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Tech Talk Blog

Tech Talk Blog

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3 min read

Why Is the Meldin® 7000 Series So Valuable for Manufacturers Today?

The latest addition to Saint-Gobain’s Meldin® family of materials, the 7000 series offers a powerful...

3 min read

The “New Meldin®” Opens Up New Possibilities for High-Temperature Polyimides

Applications for high-performance polyimides have always been limited by one concern above all other: cost. But...

3 min read

Why Value-Added Engineering Services Unlock the Value of Advanced Material Enhancements

TriStar’s Enhanced Materials Division (EMD) offers advanced technologies like plasma surface treatment and ...

2 min read

How can specialized polymer membranes be used for filtration?

A membrane is a thin material that allows some substances through while keeping others out. But with precision...

2 min read

Plasma Surface Modification: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

What are plasma surface treatments and how can they help materials and components perform their best in...

3 min read

Pulp and Paper Industry History: From Papyrus to Recycled Materials

Today, the pulp and paper industry is conducting a historic pivot toward packaging materials, as the digital...

4 min read

Pulp and Paper Industry Overview: Processes and Equipment

Intensive processing is required to turn wood fibers into graphic paper, cardboard, packaging, and a variety of...

3 min read

3 Key Trends in the Pulp and Paper Industry

The pulp and paper industry’s market is changing, but it remains robust:

“If you thought the paper industry was...

5 min read

Oil and Gas Industry: Key Historical Developments

While it has ancient roots, the oil and gas industry has grown exponentially as an integral part of the...

5 min read

Oil and Gas Industry Outlook and Trends

The oil and gas industry is a key driver of the global economy. It’s also at a long-term strategic crossroads....

3 min read

Oil and Gas Industry Overview

The oil and gas industry is one of the largest on the planet. It’s also one of the most crucial for overall...

6 min read

History of Agriculture Equipment: Important Developments and Examples

The agriculture industry has a mission to keep the world fed. From hybridizing plants and animals to...

5 min read

Three Important Trends for Agriculture and Agriculture Equipment

Agriculture is the oldest industry in human history but remains defined by changing practices, technological...

4 min read

Agriculture: An Industry Overview

The agriculture industry includes everything from small local farmers growing organic produce to massive grain...

4 min read

Rail Transportation: An Equipment Overview

In this article, we take a look at some key types of locomotive, rail car, and maintenance of way equipment.

...

5 min read

Rail Transport: Important Trends

Rail transportation systems are a great example of a longstanding industry that is always looking for new ways...

3 min read

Rail Transportation: An Industry Overview

Railroads are the oldest form of mechanized transport and one of the original “big businesses” of the American...

3 min read

Food Processing and Packaging: Industry Overview

In this brief overview of food processing and packaging, we take a look at:

  • Defining the size of the food...
5 min read

Important Processes for Food Processing and Packaging

Food processing is a science-driven industry that demands extensive knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, and...

4 min read

Food & Beverage Industry Trends: Plant-Based Proteins, & More

Major food trends have implications for a cluster of related industries. For instance, the rise of plant-based...

2 min read

Common Causes of Bearing Failure

Why do bearings fail?

Unfortunately, there is not one simple, one-size fits all answer to this question. When...

2 min read

Thermoset vs Thermoplastic Materials: Bearings and Other Applications

Thermoset and Thermoplastic materials have similar names, but they have very different properties. In this...

4 min read

Consultative Engineering for Optimal Material Selection

In this blog post, we highlight TriStar’s application-focused approach to finding the right bearing materials...

2 min read

TriStar’s Engineering Partnership with Clients of All Sizes

The market for bearings and similar components like bushing and shock absorbers is multi-faceted.

On one hand,...

3 min read

Pulp and Paper Industry History: From Papyrus to Recycled Materials

By Dave Biering on November 2, 2021

Today, the pulp and paper industry is conducting a historic pivot toward packaging materials, as the digital evolution of work and home life continues to drive reduced usage of traditional graphic paper. (we take a look key industry trends in our blog post here).

This development is just the latest chapter in an industry with a storied history. Humans have been using plant fibers to make valuable materials for writing and beyond since ancient times. In this blog, we provide a brief overview of the history of the pulp and paper industry.

