The operations at Metsä Group’s and Valmet’s 3D fibre product demo plant in Äänekoski has begun. At the end of 2020, Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring and Valmet announced they would be investing a total of approximately 20 million euros in the demo plant.
The demo plant is part of Metsä Group’s integrated mill site in Äänekoski, and it produces finished 3D fibre packaging products directly from wet pulp without intermediate phases. The moulded fibre-based packaging can replace plastic for example in food packaging. The demo plant currently employs approximately ten people.
“Our fibre-based packaging products are a significant new initiative in the global packaging market. The novelty in our products include their layered structure, which, in turn, allows their production in a raw material and energy efficient manner applying a highly automated production process. The layered structure also allows the products to be easily modified for different purposes. The customers’ reception of the new product has been very positive. We know we’re on the right path,” says Metsä Group’s project lead, VP, Jarkko Tuominen.
“We are very satisfied with our cooperation with Metsä, and we think the mould casting technology is an excellent prospect as a future packaging solution. This is a good example of Valmet’s capacity for developing new technology, and I’m especially proud of how we’ve been able to make use of our broad process expertise in this project,” says Petri Rasinmäki, VP, Board and Paper Mills Business Unit at Valmet.
The demo plant has started a testing and development phase that will last a few years. The goal of this phase is to prove the competitiveness of the production and of the product in the packaging market. If this goal is achieved, it will be possible to consider building a larger production unit.
The 3D fibre product is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, and its raw material comes from sustainably managed forests, which are primarily owned by Finnish families. Metsä Group is actively developing new business opportunities and researching new wood-based products that can increase the value of its owner-members’ forests. Moreover, the Äänekoski site is also the home of another demo plant, namely a facility developing a process for the production of the Kuura textile fibre.