Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring and Valmet are building a demo plant in Äänekoski. The plant will manufacture new 3D fibre products for food packaging and other purposes.
The demo plant reached its full height on 23 March 2021 with construction work proceeding as planned. The main equipment delivered by Valmet will be installed in the autumn 2021, and the first test runs should begin at the end of 2021 – approximately 12 months after the start of the construction.
“The demo plant will test the production of new 3D fibre-based packaging. New packages will be tested with different partners to receive feedback on their market feasibility,” says Veli-Matti Hulkko, Technology Manager at Metsä Spring.
The advanced production process is efficient and flexible. Wood fibre from Metsä Group’s mills could be used to produce large volumes of completely ready packages for different purposes.
“We’ve chosen technologies that help us minimise the consumption of raw material and energy in production. The plan is that nothing goes to waste. The demo plant is located in an industrial production site operating in Äänekoski, which ensures the availability of the raw material and entirely fossil free energy. It also enables the wise use of water and other resources. And there is no need to transport materials from distant locations,” says Hulkko.
The combination of Metsä Group’s expertise in production and packaging design, Metsä Spring’s innovative organisation and Valmet’s experience as a technology supplier enables the demo plant to create a foundation for significant future business.
“Metsä Group has expertise in packaging materials, production requirements and growing markets. As a leading global equipment and machine manufacturer in the forest industry, Valmet is capable of delivering a highly automated, resource-efficient manufacturing process to the demo plant using the latest technology,” Hulkko continues.
“It’s been great to see how bold visions of the future have rapidly turned into practical measures with Metsä. Seamless cooperation with the partners has been crucial in rapid product development. We’ll be able to receive results at the end of the year thanks to the successful demo start,” says Sampo Immonen, head of Line R&D at Valmet.
The demo plant will manufacture wood-based packages, which can replace plastic and aluminium packages. Products are renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, and their raw material comes from sustainably managed forests, which are primarily owned by Finnish families. There is already now significant demand for the products, and the demand is estimated to grow in the future.
If it is possible to prove that the manufacturing method and the product function well, a larger production unit could be built next to Metsä Group’s bioproduct mill, for example.