The article below is part of our series examining some of the biggest challenges for pulp and paper equipment manufacturers (and how the right materials can help). For a deep dive on this topic, please see our guide here.

Pulp and Paper Industry History 101: From Papyrus to Chemical Pulping

Paper-making has its roots in ancient Egypt, where thin layers of papyrus plant were used to form sheets, and then stacked on top of each other at right angles and pounded together. In fact, our modern word paper comes from “Papyrus” (which means paper-reed in Latin).

Papyrus was tough and constituted (aside from wet clay) the world’s first mass-produced writing surface. Unlike true paper, however, papyrus was made from plant fibers that have not been broken down. It has rough edges and surface, and the underlying strips can begin to separate when used repeatedly.

True paper was first created in China, with evidence of the first paper making dating from around the 1st century BC. Early Chinese paper was most often made using tree barks. In China (as would be the case in Europe several centuries later) the birth of printing transformed the paper market. Without the restriction of handwriting, the scale of written media exploded. So did the demand for paper, and inputs like bark could no longer be collected in sufficient quantity. New techniques were pioneered for making pulp from hemp, flax, cotton, and old rags/ropes (at this time, raw wood chips still could not be effectively processed).

In essence, though conducted through manual labor, these early paper-making processes were similar to paper manufacturing today. A fibrous pulp was made, drained, and air dried before being pressed and cut into sheets.

These paper-making processes spread their way across Asia and then to the Islamic world (which, like Europe at this time, used parchment made from animal skins). Paper was much more cost effective than parchment and spread as quickly as new civilizations acquired the knowledge needed to manufacture it. In the Middle East, animal- and water-powered mills emerged that allowed for truly bulk paper manufacturing for the first time. This knowledge soon made its way to Europe through Islamic Spain, and by the late Middle Ages paper mills were operating in Spain, France Germany, and Italy.

Around 1799, the Fourdrinier Machine enabled continuous paper-making for the first time. Until this device, paper had to be pressed and dried one sheet at a time. Originally developed in England by the French Fourdrinier brothers, this basic design has become so commonplace (with some evolution) that these machines are now often simply called “paper machines.” It uses a conveyor belt, traditionally made of wire mesh, to continuously drain water from paper as it moves down the line.

The introduction of wood pulp processing in 1843 allowed papermaking to move beyond a reliance on used textile products. Until then, paper mills had resorted to employing “rag-pickers” to comb streets and garbage heaps for scraps that could be processed into paper.

The use of wood chips was the final ingredient needed to make paper a relatively inexpensive good for the first time. And modern society would come to “run on paper” for the next century and a half. Just as it had with the invention of printing, new tools like mass produced pencils and fountain pens would create a whole market for paper. And at cheaper prices, modern realities like school textbooks became widely possible for the first time.

The engineers of the pulp and paper industry would continue to develop new methods for making new products (like cardboard and other packaging materials), increasing yield, and handling new inputs (like recycled materials). We look at today’s prototypical process, including key types of equipment, in our blog post here.

Learn About Key Challenges for Pulp and Paper Equipment Manufacturers

Today’s pulp and paper OEM’s continue to push boundaries by engineering solutions capable of working more efficiently, withstanding more caustic processing chemicals, and minimizing unplanned downtime.

Doing so is rarely easy. The pulp and paper industry exhibits some of the most challenging manufacturing environments around. Critical components needs to be ready for chronic exposure to water, both end of the pH scale, abrasive wood chips/paper dust, and more (often, one or more of these complicating factors is present at the same time)

TriStar has worked with a number of pulp and paper equipment manufacturers to help match our advanced materials to use cases where they directly address some of these operational challenges. Pulp and paper industry applications are typically best served by carefully engineering materials and components to reflect specific operating challenges.

We take a deeper look at some of these challenges in our in-depth guide here (also available as a free whitepaper for offline reading):

Pulp and Paper Equipment Manufacturers’ Guide to Polymer Components

Topics: pulp and paper
4 min read

Pulp and Paper Industry Overview: Processes and Equipment

By Dave Biering on October 28, 2021

Intensive processing is required to turn wood fibers into graphic paper, cardboard, packaging, and a variety of other paper-based products.

