Fourdrinier machine

Fourdrinier machine

The Fourdrinier Machine is the basis for most modern papermaking, and it has been used in some variation since its conception. The Fourdrinier accomplishes all the steps needed to transform a source of wood pulp into a final paper product.

Nicholas Louis Robert of Essonnes, France, was granted a patent for a continuous paper making machine in 1799. At the time he was working for Leger Didot with whom he quarrelled over the ownership of the invention. Didot thought England was a better place to develop the machine, but, these being troubled times, he could not go there himself so sent his brother in law, John Gamble, an Englishman living in Paris. Through a chain of acquaintances, Gamble was introduced to the brothers Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, stationers of London, who agreed to finance the project. Gamble was granted British patent 2487 on 20 October, 1801. With the help particularly of Bryan Donkin, a skilled and ingenious mechanic, an improved version of the Robert original was installed at Frogmore, Hertfordshire, in 1803, followed by another in 1804. A third machine was installed at the Fourdriniers' own mill at Two Waters. The Fourdriniers also bought a mill at St Neots intending to install two machines there and the process and machines continued to develop.

As far as the USA is concerned, the first recorded paper machine was Gilpin's at Brandywine Creek, Delaware in 1817. This was a cylinder mould machine, quite different in operation but also developed in England, not a Fourdrinier machine which was not introduced into the USA until 1827. [ Hills, Richard, "Papermaking in Britain 1488–1988", Athlone Press, 1988.]

Pulp preparations

Harvested tree trunks are cut into logs of four to eight foot lengths, then sent to a very large horizontal debarking drum, which rotates and strips the logs bare. The freshly debarked logs are then fed into a chipper, which reduces the logs to handheld-sized chips. The chips are then passed along to a digester where they are cooked for a number of hours, a process that softens the wood to a large degree. The digester can be one of two types: sulfite or sulfate. In a sulfite digester, the principle chemical constituent is calcium acid sulfite and the method is referred to as the acid process. The sulfate, or Kraft, process is the younger of the two, and uses an alkaline system that reduces cooking time.

After the cooking is complete and the lignin content has been removed, the softened chips are fed at high pressure into refiners where the chips are forced between rotating steel plates. The refiner plates shatter the chips into a soup of brown fibres. Chlorine is used to bleach brown fibres to a brighter white colour, and calcium hypochlorite (sulfite process) or chlorine dioxide (sulfate process) are also used for whitening. Caustic soda (sodium hydroxide NaOH) (lye) is used to wash the pulp of any impurities, and the steps are repeated in order to obtain the desired brightness.

ections of the paper machine

There are four main sections to the Fourdrinier.

Wet end

The first section is typically known as the wet end. Pulp may be delivered to the Fourdrinier machine in a slurry form (a mixture of fibre and water) directly from the pulping process. Alternatively, pulp may be supplied in dried sheets which are then broken down in water to produce a similar slurry, before being fed to the refiners in the wet end where the fibres are subjected to high pressure pulses between bars on rotating refiner discs. This action causes the fibrils of the fibres to partially detach and bloom outward. After refining the pulp is mixed with some of the following: sizing, fillers, colours, retention aid and waste paper called "broke" to a "stock", and passed on. Washing is done in "pressurized screens" and "hydocyclones" and also deaeration is done.

The stock then enters the headbox, a unit that disperses the "stock" and loads it onto a moving wire mesh conveyor with a jet from an opening called the "slice". The streaming in the jet makes some fibres align. This alignement can partly be taken away by adjusting the speed difference between the jet and the wire. The wire revolves around the "Fourdrinier table", from "breast roll" under the headbox over the "couch" to the "forward drive roll", "foils" under the wire are creating low pressure pulses that will vibrate and partly deflocculate the fibres while water is removed. Later on "Suction boxes" below the wire gently remove water from the pulp with a slight vacuum and near the end of the "wire section" the "couch" will remove water with higher vacuum.

Press section

The second section of the Fourdrinier machine (or any modern papermachine) is the press section, which removes the most water via a system of nips formed by rolls pressing against each other aided by press felts. This is the most efficient method of dewatering the sheet as only mechanical pressing is required. Press felts historically were made from cotton. However, today they are nearly 100% synthetic. They are made up of a polyester woven fabric with thick batt applied in a specific design to maximise water absorption.

