulted in the liquidation of VESTRA LLC and its takeover by Papiertechnische Stiftung in the year 2005.
The PTS management thought that a much broader customer base would greatly enhance the pilot coater’s chances of success. For this purpose, they decided to add service offers for specialty papers and packaging to those related to graphic papers. This required a completely new technology – a Curtain Coater. The new Curtain Coater with three-layer slide die was installed by the companies Andritz BMB, GAW and Troller in the year 2006 and made VESTRA the then most advanced pilot coating facility in Europe.
The investment enabled VESTRA to conduct trials in the fields of board and specialty papers, which caused more and more customers from the package producing sector – not only from Europe - to make use of its services and know-how. This trend was further increased by more stringent new requirements to food packaging relating to the migration of unwanted substances like mineral oils. In the following years, the pilot coater played an outstanding role in the development of effective migration barriers. In many customer projects and PTS research projects, the VESTRA team and its customers achieved results that pointed the way to the future.
In the 23 years since its foundation, VESTRA has conducted 2718 trial days that have led to valuable results for customers from all over the world and the paper and board industry as a whole. The closure of the PTS institute in Munich made it necessary to shut down the pilot coater for good on 27 November 2017 at 2:30 p.m. At least the Curtain Coater - its most modern part - will “live on“ somewhere else, it could be sold to the Finnish company KCL.
The team of the VESTRA pilot coater thanks its customers and partners for the many decades of fruitful cooperation and valuable support.