Facilitating high-quality papermaking for the last 70 years

ABB celebrates 70 years of providing Quality Control Systems to papermakers for outstanding process visibility and advanced control

  • Industrial Nucleonics founders Bert Chope, Roy Chope, George Foster at work in 1953
  • Sensor development lab
  • Final test area
  • U Frame in customer plant
  • Industrial Nucleonics building in Columbus, OH

Paper is a versatile material, and the process to make it requires quality oversight to meet specifications for its end-use. This June, ABB’s Pulp and Paper business celebrates the 70th anniversary of online measurement for Quality Control Systems, which have become an indispensable tool for mills to create high-quality, on-spec paper used in printing, packaging, hygiene, security and more. Let’s delve deeper into the decades-long journey in becoming a leader in helping papermakers maximize product quality.

A brief history of papermaking

While papyrus leaves were used as early as 4000 years ago by Egyptians for inscriptions, China is credited with inventing the early versions of what we know as modern papermaking during the Han dynasty dating back to 202 BCE – 220 CE. Since then, humans have evolved and with the forces of industrialization, modern papermaking techniques became omnipresent.

ABB’s journey with the paper industry can be traced back to 1881 when ASEA was formed after Ludvig Fredholm and Jonas Wenström merged companies. In the same year, a three-phase system for generators, transformers and motors were invented followed by electrification features in pulp bleaching plants. 

“It was only in 1910 that solutions for sectional drives in some form started,” said Bill Dannelly, Global Product Line Manager for pulp and paper. “The first delivery of sectional drives systems were made to Holmen Mill in Sweden in 1926. This laid the foundation for our contributions to modern-day papermaking.”

Online quality measurement 

As industrialization and electrification helped get the process moving, papermakers still had very few tools for online quality evaluation. Typically, the inspection was visual, such as evaluating moisture by observing static on arm hair or relying on lab measurement results after the reel turn-up.

That all changed in June 1951 when the Columbus, Ohio-based Industrial Nucleonics – the forerunner to ABB automation in the paper industry - developed their first nucleonic gauge that could be used on an actual paper machine. It measured basis weight of the moving sheet, which could be used as an indication of paper strength and thickness.

In 1954, the first scanning online basis weight measurement was installed on a 166-inch wide web (previous instances could only accommodate up to 140-inch-wide webs), expanding quality control to larger machines. These measurements systems, with the trade name of AccuRay, quickly proved to offer superior accuracy, helping customers achieve significant cost savings.

In 1960, papermaking gained another advancement with the development of an online moisture sensor that helps in measuring the moisture levels at different sections of the paper machine resulting in on-spec paper at a lower energy cost. The decades that followed focused on the development of Machine Direction (MD) and Cross-Machine Direction (CD) Controls with a continuous stream of enhancements that could react to the always improving measurements, enabling faster start-ups, reduced variability and faster grade changes.

With all these innovations under its portfolio, Industrial Nucleonics, which became AccuRay, was acquired by Combustion Engineering in 1987 before ultimately becoming part of ABB in 1990.

Embarking on the high-quality papermaking journey

The combination of the AccuRay System with ABB’s Drive Systems business formed the present-day Pulp and Paper Global Product Line, which furthered secured its position in the industry with the launch of the 1190 QCS solution in 1990. This was the first time a QCS was integrated with a Distributed Control System (DCS). Prior to this, all QCS Systems relied on minicomputers. The DCS at the time was ABB Master, which ultimately evolved into the automated ABB Ability™ System 800xA.

This novelty was followed by the development of time-based measurement, which replaced the scan-based concept. It allowed control actions to be made every five seconds versus competitive offerings that had to wait for the scan to make a complete round (typically 60-90 seconds).

In 1999, ABB’s pulp and paper team brought the first ever dual-sided, online fiber orientation measurement with lasers to market. This measurement helps understand the behavior of the product and can be indicative of runnability issues. This development was followed by the first optical caliper sensor, measuring thickness by light without two-sided contact to the sheet.

The most recent decade introduced ABB’s High-Performance Infrared (HPIR) sensors - a gamechanger for mills because of its highly precise moisture measurement capabilities. With 5000 measurements per second, the HPIR sensor helps papermakers or mill operators shift their moisture targets closer to acceptable quality limits, saving energy and reducing fiber costs while remaining within the paper grade’s quality specifications.

A portfolio focused on maximizing quality

ABB’s acquisition of Combustion Engineering also included the product Ulma, the original web inspection system. It was first developed in 1971 by Advanced Forest Automation, which would later become AFORA. The company was a pulp and paper powerhouse created from other well-known brands such as Nokia Industrial Automation, Strömberg Automation, and RADAB Internation.al

“From our heritage as the first on-machine, scanning paper property measurement system provider to the latest advanced control and analytics solutions of today, ABB solutions have earned a reputation for superior design and performance,” said Michel Kerley, QCS R&D manager.  “We are continuously innovating to provide customers the latest technology within our complete Quality Management System offering.”

ABB further extended its ability to maximize quality with the acquisition of Lorentzen & Wettre in 2011, adding the industry-leading process, laboratory, and automated testing instruments to our portfolio.

With decades serving the industry and end-to-end portfolio, ABB’s position as the market leader is further assured with our team of innovative, domain experts providing cutting-edge solutions to the paper industry.

Proud heritage of serving the needs of the industry

Looking back at these last 70 years, ABB has come a long way in providing some of the most advanced products and systems available for papermakers. In addition, a strong team of professionals have been nurtured to design, produce, apply, and support our efforts in the pulp and paper industry, providing superior support to - and collaboration with - papermakers worldwide.

We thank all our team members present and past, who have contributed immensely to write ABB’s QMS success story and most importantly our customers who believed in us to enhance their operations.


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