“FiberLean on Top” for Corrugated Boxes

FiberLean on Top Black Box

When you last bought any household appliance it was most probably packed in a corrugated box with high quality images of the product printed on the outside, right? This is the way packaging is done these days. Not surprisingly, this leads to high growth in demand for white printable linerboard.

In the last month or so there have been two major new investment announcements for White Top Liner (WTL). Mondi Ruzomberok is spending €340 million on a new 300 kton/year PM where they will make testliner with a bleached hardwood kraft white top. IP Riverdale will convert a PM currently making UWF to 450 kton/year WTL, at a cost of $300 million. Several companies have also announced price increases for WTL. All this seems to confirm that the industry is optimistic about the strength of the WTL market.

SmithersPira is forecasting White Top Liner to grow more than twice as fast as regular Linerboard, +7%/year compared to +2.9%/year. This means there will be an almost 1 million ton per year of growth up to 2023. Increased demand for print on corrugated boxes is behind this trend and the forecast includes a view that a third of the growth will be aimed at inkjet. This will also put new demands on WTL surface quality.

Our “FiberLean on Top” project is directly aimed at this market. The idea is to enable papermakers to convert from regular Linerboard to WTL without having to spend massive amounts of capital. FiberLean on Top is based on the concept of “wet-end coating” where the coating is entirely made up of FiberLean, i.e. a composite of low cost minerals and MFC. As this coating will be applied and drained in the paper machine wet-end, it requires a minimum of rebuild. Variable costs are lower than pulp and moreover the FiberLean on Top coated WTL has proven to give excellent results when printed in inkjet.

For FiberLean Technologies this is a key project in widening the use of MFC in the paper industry. We are currently fine-tuning the concept to work at commercial speeds. We have had a few unexpected issues to correct but we are gradually getting there. In a couple of weeks, we will be running our sixth high-speed pilot machine trial with FiberLean on Top. Several paper companies are interested, and we also have support from equipment suppliers in developing the tools needed. For anyone considering investments into WTL, this is the development to watch!