Science in the Pulp & Paper Mill ... A Personal Perspective by Wavell Cowan - Read Online
Science in the Pulp & Paper Mill ... A Personal Perspective
0% of Science in the Pulp & Paper Mill ... A Personal Perspective completed




This book is a pleasant read about a life immersed in the science and technology of pulp and papermaking. It will help technical people in mills to better understand how science can be used to best achieve the process improvements that will increase mill profitability and advance their own careers. It tells stories of the author’s scientific and technical development work over a professional lifetime as a consultant, development specialist, inventor and entrepreneur.
A complete review of Dr. Cowan’s work developing the theory and practice of zero and short span tensile testing is presented here for the first time. The outcome of this work, the Pulmac fiber quality measurement system, makes possible the rapid characterization of fiber properties (strength, length and bonding potential) at any point throughout the pulp and papermill. Such measurements make feasible process optimization from the digester through the bleach plant, across the refiners, and over the papermachine.
The book further details Dr. Cowan’s extensive work dealing with pulp screening and papermachine drainage. It also provides a rich anecdotal discussion of how his and other specific contributions to scientific knowledge can be used to tackle technical problems throughout the pulp and papermil and into the converting plants of customers.
Although not in any way a textbook, the reader will discover a rich source of practical ideas and commentary that they are most unlikely to find elsewhere.

Published: Wavell Cowan on
ISBN: 9780981522449
List price: $5.00
Availability for Science in the Pulp & Paper Mill ... A Personal Perspective
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.


Book Preview

Science in the Pulp & Paper Mill ... A Personal Perspective - Wavell Cowan

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1


Part One: The Z-Span Odyssey

During the early 1960s when I was technical manager of a paper mill in Scotland I came to recognize a set of problems that I discovered to be intractable. These had to do with the periodic recurrence of paper quality problems at the reel or excessive web breakage due to papermachine operating problems – these well-recognized characteristics of life in every paper mill. Such problems proved intractable because they had multiple potential sources, and the excessive time required to experimentally identify the source of a particular event made a mockery of the scientific response. Action based on the papermaker’s practical experience provided a far more economical solution.

What I did appreciate was that the scientific model that I applied to such problems incorporated a host of fiber properties, none of which I could easily measure. The time consuming and indirect methods by which I could deduce the fiber properties in my model in order to prove the relevant explanatory hypothesis, guaranteed that my answers would be unavailable in time to be useful. This early scientific frustration proved to be a determining factor in directing my activities when I later began an entrepreneurial career developing forward technology products for the paper industry. By that time I had come to realize that the inability to measure fiber properties rapidly and reliably was undermining a very wide range of scientific options for radically improving the profitability of papermill operations.

This section of the book presents the logical outgrowth of the many years I have been grappling with this fundamental problem. It describes an odyssey in which zero span technology was gradually developed and slowly explored as the means to resolve those intractable problems which, so many years later, still plague the industry. I believe the foundation I have now built in developing and exploiting zero span technology provides the basic capability for any mill to measure fiber related properties with ease and precision. This capability, I have discovered, opens up a Pandora’s box of scientific options previously unavailable. My hope is that this capability will help catalyze a long overdue reassessment of the role and potential of science in the paper mill and so ensure the paper industry a prominent place in the hierarchy of truly modern industries.

Chapter One: Zero Span Development

The Beginning

In the early 1970s I began a project whose goal was to develop the capability to measure fiber properties in a manner that could usefully provide timely answers to the questions that I was unable to answer ten years earlier when working at a Scottish papermill. Today these questions continue to plague all papermaking operations. They are the periodic appearance and disappearance of mysterious declines in product quality or papermachine performance.

When I began the project the only available testing procedure with any pretensions of measuring a fiber property was the zero span test developed by James D’Arcy Clark {Clark, J.d’A., PTJ 118, no. 1:29-34 (Jan, 1944)} some twenty years earlier. Clark reasoned that if the jaws of a tensile tester were brought together into intimate contact, they would clamp both ends of all the fibers that crossed the clamping line. Pulling the jaws apart would break these fibers, and the observed tensile failure load would be a direct measure of the average strength of the fibers in the paper. Clark developed an attachment which when placed in a standard tensile tester allowed the test to be performed. Van den Akker and his colleagues {Van den Akker, J.A., et al, Tappi 41, No. 8: 416-425 (Aug, 1958)} at the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, Wisconsin, provided the early mathematical and experimental basis for interpreting such test results. By the end of the 1960s, however, sufficient zero span data had accumulated to put into question these early interpretations. It appeared that variables other than fiber strength were also capable of changing the zero span value thus undermining confidence in zero span test results as reliable measures of fiber strength.

My initial program of work was to develop a reliable instrument to measure zero span tensile strength that would eliminate the inconveniences associated with the use of the Clark attachment, and thereby increase the reliability and speed with which zero span data could be obtained. Thus came into being the Pulmac Zero Span Tester. At the same time an in-depth study of the test itself was initiated with the goal of understanding just what a zero span test was actually measuring.

NRC Grant Program

This work conducted in Montreal by an early colleague, Elie Boucai, was made possible by a research grant that I serendipitously obtained from the National Research Council of Canada. As a consultant at the time I had advised clients in regard to qualifying for research grants from the Canadian government but doubted that a business as small as mine would get to first base. I decided to prove the point, and was astonished when an application, followed by a single presentation in Ottawa produced a grant that paid the salary of Elie Boucai and two technicians (I was responsible for the overhead) for a period of several years. The serendipity was revealed many years later when in a casual conversation with a professor at the University of British Columbia, he mentioned that he was responsible for my getting the grant. He had been a member of the awarding committee. At the time of my application Canada was just recovering from a recession during which many of the projects for which research grants had been awarded had been abandoned. Overwhelmingly these had been awarded to large companies, many of them subsidiaries of U.S corporations. Questions had been asked in the House of Commons. The program administrators were under the gun. My application arrived at this time, and in making a point, the professor had waved the application in the air and commented that a company this small would not invest in research unless it was a serious project. In this way I became the token small business client. To my certain knowledge there was never a second one.