This blog examines the basics of the process and equipment required to get the job done.

The article below is part of our series examining some of the biggest challenges for pulp and paper equipment manufacturers (and how the right materials can help). For a deep dive on this topic, please see our guide here.

A Complex Industry Process Full of Challenges for Pulp and Paper Equipment Manufacturers

Pulp and paper processing is one of the most varied industries around, so the process below is necessarily generalized. It represents a prototypical modern paper-making process (we provide a look at the history of the industry in our blog here).

Paper products can be made from a variety of different wood pulps, fibrous plants, recycled materials, and more. Wood chips, the most common source today, can be made from logs but are also commonly sourced as a residual product of sawmills, furniture factories, and other timber-related industries. Any object that becomes embedded in a tree can ultimately become a contaminant within woods chips. Old fence posts, metal bolts, and even bullets have been known to emerge in pulp and paper processing facilities.

Industry equipment must be ready to process any of these inputs into quality pulp. To accommodate all this variation, the industry uses a variety of intensive processing techniques. All of them share the same goal: separating the cellulose fibers used to make paper. This processing can be accomplished using chemical pulping, mechanical pulping, or some mixture of both. Within these two broad categories, operating parameters can vary substantial from mill to mill—pulp and paper companies are always looking for opportunities to employ more aggressive processing techniques that enhance yield. More aggressive downstream processing can also drive savings by limiting the amount of filtering and cleaning required for raw inputs.

  1. Mechanical Pulping: rather than using chemicals, a grinder is used to press against woodchips and physically separate cellulose fibers. This process tends to result in shorter fibers which exhibit less strength, a typical base for newsprint paper. After being finely ground, techniques like steaming can be used to further process the wood material.
  2. Chemical Pulping: the most common process in the United States, wood chips are cooked in a “digestor” machine (see below) at an elevated temperature and pressure. This digestor also includes a special chemical mix designed to dissolve lignin, a substance which binds wood fibers to one another. This process preserves longer wood fibers, enabling stronger paper products ideal for applications like photo-paper and paperboard.

By the time wood fibers are separated, they have become a mix of fibers and water called pulp. Pulp forms the base ingredient for almost any paper product. Pulp is then thoroughly washed and decontaminated to ensure no processing chemicals remain in the paper. For white paper, the pulp is bleached to remove any color.

Finally, the wet pulp must be drained. This is typically accomplished by pumping the pulp onto rolling, wire-screen mats that allow water to drain as the fibers press down and become interwoven into sheets. Altering the thickness of the pulp, the length of the drying process, and other key parameters results in paper with different final qualities.

The final step is passing through a long series of rollers and heated drums which remove any remaining moisture. Dried paper can then be polished, smoothed, and wound onto rolls or cut into individual sheets.

Examples of Pulp and Paper Equipment

These are just a few examples of the solutions offered by pulp and paper equipment manufacturers.

  1. Chippers: woodchippers are used to turn pulpwood into evenly sized chips, which will allow for cooking or grinding processes to work effectively and uniformly. Stationary chippers are employed at paper mill facilities, and mobile units are also used directly at timber yards.
  2. Pulpers: “pulper” also describes a different type of equipment used for food products, but a paper pulping machine is very different. Mechanical pulping machines are essentially large (usually cylindrical) grinders where wood chips can be ground into pulp.
  3. Digesters: Digesters are the key piece of chemical pulping equipment. They essentially look like large tanks—inside, chips are processed using caustic chemicals, rapid pressure changes, and heat.
  1. Refiners: refining processes paper fibers through brushing, cutting, and hydrating, all of which can help determine different final paper qualities. This is accomplished using hydraulic refining machines that utilize high-speed rotating discs to treat pumped-in paper slurry.
  2. Fourdrinier Machines: originally developed in England by the French Fourdrinier brothers, this basic design has become so commonplace (with some evolution) that these machines are now often simply called “paper machines.” They use a conveyor belt, traditionally made of wire mesh, to continuously drain water from paper as it moves down the line.

