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Do you know where the paper you use comes from?

Understand the processes involved in paper production, and how Industry 4.0 can contribute to modernize and improve the reality of these industries.

Paper is made from wood, which is the raw material for the extraction of cellulose fibers. Those are transformed after a series of industrial processes.

But the process for producing paper did not always have these raw materials. In the past, cotton fibers from different used materials were used, such as old clothes.

As of the 15th century, printing machines started to develop, and with that, the consumption of paper increased considerably, and everyone realized that there were not enough old clothes to publish books, for example.

Only after the middle of the 19th century, inventors from different locations started to use cellulose fibers in the production of paper.

How is paper produced?

Paper is made of cellulose, which in Brazil is extracted from two main sources of wood: pine and eucalyptus. These two types of wood are responsible for 98% of all cellulose volume produced in the country.

In addition, cellulose can still be divided into two different varieties, namely:

  • Long fiber cellulose: length between 2 and 5 centimeters, this cellulose is used in the paper that needs greater resistance. For example paper for packaging and cardboard. This type of cellulose is extracted from coniferous trees, such as pine.
  • Short fiber cellulose: length below 2 centimeters, this cellulose is used in paper that needs good printing capacity, smoothness, shine, and uniformity. This type of cellulose is extracted from short fiber trees, such as eucalyptus.

What is the step-by-step process for transforming wood into paper?

  1. Woodchips: In the factories, the wood logs, after being cut, pass through a peeler and chipper, from where they come out in the form of small chips;
  2. Processing into pulp: Then, in a tank called a digester, the chips are cooked in a liquid consisting of water and some chemical agents, such as sulfites. The result of this cooking is called pulp;
  3. Residue removal: After that, the pulp goes through a washing process, in tanks and centrifuges, where the chips that have not dissolved and other impurities are extracted. Then comes the bleaching stage, where the pulp is left to rest in other tanks, which aims to separate cellulose from other types of waste;
  4. Generation of electric energy: Finally, the unused waste of wood is burned in boilers and transformed into electric energy in turbo steam generators. Thus, the energy generated at that moment is used in the papermaking process itself;
  5. Straightening: The cellulose pulp, still with high water content, passes through a machine called a flat table, which transforms this wet material into a large continuous and smooth sheet, resting on a conveyor belt;
  6. Compaction: The large sheet, moved by the conveyor belt, passes through pressing and drying rolls with hot air. These remove excess water, compact the paper and smooth the sheet. The process can still count on one more step, in case of a necessity to produce a differentiated product. It can even pass through a roll that applies a film that protects or provides shine to the paper;
  7. Packaging: Finally, the sheet passes through a device called reel and rewinding rolls, where the paper detaches from the conveyor belt and forms huge rolls, being ready for cutting and packaging.

What is the importance of the cellulose and paper industry in Brazil?

Brazil, as everyone knows, has great agricultural potential that is exploited for the production of many commodities destined mainly for export.

One example is the pulp and paper industry, where Brazil is one of the largest producers and one of the largest exporters in the world in recent years. In this way, a large part of all production is destined for the Chinese, European and American markets.

To better understand the distribution between paper productions, is it possible to make the following comparison: The largest production is destined to the production of printing papers, followed by tissues and cardboard.

Considering the geographic issue, there is a concentration in the south and southeast region in the location of the pulp and paper industries.

This is due to the fact of greater consumption in these locations, but there are industries scattered throughout the national territory.

Thus, this segment is still not as known as agribusiness. But it has been gaining more and more space and recognition from the general population.

In addition, this segment has great relevance for the country’s economy. In 2019, it raised R$ 86.6 billion, representing 1.3% of national GDP and 6.9% of industrial GDP.

In an industry so relevant to the country, how can one optimize processes?

As demonstrated above, the process of transforming wood into cellulose demands many steps and processes involved.

Which consequently opens up many opportunities for implementing improvements and efficient technology solutions.

Thinking about Industry 4.0, the possibilities are endless! Bringing efficiency, data-driven management, quality improvement, and more.

In addition, we still have the possibility of a greater focus on innovation and sustainable management, optimizing manual processes and resources. Therefore, bringing to the company a more sustainable vision and a positive impact on the world.

In general, Brazil recycles only 30 to 45% of all its paper, a very small number when compared to other countries. Which makes the focus on these fronts in our country even more relevant.

Being a reference in the production of paper and pulp and having efficiency and concern for the sustainable impact every step of the way become essential aspects in the global competitiveness that we face.


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