Presses can be single or double felted. A single felted press has a press felt on one side of the press, the sheet being exposed to a felt on one side and a smooth roll on the other. Double felted is where both sides of the sheet are in contact with a press felt. Single felted nips are useful when mated against a smooth top roll, which adds a two-sidedness—making the top side appear smoother than the bottom. Double felted nips increase roughness, as generally, press felts.

Conventional roll presses are configured with one of the press rolls is in a fixed position, with a mating roll being loaded against this fixed roll. The felts run through the nips of the press rolls and continues around a felt run, normally consisting of several felt rolls. During the dwell time in the nip, the moisture from the sheet is transferred to the press felt. When the press felt exits the nip and continues around, a vacuum box known as an Uhle Box applies vacuum (normally -60 kPa) to the press felt to remove the moisture so that when the felt returns to the nip on the next cycle, it does not add moisture to the sheet.

Pickup roll presses are vacuum assisted rolls loaded against plain press rolls (usually a roll in a centre position). While out of favour, these are generally found in machines built in the 1970s–1980s. Pickup roll presses normally have a vacuum box that has two vacuum zones (low vacuum and high vacuum). These rolls have a large number of drilled holes in the cover to allow the vacuum to pass from the stationary vacuum box through the rotating roll covering. The low vacuum zone picks up the sheet and transfers, while the high vacuum zone attempts to remove moisture. Unfortunately, centrifugal force usually flings out vacuumed water—making this less effective for dewatering. Pickup presses also have standard felt runs with Uhle boxes. However, pickup press design is quite different, as air movement is important for the pickup and dewatering facets of its role.

Crown Controlled Rolls (also known as CC Rolls) are usually the mating roll in a press arrangement. They have hydraulic cylinders in the press rolls that ensure that the roll does not bow. The cylinders connect to a shoe or multiple shoes to keep the crown on the roll flat, to counteract the natural "bend" in the roll shape due to applying load to the edges.

Extended Nip Presses (or ENP) are a relatively modern alternative to conventional roll presses. The top roll is usually a standard roll, while the bottom roll is actually a large CC roll with an extended shoe curved to the shape of the top roll, surrounded by a rotating rubber belt rather than a standard roll cover. The goal of the ENP is to extend the dwell time of the sheet between the two rolls thereby maximising the dewatering. Compared to a standard roll press that achieves up to 35% solids after pressing, an ENP brings this up to 45% and higher—delivering significant steam savings or speed increases.

Dryer section

True to its name, the dryer section of the Fourdrinier machine dries the pulp by way of a series of steam-heated rollers that stretch the web somewhat, removing the moisture. Additional sizing agents are added to the web to alter its characteristics, and these may include resins, glue, or starch. Sizing improves the paper's water resistance, decreases its ability to fuzz, reduces abrasiveness, and improves its printing properties and surface bond strength.

Calender section

The "calender stack" is a series of rollers that the web is run between in order to further smooth it out, which also gives it a more uniform thickness. The pressure applied to the web by the rollers determines the finish of the paper, and there are three types of finish that the paper can have. The first is "machine" finish, and can range from a rough antique look to a smooth high quality finish. The second is called a supercalendered finish and is a higher degree for fine-screened halftone printing.

The third type of finish is called a "plater" finish, and whereas the first two types of finish are accomplished by the calender stack itself, a plater finish is obtained by placing cut sheets of paper between zinc or copper plates that are stacked together, then put under pressure and perhaps heating. A special finish such as a "linen" finish would be achieved by placing a piece of linen between the plate and the sheet of paper, or else an embossed steel roll might be used. The web is then wound onto a roll after calendering, with a moisture content of about 6%, and stored for final cutting and / or shipping.

Other papermaking techniques

While the Fourdrinier machine uses a wire conveyor to create the web, another type of machine makes use of a cylinder mold that rotates while partially immersed in a vat of dilute pulp. The pulp is picked up by the wire and covers the mold as it rises out of the vat. A couch roller is pressed against the mold to smooth out the pulp, and picks the wet sheet off of the mold, passing it along for further treatment by equipment similar to the remaining elements of the Fourdrinier machine.

Handmade paper is produced in low volume and requires the papermaker to scoop pulp out of a vat with a screened frame. The pulp is pressed gently and allowed to dry. Handmade papers are becoming fashionable once again, especially as special-order wedding invitations, and can even be bought in office supply stores.


External links

* [ Fourdrinier machine description from "Paper Manufacturing in the United States," 1916]
* [ Biography of Henry Fourdrinier from "Dictionary of National Biography," 1889]
* [ British Association of Paper Historians]

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