An experienced team tackles new challenges

​In early 2022, a new demo plant producing wood-based 3D fibre products will be launched on the Metsä site in Äänekoski. The production and development team is itching to get their hands on the new technology.

“I believe in this project and want to take part in developing a brand-new product and to witness the plant’s launch from the very beginning. This is the future,” says Mikko Himanen, a Process Specialist. 

Himanen is part of the production and development team operating the Äänekoski plant. All the team members are experienced process industry professionals. Himanen has extensive experience of paper industry operations, mainly at UPM, and most recently at the company’s Kaipola mill, which was closed permanently in late 2020. 

Solid experience enables him to focus on new challenges. “Much of the equipment and the process control are already familiar to me. We will have to look into things independently and test various solutions to problems with an open mind,” says Himanen.

Work feels good!

The construction of the new 3D plant began on 4 January 2021, process installations were launched in early June, and the main equipment was installed in late July and early August. The most critical equipment used in the production process will have been tested and will be ready for use by the end of the year.  

Mikko Järvinen, a Development Engineer, is inspired by the competent workplace community: “Even though the main equipment is very different from a paper machine, it also includes pumps, mixers, pipes and tanks. Should any problem arise in the basic process, it won’t take us long to fix it. It’s incredibly enjoyable to head off to work in the morning when you know you’ll be working with a team like this. We develop something new every day – an engineer’s dream, you could say.”

Veli-Matti Hulkko, Technology Manager, is just as positive: “We’ve designed the main equipment process with Valmet. Our cooperation with Valmet’s team has been smooth, and that’s key for a successful project. The demanding main equipment process is highly automated. I’m really satisfied with the make-up of our team, because we have a good combination of process and automation competence. We also received excellent support throughout the project from people at the neighbouring Metsä Board paperboard mill.” 

Strong support from Metsä Group

Locally upgrading the wood from Metsä Group’s owner-members, replacing plastic in packaging, and reducing food waste with the help of appropriate packaging – these are some of main themes the demo plant revolves around, says Project Director Jarkko Tuominen from Metsä Spring.    

“There’s a lot of buzz around the bioeconomy. It’s great that Metsä has the opportunity, through Metsä Spring, to take part in projects that involve higher risks,” says Tuominen.

“Despite this being like a start-up project, we’ve been supported by Metsä Group’s excellent network all the way. We follow the Group’s common operating models and have adopted its current framework for safety at work. The occupational safety managers of Metsä Fibre and Metsä Board have audited our operations and given helpful tips. We haven’t had to reinvent the wheel.” 

Tuominen is also grateful for the support in recruitment received from the Group’s HR personnel. “The HR processes and channels helped us complete recruitment very efficiently. We found just the 
kind of people we were looking for.”

What are 3D fibre products?

  • The demo plant built by Metsä Spring and Valmet roduces 3D fibre products from wet wood-fibre pulp, with no intermediate phases. The products are ready for consumer end use.
  • The products can be used to replace packages made from fossil raw materials, for example. 
  • The goal of the project’s first stage is to develop new kind of food packaging that is sustainable, environmentally friendly and easy to use. 
  • If the demo plant proves the concept to be successful, the next stage will involve the construction of a plant producing commercial products in Finland in the next few years.

In the picture at the top of the page, the key people of the 3D demo plant phographed in Äänekoski in early autumn.

Mikko Himanen
Process Specialist
Metsä Spring
Mikko Järvinen
Development Engineer
Metsä Spring
Veli-Matti Hulkko
Technology Manager
Metsä Spring
Jarkko Tuominen
Project Director
Metsä Spring

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