Forest industry regenerating through innovation

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Biofuels to replace fossil fuels

The first industrial-scale biorefinery, which will use crude tall oil as raw material, is an example of the industry’s new business activities.
 
UPM says that a corresponding industrial-scale facility is yet to be built anywhere else in the world. The refinery will produce some 100,000 tonnes of highly refined second-generation Bioverno biodiesel annually for transport use. Construction of the refinery will commence in Lappeenranta this summer and the facility should be operational in 2014.  
 
UPM, Metso, Fortum and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have jointly developed a new production concept for energy-wood-based bio-oil. This bio-oil will be used to replace fossil fuels in heat generation. In future, bio-oil can be used in, for example, electricity production or refined into transport fuels. Fortum will start construction of a bio-oil facility, which will be integrated with a power plant in Joensuu, later this year.
  
Metsä Fibre is building a new gasification facility in Joutseno; the unit is scheduled to enter trial production in summer 2013. Forest chips will be gasified and refined into biogas. The composition of the end product will resemble natural gas. Metsä Fibre, Helsingin Energia and Gasum are also exploring the possibility of building a biogas-based biorefinery in conjunction with the Joutseno pulp mill.

Numerous uses for biocomposites

The OMNICAST® wood plaster, which has good forming properties and is manufactured from wood chips and biodegradable plastic, is based on a new type of technology. It is manufactured by a company called Onbone. The aggregate value of the global market for orthopaedic casting materials is around €500 million, and wood-based casting plaster is the latest innovation in the field since the 1970s.

UPM’s ProFi combines wood fibres and plastic. UPM ProFi is different from other wood-plastic composites in that it exploits wood-derived fibres that are extracted from paper. The primary ingredients of this composite come from recycled materials and it has proven to be strong and very moisture-resistant.
 
UPM ForMi, another composite product, is made from pure polymers and cellulose, and it can be used to manufacture furniture, electronics, car parts and consumer goods, among other things.  

World-class expertise in microfibrils and nanocellulose

Microfibril cellulose enables the manufacture of a lighter and more durable raw material for papers and packaging products as well as entirely new uses in the construction, automobile, furniture, electronics, food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industries. Microfibril cellulose might well replace fossil raw materials such as plastics, special chemicals and aluminium more widely as well.

Stora Enso and UPM have launched ground-breaking pre-commercial microfibril cellulose production operations in Imatra and Lappeenranta. In addition to this, the Äänekoski R&D centre of Metsä Board is studying microcellulose-based applications.

VTT and Aalto University have developed a method for the large-scale manufacture of a wood-based material that resembles plastic. Nanofibrilled cellulose film can be used in, for example, food packaging to keep products fresh.

Printed intelligence enters the market 

Printed intelligence has been developed for packaging products, for example, and the market for printed intelligence is expected to grow strongly in the future. 
 
Stora Enso has developed an intelligent pharmaceuticals package, in which a blister foil that is sunk into the paperboard base of a blister pack is connected to a wireless information transmission module via electricity-conducting printing ink. When a tablet is pressed through the foil, information of this event is transmitted wirelessly to electronic patient data systems.
 
Åbo Akademi University researchers are seeking to patent a manufacturing method that will enable transistors and power sources to be introduced to electronic paper via printing. Turku’s Åbo Akademi University has been developing intelligent paper for many years.

Near Field Communication (NFC) technology is expected to become more common in the coming years alongside the spread of smart phones, which support identification. NFC is a close-proximity radio-frequency identification technique. UPM has been developing close-proximity NFC technologies, and UPM RFID has opened 12 online stores with its cooperation partners. NFC-based applications could be used to, for example, couple mobile devices with information as well as in toys or games. 

Traditional forest industry also generates new products

The UPM-developed formable plywood, which is based on composite technology, is a significant innovation for the furniture sector. The plywood industry has not seen an innovation of corresponding significance for at least 30 years. A special adhesive film, which makes it possible to join and form ply structures even after manufacture, forms the core of UPM’s Grada technology. Isku has already brought the first products made out of Grada plywood to the consumer market. 

Stora Enso launched its thermoformable Primeforma paperboard in autumn 2011. This special paperboard product was developed for thermoformable food packaging and it can be used on packaging lines that earlier relied on plastic to wrap food products.

New products are being introduced by the forest industry at a steady pace. Innovations cannot emerge, however, unless the operating prerequisites of the industry’s foundation, the manufacture of pulp and paper, are looked after. Well functioning basic manufacture establishes the preconditions for fresh business activities that can develop into new money-spinning operations.

More information:
Jouni Valtanen, Manager, New business, tel. +358 40 751 3386