Ambitious rebuild of Sappi’s Alfeld Mill Paper Machine 2 (PM2) addresses changing demand for high quality speciality papers

€61 Million Investment will maintain Sappi’s market-leading position for innovative, high quality speciality packaging materials

An ambitious rebuild of Papermaking Machine 2 (PM2) at Sappi’s Alfeld Mill will create the world’s largest papermaking machine producing one-side coated and MGBK (Machine Glazed Bleached Kraft) speciality grades. This complex and meticulously planned project, a €61 Million Investment, has created a great deal of excitement, both in the local community and in the packaging world at large.

«This is the biggest investment that has been made at this 300-year-old mill in the past 20 years,» said Rosemarie Asquino, Sappi Europe’s Sales and Marketing Director Specialities. «Not only will it expand our capacity for producing high-demand speciality packaging materials, but it will reduce our environmental footprint and increase standards compliance.»

Dynamic packaging market driving change

Mrs. Asquino explains that PM2 will be converted from the production of coated wood-free graphic arts grade papers to the production of a wide range of speciality papers. «In recent years there has been about a 6% decline in demand for graphic arts papers,» she adds. «At the same time, growth in demand for speciality packaging papers is expected to be as high a 3.2%. Sappi has a creative portfolio of speciality grades for which demand is increasing, and this project was designed to enable us to continue to meet that need.»

According to Asquino, with this rebuild, Sappi will add to its unmatched portfolio the capacity to produce higher volumes of a wide range of paper and packaging products including coated and uncoated papers for flexible packaging, premium SBS board for luxury boxes, topliner for high quality corrugated packaging, label papers for wet glue applications such as can and jar labels, banderols and wrappers, and last but not least, silicone-based papers for carriers for self-adhesive products such as plotter films and stickers.

A bit of history

Founded in 1706, Alfeld Mill became part of Sappi in 1992. It has five papermaking machines and an integrated pulp plant that uses locally harvested wood. The OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001, EMAS, ISO 9001 certified mill produces totally chlorine-free (TCF) bleached chemical pulp for its own use. Its current combined capacity of coated wood-free, coated and uncoated speciality paper is 330,000 tons annually.

The PM2 rebuild will transform the Alfeld Mill to the production of 100% speciality packaging paper production, including the uncoated grades for which is it known around the world.

Massive cylinder, challenging logistics

«At Sappi, we are always up for a challenge as we continue to evolve our business to meet changing market demands,» Asquino said. «This project certainly had its share of logistical challenges, not the least of which was the transport and installation of a 135-ton MG cylinder, 6.5 meters in diameter. This massive cylinder was moved from its manufacturing location in Karlstadt, Sweden, to the mill site with a combination of barges and trucks. Most of the transport was by sea and river, but it was moved the last kilometers by truck. Tight curves and low bridges along the cylinder’s final route often stopping and readjusting the load to accommodate these obstacles in its path.

And transport was not the only logistical challenge. The installation of the cylinder, scheduled for mid-September, requires the use of one of Europe’s largest cranes. The crane itself weighs 1,200 tons and has a width of 80 meters and a height of 96 meters. Sixty heavy-load transports are required just to move the crane to the mounting site.

«Our installation plan is aggressive,» Asquino added. «We wanted as little down time as possible and to be up to speed with manufacturing our new speciality papers with as little customer disruption as possible. The entire process, from the take-down of the old paper machine to the production of the first commercially saleable sheet is expected to take just 39 days. In fact, we expect PM2 to be operational by mid October, just a couple of days after the cylinder is installed.»

Building for a successful future

«The rebuild of PM2 is essential to the long-term success of the Alfeld Mill and to Sappi’s ability to maintain a market-leading position as an innovative partner to the world’s best-known brands,» Asquino concluded. «Crucial to the success of this project is the research Sappi has undertaken on an ongoing basis to develop a good understanding of the targeted applications and their individual requirement profiles. We can’t run these types of projects without market involvement, and we have been very pleased with the participation of a variety of stakeholders in our research and development efforts. We are extremely excited get our new state-of-the-art papermaking machine up and running and to start delivering an impressive expanded portfolio that will help our customers to continue to grow their businesses.»