Producing paper is about large volumes. The step from manufacturing in lab to industrial production therefore faces great challenges. Uncertainty regarding supply, demand and price often makes new concepts stick to the "valley of death". You don't want to build a factory until you know that everything works.
Pilot facilities are a good way to bridge this gap. But even here, it can be difficult if the amount of pulp to be tested is small. At RISE, researchers and operating staff have now found a way forward through so-called pulse production.
“Normally we need at least one ton of pulp to run the full-scale pilot paper machine, FEX. The fact that we have now managed to run the machine with as little as 40 kg is a breakthrough. This means that companies that are considering expanding their product portfolio with specialty paper can test this in full scale without having to produce large quantities of raw material,” says Mikael Magnusson, researcher in paper technology.
In practice, the new method of pulse production means that the plant is started with ordinary pulp. Then switched to another chest with special pulp without disrupting production.
“Manufacturing was extra challenging as the pulp contained fibres with very low bonding properties. The excitement was tremendous for both RISE and present customers to see if the web were to break or if the extremely short production would work. But with careful preparation and talented operating staff it all worked out well and the production pulse came to a cheer, says project manager Mikael Bouveng.
The new method means that the threshold is significantly reduced for investments in narrow products with a high profit margin or where demand is low.