Learn About Key Challenges for Pulp and Paper Equipment Manufacturers

The process described above is full of challenges for pulp and paper industry OEM’s. Caustic chemicals are used to break down pulp, wood chips and paper dust can be highly abrasive to the wrong materials, and intensive water use drives a need for non-absorbent materials. Relatively high heats are commonplace. Any of these issues demands careful component engineering. When all of these challenges are present in the same paper mill, selecting the right materials can be like threading a needle.

That’s why, in our experience, pulp and paper industry applications are typically best served by carefully engineering materials and components to reflect specific operating challenges.

We take a deeper look at some of these challenges in our free downloadable in-depth guide:

How Careful Material Selection Can Solve Key Engineering Challenges for Pulp & Paper OEM’s

 

Topics: pulp and paper
3 min read

3 Key Trends in the Pulp and Paper Industry

By Dave Biering on October 26, 2021

The pulp and paper industry’s market is changing, but it remains robust:

“If you thought the paper industry was going to disappear, think again. Graphic papers are being squeezed by digitization, but the paper and forest-products industry overall has major changes in store and exciting prospects for new growth.”
McKinsey Report on Pulp and Paper Industry Outlook

This blog looks at key pulp and paper industry trends heading into the next decade.

3 Important Trends in the Pulp and Paper Industry

  1. Adapting to New Market Realities: the move from graphic papers to packaging.
  2. Anti-Plastic Consumers Could Drive Continued Packaging Growth
  3. Accelerated investment in processing capabilities for recycled materials.

The main article below is part of our series of articles focused on key challenges for pulp and paper equipment manufacturers (you can read our main guide on that topic here).

Pulp and Paper Industry Trend One: Adapting to New Market Realities

The proliferation of digital technology at both home and work has dramatically decreased overall demand for “graphic papers.” This category includes paper products like regular printer paper, newsprint, and the glossy paper used for magazines and brochures. We are moving away from a “paper world” for day-to-day communication, and this clear trend may lead casual observers to assume the pulp-and-paper industry is in decline. After all, in 2015, overall demand for graphic paper products fell for the first time in recorded history.

But this assumption is false. Graphic paper is just one of many products processed from wood pulp, and other markets continue to exhibit strong demand growth. One of the most important pulp and paper industry trends is the aggressive pivot toward growth markets like packaging material.

As the graph below demonstrates, growth in areas like cartonboard, containerboard, and tissue paper will be instrumental to “papering over” revenue losses stemming from the global reduction in graphic paper use.

kinsey-pulp-paper-chart

Infographic Source: McKinsey Pulp and Paper Report

Pulp and Paper Industry Trend Two: Anti-Plastic Consumers Could Drive Continued Packaging Growth

Paper-based packaging products offers marked environmental advantages over plastics: they are readily biodegradable, do not accumulate in the ocean, and can be readily composted or repurposed.

As environment-conscious consumers ramp up pressure for a reduction in plastic packaging, pulp and paper manufacturers will benefit. This trend should help give long-run fuel to the market trend described in Trend One—a move away from plastic packaging will help ensure that packaging is not just a replacement for lost graphic paper demand, but a viable long-term growth market.

Pulp and Paper Industry Trend Three: Recycled Products

The American Forest; Paper Association reports that “65.7% percent of paper consumed in the United States was recycled in 2020...nearly the double the rate the U.S. paper industry achieved in 1990.” Growing environmental concerns and consumer activism have led to consistent increases in the use of recycled materials in the pulp and paper industry.

Adaptation requires innovation both in products (learning how to use recycled materials in marketable products) and processing (recycled materials require a different approach than raw wood chips). Indeed, we are already seeing US pulp and paper companies make major investments in recycled material mills, such as this $125 million facility in Pennsylvania.

Learn About Key Challenges for Pulp and Paper Equipment Manufacturers

In our experience, pulp and paper industry applications are typically best served by carefully engineering materials and components to reflect specific operating challenges. Caustic chemicals, large quantities of water, abrasive media, vibration, and high-heat are all daily working realities for pulp and paper firms, and any of these issues can degrade components made from the wrong materials.

We take a deeper look at some of these challenges in our in-depth guide here (also available as a free whitepaper PDF at for offline reading):

Pulp and Paper Equipment Manufacturers’ Guide to Polymer Components

Topics: pulp and paper