Lon Pschigoda, General Manager, WMU Pilot Plants
Shawn Mortimore, Associate Director, WMU Pilot Plants
We are excited to continue to offer the paper and associated industries a world-class facility to conduct their research, development, and scale-up projects. We were proud to be the first working group allowed back on campus, post lockdown, and have been back and serving our customers since early June 2020/ With additional precautions in place, we have been running strong and fielding a wide variety of great projects. Please contact me anytime to discuss a potential collaboration or to get more information on our equipment and capabilities.
Our pilot coater has been running steadily and continues to be a very useful tool for industry development and research. Current coating research trends are in the area of poly alternative coatings, Fluorochemical alternatives, and lightweight packaging/printing grades.
Our on-line scanners (base sheet and reel) have recently been upgraded with new krypton basis weight sensors. Not only will this upgrade cover the grade range from the original scanners, but it will also help improve our efficiency in high basis weight ranges that we previously could not read with the promethium sensors. This is especially important when coating cupstock and heavier packaging grades. There is still the challenge of measuring coat weights that are less than the variation in the basestock, so we always check manually coat weights as well. Our coater is available by the day or under contract for toll manufacturing.
Paper machine operations
Our newly installed, dual fourdrinier paper machine is up and running well! We moved our papermaking and recycling operations from McCracken Hall to WMU’s new engineering campus (Floyd Hall) in 2019. The move was completed with numerous equipment and process upgrades. This is the only dual fourdrinier pilot paper machine in North America—please schedule a tour with me if you would like to see it!
The paper machine has a very wide range of capabilities and has produced everything from lightweight smoking papers to the heaviest grades of fluff pulp. The addition of a top ply fourdrinier has opened up a whole new area of opportunity in multi-ply and innovative “sandwich” grades. We have mounted spray booms, slot dies, and utilized a wide variety of chemistries and fiber types on the machine. Let your imagination run wild!
Recyclability testing continues to be in high demand. Many large companies, such as McDonalds and Walmart, continue to push the sustainability initiative toward recyclable and recycled content packaging. This continues to expand as their suppliers, from all areas, are seeking environmentally sound packaging to follow this movement. We are very pleased to be mentioned in the Walmart Sustainability Playbook and serve as the primary test lab for GreenBlue’s How2Recycle label.
The tests we offer include wax alternative testing with the FBA protocol and poly alternative technologies tested with or our own OCC-E and SBS-E protocols. The pilot plant has served numerous corporations in the quick-serve restaurant business to prove or disprove that their restaurant front-end materials were, in fact, repulpable and recyclable. This area will remain very active as the emphasis on fiber resource recovery and paper recycling continues to be a great success story.
We continue to look for further opportunities to serve the industry with our unique equipment and expertise. Please do not hesitate to schedule a visit or contact us for product testing.
Printing Pilot Plant
It has been decided that Welborn Hall, home to the WMU Printing Pilot Plant, will be permanently shuttered in 2021. The Cerutti and Comco presses have aged become very seldom utilized. The market decline in publication grade gravure printing has also directly impacted interest in the machine. WMU still offers a Printing Management degree and has several wonderful printing labs as well as a Flexible Electronics Applications and Technology (FEAT) Center. Please contact me if you would like an introduction to any of our excellent faculty in Printing, Paper, or Chemical Engineering.
Here’s to a bright, collaborative future!
Lon Pschigoda and Shawn Mortimore