Paper machine at Kotkamills paper factory

Sawdust at the core of quality

The pulp mill’s performance and capacity have been improved over a period of three years through several targeted investments, and this year the final development phase will be carried out with the modernisation of the paper machine itself. The superior quality of MM Kotkamills’ laminating paper is supported by decades of specialisation, and by the use of unbleached pulp derived from sawdust, a by-product of sawmilling, as the raw material for the company’s laminating paper.  

“Now, in this final phase, the paper machine is being upgraded with a shoe press and small additional features. The paper machine’s capacity will be taken to a new level when the production increases from the current 165,000 t/a to 190,000 t/a. We will ramp up the production volume even beyond that, but in slightly smaller steps. Our product is unique in that Absorbex is made from pulp derived from sawdust,” explains Ville Seppälä, Head of Sales, Saturating Kraft Paper at MM Kotkamills. In addition, the machine’s product range also includes Absorbex® Eco papers, in which some of the sawdust pulp has been replaced by recycled fibre pulp, the raw material of which is OCC.

The first thing Austrian MM Group did last year as the new owner of the Finnish MM Kotkamills was to invest in the new press section of Paper Machine 1. The modernisation will replace the old equipment, increase production, reduce energy consumption and make production more sustainable.

The environmental aspect is, in fact, one of MM Kotkamills’s key messages about laminating papers in the global market, as sawdust stores carbon dioxide. The life cycle of high-pressure laminates and surface films for wood-based panels can be as long as several decades. 

“The products our customers manufacture using our papers have a very long life, for instance, as kitchen furniture surfaces and compact laminates for interior and exterior walls. The CO2 stored in our products remains sequestered for decades. This is a crucial argument for us in our use of sawdust for such highly processed end products,” stresses Seppälä.

MM Kotkamills has been manufacturing laminate products from sawdust pulp since the 1960s, so the entire pulp production process has been designed for the requirements of this product. Sawdust has always been a good raw material; although its fibres are shorter, it nevertheless offers sufficient strength properties. Another special characteristic is the good and consistent absorption of resin into the paper. 

In Asia, Absorbex paper is used in extremely demanding applications such as industrial high-pressure laminates, which means the paper is subject to very high purity requirements, e.g. for use in the electronics industry.  

“Demand continues to be solid and there is strong faith in the future, so the refurbishment of the paper machine this year will take place in a strong market. What is unique about MM Kotkamills is that we operate globally and have an extremely well-established customer base made up of both large and small customers to whom we have been delivering products for decades. We know what our customers want, and they know what they get from MM Kotkamills,” Seppälä sums up. 

Finland’s wood processing industry generates 3.3 million cubic metres of sawdust a year, 70 per cent of which is combusted for energy, and the remainder is used in various wood processing industry products. MM Kotkamills uses significantly growing volumes of sawdust, and these volumes are already approaching a quarter of the total volume of the sawdust generated in Finland. 

Text Leif Lindberg