How Voith is making paper manufacturing better and more efficient through digitization
Digitization has long since become a fundamental component of machine and plant engineering. And Voith is leading by example. Whether for existing or new paper machines, ‘our digital platform concept stabilizes and optimizes processes, reduces costs and improves quality,’ says Dr. Matthias Schmitt, Head of Optimization Solutions at Voith Digital Solutions.
Everyone is talking about “Industrie 4.0” or the Internet of Things. The machine and work environments are going digital. Fast and highly available internet connections are the prerequisite for systematically integrating digital process tools into the supply chain. With its digital strategy, Voith is already a considerable step ahead. In recent years the machine and plant engineering company has consistently focused on developing a product system range for its core areas of business. This expertise is now being pooled across sectors in the new Corporate Division Voith Digital Solutions.
Papermaking 4.0 – The revolution in the paper industry
One of these core areas is paper manufacturing. Voith has been building paper machines for around 150 years and through numerous developments has revolutionized the manufacturing process for graphic papers, newsprint, packaging paper or specialty papers like banknotes or label holders. Schmitt calls Voith's next revolution for the paper industry "Papermaking 4.0". ‘We want nothing less than to integrate modern, dynamically developing information technologies with existing automation to create solutions for the paper industry.’
The availability of fast internet and high, inexpensive processing power are helping the new automation tools from Voith to make the decisive breakthrough. ‘Sensors, actuators and networked, data-based controls in Clouds are the basis of the new technology. What is essentially new is that we can make intelligent use of the cyber world with the physical world of plant construction and its machine components to obtain paper-specific indicators for managing the production process. In this context, speed and access to fast data processing play the decisive role.’
The company's own digitization platform – Voith ComCore
And the world's leading manufacturer of paper machines has a clear goal for this technological quantum leap: ‘For us it is about ensuring efficiency across the entire plant. With our digitization platform we consistently increase the availability of expensive production facilities to more than 90 percent.’
The name of Voith's digitization platform: Voith ComCore. Behind it is a whole range of digital assistance, measuring and control systems combined in the product lines OnEfficiency and OnCare. They aim to ensure a high degree of process reliability and plant availability. What they all have in common is a basic functional principle: visualize, stabilize, optimize.
By predicting even the smallest process changes more quickly through data and by tracking their effects, the best interventions for individual sections of paper production can be realized in a stable manner in each situation. ‘For example, we recognize the patterns for a break in the dryer section. Via pattern recognition we can then change the behavior digitally.’
Consistent sheet formation digitally ensured
For papermakers there is no doubt that sheet formation is one of the most highly complex process steps in paper manufacturing. Eight actuators simultaneously ensure the homogeneity of the wet sheet. This is where human, mechanical and raw material influences have decisive effects on the results of the manufacturing process.
Human error cannot be ruled out. ‘Typical behavioral patterns of individual operators can be tracked digitally and corrected accordingly.’
In February 2016, Voith installed this kind of digital solution on a board machine and immediately achieved a whole range of improvements. For example, Voith's OnEfficiency assistance system controls and monitors the solids content at the end of the wire section. The Dewatering Control module ensures a stable water line even in the case of a gap former that is not accessible. Even in the case of alternating basis weights the digitally controlled interaction for example of refiner load and vacuum dewatering in the former ensures consistent sheet formation and press load.
At an annual production output of 450,000 metric tons, digital solutions like the assistance module OnEfficiency Strengths have an enormous impact on running costs and strength consistency. On average, 20 metric tons are saved every day due to control of the couching point, refiner output and the ratio of wire to jet. ‘We have achieved this result thanks to data-based analytics in real-time, without changing the strength. Stable controls provide security and improve performance,’ says Schmitt.
Visualize, stabilize, optimize.
Digitization offers paper machines a new level of transparency in process flows and ways of controlling them. As the expert explains, for Voith it is about controlling all influencing factors - whether relating to human behaviors, raw materials or the respective condition of the machine.
New, digital solutions also form the basis for increased availability of complex systems. Scheduled and unscheduled downtimes can be managed expeditiously. To this end Voith has developed a dedicated product range under the name OnCare. Continuous measurement of wear on rolls and bearings is just one of the functions it performs. The evaluation of large volumes of data allows wear parts to be promptly maintained based on their condition instead of running them until they fail. Overall, this not only increases the availability of individual components but of the entire paper machine. OnCare features an assistance module that conducts video monitoring. Augmented reality is making substantially simplified, preventive maintenance and overhauls the new day-to-day technical routine in the paper mill.
Preventive maintenance cuts costs
With the help of mobile tools, digital inspection is a walk in the park. It identifies the point at which wear parts have to be replaced and at the same time triggers a stock order. ‘These kinds of inspection routines ensure stability and create transparency and security.’ At the same time, the OnCare module is structured in such a way that the papermaker can check every single machine component in detail at any time using a tablet. ‘This is possible due to interactive access to exploded drawings.’
Voith installed the OnCare Maintenance Excellence tool in a US paper mill. The results are superlative from both a technical and economic perspective. Within 24 months, machine availability rose by three to 95 percent. At the same time, productivity increased from 820 to more than 1,000 metric tons per day and production speed was also substantially increased. Ultimately, maintenance costs were reduced per ton from 37 USD to 27 USD as a result of OnCare Maintenance Excellence. ‘This example shows that it is never too late for any paper machine to benefit from Papermaking 4.0. And it also shows that if you purchase from Voith today you are getting a digital solution,’ emphasizes Dr. Matthias Schmitt.