Pulp and Paper Canada

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Getting A Lot From a Little


September 1, 2009
By Pulp & Paper Canada

“Paper machine clothing is a technology investment with a very rapid payback,” says Steve Cole, director of global product management for Xerium, which includes Weavexx, Huyck. Wangner, and Stowe Wood…

“Paper machine clothing is a technology investment with a very rapid payback,” says Steve Cole, director of global product management for Xerium, which includes Weavexx, Huyck. Wangner, and Stowe Woodward. While the acquisition cost for paper machine clothing (PMC) accounts for less than 3% of the cost-per- average ton of paper produced, suppliers like Weavexx and Huyck. Wangner repeatedly document millions of dollars of value generated for customers as a result of applied fabric technology.

Jim Moloney of Albany International agrees. “Although paper machine clothing is a small portion of overall paper machine operational cost, it is a critical part of paper machine operations. Therefore, paper machine clothing upgrades provide an opportunity to reduce costs and improve the economic position of our customers.”

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Moloney is director of marketing communications, Americas business corridor for PMC supplier Albany International.

Proper selection reduces energy needs

One of the biggest areas for cost savings through efficient use of PMC technology is energy. It is no secret the forestry industry remains highly susceptible to volatile energy prices, with the typical newsprint machine using the equivalent of 26 MW in steam in the dryer section per day. As Tom Coulter, vice-president of product management for Voith Paper Fabric and Rolls Systems, points out, educated PMC selection reduces this consumption. “Forming fabrics with thinner calipers, such as our PrintForm I can improve sheet consistency off the couch by 1 to 1.5% and reduce former drive loads,” Coulter explains.

For AstenJohnson, the key to a reduction in energy use lies in water removal. “In press, using the latest structures consistently delivers 1-2% of sheet solids, which means 4-8% less drying energy is required. While in the past gains in water removal were usually converted to speed increases, the current economic climate has shifted most of our customers’ focus to cost reduction and energy savings. Many customers will save the money rather than trying to produce extra tons,” notes John VanDerKolk, forming product manager -packaging for Asten- Johnson.

An emphasis on energy reduction through PMC technology has translated into targeted trials at research consortium FPInnovations, where mills seeking to keep a lid on energy costs improve paper properties such as formation, sheet surface quality, mechanical retention, and sheet strength through the use of PMC. “In these tough market conditions, paper mills need to find every way possible to lower their costs,” notes senior papermaking scientist Jimmy Jong. “At the same time, paper quality should not suffer as a consequence, and it’s important to maintain good machine runnability. Paper machine clothing produced using the latest technology can improve key paper properties, as well as drainage performance.” FPInnovations recently carried out a pilot machine trail with a PMC supplier to investigate the effects of forming fabric design on drainage, paper quality, and linting. “Our results show that different designs of fabrics had significant influences on early drainage, formation, and linting performance,” Jong confirms. “Paper mills with linting issues could potentially improve their situation by selecting proper clothing designed for the right machine configuration and operating conditions.”

What lies ahead

As mills and suppliers alike prepare for a streamlined future industry, emphasis will be on optimal results achieved via minimal capital outlay. Albany International anticipates increased emphasis on machine speed, productivity and paper quality by its customers and invests 3% of sales into R&D. As a result, three new products -AeroPulse, Pressision and Inline -have been introduced to help mills achieve these results. “New technologies like these have translated into significant savings for papermakers through energy savings, quality improvements, and production efficiencies,” reports Moloney. “Raw materials and manufacturing equipment continue to evolve and are providing cost benefits to the papermaker. Further improvements in raw materials will enable the machine to reduce energy, improve life, and operate more efficiently.”

Voith Paper envisions technological combinations that will propel the company’s way forward. “We are developing forming section packages consisting of forming fabrics, roll covers, and doctor blade technologies that will reduce energy consumption,” Coulter reports. “In the press section, press fabrics, roll covers and doctor blades will optimize sheet dewatering. Our dryer section packages, now under development, are targeting reduction of steam energy and drive energy in the dryer section.”

AstenJohnson adopts a practical approach, noting the commercial issues facing its customers will dictate the direction in which PMC technology develops. While newsprint and Freesheet drove PMC development in the past, tissue and packaging lines are moving to the forefront of the industry and PMC technology will develop to accommodate this industry shift. “The market will also look for shorter supply chains, lower inventory levels, and faster lead times,” cautions VanDerKolk, noting this emphasis will force PMC manufacturers to look at innovative manufacturing processes and streamlined product offerings to meet these needs. “With the competitive nature of the market, we will also see more machine shutdowns, which means the machines that remain will be world class and will benchmark themselves with a global scope.”

Weavexx and Huyck. Wangner will continue to advance technology to further enhance performance, while helping reduce operational costs for its customers. “Our focus will always revolve around reducing energy, attaining higher water removal rates, higher sheet quality, higher performance and efficiency levels, economic product life, and increased safety for installation and during operation,” reports Steve Cole. “We will also continue the system approach of using fabrics, felts, our Stowe Woodward roll covers and cover venting engineering as a complimentary process to producing a quality sheet at the lowest possible cost.”

With a bird’s eye view on the industry, FPInnovations expects the next five to ten years for PMC to emphasize higher fabric support, longer-lasting forming fabrics on the machine side thanks to the development of new polymers, and an increase in dimensional stability. “Member companies are well aware of the new developments in PMC technology,” Jong notes, recalling a recent pilot machine trial conducted by a member company and a supplier to evaluate the technical feasibility of a new clothing concept. “FPInnovations is heavily involved with several clothing suppliers in testing a series of new forming fabrics and press felts produced with the latest technologies in our pilot paper machine. A new design of forming fabrics with a warp-integrated sheet support concept was successfully used in producing paper with 50% filler in a pilot paper machine trial,” Jong reports.

Overall, challenging market conditions continue to squeeze bottom lines and make capital expenditures on behalf of pulp and paper mills a difficult if not impossible option. As Jong summarizes, searching for efficient PMC solutions with minimal capital outlay remains an attractive alternative to expensive investments for many organizations. “Our member companies have gone through a very challenging year due to the fast-declining market conditions -especially in the printing and writing grades. To overcome this difficulty, many of our member companies have looked into developing new product opportunities on existing paper machines based on market size, technical feasibility, machine capability, competition, and long-term growth potential,” Jong says. This presents a unique opportunity for PMC suppliers to help mills improve their competitive position while reducing costs. As Jim Moloney of Albany International aptly notes, the name of today’s game is competition through cost reduc
tion. “With the current economic situation, the focus of our efforts is helping our customers reduce their costs and improve their competitive position. Value creation is paramount.”

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