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Paper production for a greener future

Nick Coombes talks to Kerstin Dietze and Jens Kriete at Sappi about how the paper manufacturer is refining its production to add value, and reduce cost and environmental impact

With consumer packaging becoming increasingly competitive, suppliers at all stages of the production process are under pressure to provide brand owners with the tools to differentiate their products and boost sales figures. One of the key issues is the quality of the raw materials used for printed packaging, and Sappi, the South African pulp and paper manufacturing group, claims to have developed a product that sets new standards in the market for litho-laminated corrugated packaging.

The product is Fusion (featured in Converting Today – August issue), a new high quality grade of top liner that is manufactured entirely from virgin fibres, and by coating and calendering the paper, Sappi claims to have produced a liner that has a consistency and gloss that is unmatched by any competitor.

Available on reels or sheeted, with PEFC or FSC certification, and in grammages from 90 to 180 g/m², Fusion offers a brighter surface in which colours appear more vibrant and, in the case of flesh and hair tones, the quality of the image brings a new dimension to corrugated packaging for health and beauty care.

According to Kerstin Dietze, Sappi’s marketing manager for new business: “It is the growth in demand for multi-colour printing that has fuelled the need for a Fusion type product. Corrugated is no longer the brown box market that it was 30 years ago, when one-colour printing of a barcode was the limit of ambition in this market.” The need for multi-colour printing and colour matching has increased with the globalisation of brands and marketing.

The major international companies now demand consistency of corporate identity on everything from stationery to brochures, advertisements and packaging. This places huge pressure on packaging printers, who in many cases do not have the easiest of substrates to work with.

Dietze continues: “We are seeing growth coming from the microflute, shelf-ready packaging and display areas in the consumer and electronics markets, where presentation is now acknowledged as an important factor.” In addition to its performance with multi-coloured printing, Fusion offers the benefits of strength that comes from its virgin fibre base. A propensity to tear at the edges and crack in the creases has long been a problem for liners where some of the modern complex finishing techniques are involved.

Dietze says Fusion’s construction and manufacturing process means it is not susceptible to these faults, and as such offers a more consistent performance throughout the printing and converting stages.

With fewer machine stoppages and reduced waste levels, the commercial case for Fusion is further enhanced by the lower glue levels required. “By using less glue, the sheet stays drier and behaves better, allowing faster running speeds, and a smoother flow in production. With shorter drying time requirements, you can process it more quickly, and overall it shows a considerable cost saving when compared to other liners.”

Production of the new liner is entirely based at Sappi’s mill in Alfeld, Germany. A fully integrated facility, the Alfeld mill produces pulp and paper onsite from managed beech and spruce forests that are largely within 100km. Jens Kriete, environmental manager for Sappi Fine Paper in Europe explains: “Integration allows us to control the whole process from woodchips to paper, which means we can manage the environmental impact of what we do here in a way that many other mills cannot.”

By manufacturing pulp next to the five paper making machines at Alfeld, Sappi cuts out transport time and costs, and by recycling the black liquid which is a by-product of pulping, the mill is able to contribute to its own power consumption requirements.

“About 48% of our primary energy requirement comes from renewable sources, which makes Alfeld a very eco-friendly mill,” adds Kriete. Today, a workforce of 800 manufactures around 330,000 tonnes of paper a year, some 8% of Sappi’s global output.

Kerstin Dietze Kerstin Dietze Jenz Kriete Jenz Kriete Production at Sappi’s mill in Alfeld, Germany Production at Alfeld

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