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FACING THE FUTURE coated paper makers now have a test facility in Canada


May 1, 2000
By Pulp & Paper Canada

When the president and general manager of the gleaming new Centre International de Couchage CIC Inc. (in English, international coating centre), Ren Francoeur, speaks about the recently opened CIC, t…

When the president and general manager of the gleaming new Centre International de Couchage CIC Inc. (in English, international coating centre), Ren Francoeur, speaks about the recently opened CIC, the excitement is obvious. “There was no existing facility in North America, other than privately-owned ones. Therefore, all the industry had to go to Europe to run trials in a pilot facility capable of replicating coater conditions or the operating parameters you see on a real machine. Our coater can outrun any now in commercial operation.”

Located in Trois-Rivires, QC, the $31.7-million centre was the idea of Laurent Verreault, president of GL&V. Announced in 1998 (PULP & PAPER CANADA, September 1998, p. 60), the founding partners included GL&V, Huber and Mintech (a subsidiary of Minerals Technology). Now, there are also 15 Strategic Suppliers (see box). On the industry side, Kruger, Fraser Papers and St-Laurent Paperboard helped to develop the start-up programs. These companies have signed long-term contracts with the centre.

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The main objective of the CIC is to enhance product development in the coated side of the paper business. In a country known more for its commodity pulp and paper products, this centre may be a spur to companies to grow their product lines and move into specialty paper niches. “I think it will be,” Francoeur said. “We have news customers who have booked time. The industry’s mindset is changing.

“The industry needed a place to run trials,” he added. “It’s expensive to go to Europe and the facilities there are mostly totally booked.”

Besides the coating line, the CIC also offers the latest soft nip calendering technology. “We have had customers who have run tests to see if a soft nip calendering project would be viable at their mills,” Francoeur explained. “We can run at 2500 to 2700 metres per minutes (m/min). The CIC can also do coater speed tests, if, for example, a mill speed-up is planned and if new drives are needed. Other customers are booking time just to test their color preparation because of the technology available in the CIC’s coating kitchen.

For mills, the main purpose of such a centre is product development. The same can be said for suppliers. Suppliers can also help their customer base to develop coatings using their products — binders, pigments, other additives. Francoeur said the CIC has had good support from the suppliers. He hopes to add at least five more names to the Strategic Supplier list soon. He said the CIC has an “open door” policy for them to test their products. Mills may also test a supplier’s products at the CIC before they even set foot in the mill.

It’s well known that the industry depends more and more upon the suppliers for product development and technical help. Francoeur said this mentality may “turn around a bit”, helped by the wave of consolidation. “As mergers continue, the big companies may want to be independent of the suppliers.” He hopes that the larger companies being formed may be able to develop their R&D staffs and spend more in this area than the smaller producers could.

Almost sold out

Although the CIC had commitments from clients for 33 weeks of work before the centre opened, one client that had booked 10 weeks backed out. Nonetheless, Francoeur has commitments for 32 weeks in 2000 with a further 15 to 20 weeks pending. “I feel by the end of 2000, we will be sold out for the next 10 years,” he added.

The centre can operate about 45 to 47 weeks annually. The other five weeks or so are given up for holidays and maintenance; there is a one-week maintenance shutdown annually along with other, shorter maintenance periods.

The split between supplier and mill booked time is 70:30, in favor of the suppliers. Francoeur expects to see supplier and mill people come in to run a number of tests and then have the mill representatives return for a day or so to run further tests. He said he always has about three weeks worth of time “in his back pocket” saved for mills.

Feedback since January has been encouraging, according to Francoeur. “We’re being told by customers that we are equal to or better than the European facilities. The customers we’ve had are astonished at how quickly our operators have picked up the tricks of the trade.”

There are 12 employees now but Francoeur said that, “at the rate we’re renting”, he expects to have 18 employees by year end. Customers get their money’s worth too, Francoeur said. “When customers come in, we’re ready. They get eight hours of trial time.”

The CIC can do 12 testpoints per day. A testpoint is one coating formulation on a roll of paper at a set basis weight, machine speed and coat weight. In other words, the CIC can handle 12 grade changes per day.

One of the first tests the CIC ran when it opened in January was a supplier’s trial with new pigments at a coater speed of up to 2500 m/min on a lightweight (34 g/m2) sheet. “As time goes by,” Francoeur added, “I see no end to what we can do with this facility. We’re learning along with the customers.”

Customers are coming from across North America with a European client expected in April. Francoeur believes the CIC will attract attention from Asian companies in the future.

B.Y.O.P.

At present, as with other facilities of this type, customers bring their own paper. However, the CIC is working with a paper company to be a supplier so that in case of emergency, there will be a small inventory on hand. This would be unique in the industry, Francoeur said.

