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Metsä Spring and Valmet to build €20m pilot plant for 3D fibre products

Metsä Spring, the venture capital arm of Metsä Group, is linking up with Valmet to build a €20m pilot plant to develop sustainable 3D food packages from wood-based fibre. ©Metsä

Finnish firms Metsä Spring and Valmet will be working together to build a €20 million pilot plant in Äänekoski, Finland, to produce new products from wood fibre.

The move forms a part of the two firm’s research and development (R&D) project, which focuses on the development of wood-based recyclable 3D fibre products to replace packages made using fossil raw materials.

The pilot plant will be located at Metsä Group’s mill site in Äänekoski.

Metsä Spring (@MetsaSpring) project head Jarkko Tuominen said: “Our objective is to develop a novel wood-based 3D fibre product, which can replace, for instance, packages made out of fossil raw materials. The pre-study phase with Valmet was a success.

“We have thus decided to accelerate the pace of development by constructing a pilot plant. I believe that our possibilities for developing a new significant added-value product for the Finnish forest industry are good.”

According to Metsä, the main raw material used to make the new products is renewable, sustainably-grown and Finnish wood fibre. The 3D fibre products are recyclable. However, in case recycling is not possible, the material decomposes also biologically. Maximising the energy and raw material efficiencies and minimising the distribution chain logistics are enabled by the light structure of the material and by a new manufacturing technology.

“As a technology leader, Valmet brings unique technology and product development capabilities to this joint development project. This collaboration project with Metsä Spring is an excellent opportunity to develop totally new solutions that support sustainability,” said Petri Rasinmäki, head of the Board and Paper Machines Technology Unit at Valmet.

The short-term goal of the project is to develop a novel durable, environmentally-friendly and easy-to-use food package. Based on a recent customer survey, products like this are in high demand on the market, and the demand will grow further in the future. The aim is set for high volume market segments.

The construction of the pilot plant begins in the autumn of 2020 and the pilot plant is expected to be ready for operation by the end of 2021. The pilot plant will be used for the continued development of both the manufacturing technology and the 3D fibre product.

If the pilot plant phase validates the concept as sound, the next step would be the construction of a commercial factory in the following years. Such a factory would be built in Finland. The pilot plant phase is part of the ExpandFibre programme.


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