Aurizon Ultrasonics, LLC
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – November 30, 2015
CEOCFO: Mr. Benrud, what is Aurizon Ultrasonics?
Mr. Benrud: Aurizon Ultrasonics is manufacturer of equipment utilizing high-power ultrasonic energy to perform a variety of industrial processes. Aurizon’s origins can be traced back to the 1980’s inside the research and development area of Kimberly-Clark Corporation. It was spun out as a separate company about six and a half years ago. Our industry applications are, as you might expect from our background within Kimberly-Clark, high speed converting applications in disposable hygiene products, such as baby diapers, child training pants, and adult incontinent products. However, sealing of flexible films used in packaging of food, pharmaceuticals and other products is a growing area for us.
CEOCFO: Why is ultrasonics a better way? What are you replacing?
Mr. Benrud: In the disposable hygiene market we are many times replacing adhesives. One of our newest offerings to the industry is what we call ultrasonic elastic entrapment. In every baby diaper or adult incontinent product, there are stretchable leg cuffs and/or waist bands. Today these structures are typically constructed by gluing stretch elastic strands between two layers of lightweight nonwovens. There is a lot of cost and complexity with that process. In packaging, ultrasonics is typically replacing heat. Potential benefits including fewer seal failures, faster production line speed, improved up-time and reduced risk of damaging the product.
CEOCFO: What happens with the Ultrasonics process?
Mr. Benrud: The technology uses high frequency sound waves or vibration to bond, seal or cut materials like nonwovens or films. In simple terms, our device consists of rotary ultrasonic horn vibrating somewhere between twenty thousand and forty thousand times per second and a rotary anvil or tooling which typically includes a pattern. The two components form an in-running nip through which the materials pass. The rapid compressing and releasing of the materials cause them to heat from within, melt and form a bond or separate. It is a very, very clean process.
CEOCFO: Does it become just another step in the assembly line?
Mr. Benrud: Exactly. And there are several applications on a diaper where this might be used. Ultrasonics can be used to construct components such as ears, cuffs or panels and also be used to bond each of these components chassis of the diaper. In packaging, applications include the longitudinal seal on products wrapped in either vertical (e.g. produce) and horizontal (e.g. snack bars) configurations and the top seal on pouches. We work with machine builders serving both the disposable hygiene and packaging industries to get our equipment included in their machine designs.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the cost factor for the manufacturer?
Mr. Benrud: That is an interesting area for us because we have to focus our sales efforts on customers that value Total Cost of Ownership or TCO. In a company our size we wear many hats. I’m President, but also CFO and handle sales duties for one large account. I developed what we call our “Cost in Use” model that our sales team can utilize with their customers to quantify the value proposition related to implementing our ultrasonic technology. Our equipment may be higher capital cost than, say adhesive application equipment or heat for packaging applications. However, ultrasonics often enables ongoing cost reductions that provide a good payback on the higher upfront investment.
CEOCFO: Does the cost to the end user of the product matter? Is there a difference for them at the other end?
Mr. Benrud: Ultrasonics can provide improvements to product attributes that consumers of disposable hygiene products care about. These include fit, feel and discretion. We are finding that ultrasonically entrapping elastic strands results in less tension when extended which should lead to few red marks on the skin. Use of adhesives in a disposable hygiene product can also cause the nonwoven to become hard and brittle which is not as soft against the skin. The other attribute that you do not often think about is that adhesives can make the product noisy. This is especially a concern with adult incontinence products where the big trend is towards more and more discretion. Product are getting thinner, users want them softer and to fit better so that they are less noticeable. Ultrasonic bonding is a technology that can enable some of those features and benefits.
CEOCFO: Is the industry aware? Are there people that should know about Aurizon aware? Where are you on the radar screen in general?
Mr. Benrud: We are relatively new but, I would say, becoming well known in the disposable hygiene industry. We recently returned from the Hygenix conference in St. Petersburg, FL where we presented our elastic entrapment technology. The capability was very well received and we have received several new orders as a result. All the major hygiene machine builders know who we are, at least in North America and Europe. Currently we are twenty-five people, all US-based but are in the process of establishing representation in Europe.
CEOCFO: You said that the product was well received at the recent hygiene conference. What did you learn that perhaps you had not thought about?
Mr. Benrud: An industry thought leader offered an insight to a benefit we hadn’t really considered previously. He indicated that disposable hygiene makers based in geographic areas where temperatures get very hot can experience bond failures during transportation. Temperatures inside trucks and other cargo containers can reach points at which the chemical bond created with an adhesive fails resulting in a product defect. Ultrasonics creates a mechanical bond that is able to withstand these high temperatures.
CEOCFO: You have been talking about Hygienix, but I do see on your site several other additional applications. Are those in progress? Where are you with the other packaging and specialty converting and medical disposables?
Mr. Benrud: We recently separated medical disposables from hygiene to give that industry more focus. Potential applications in this area include perimeter bonding of face masks and sterile wrap. Packaging is a relatively new market for us. We saw this industry as a natural fit for ultrasonics and as a way to grow and diversify. We redesigned our offering to meet the market requirements and innovative packaging machine builders and end users have begun adopting ultrasonic sealing for its benefits versus conventional heat sealing.
CEOCFO: Aurizon was recognized on the Inc. 5000 list for the second consecutive year, which indicates that business is good. Would you please tell us about the recent agreement with INVISTA?
Mr. Benrud: That is another highlight! I had mentioned our capability to ultrasonically attach elastic strands to nonwovens and films. We started this development about a year ago by obtaining an exclusive license to a patent held by CERA France that covered the process. Our initial focus, which is now commercially available, was to develop a robust capability to ultrasonically entrap elastic fibers as they currently exist. Our joint development agreement with INVISTA, a leading supplier of elastic fiber, is focused on developing novel stretch fibers optimized for ultrasonic attachment and new ultrasonic equipment in order to provide an even more effective solution.
CEOCFO: Why is Aurizon Ultrasonics noteworthy?
Mr. Benrud: Our engineers invented rotary ultrasonics as an improvement to the conventional ultrasonics offered by our competitors. Many of them have developed rotary options, but our design is proprietary and the focus of all we do. A key differentiator for Aurizon is what we call “Experience Better.” This refers to how we work with potential customers to deliver an ultrasonic solution that addresses their product or process issue. We are not just selling equipment from a catalog; we offer solutions. The process typically starts with a customer coming to us with a problem or opportunity and they are wondering if ultrasonics can help. We listen to ensure understanding then draw on our extensive experience and know-how to determine whether an ultrasonic solution is both technically and financially feasible. We are able and willing to develop a customized solution to meet a customer’s requirements and have in-house capability to validate the hypothesis using the customer’s materials.
“A key differentiator for Aurizon is what we call ‘Experience Better.’ This refers to how we work with potential customers to deliver an ultrasonic solution that addresses their product or process issue. We are not just selling equipment from a catalog; we offer solutions.” – Greg Benrud
Aurizon Ultrasonics, LLC