Elomatic helped VTT scale up a bio-based solution to replace packaging plastic

A transparent cellulose film, developed by VTT, is a more environmentally friendly option for plastic. It will help solve various plastic-related challenges. Elomatic played a big role in the development of the solution by creating the test machine line needed for manufacturing.

In addition to protective properties, it is important that packaging material allows the consumer to see the product. The transparent film developed by VTT makes use of recrystallized cellulose. This is a significant solution as it allows replacing packaging plastic produced using fossil raw materials.

The film can be used for a variety of purposes, such as replacing plastic films and cling films. It is easy to recycle because it is made of cellulose and as such it can be sorted together with cardboard. The solution can be put into widespread industrial use within 5–7 years.

Elomatic’s expertise made the solution feasible

A reliable partner was needed to create the machine line needed for manufacturing the film. The search was not difficult, as VTT has a long history with Elomatic. Over the years, the companies have created a way of working that suits both parties.

– We start peeling the onion layer by layer, identifying the best combination of different possible solutions. In other words, we do not just select a solution and then stick to come what may, but rather throughout the project we continually consider what is the best way to do the task at hand, says Ali Harlin, Research Professor at VTT.

– For this project, we created a virtual design team in cooperation with Elomatic. This was not the usual client-supplier relationship, but instead we solved various challenges collaboratively, he says.

Experts from various fields participated in the project

The starting point was a paper drawn by VTT that used a few simple shapes to outline the phases that the machine line needed to have. VTT had an idea on what they needed and Elomatic was responsible for coming up with the required machinery solutions.

One of Elomatic’s key advantages is having a variety of designers: not only mechanical designers but also calculation and process experts as well as people from the fields of electricity, instrumentation, automation and visualization.

– Our strength is being able to manage a variety of projects, in addition to designing. This was a typical EPCM project, where we managed as many aspects of the project as possible on the customer’s behalf: we requested tenders from machine shops, compared them and presented options on where to order different items from, says Vesa Suoranta, Project Manager for Elomatic.

“VTT had understood the significance of having a concept and engaging in preliminary design. We also made use of 3D models in preliminary design and only then proceeded to more detailed design.”

A surprise in starting up the machine line

The project progressed well and VTT commended Elomatic at several points. One phase that the project team remembers especially clearly is starting up the machine line, which succeeded on the first try.

– Usually, when you start up a machine for the first time, something will go wrong, but this time that did not happen, Harlin recalls.

The project focused on functionality from the outset and relied heavily on testing. The user participated in the assembly throughout and errors were anticipated from the beginning.

– It was a striking moment for myself too, when I saw the product coming out the machine and our work came full circle, says Suoranta.

Preliminary design was key for the project’s success

Suoranta feels the project was a success in all areas. He highlights how well VTT had understood the significance of having a concept and engaging in preliminary design.

Harlin says having modern design tools at their disposal helped a lot. For example, they utilized augmented reality to see what the final solution would look like already at an early stage.

– We also made use of 3D models in preliminary design and only then proceeded to more detailed design, further specifying the model and creating the final schematics. Otherwise, we may not have been able to fulfill all of VTT’s wishes, Suoranta adds.

A successful project was built on trust

Suoranta feels that commitment to the project by VTT’s management was of key importance for the success of the project. And the cooperation running smoothly was not insignificant either. The project group met with VTT’s researchers as often as once per week.

– Working with people from VTT was pleasant. They understand the need for consideration in this kind of work and that the solution does not just appear all of a sudden, says Suoranta.

Harlin agrees on the cooperation going well.

– We worked in a good and professional atmosphere. Throughout the project we could trust in being able see the project through.