When we think about paper, many everyday uses come to mind. Among them are: packaging and protecting products, storing information, cleaning and personal hygiene, among many others. Thus, paper is indispensable in the routine of billions of people. In addition to being essential in several production chains.
All this consumption was consolidated for a long time, after all, paper has been used for almost 2,000 years since its invention in China. Therefore, the pulp and paper industry is very important and needs to constantly innovate its processes.
Innovation using cellulose is, therefore, influenced by the production chains that use the input. Some examples are the production chain of steam engines, steel, electricity, chemical and petrochemical industries. And currently, being used in the process of technology development and information automation.
And to top it off, there is still pressure from other forces, such as environmental and social issues. The pulp and paper industry must contribute to a more sustainable planet. Being an option to replace fossil raw materials with renewable ones.
Thus, in this text, you will better understand the innovation and technological advances in the pulp and paper industry.
Changes in the use of cellulose pulp
Over the years and with the greater use of plastic and styrofoam, the pulp and paper industry has been threatened. However, as a result of the exaggerated use of these products, paper was once again valued for being more recyclable and cleaner.
In addition to producing paper as we traditionally know it, the pulp and paper industry can also be used in the chemical industry.
In this sector, cellulose fibers are used to develop various products. Among them are nitrocellulose, cellulose acetate, and viscose. Therefore, there is a great added value in this industry.
And consequently, the pressure for technological innovation in the area is very high. Whether due to the scarcity of some indispensable input, changes in the consumer market, or the development of alternative products.
However, in Brazil, innovation in the pulp and paper sector does not usually happen easily. This is because this is an industry that is used to buying technologies that have already been developed and tested in other countries.
Cellulose can replace plastic
The use of plastic is continually being reduced around the world. Although at a slow pace, the use of plastic straws, for example, is no longer as common as it was a few years ago.
Other actions such as the use of returnable bags in supermarkets are also helping to change the consumption pattern. Likewise, it is possible to mention the reduction in the consumption of plastic cups, with the use of non-disposable bottles.
In addition to these reductions, a replacement of plastic by products developed with biodegradable materials is necessary. One of these inputs is cellulose, which is being studied to innovate in the pulp and paper sector.
In this sense, the use of fibers produced from lignin, which is a by-product of cellulose, can replace plastic resins widely used around the world, such as polypropylene and polyethylene.
Agribusiness, civil construction, the clothing industry, and biodegradable plastics are areas that can benefit from this technological development. In general, the greatest advantages of using cellulose in production processes are increased durability, greater resistance, more impact absorption, in addition, of course, to the sustainable factor.
However, something that still prevents this substitution from gaining large scale is the production cost of pulp-based products. For this, more studies and investments are needed to make the production method cheaper and more competitive.
Nano cellulose: An innovative material extracted from plants
If cellulose is already a biodegradable material that can help replace plastic, nano cellulose is even more interesting.
This is because nano cellulose can be used to:
- Produce parts for cars and planes with reduced weight;
- Make stronger materials for construction;
- Increase the strength of clothing;
- Be used in medical implants;
- Produce technological electronic items;
- And still, be a raw material for the production of packaging that leaves food fresh for longer than the materials currently used.
The material that will revolutionize the entire sector can be extracted from natural sources such as wood, pineapple leaves, grape skins, and even some bacteria.
If the pulp and paper industry needs to innovate, investment in nano cellulose is very important. That’s because this macromolecule is available worldwide and results in cheap and biodegradable alternatives to harmful materials to the environment.
As the use of traditional paper for printing newspapers, magazines and other print publications has greatly reduced with the internet, this is also a strategic decision for the business.
Artificial Intelligence ensures more quality for innovation
The pulp and paper industry has a continuous production, so if the intention is to maintain high quality in processes and products, it is essential to carry out predictive maintenance of machines.
Thus, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used to identify and control critical variables in the production process. In this way, avoiding equipment downtime on the production lines.
This is very important so that the production process is not interrupted, affecting the results and indicators of the industries.
With AI it is possible to schedule predictive maintenance of machines, preventing failures in the production process. This technology is also interesting for automation and reduction of human work in system configuration. And finally, with the use of AI, the pulp and paper industry is able to have more precision and depth of the data generated by it.