The trend toward higher recycled-content paper-based packaging may result in lower-and sometimes unacceptable-package performance. Launched in August 2013, patent-pending PenStrength from Penford Products is a new high-performance, high-charge cationic liquid. Made from renewable, natural resources, PenStrength enhances the binding of pulp fibers to make recycled-content paper packaging stronger, conserve resources and may help reduce costs, allowing today's newsprint to be more effectively used to make tomorrow's cartons and boxes.
"We are excited to introduce PenStrength to the recycled paperboard industry as a viable alternative to synthetics," says Dan Walter, vp and director of BioProducts at Penford.
Staff members at Penford Products answered our questions as a group. The respondents include Dan Walter, vp and director, BioProducts; Dr. Nik Nikolic, vp and director, research and development; Kurt Moberg, director, external market channels; Michelle Schaffer, director, marketing; and Daryl Holland, senior district manager.
First of all, what is a "cationic polymer"?
A cationic polymer is any long-chain molecule, natural or synthetic, that has been modified with a positive surface charge to help retain it on anionic wood fibers or to act as a coagulant/flocculent.
How is PenStrength used in paper production?
PenStrength is added to the fiber stream before paper forming to improve the strength of the finished board. Higher strength allows the production of stronger board grades, a reduction in basis weight of equal strength, the use of less costly fiber or other economies in paper production. PenStrength works best in recycled paper containing old corrugated containers (OCC), newsprint and mixed office waste.
Do you see this as an evolutionary or revolutionary product?
PenStrength technology represents a revolutionary development in wet-end additives. This breakthrough product increases strength and retention-all without any negative impacts on sheet formation. The product's high solids composition allows manufacturers to produce higher-grade board from lower quality furnish. PenStrength complements Penford's current liquid and dry cationic product lines by offering a hybrid alternative that combines the best of both worlds. Users get high solids and the ease of handling in a ready-to-use liquid.
Why was this product developed?
Penford recognized a need in the market for high solids, naturally-derived cationic additives. Our scientists developed a patent-pending technology to suspend granular materials in either a cationic or anionic liquid. Once this breakthrough was reached, scaling up and commercialization was achieved in less than six months!
Why is the timing good for this product now?
Some major trends in the market, whether you are a consumer, converter, board manufacturer or supplier to the industry, are for sustainability, reporting sustainability initiatives and the growth in consumers seeking environmentally friendly options. The timing is good for naturally-derived renewable chemistries because there is market pull from end users.
Also, producers have been experiencing a diminishing quality in the recycle furnish available in the market. This, coupled with the ever-present drive to reduce total operating costs, made developing and introducing PenStrength technology now a critical driver to capitalize on these industry trends.
Who are your customers and what kind of interest have you seen?
Potential customers are manufacturers of board grades used for packaging and graphic end uses. It is especially valuable in grades with high-recycled fiber content.
Customers interested in increasing asset utilization through the combination of reduced basis weights, increased machine speeds and higher strength grade opportunities are all potential candidates for the PenStrength technology.
We foresee significant growth potential in both corrugated and paperboard grades.
What does this replace? And what are costs?
PenStrength is often used in applications where other strength additives have not worked well; in those cases, it doesn't replace anything. In other cases, it has replaced starch-based dry strength additives, giving a strength level unachievable with traditional strength products.
PenStrength replaces traditional synthetic dry-strength resins. Cost is usually not a factor for higher-strength board or paper applications because the customer is looking for something specific to gain an advantage in the market place. For example, to produce higher-strength paper than a competitor's offering. The product can also help a paper mill maintain or achieve their internal target strength tests that may be unattainable unless they significantly increase refining and/or substitute higher-cost furnish.
[Editor's Note: According to the company's website, "By using PenStrength, paperboard producers can reduce production costs by up to $10-40 per ton."]
What are the key performance increases?
PenStrength improves bonding and has shown an ability to boost the usual measures of bonding-such as ring crush, mullen and plybond- in various board grades that respond to bonding (see chart). The papermaker can then use this additional strength in product redesign, cost reduction and other aspects to optimize the balance of properties and cost.
What benefits does it bring to consumer packaged goods companies?
PenStrength gives board producers a new tool for package design that can help with the creation of innovative, strong and lightweight paper packaging.
Environmental and sustainability initiatives have been important to the CPG companies for a number of years. Their efforts to reduce waste, design environmentally sustainable products and/or packaging are typically initiatives with five- and 10-year improvement targets. In many cases, PenStrength technology can support environmental/sustainability initiatives surrounding packaging volume and waste without sacrificing package strength needs that are important to the end user.
What is the market status?
In the United States and Latin America, we are transitioning from market testing to commercialization. As we continue to run product trials, we learn more about the product performance, its application on various types of paper machines and how it interacts in the variety of fiber used in the paperboard market. While we have commercial customers, the continuing product development work resulting from customer trials indicates that we are still in that stage between initial market testing and commercial product.
What else is important to mention?
Developing successful PenStrength technology applications requires a full understanding of the inputs, such as furnish quality and variability, papermaking key performance indicators (KPI) variability and, ultimately, final grade performance requirements. It is not a one-size-fits-all technology and, as such, successful application development is usually the result of targeting higher-level economic improvements such as asset utilization and total cost of operation improvements on a unit-cost basis.
Penford Products, 800-582-8728