“The founders were my father and my uncle,” says General Manager Armando Mennucci. “Originally, they developed high-frequency heating systems, which unfortunately were not really successful, so they turned their attentions to corona treatment technology.”
This transformation proved to be the turning point for the company. Over time, the product range was extended to include induction cap sealing, surface plasma treatments and induction systems. Today, corona treatment systems are the mainstay of the business, and Me.Ro is one of only ten manufacturers worldwide who produce this technology. Four of these are Italian companies, of which Me.Ro is the largest.
The others are located in Germany, Denmark and the United States. Corona treatment systems are surface treatment systems which enable the effective attachment of inks, glues and other adhesives to plastic film. The majority of these films are used in the packaging of food, but the technology is also used for technical films, for example in the display industry or for electronic devices.
“A packaging film has to be printed and laminated,” explains Mr. Mennucci. “You begin with neutral films, which are transformed into a plastic coil and are then converted. That means they are printed and coupled to create packaging with specific functional characteristics. To convert a neutral film, it needs to be treated with Me.Ro’s corona surface treatment, which thickens the film. It is called a transition treatment.”
Over the past two years, Me.Ro has developed new, high-power corona plants, in particular for a German constructor. “We are market leaders in this,” the General Manager points out. “Our machines achieve a power of 110 kW, whereas a normal treatment is only 8 to 10 kW. We also offer digital corona generators, which enable settings to be adjusted by computer, a distinct advantage for our customers.”
Me.Ro’s second product line is machinery for induction cap sealing. After plastic bottles and containers are filled and closed, the caps are welded to the receptacle. This system serves a range of sectors, including the food and engine oil industries, pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers, and the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.
“We were the pioneers of this technology in Europe,” notes Mr. Mennucci proudly. “It is a very small niche market. In Europe there are only two manufacturers.” Nevertheless, the company has had to develop the system in line with manufacturers’ demand for increased filling speeds and capacities.
“We now produce a plant that enables containers to travel at 90 m per minute, which equates to 40,000 bottles per hour,” Mr. Mennucci adds.
The company’s third technology is a plasma treatment. This treatment is used inside metallizing machines. It is a surface treatment that operates under vacuum conditions and is needed to have a good adhesion of the metal to the surface of the neutral film.
Me.Ro’s customer base includes multinational clients and worldwide producers, and exports account for around 95% of the business. Germany, Spain and France are key markets, as is China, where the company has established a sales office.
“We work with some of the biggest machine constructors in the world,” says Mr. Mennucci. “They value our experience and reliability. We focus on providing fast and efficient service. Ours are secondary or accessorial machines, and therefore they have to be produced quickly. We also provide features that our competitors are unable to match. For example, we are the only company that can supply high-voltage systems – we are the leaders in this field. Our advantage was that we had already developed our know-how with large-scale machines, and we have been able to transfer this experience to smaller machines as well. Innovation is second nature to us.”
The company is headquartered in Lucca in northwest Italy, where 50 staff are employed at its engineering and production plant. Approximately 90% of the company’s turnover – 14 million EUR in 2016 and anticipated to reach 16 million EUR in 2017 – is generated through the production of corona treatment systems. Mr. Mennucci sees huge potential for this technology.
“The packaging industry grows by 5% every year,” he points out. “This results in increasing demand for our corona systems. The same applies to induction cap sealing technology, where we are also seeing growing demand. Our clients’ production processes are always developing and improving, and this means that we can’t stand still either. Over the next four to five years, I predict that we will see a lot of new technology in this sector. We are currently working on atmospheric plasma treatments. These are like corona but use gas instead of air. We are also developing a new nano coating.” Mr. Mennucci has been leading Me.Ro since 1998 and remains as committed as ever. “It is a family company, so I am naturally attached to the company. What I find really motivating is the appreciation that we have earned from our clients over the years. We also have fantastic employees and achieve great results. These are the factors which truly drive me.”