Botnia FOX (Fibre Online Index) is a real-time quality control method for pulp that was deployed at Metsä Fibre mills in 2013. This quality index enhancing efficiency throughout the pulp manufacturing value chain won the Quality Innovation Award of Excellence Finland in 2012. The method relies on Botnia RFID tracking technology that labels each pulp unit with a unique RFID tag, enabling the customer to check the deployment date and Botnia FOX values of the pulp batch in the papermaking machine by consulting the Fibre Online tool.
“Before Botnia FOX we had no way of monitoring the strength potential of pulp with such precision, with measuring results obtained only slowly and infrequently. Now that we have a genuinely real-time instrument and system for getting information to the customer immediately, we have continued work to develop new tools that rely on the quality index,” says Esko Pekuri, Fibre Technology Manager in the technical customer service team at Metsä Fibre.
Pekuri explains that the method finally patented at the end of last year emerged from a joint project of the company’s R&D and technical customer service departments a few years ago that studied variables in industrial refining with a view to creating a control system. The aim was to apply Botnia FOX and RFID for monitoring changes in pulp refinability Pekuri shares credit for this invention with R&D manager
“Implemented on the scale described in the new patent, this method could also give customers a control parameter enabling them to take immediate pulp refining optimisation decisions at the papermaking machine. Obviously they would then need to use the quality index and RFID tagging,” Poukka explains.
Quality is the sum of several variables
The precise and continuous measurements provided by Botnia FOX have provided far better opportunities for assessing the consistent quality of products. The quality index is calibrated using data obtained from customers.
Work to develop a method based on the new patent will continue this spring as researchers compare results from paper mills of varying type using a range of refining standards. This will provide insight into how well Botnia FOX tracks changes in refinability. The findings of a pilot project give cause for optimism.
“Customers have been surprised at how clear the quality index can be at the paper mill, meaning that an evident connection can be demonstrated between Botnia FOX and paper machine runnability,” Poukka explains.
“For example paper mills could previously add more softwood pulp to their product only after observing changes in output quality. With direct and accurate information on pulp refinability, they can also adjust the pulping process to compensate for any variation in the end product.”