Message from Director
Lon Pschigoda, General Manager, WMU Pilot Plants
John F. Bergin, WMU Paper Technology Foundation
Recyclability protocols continued to provide a steady stream of business in the recycle pilot plant. Many large companies, such as McDonalds and WalMart, continue to push the sustainability initiative toward recyclable and recycled content packaging. This continues to expand as their suppliers, from all areas, are seeking environmentally sound packaging to follow this movement. These include wax alternative testing with the FBA protocol and poly alternative technologies tested with or our own OCC-E and SBS-E protocols. The pilot plant has served numerous corporations in the quick serve restaurant business to prove or disprove that their restaurant front end materials were, in fact, repulpable and recyclable. This area will continue to grow as fiber resource recovery emphasis continues and paper recycling continues to be a great success story.
As mentioned in the open, Western Michigan University has submitted a proposal to be a part of the upcoming DOE SMART Institute grant. This grant will bring the expertise of eight top-tier research universities engaged in world leading research in metals processing, polymers, fiber materials and composites; in collaboration with industry groups, global manufacturing and postindustrial and post-consumer waste companies. WMU would lead the paper (fiber) packaging and deinking leg of this initiative. This represents a great collaborative effort and opportunity for us as a university. Funding will be granted in summer 2017.
Our pilot coater has seen an uptick in business over the last few months. Current coating research trends are in the area of poly alternative coatings, coating wood alternative fibers and lightweight packaging grades.
Our current online basis weight scanners have outlived their useable life and are planned to be upgraded with new krypton basis weight sensors. Not only will this cover the grade range from the original scanner, but it will also help improve our efficiency in high basis weight ranges that we previously could not read with the promethium sensors. Scanner install is planned for Feb. 2017. Once these are in place we can make the push for a share of the business that several major paper companies are taking to CIC.
Printing Pilot Plant
Printing revenue has continued to decline over the past few years. Market decline in publication grade gravure printing is directly impacting interest on the machine. We still have clients that are using our capabilities on a regular basis to compare the quality of different mill produced basestock rolls and coating trial printability evaluations.
The printing pilot plant will be partnering with the Flexible Electronics Applications and Technology (FEAT) Center. FEAT will be directed by Dr. Massood Atashbar, professor of electrical and computer engineering, with consultation from Dr. Margaret Joyce, former professor of chemical and paper engineering. Planning work has begun for clean rooms, labs and a new Mark Andy press installation in the printing pilot plant.
Lon Pschigoda and John F. Bergin