Europe’s largest consumer board manufacturer Stora Enso has invested €4M into a new research and product testing facility that the company hopes will become the birthplace of the next generation of board packaging technology.
InnoCentre officially opened this July and is situated by the Imatra mill in Finland. It was founded by Stora Enso Consumer Boards Division and Stora Enso Research.
The centre will provide customers and end users with full scale converting capability to facilitate the creation of new board packaging concepts.
Faster product development at lower cost is the claimed benefit of InnoCentre. Stora Enso research manager Risto Vesanto said: “Before the InnoCentre all innovation had to be done at customer’s production sites. You might get one or two tests for new products a year costing €100 000 a time on a paper mill. Now we can produce one or two tests a week.”
The centre houses several digital printing machines, a cup machine, a tray press and a proprietary DBS Pac Master system for producing CD/DVD packs made completely from cardboard. Commercial applications in multimedia packs are already underway and Stora Enso anticipates this will represent a strong area of business for the InnoCentre.
“Now we can produce one or two tests a week.”
Risto Vesanto, Stora Enso research manager
InnoCentre will also serve as the drawing board for research on packaging engineering and testing of new technology. This work is exemplified by a partnership with Lappeenranta University of Technology where students are working with Stora Enso to develop a system for laser cutting board that currently does not exist for large scale production. Tests are being carried out with carbon dioxide lasers for use inline with digital printers.
Laser cutting is expected to offer a number of advantages over mechanical processes. Aside from higher speeds, tests have shown improved barrier properties that can potentially improve the taste and quality of food products. Laser creasing will also be possible which opens possibilities for easy open systems and CD/DVD packs.
A laser cutting system now exists that is running at 4km/min on a 1.5m table. Stora Enso says that it will be some time before speeds reach the required levels and this is likely to coincide with the anticipated wider take-up of digital printing.