The work {Boucai, E., PPMagCan 72, no. 10:73-76 (Oct, 1971)} during this grant period showed that although a test strip of paper can be clamped at zero span, once a tensile stress is applied the clamping jaws will inevitably begin to separate. When tensile failure occurs, a finite and measurable span will exist between the jaws. That is, a truly zero span tensile failure measurement cannot be made with existing equipment. The fundamental reason for this is that the clamping forces employed at the zero span jaws create the friction forces at the surfaces of the test strip that oppose the applied tensile load. That is, the pure tensile force that is created in the paper between the two zero span jaws is dissipated by frictional shear into the two sets of clamping surfaces of each of the two zero span jaws. This friction force must operate over a finite distance, and in this region micro-slippage will necessarily occur. That is, the tensile load in the strip between the clamping jaws will begin to dissipate into shear forces commencing at the zero span faces of the two clamping jaws, but will not be fully dissipated for a small but finite distance beyond these faces. Over these distances the tensile load in the paper strip will diminish from the maximum value at the jaw faces to zero, once shear transfer is completed. Until diminished to zero, the declining tensile force will induce a strain in the paper strip responsible for the micro-slippage that allows the zero span jaws to separate

Although a test strip of paper can be clamped at zero span, once a tensile stress is applied, the clamping jaws will inevitably begin to separate (∂1) and when tensile failure occurs, a measurable and finite span (∂2) will exist between the jaws. That is, a truly zero span tensile failure measurement cannot be made so long as clamping is achieved using a friction mechanism.

The magnitude of the friction force will depend on the clamping pressure (i.e. the normal force) and the coefficient of friction. The greater the friction force the more rapidly will the tensile load be transferred by shear into the clamping jaws, thus reducing jaw separation at tensile failure. In theory, then, by simply increasing the clamping pressure to a high enough value, the friction force could be made sufficiently high so that jaw separation at tensile failure could be reduced to any desired negligible level. Unfortunately, long before jaw separation can be made negligible in this manner, the compressive load will increasingly damage the fibers. This reality is the explanation for the readily observed zero span clamping pressure curve, where the zero span tensile failure is observed first to increase as clamping pressure increases, and then to decline continuously thereafter. In other words, a true zero span failure measurement is a practical impossibility.

Once a finite span is present at the time of zero span tensile failure, some fibers that were so positioned as to just intersect the original line of zero span clamping will have their ends slip out from under one or other of the clamping jaws prior to tensile failure. The number of such fibers will obviously increase as average fiber length diminishes. The extent to which such fibers will contribute to the tensile load at failure will then obviously depend upon the degree of interfiber bonding. It follows that the zero span test will be affected not only by the average strength of the fibers in the paper strip, but also by their average length interacting with the degree of interfiber bonding. In other words, this work showed why a zero span test cannot produce an unambiguous measurement of average fiber strength. It established that the test is also influenced, albeit to a lesser degree, by the same sheet parameters that affect a conventional tensile test.

Beyond Zero Span

This important conclusion forced a reexamination of the problem from a new perspective. How could length and bonding effects be accounted for and thus allow a correction of the zero span value so that it would better reflect inherent fiber strength? This question led to the idea of a wet zero span test since such a test by eliminating interfiber bonding would immediately eliminate the effect of variations in bonding, leaving fiber length as the only extraneous variable. This approach then led to the idea of the wet short span test as a means to assess variations in fiber length.

The ratio of a wet short (0.4 mm) span tensile failure load to that at nominally zero span will depend on fiber length, declining as fiber length declines. This meant we could hypothesize that for pulps which showed the same ratio of wet short span to wet zero span value (i.e. the same average fiber length) differences in the wet zero span would unambiguously signify differences in inherent average fiber strength.

Finally, it occurred to us that a comparison of the wet short span tensile failure load to that of the same test conducted on the dry paper represents a comparison of load transfer within the same structure when unbonded and when bonded. This comparison expressed as the ratio of the bonded (dried) tensile value to that of the unbonded (wet) tensile value for the same 0.4 mm short span, could be considered as an overall index of interfiber bonding.

Thus a chain of reasoning initiated by the failure of the conventional zero span test to unambiguously reflect inherent fiber strength had serendipitously yielded a testing regimen that seemed capable of characterizing not only average inherent fiber strength, but also average fiber length, and average interfiber bonding.

It was clear that if this approach could withstand critical assessment it offered the possibility of a test procedure that (a) measured fiber properties and (b) could do so sufficiently rapidly to be used as a real time test in the pulp and paper mill. In other words it represented a viable means to begin to characterize the set of practical operating problems that in my early years in a Scottish paper mill I had found intractable for lack of just such a tool. I had discovered a possible solution. I now had to find out how well it stood up to scientific and experimental investigation. The scientific aspects of the subject were pursued under the general title of zero and short span tensile analysis. The technological aspects were formalized as a system for fiber quality testing defined by three fiber quality parameters, a fiber strength number (FS), a fiber length number (L), and a fiber bonding number (B). A fiber alignment number (A) was then introduced for machine-made