Thanks to the TIAC, as we call our research center here at ANDRITZ, we have solved this problem. We have developed a completely new web guiding system to prevent folding and tears in the tissue.
ANDRITZ operates the world’s most modern research center for tissue in Graz. The heart of the so-called PrimeLineTIAC (Tissue Innovation and Application Center) is a tissue machine that integrates eight machine designs and the latest Internet of Things applications. The clear focus here is customer benefit.
Making things easy can sometimes be very difficult. Take the four plies of a normal paper tissue, for example. Each ply weighs only a few grams. If you hold it in your hand, it almost feels like a spider’s web. When the tissue is made, the process takes place largely inside a machine. At some point, however, the paper tissue ply in the production process on the tissue machine has to be wound onto a reel. This is tricky, because the soft paper is sensitive to pressure and tension. If the tension is too high, the paper tears. Production then stops, and this is expensive for the paper producer.
“Thanks to the TIAC, as we call our research center here at ANDRITZ, we have solved this problem,” says Michael Pichler and points over his shoulder with his thumb. Behind him in the workshop at the ANDRITZ factory in Graz is a 44-meter-long, 0.6-meter-wide and eight-meter-high tissue machine – a dense network of silver-colored piping, stairways, blue-and-yellow pumps, and generators, all humming softly as the sunlight shines through the upper windows.
“We have developed a completely new web guiding system to prevent folding and tears in the tissue,” Michael Pichler, head of the Paper and Tissue division at ANDRITZ, continues. On the guide is an air cushion that travels at the same speed as the paper web. The paper never touches the guiding elements so no tension is generated and production runs smoothly. This solution patented by ANDRITZ is not just a success in the test plant. It also succeeded in convincing one customer right away and will make production operations there more stable in the future.
The paper tissue ply illustrates what the TIAC is all about. ANDRITZ invested 20 million euros in the world’s most modern test center to conduct research on and also produce tissue. The tissue machine unites four conventional and four completely new machine technologies that can produce all of the tissue grades currently available on the market and some completely new ones as well. The TIAC is open to all stakeholders in the tissue industry: producers, suppliers, universities, and research institutes. They can try out many machine configurations in real-time operations, test and vary all the parameters in order to establish the optimum machine configuration for their product and their market, then produce the desired paper and also verify at any time how much energy and resources they need to do so. In addition, training concepts can be developed and tested.
The plant touches a nerve, because tissue producers worldwide are always looking to improve their production. On the one hand, it is an attractive business: The global market for tissue is growing annually by between three and four percent, and consumers in the USA and more than ever in Asia appreciate a wide, high-quality selection of tissue grades for the kitchen, bathroom, or for leisure time activities. On the other hand, there is intense competition in this sector: Hence, optimization of production to make tissue plants more efficient is a must for manufacturers at all times. What is more, they must reduce consumption of energy and resources, while maintaining the same high tissue quality.
Mission impossible? No. The challenges are certainly very complex, but they can be resolved, although this is not possible in meetings around a table, nor in computer simulations. “We need a place like the TIAC in order to plan processes, test different machine constellations, and produce the tissue under realistic everyday conditions,” says Michael Pichler. The more extensively this can be done, the less risk there is for a producer. After all, there is a lot of money involved: 100 million euros and more have to be invested for a new tissue line. Reliable planning is worth a fortune.
The TIAC enables tissue producers to break new ground. And ANDRITZ has also left charted territory behind deliberately with this test center. “I am proud to say that we have succeeded in combining eight machine configurations in a very small space without having to make any technical or logistical compromises,” says Michael Pichler, at the same time referring to the successful teamwork by the ANDRITZ crew; 17,000 hours of engineering design work have gone into the plant, and a staff of around 40 were involved in its installation. All at top speed: only 14 months between launching the project and starting up the plant in mid-2017.
Gerhard Schiefer is the right person to explain in more detail how versatile the TIAC is. He heads Automation at ANDRITZ with a staff of around 2,000, dealing with machine and plant control as a topic linking electrical engineering, drive technology, and instrumentation. “We use new, digital processes here that can improve plant control systems so radically that fewer and fewer well-trained staff are needed to ensure smooth operations,” says Schiefer. In other words, the TIAC helps to effectively address the problem of the shortage of skilled workers, but without having to make sacrifices in production capacity and quality.
Specifically, the situation could look like this: An alarm is triggered at a tissue machine because of a sensor error in a load cell – a well-hidden component because it is properly built in. In a new process used for the first time in the TIAC, there is a checklist with a clear and simple structure that tells the operator how to find and eliminate the fault quickly. This process also uses 3D glasses. Graphic instructions showing where the faulty part is installed are displayed in the technician’s line of vision. When he presses a virtual button there, the glasses display exact instructions on how to disassemble the part. The documentation can be provided in a virtual space so the technician’s hands are free. A replacement for the faulty component can then be ordered directly online. And if all else fails, the technician can even contact an ANDRITZ expert online: A single click sets up a connection to the service control center in order to get to the bottom of the problem.
Science fiction? “No, it’s reality,” says Gerhard Schiefer. “The technology works, and it is running here live as reality in the TIAC.” Now it is time to get down to work with the customers: Processes are being refined and adapted to the real conditions and production needs in the respective cases. Interest in this process is running high, and the first “use cases” will be launched in 2018 according to Schiefer, who adds: “Ultimately, we want the paper machine to have a master alarm checklist to work through in a clear and logical process, just like in an aircraft cockpit. Big data and augmented reality are useful tools here.”
All-embracing, efficient, and realistic: The TIAC provides a holistic view and increases the efficiency of tissue plants. The machines can be planned, tested, and optimized with care for continuous operation. Faults and problems are taken into consideration in the engineering design so they can be detected more quickly later in real-time operations, regardless of the competence of the electrician working the shift. “We see ourselves as process integrators who can offer the customer everything from a single source,” as Gerhard Schiefer summarizes the ANDRITZ approach. “Our aim is to link the processes in the machine smoothly and efficiently with ergonomic operating equipment.” Sounds easy after all, doesn’t it?