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Tobacco

Entering the paper straw game

Fast, reliable, saving resources: With the Hauni Straw Maker, the Körber Business Area Tobacco is succesfully opening up a new market of plastic-free drinking straws. It’s a prime example of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. 

A small flash of insight often leads to a big result. Peter Golz no longer remembers exactly who had the idea of taking a fresh look at the fields in which the Hauni company’s technology could be applied. But he remembers very clearly the positive mood that gave rise to this idea. Golz is the Head of Innovation Centre Rod at Hauni, the leading company of the Körber Business Area Tobacco. “As soon as the idea was on the table, suggestions came flying in from every corner of the company,” he recalls. “Lots of colleagues from the staff and the management wanted to participate, and they’re still on board.”

What had happened? After several countries had banned the sale of plastic drinking straws, the European Union followed suit: In 2018 the European Parliament passed the corresponding law, which will come into force in June 2020. The market quickly called on industrial companies to come up with ideas. And Hauni had the right answer.

Having an entrepreneurial spirit means always thinking outside the box

Many employees immediately thought of the KDF 5RT, a machine for producing cardboard tubes for alternative tobacco products that has been on the market since 2017. This machine is unique, and its product is exclusive. “We are the only company producing this kind of small cardboard tube,” says Golz. And small cardboard tubes are not all that different from drinking straws. A machine for precisely making small cardboard tubes should be able to produce drinking straws as well — and probably much better than other machines could do.

That was the moment when something “clicked” — innovation live, entrepreneurial spirit in practice. After all, at Körber the entrepreneurial spirit means looking at things from a different perspective again and again, thinking outside the box, and striking out in new directions. As the company’s founder Kurt A. Körber once put it, the aim is “to be the first to do the right thing at the right time.”

The KDF 5RT was actually built to produce paper tubes for alternative tobacco products. For this purpose, the paper is shot in and then cut. The same process can also be used to produce drinking straws.
The Hauni Straw Maker can produce drinking straws much faster than machines that use the common spiral wrapping method.

The technology of the KDF 5RT was the right starting point, and the timing was perfect. “The machine is exactly right. When it’s combined with a bit of engineering expertise, it offers the solution that meets the new challenge on the market. That’s how the Hauni Straw Maker, or HSM, was born,” says Golz. The machine is extremely fast: Whereas comparable machines produce between 50 and 60 meters of drinking straws per minute, the HSM produces 300 meters. That equals 1,500 drinking straws per minute. About 500 billion drinking straws are used worldwide every year — so rapid production really helps.

lThis machine offers the solution that meets the new challenge on the market.r

Peter Golz, Head of Innovation Centre Rod, Hauni

The HSM does not use the conventional production process for drinking straws, which involves a three-layer spiral-wound method. Instead, two layers of paper are perfectly shaped into a cylinder inside a linear mold and the edges are joined together without an overlapping seam. This is a faster method that results in a higher output.

In addition to its speed, the machine has another impressive advantage: sustainability in two senses of the word. It needs less glue, which cannot be composted and thus is harmful to the environment. The spiral-wound technology, which is most often used on the market today, requires twice as much glue as the Hauni technology. That means the Hauni method is good for environment. In addition, using less glue saves money for customers, because the glue that is required for food-safe applications is expensive.

per minute

are produced by the Hauni Straw Maker.

Faster speed, top reliability, and saving resources

Making the KDF 5RT fit for its new tasks as a drinking straw producer was a new and highly motivating challenge for the experienced engineers. Adapting the dimensions was the easy part. Most customer companies produce drinking straws with a diameter of five to eight millimeters — so there was no big difference between the machine’s original and new products. The engineers’ main task was to make the machine leaner. “We simplified a number of things,” explains Patrick Fricke, the Head of Business Development at Hauni. “Our machine was too complex for the production of drinking straws. So we made it a priority to cooperate with our customers in our search for the best and most efficient way to meet the strict requirements of food-safe products.”

That’s because producing drinking straws requires special paper that stays firm while soaked in liquids and fulfills the stringent requirements of the food industry. “All of the paper suppliers we’ve been working with for a long time fulfill these requirements. As a result, we didn’t have any additional obstacles in that regard,” says Fricke.

lThanks to our know-how regarding paper and gluing, we have won over customers very quickly in an indsutry that is new for us.r

Patrick Fricke, Head of Business Development, Hauni

A faster speed, top reliability, and saving resources — customer feedback concerning the Hauni Straw Maker has been consistently positive. And that has a positive effect within the company: The change of perspective has been a great success. “Thanks to our know-how regarding paper and gluing, we have won over customers very quickly in an industry that is new for us. That makes us proud and encourages us to be even more inventive,” says Fricke with a smile. The Hauni Straw Maker is being further developed in cooperation with an internationally operating beverage packing company. In the future it will be possible to produce drinking straws that are printed with a company logo, for example.

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