The CIC does not do any testing on its own, but will be able to offer advice to clients. It has also signed an agreement with the Montreal-based Quebec Institute of Graphic Communications. Francoeur explained that if a customer has no place to do printing trials, it can work with the Institute. In these cases, representatives of the Institute attend all meetings and trials. Within 24 hours of the completed trials at CIC, the Institute has the samples and within two weeks, the client should have the trial report from the CIC and the printed samples from the Institute.

The equipment

Save for the GL&V supercalender and finishing equipment (winder, guillotine, trimmer), Valmet was the supplier of choice for the coater and dryer including a Valmet-Raisio coating kitchen. In the kitchen, the metering of pigments, water, binders and other additives is done with load cells, thus eliminating the possibility of human error. All formulations are done by computer.

The color preparation system includes a 1000-L OptiMixer LMD-010 and 600-L coating mixer for colors/pigments as well as two batch binder cookers and one continuous jet cooker.

The system also features the latest screening technology and deaerators to kill foam (OptiAir and OptiScreen).

The CIC uses Valmet’s OptiConcept coater that has the OptiCoat Jet and OptiBlade coaters. It also includes the AutoBlade system, designed to provide precise coat weight control. Coat weights can range from 0 to 25 g/m2/side. Paper basis weights can range from 28 to 330 g/m2. The design speed of the coater is 2500 m/min with a balance speed of 3000 m/min. The wire width is 762 mm.

Application options include a blade metered nozzle applicator with constant tip angle final metering blade (OptiCoat, OC), straight nozzle application with constant tip angle final metering blade (OptiCoat Jet, OCJ), roll applicator (AutoBlade, AB) or short dwell application coating head (OptiBlade, OB).

If a customer prefers, the paper can pass through the OptiSizer (film transfer equipment) instead. The OptiSizer provides a range of application possibilities. It allows coating of both sides of the paper web using two different formulations simultaneously.

Film metering is done through a 10-mm grooved rod (size or 20-, 25 and 35-mm smooth LD rods (coating).

As the sheet is coated, the customer has the choice to preheat the sheet to simulate online coating or to leave it at room temperature to simulate an offline coater.

When it comes to drying, clients again have a choice: infrared (IR) or conventional air. There are five rows each of e
lectrical IR dryers (pre-coater and pre-calender). There is also a 28-row gas IR dryer.

There are four units (two single-, two dual- nozzle) air dryers. The maximum temperature is 315C with a maximum air speed of 40 to 50 m/s.

As the web leaves the dryer it can go directly to one of two online soft nip calenders or to the GL&V supercalender. If clients opt for the supercalender, the paper is first wound into rolls. The two-nip soft nip Valmet (OptiSoft) calender has a maximum nip pressure, mechanical, of 438 kN/m. Maximum nip pressure, roll cover, is 350 kN/m. Web tension can range from 200 to 1100 N/m.

The 12-roll supercalender has a nip pressure (bottom nip) that can go from 250 to 440 kN/m. Rolls are hydraulically loaded from the top. Web tension can range from 200 to 1400 N/m and maximum speed is 800 m/min.

There are Valmet PaperIQ online measurement systems for moisture, coat weight, basis weight and gloss on the supercalender and the soft nip calender.

After supercalendering or soft nip calendering, the paper is sent for printing, either in rolls or as sheets. There is a rewinder with a four-slitter arrangement with an operating speed of 800 m/min.

Strategic Suppliers:
Adhesives ResearchDow ChemicalBayer
OMYASelectubeUddeholm
HuberAir ProductsCIBA
Penford ProductsKronos CanadaWilliam Kenyon
AKP CanadaMetsa Specialty ChemicalsSpecialty Minerals

Conclusion

Only open for a few months, the CIC should be considered as still in the start-up stage with optimization continuing. However, Francoeur feels the facility’s equipment will stand the test of time. He does not foresee any major capital expenditures for the next 10 years. By the end of 2001, he said the centre should be profitable. All profits will be reinvested in the facility.

Discussions are underway with the nearby Universit du Quebec a Trois-Rivires and the CEGEP (junior college), both of which offer pulp and paper programs. The CEGEP has a pilot paper machine and that may “come into play” in the future, according to Francoeur. He added that there will be two students working in cooperative programs at the CIC this summer.

“Our goal is to provide the best service in the industry for product development on the coated side,” Francoeur said. “It won’t take too long for the industry to realize that to run the equivalent of 12 testpoints per day in a mill would be astronomically expensive versus what we charge here.”

He added that he has already been told by some companies that they would be hesitant to return to Europe to run tests because of the cost and time savings now available with the opening of the CIC.


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